Thursday, November 01, 2007

Hail Mary for St Mary’s?

After three defeats on the trot, a trip to play Southampton away is not really conducive to getting the Addicks confidence back; Charlton players have failed to score in the last three games, whereas Southampton have knocked in at least one goal in every game this season so far.

Alan Pardew cannot blame results on the curse of winning the manager of the month award; although he came close to getting the gong after results in September, he had no chance this last month. Maybe it was just a bad October and November will bring us back to winning ways? Charlton have a bit of history when it comes to performing in certain months of the year...

Pards has the same old same old problems to deal with this weekend, but at least there are no new injury worries that we know of. With Holland, Todorov, Powell, Thatcher, and Gibbs all out, he really only has to choose between the old faithful 4-4-2 formation, or maybe switch to 4-5-1 for the second time this season. The previous occasion followed a couple of dodgy results in August, and playing Iwelumo upfront on his own ended with a 1-0 win in Croydon. Of course, by the time we scored, we had dumped the holding formation and Todorov had come on to a revertion of 4-4-2. It would not surprise me to see the team switch once more, and perhaps a slight hint of this came with the midweek reserve side win where Sam, McLeod and Thomas formed a three-pronged attack. Bearing in mind that two of them scored in that game, I guess it could have been classed as successful?

So in goal, Nicky Weaver is almost certain to continue. Although blamed by some (including himself) for the only goal last Saturday, it would be a real surprise to see Darren Randolph thrown in at St Mary’s. Weaver has made good saves this season, and they can directly be attributable to points that have been won. Sadly, he has yet to convince on crosses (which will be in abundance on Saturday), and he really does need to start to take control of his six yard box, or the clamour for Randolph to be given a chance will increase.

Weaver hasn’t been helped by the shy-ness of our central defenders to head the ball so far this season. Sodje is the only centre back we have who attacks the ball, and Fortune and Bougherra must be stronger against big raw strikers (like Rasiak) or they will just get bullied. Sodje proved last week (when he offered to meet Rowan Vine in the car park after the game to settle their differences) that he won’t stand for any nonsense, and I expect him to retain his place.

The full backs will be Mills, who needs to forget about his errors and revert to his firm, strong-minded attacking play (hopefully the crowd will be against him as this does seem to spur him on…), and Grant Basey (left). Young Basey did little wrong on his debut last weekend, but it would be good to see him more confident in his own ability and get forward to support when he gets the chance. He also needs to try to stop crosses coming into the box, and stick tighter to his marker than he did last week.

The midfield will probably have the same look to it, even if Pards switches formation. Semedo, Zhi and Reid will all play, and hopefully they will all get 90 minutes so the team has balance throughout whoever plays in front of them.

The options for the wide positions and up front is more open. Darren Ambrose is fit again, and a bit of a Pards favourite. He would have been substitute last weekend if he hadn’t been stuck in traffic on the M25 (what, no police escort Dazza?). I doubt he will displace Lloyd Sam though, as Lloyd had a decent game against Rangers - his first after suspension - and deserved better from his team-mates. Then it’s a case of do we play with two strikers – one of which will be Iwelumo – or Big Chris and another winger (Thomas or Ambrose)? Certainly the confidence seems to have evaporated from Luke Varney, and it would be no surprise to see him rested (dropped) after several missed chances and lacklustre performances. That leaves the only other striking option to be McLeod; Izale really hasn’t looked quite ready for the Championship so far, even though he has started to find the net in reserve games. Even then, he missed two good chances before he scored according to reports.

I therefore think this is the team that Pards will send out, and in a 4-5-1 formation –

Nicky Weaver
Danny Mills
Jon Fortune
Sam Sodje
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Zheng Zhi
Andy Reid
Lloyd Sam
Chris Iwelumo
Jerome Thomas

Subs – Randolph, Moutaouakil, Bougherra, McCarthy, Racon, Ambrose, Varney, McLeod.

Southampton are another of those Championship teams who have an ex-Addick who would love to score against us, and he probably will! Jason Euell left The Valley for Middlesboro, but he didn’t seem to fit with Gareth Southgate’s Premiership plans last season, and he has moved on to the South coast after just one year up north. He is playing, and scoring, so will be out to upset us Addicks fans I’m sure! The Saints sit a couple of places below us in the table, but only on goal difference. Obviously, a win takes them above us, so we are again a target to be aimed at…

Pedro45’s score forecasts this season have been pretty rubbish; every time I say we will win, we don’t, and when I think we will lose, we win! I do think that this game is another tough one (as are the three afterwards too!), and much as I want us to get back to winning ways, I really cannot see us preventing Southampton from scoring, and I don’t have confidence in our forwards to find their goal touch again. I think we will go down 2-0, but really hope I’m wrong.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Andy Reid. Reiddy has had two frustrating games where he was marked tightly and didn’t get to use the ball as much or as well as he normally likes. He may get a bit more space if we play 4-5-1, and he could therefore get to influence the game in a big way. He hasn’t scored for a while either, and it would be good to see him back on the score sheet (though I wish he would let Lloyd Sam take the free kicks now, if just for the surprise value).

We are coming up to another three games in eight days period, and in reality, this period could make or break Charlton’s season. Southampton will be tough, and Ashton Gate on Tuesday potentially even tougher. If we entertain Cardiff next Saturday after five consecutive defeats, who knows how or when the streak will end or what damage that may do to the club in the short and longer terms. Of course, if we have 25 points in the bag by then, we would be thinking once more about the positive aspects and how long it might take to catch Watford!

Fingers crossed eh?

Up the Addicks!

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