Thursday, January 17, 2008

Returning the Sting

With cup action over for another year, Charlton return to the mundane Championship fare this weekend with an away game at Vicarage Road against Watford.

The Hornets have slumped over recent weeks, and when you consider that not so long ago they were eight points clear at the top of the league, their fall down to third place a few weeks later is considerable. Home fans hopes will not have been helped by today’s news that they are to sell their leading scorer – Marlon King – to Fulham, but at least they get Collins John in return till the end of the season.

Charlton, for their part, or on a virtual high: If we take the Jose Mourinho attitude that a defeat on penalties is not really a defeat at all, then Charlton have actually only lost one game since before Xmas. Sure, there is a whole bunch of draws in that run, and just one victory, but positives must come to the fore! The whole attitude about the club is quite buoyant at the moment – the youth team smashed six on Wednesday night to progress in the FA Youth Cup; million pound plus bids are being offered (and rejected) for a proven Championship goal scorer; and most of the team are fit and healthy (barring the long term injured, and even they are all progressing well it seems).

Best of all though, is that Alan Pardew seems to have stumbled on a decent formation after the five-month bedding in period we had from the start of the season. Out now for three matches has gone the one up front option, and in has come the pace and rawness of two attacking full backs to compliment the pacy young strikers.

After the 120 minutes plus penalties of midweek, it remains to be seen if the 14 players who made it onto the pitch in the cup defeat (sorry, I mean draw…) are all fit enough to play on Saturday, but hopefully that will be the case. If so, will Pards stick with his new found team, or will he “tinker”.

In goal, Nicky Weaver’s heroics couldn’t save enough penalties, but he has saved his place for probably the whole rest of the season, if it was ever in doubt. Weaver made one fantastic save on Tuesday night, and is really starting to look like the very good keeper he promised to be all those years ago. We need him to win points for the club, and just now he is good enough to do that.

The two new full back incumbents – Yassin Moutaouakil and Kelly Youga – should retain their places, even though other options are available. Youga has been like a new signing since his return from a loan spell at Scunthorpe, and I think everyone from the management to the fans has been surprised with how well he has played and fitted in. If the Iron had offered a couple of hundred thousand for him just before Xmas we might have bitten their hands off, but not now!

The central defence pairing of Paddy McCarthy and Madjid Bougherra has improved, and while they do not always look like controlling the opposition forwards, they seem to have cut out those silly mistakes which gifted goals to the other team (he says, touching lots of wood!). With Jon Fortune fit and ready to step in, and Sam Sodje now available after suspension (though a hand injury may keep him out at the weekend – what is it with Charlton centre backs and glass? Caton, Fish, Sodje…), we now have cover and solidity available.

The midfield is pretty consistent, and Matt Holland and Zheng Zhi are starting to control games, and look and play like the experienced couple of internationals that they are. While Holland may be slower these days (hence the stupid number of bookings he has received this season), he still covers a huge distance in each match. ZiZi just gets better, and he’ll be looking to score more goals in the final third of the season, and cement his place at the top of the goal scoring charts.

Out wide, you could really pick any two from Lloyd Sam, Darren Ambrose, and Jerome Thomas. Sam is the under-rated player in the team, as he works extremely hard and holds the ball well when in possession. Sometimes I think he tries too hard, and a goal would help his confidence enormously, but he performs a key role on the wide right hand side. Ambrose has the talent, but sometimes his persona doesn’t show him to be working very hard. You rarely see him sprint, yet he covers plenty of ground, and he does get into the box on numerous occasions and snaffle chances when he can. He also had a hand in all four of Charlton’s goals last weekend, so I think he’ll be in the team on Saturday. Thomas is that enigma; some much skill, so little aptitude for hard work. Sure, he gets back to help out his full back, but the lazy gait doesn’t help, and he does waste too much ball, either by cutting back onto his right foot, or by trying the impossible. He also missed a sitter last weekend!

Presuming Pards goes with 4-4-2 again, the question is whether he will stick with Luke Varney and Izale McLeod, who provide oodles of pace, or if Chris’s Iwelumo and Dickson have done enough recently to force their way into the team. Varney has played well in the last couple of games, and his channel running has created openings for himself and for others. McLeod has also run his heart out, but a lack of composure when shooting, coupled with not much luck and some good saves, have prevented him scoring recently. Iwelumo created one goal on Tuesday and is a handful when playing to his potential. Maybe the semi-rest he’s had since the New Year will do him good and he’ll start to score himself once more. Dickson celebrated his first FA Cup and first Charlton first team goal on Tuesday (top pic), and could have won the game all by himself in extra time, but he didn’t. He is still very raw, but with enormous potential; I just hope that expectation and/or being rushed doesn’t hurt him, as it will hurt the team too.

This is the side I think Pards will send out to take on Watford –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Paddy McCarthy
Madjid Bougherra
Kelly Youga
Lloyd Sam
Matt Holland
Zheng Zhi
Darren Ambrose
Luke Varney
Izale McLeod

Subs from: Randolph, Basey, Fortune, Semedo, Thomas, Dickson, Iwelumo.

The game pits third place Watford at home against fifth place Charlton, and as such, it should be close. Pedro45’s score prediction will ratify that precept, and I’m going for a 1-1 draw. However, bearing in mind the recent form both clubs have shown, it is certainly not beyond the Addicks to come away with a clear win. Watford may be lifted by the successful Bangura deportation appeal, but it is unclear if he will be playing, as he has not been in the side over recent matches.

My one-to-watch in this match is the only “new” signing we have so far this transfer window – welcome back Kelly Youga. Kelly has been in good form in his three matches for the club so far, and we will need another decent display from him on Saturday if we are to get anything from this important match. It is strange to think that he was sent off twice for Scunthorpe prior to Xmas, as he hasn’t even given away many fouls since slotting into the troubled left back slot on the first Saturday of the new year.

Games on TV don’t tend to sit well with The Valley faithful, and I couldn’t risk my cable not working so will be at the game early on Saturday evening. Similar to the Preston away game, a good turn out could be going home happy; Vicarage Road has certainly been a happy hunting ground in years gone by, and hopefully this weekend will see another pleasant journey back from Hertfordshire.

Up the Addicks!

Labels: , ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Enter your email address below to subscribe to Charlton Athletic Online!

powered by Bloglet
Sports Business Directory - BTS Local
Custom Search