Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover…

A cheerful start to a preview that doesn’t really know where to go; such is the apathy that consecutive home defeats have brought on. I’m not goingt to the game, and I won’t even be listening on the radio, as I’m going to watch Squeeze at Hammersmith instead. If we had won recently, I may have turned down the chance of a spare ticket, but it might be too painful, and I haven’t seen Squeeze play live for 20 years or more.

It wasn’t just the fact that Charlton lost; it was more how we lost that peeved me last week. The heart seemed to be ripped out of the team by more committed, intelligent opposition, and that should just not be the case when playing Charlton.

Tonight, we have the chance of redemption once more. Saturday should and maybe could have seen the Addicks back on track, but it didn’t. Cardiff away looked a lot harder on paper at the start of the season than it does now, but it may still prove to be too much for us.

So what should Alan Pardew do? The first thing he should do is ignore all those who are starting to question his management; a few weeks ago, he was iconic. Now he is lambasted. It’s the expectation you see…

Next, he really needs to make up his mind quickly about his best eleven. We can probably see who the best players are, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they make up the best team. I think a switch back to 4-5-1 is imperative tonight (as is 4-4-2 at home!), with two wide players supporting Iwelumo, and a midfield solidity.

Nicky Weaver may have been unwell on Saturday morning, but I bet he felt sicker later that day. He really hasn’t been tested much shot-wise recently, yet has conceded six times. As another blogger so rightly said, the goals were from two penalties, three free kicks, and a break-away. Sadly, Andy Reid’s volley was our only reply. There really isn’t a case for dropping Weaver, as he hasn’t made any mistakes recently, bar having an AWOL defence in front of him!

That missing defence is where we could see change, but how should Pards look at events? Sodje played poorly on Saturday, but he hasn’t made the errors that Bougherra did previously. Maybe it’s time for Sodje and Bougherra to be given a go together, as the other options of keeping Fortune plus one have been exhausted. Mills or Moutaouakil? Danny every time for me, but then I didn’t see much of our French full back early in the season, and if Mills continues to be stupid (giving away needless penalties and arguing with officials which will inevitably lead to a red card) then maybe he should be rested? What is it about left backs and injuries? Gibbs, Thatcher, Powell, Basey – who hates you? Chrissy is now back in possession of the shirt, but we know he doesn’t handle many games in a week well at his age (38), and hopefully he will be OK for tonight and Saturday. If not, maybe Mills will be switched across.

The midfield also needs shaking up - there is simply too much standing still waiting for the ball. They need to be confident in possession, and pass and move for team-mates. Semedo was unlucky to be left out on Saturday, but maybe could have done with the rest, and I would bring him back tonight. Matt Holland played well, so I would keep him in, but both Zheng Zhi and Andy Reid look exhausted. I would rest one, but which one? Pards loves ZiZi, but Reidy is the captain. Tough call…

That leaves three places left, or two if you concede that Chris Iwelumo is a must have option up front. If they are fit, I would play both Lloyd Sam and Jerome Thomas. However, I am not sure Pards will do that and I think Darren Ambrose will start, alongside Luke Varney, with Varney being asked to play wide right, with Ambie on the left. This at least leaves options for a switch to 4-4-2 at any time without making substitutions.

This is the side I expect Pards to start with –

Nicky Weaver
Danny Mills
Chris Powell
Sam Sodje
Jonathan Fortune
Jose Semedo
Matt Holland
Andy Reid
Darren Ambrose
Luke Varney
Chris Iwelumo

Subs from Randolph, Moutaouakil, Bougherra, Racon, Zheng, Sam, Thomas, McLeod.

Being so inconsistent – three defeats, followed by four wins, followed by two defeats – is unbearable. Pardew must feel the same way! Knowing that two home victories would have seen Charlton sit proudly on top of the league must be galling to him. As it is, we are still only five points behind the joint leaders and well placed with a squad that should be able to compete until May.

My one-to-watch tonight is going to be Matt Holland. Matty is the team skipper really, even though Reidy has the armband. He needs to show that big level of commitment that we are used to and push this young team onwards; he is quite capable of doing that and we know he will run and run.

Pedro45’s body may be in Hammersmith, but his mind will be in Cardiff up until 9.30 or so. I really hope that a result can be gained, and I’m plumping for a 1-1 draw. At least a single point will end our run of defeats at two, and allow the team to feel something has been won. It will be tough, as Cardiff have been on a good run since Charlton beat them a few weeks back (gosh that seems like a long time ago). They may also be without their “superstars” Robbie Fowler and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, which may help.

I’m tempted to run into a paragraph of Squeeze song titles, telling how difficult tonight may be, but will not apart from to say that I hope we are not “Up the Junction” at the end of the game.

Up the Addicks.

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I do hope you aren't Slaughtered gutted and heartbroken after tonight
Richard, Lima
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