Thursday, December 20, 2007

Siberian Weather Greets the Tigers

It’s been a cold week in South London; one where every Addicks fan has been trying to warm themselves up in preparation for the seasonal festivities, and five crucial games (Hull, Norwich, Leicester, Colchester, and WBA) in two weeks that will determine how this season might pan out. It's so cold even Alan Pardew (left) may need an overcoat as he stands rigid in the techical area on Saturday afternoon!

First up, on Saturday, we have a return fixture against Hull City at The Valley. The away game a couple of months back was one of the crunch games of the season and had a big effect on that October period; Charlton won 2-1, (Chris Iwelumo and Luke Varney scoring), but Lloyd Sam was sent off and the ban he received crossed the first three games of a subsequent four-game winless streak. Interestingly, Sam is available on Saturday following another suspension (this time for accruing five bookings…) and I’m sure he will be looking forward to acquainting himself with red-card buddy Barry Ashby.

Hull are an up-and-down sort of team; capable of winning enough games to stay comfortably within the division, but never really looking like threatening either the top or bottom. Hopefully, after a home win last weekend, they will fall victim on their travels and give up six points to Charlton in the season.

Who Alan Pardew picks to face the Tigers is going to be interesting, as last weekend, he was without three suspended players, two of whom can return this weekend (Danny Mills and Sam), but Pards also looks to have lost at least three other players through injury since the game against the Baggies.

Definitely out are Andy Reid (left, with a knee injury, till February), Zheng Zhi (calf, for two weeks) and Darren Ambrose (groin, two weeks), while Iwelumo would surprise everyone if he was fit after turning his ankle last weekend, and Varney is ill and may not recover in time. Pardew is therefore limited in some areas in whom he picks, but not in others. Hopefully, the changes necessary will bring a welcome hot streak!

In goal, Nicky Weaver will carry on, untroubled by Darren Randolph being on the bench. Weaver is doing OK this season, without setting the world alight. He hasn’t really won Charlton many points (in the way Carson did last year, and Kiely and others have previously), but he cannot really be blamed for losing points either. It would be good to see him in control of his penalty area, but after five years of Deano failing to come for crosses, I don’t know why we are too bothered.

The defence will no doubt welcome peace-maker Mills back on the right side, with Sam Sodje and Madjid Bougherra likely to continue in the middle. Chris Powell, who had a poor game last week after being cruelly exposed, may have been in danger of losing his place, but injuries elsewhere may save him.

The midfield is where the biggest changes are likely. Sam will come back on the right; Matt Holland will stay in the middle and will be captain; and Jerome Thomas is likely to feature on the left. Three options to play alongside Holland are among the injured (Reid, Ambrose, and Zhi), and rumour has it Therry Racon, another obvious choice for the vacant central midfield option, is also injured (though that hasn’t been confirmed) which is probably the reason Harry Arter was left out of the reserves game as a precaution on Tuesday. Unless Pards takes a big punt, I cannot see anyone other than Jose Semedo playing alongside Matty.

Without too many other options to go with the 4-5-1 formation used during away games, that leaves two places to fill up front. If Big Chris is fit, he will undoubtedly play, but it must be a concern as to whether he will last 90 minutes of this game on a strapped up ankle, and then be fit for the other forthcoming matches too? Izale McLeod came on as a straight replacement last weekend, so I would expect him to feature, and it all depends if Varney recovers whether he can play with Iwelumo or McLeod? If Chris and Luke are out, McLeod will lead the line and Pards only option is to promote from the youth set up – Danny Uchechi? A week later and Chris Dickson will be back; just in time it seems!

It seems a bit silly to try to pre-empt the team that Pards will pick, bearing in mind all the problems he has but let’s give it a go –

Nicky Weaver
Danny Mills
Sam Sodje
Madjid Bougherra
Chris Powell
Matt Holland
Jose Semedo
Lloyd Sam
Jerome Thomas
Izale McLeod
Luke Varney

Subs from Randolph, Moutaouakil (if fit), Sankofa, McCarthy, Racon (if fit), Arter, Iwelumo (if fit), Uchechi, and anyone else who volunteers!

In fact, if you look down the list of first team players on the official website, only youngsters Josh Wright, Aswad Thomas, and Martin Christensen are not listed above when you take out the injured (11), suspended (1), and those out on loan (6). Let’s be thankful for a big squad!

My one-to-watch this week should really be Steve Allen, the physio (!), as he could be the most influential person during the next two weeks, but I’ll go for Izale Mcleod (left). Izzy is almost certain to start, and if he doesn’t, he will definitely play at least half an hour. His first goal for Charlton last weekend will have helped settle him down a bit, after a fairly lukewarm start to his Addicks career. He has played lots of last ten minutes, so the statistic of taking 13 games to get his name of the board is a little misleading. He has pace, is very direct, and as long as fellow players can get the ball to him in the right areas, he should be a handful. Yes, he is raw, but I don’t understand why some blogs are quite negative about a new recruit who hasn’t had much of a chance yet. He did, after all, win Charlton their first four penalties of the season! Izale also has the knowledge that fans are clamouring for Chris Dickson to be given a chance after his on-loan goalscoring exploits down the road at Gillingham when he returns to the club after this weekend, and that might just gee him up a bit more.

Pedro 45’s score prediction versus Hull is a 2-1 home win; we seem to have fallen out of the win-away and lose-at-home sequence, so a home win is due once more. Hull will tough it out as they did in October, and the defence had better not give too many chances to the young Caleb Folan and the (much) older Dean Windass or the Addicks will suffer. We should have just a little too much for them, and if the new look team fire - with Thomas and Sam key to creating opportunities and supporting the forwards – then we should be OK. As everyone knows, Tigers are dangerous when injured, and so just might be the Addicks!

Pedro45’s own Xmas plans will prevent a report being written, or indeed a preview of the Norwich game, although the likelihood is that fans may be asked to bring their boots if the injuries increase much more! My score prediction for the Carrow Road match is a 1-1 draw.

I would therefore like to wish all my readers a happy Xmas and prosperous New Year, with the hope that my next blog will report six points and a full (or fuller) squad going up to Leicester with confidence.

Come on you reds!

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Must be the Christmas spirit (!) but I'm going for 3-1 tomorrow and a 2-1 win at Carrow Road.

Have a great Christmas!
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