Thursday, November 08, 2007

More Birds on the Block

It's been a pretty good week to be a Charlton fan, following a week when it wasn't a very nice feeling at all! Two wins, both courtesy of late, late, goals by Chris Iwelumo (left), have brightened up each Addicks smile and taken Charlton back up to near the top of the Championship table.

Of course, a third win in a week would be great, and as Cardiff come to The Valley each Addick will be expecting three more points, and a continuance of the resurgence.

There does seem to be a profligacy of bird mascots in this division - The Owls, Eagles, Canaries and Robins have been beaten, now it's time for the Bluebirds! The Throstles are yet to come...
Cardiff will be hoping that their aged forward line are ready to do the business; both Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - he with the knack of scoring against his old teams - and Robbie Fowler - he with the knack of scoring against anyone - will be dangerous if some of Charlton's previous defensive frailty is to the fore again. Prior to his spell with Charlton last season, Hasselbaink scored against the Addicks for Middlesboro and Chelsea, and also won a game winning penalty at Stamford Bridge one year. Fowler has also scored plenty against Charlton in the past for Liverpool. Even more dangerous is when and where teams concentrate on these two, and forget about the other nine players from the Welsh side; they have a good scoring record from midfield, and (apparently more than one-time Addick target) Darren Purse also heads the odd goal too.

Charlton though will be hoping to put in a better home performance than we have seen for some time. It's true that the home support has been quiet recently, and was almost anonymous during the early kick-off against QPR which resulted in a second consecutive home defeat. Hopefully, the two great results at Southampton and Bristol and a 3pm kick off will bring the vocal element back and the team will respond with the early goal which will settle everyone down.

The team, barring any unknown injuries, pretty much picks itself, with the only changes likely to be Jose Semedo returning after suspension in place of Therry Racon, and the possibility of Luke Varney starting instead of Lloyd Sam. Bearing in mind the defence has kept two clean sheets, I doubt any changes are expected there, although if Chris Powell is nearing fitness, he will come back in for Basey. The Sam/Varney conundrum is dependant on whether Alan Pardew wants to remain with the 4-5-1 formation he started both recent away games with, or switch back to 4-4-2 as this is obviously his preferred starting line up.

I think that Varney has done enough to warrant a start, and it seems he has regained his confidence following a great run and cross to set up Iwelumo at St Marys, and a strong second half at Ashton Gate. This will be tough on Lloyd Sam, but he will probably get some game time whether we are winning or losing come the hour mark.

This is who I think Pards will pick -

Nicky Weaver
Danny Mills
Sam Sodje
Jonathan Fortune
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Zheng Zhi
Andy Reid
Jerome Thomas
Luke Varney
Chris Iwelumo

Subs – Randolph, Bougherra, Racon, Ambrose, Sam, McLeod.

My one-to-watch this game is going to be Jerome Thomas. I could have gone for Big Chris (aiming for a very unlikely hat-trick!) but that was too obvious, and Reid and ZiZi plus Mills are too consistent to pick out every game, so I've gone for JT, who still has something to prove. Strangely, I did think I saw him on Monday evening as this man walked past me heading toward Jack Barclay's Bentley showroom near Vauxhall; it may have been Jerome (who does have a Bentley to his name...), but I couldn't be sure... What I do know is that JT needs to come up with the goods on a more consistent basis; he has bundles of skill, good pace, and a not bad workrate. What we need is to see all of this on a regular basis. It is no good him thinking that he is the most skillfull player in the Championship, he has got to show that week in and week out! Not only must he be able to beat players, but he must cross accurately (the benefit of this shown by our last two goals!) and score goals himself when he gets chances.

Pedro45's score prediction needs to be an Addicks loss in order for a home win; I am convinced that whatever I predict will never come true! But sooner or later I will get a result right (much as Killer eventually did with his predictions last season), so I am going to pray and hope for a third Addicks win in a week and a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory.

This is yet another important game for Charlton; to go four games without a home win will bring doubt back to the club, and we do not want that lurking in the back of our minds as we head toward Xmas. Other teams are starting to get hit by injury (WBA with Phillips for instance) and suspension and the strength in depth that Alan Pardew has built should stand Charlton in good stead well into the new year (especially with Sinclair, Wright, and Dickson doing well out on loan and ready to come back at any stage, plus Holland, Powell, Thatcher, Gibbs etc soon to return from injury).

A win gets us closer to the top, and that can only be a good thing!

Come on you reds!

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