Sunday, December 16, 2007

Top Gera

West Bromwich Albion 4
Charlton Athletic 2

I was pretty upset about this result yesterday, but today I can put it into a little more context, and be more rational. West Brom deservedly won the game, and looked like scoring all through the match; Charlton contributed well to a good, high class game, but did not have enough to hold on near the end.

Charlton took the lead when Chris Iwelumo rose off his one good leg and firmly headed Jerome Thomas's cross past the keeper after 35 minutes. Just over five minutes later, Bednar equalised easily after slack marking allowed him in behind the defence; Bednar had already hit the post earlier in the game. After half time, a long cross by Brunt was met by a thumping Zoltan Gera header, where he comprehensively outjumped Chris Powell, and this was followed ten minutes before the end of the match by a carbon-copy goal, involving the same players. In between Gera's headers, Izale McLeod (on as a sub for Iwelumo) had seen his left foot shot creep past the keeper to equalise - it was Izzy's first goal for the Addicks. Five minutes from time, serial goal-poacher Kevin Phillips killed off the game with a trade mark tap in after some kamikaze Charlton defending from a corner.

Charlton were certainly patched up for the match; without the suspended Fortune and Mills, Semedo came into the side at right back with Madjid Bougherra in the middle of defence. Jerome Thomas was a straight replacement for the also suspended Lloyd Sam, but Pards switched the personnel (but not the formation) by playing JT on the left, Reid in the middle, and Ambrose on the right. I'm not sure why he did this (apart from to put JT up against the less experienced full back?), as the line up did well last week with Reid wide and Ambrose in the middle!

Iwelumo turned his ankle after half an hour, and while Mcleod was getting warmed up, actually scored. Sadly, Big Chris is likley to be out for a couple of weeks. In the second half, Reid was substituted with a worrying knee injury, and he is also doubtful over Xmas. Osei Sankofa came on for Reid with Semedo switching to midfield. Luke Varney was also needed as an injury replacement with Ambrose lmping off.

The Baggies obviously have a wealth of talent up front, with Brunt and Gera having good games, but in defence, they looked suspect, and the reserve keeper Steele (Dean Kiely's understudy) looked poor. It was shame then that Charlton didn't test him more. Even in injury time, a Thomas free kick was sent high and wide when anything on target may have caused problems.

Tactically, Albion controlled the game after the initial passage, and were always looking to take advantage of Chris Powell's obvious concussion-induced headache from last week. Sadly, Chrissy could not compete in the air with Gera, and that resulted in two goals - the difference between the teams.

If Iwelumo is out for any period of time, it seems Pards favours McLeod as the lone front runner (he is pacy but very raw), though with other options becoming more limited by the game, he may end up playing Izzy with Varney at home next week. At least Lloyd Sam and Danny Mills will be available again, though a meeting with Hull may not be the best time to bring either back!?! This should release Semedo into midfield for Reid or even over to left back for Powell, and in Sam's case, give options if Pards wants to go with 4-5-1 at any stage. What is sure, is that it will be a tough Xmas for the squad, with everyone needing to be ready should any more injuries come to light.

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