Thursday, November 29, 2007

No Claret Blues

It still feels like a bit of a shock, losing 3-0 at home to Sheffield United on Tuesday, but at least Charlton now have a chance to quickly redeem themselves in front of home fans. Burnley travel to The Valley on Saturday but, as Charlton have found with Scunthorpe, Plymouth, QPR, and the Blades beforehand, they will be no push-overs.

The 3-0 loss in midweek wasn’t like any of our other recent losses; when we used to get beaten by that score line by Liverpool, or Manchester United, or Arsenal, it was half (or even fully) expected. They were better than us, so a big home loss was much easier to take. No, what I found hard this week was that although Robson’s team deserved to win, they were not three goals better by any shape or form. United had three shots all game (and one of those was the penalty); they all went in. Charlton had chances - not many, but a couple of good ones; if it had been a 2-1 or even 2-0 game, I don’t think the shock would have been the same.

So to Saturday, and the need is great for the Addicks to bounce back. A lot of teams have to bounce back in this league - Sheffield did that midweek! – and now it is our turn. Charlton bounced back from three consecutive defeats in October with four wins on the bounce in November; now we have to turn the corner quicker, and gain three points immediately following the midweek loss.

Burnley will be no easy game though, and they won handsomely at leaders Watford on Tuesday themselves. Even the most optimistic of the Claret fans would hardly have expected to get six points from consecutive away games at Watford and Charlton, but that is what they now have their sights on. It will be up to Alan Pardew and his Charlton team to stop them.

Burnley have dangerous players, but no real “stars”; Andy Gray has been around for a few years now, and continues to be a 12 to 15-goal a season Championship player. He’ll never make it in the Premiership, but he needs to be respected in this league. Kiraly, Unsworth, Akinbiyi, Robbie Blake and Joey Gudjohnnson are also experienced, and need to be watched carefully.

Charlton meanwhile, tactically, will need to decide whether the 4-5-1 formation they have started with in the last five games is to be continued, or if a switch back to 4-4-2 is a better home-game option. After the limitations with 4-5-1 exposed by Sheffield United, I think there will be a switch back to 4-4-2 this weekend.

This should see a recall for Luke Varney to play alongside the lonely Chris Iwelumo up front. The unlucky player left out will probably be Lloyd Sam, with Reid and Thomas playing wide (although who plays which side is open to question). The midfield is likely to be Zhi and Semedo, although Holland is pushing hard for a recall. At the back, Grant Basey left the field with a groin injury on Tuesday, so either Mills plays on the left with Moutaouakil (or possibly Bougherra) returning at right back, or more likely, Chris Powell is thrown back in. Chrissy is fit it seems, but hasn’t played since picking up his ankle injury at Wolves in October. Tough call for Pards this one, but whatever he chooses, he will have bench options to change things if it goes pear-shaped…

This is the team I think Alan Pardew will pick –

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

Subs from Randolph, Bougherra, McCarthy, Holland, Racon, Ambrose, Sam, McLeod.

Hopefully, the confidence that Charlton gained from the four consecutive wins and clean sheets will not have been eroded during Tuesday, and Pedro45 is going to favour a return to winning ways and a score forecast of a 3-1 win. The important thing is to score first; where this happens, Charlton have looked quite calm and controlled. Only where we have fallen behind have panic buttons been pressed (too early possibly?) and that makes games more difficult.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Andy Reid. The Little Irishman has had a tough few weeks, playing every few days it seems for either Charlton or Ireland. The last couple of games have witnessed him seeing little of the ball, and the perception is he is tired and off form. Reid tries his hardest every game, and does struggle when he cannot find room in midfield. Ironically, one of the things about playing 4-5-1 is that it suits Reid in some ways but not in others; where teams match up in midfield, it is generally too congested for Andy to get the ball, see the pass, and thread it through. Where teams don’t match up, he has more time and space and can work his magic. I’m hoping he can put the last few matches behind him and show the leadership skills that we know he possesses and lead Charlton to victory, and maybe a goal?

This is an important game once more for the Addicks; we really need to find some consistency and get back to winning habits in the run up to Xmas. Otherwise it will be pretty obvious that the only consistency we can show is a complete lack of it!

Up the Addicks!

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