Monday, February 11, 2008

Birds of Prey Part 2

After well and truly dismissing the Eagles, Charlton’s attention turns to the Owls of Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on Tuesday night. This is the first in a double header of consecutive Sheffield away games, with just Saturdays home game against Watford sandwiched between. A win would keep the pressure on those four teams above Charlton in the league, though a winning result is unlikely to move the team up any positions at all.

Alan Pardew (left) has a tough job on his hands this week – the euphoria following Friday nights win must be controlled; as other writers and players at the club have pointed out, to lose against Wednesday after the home win would be useless; Charlton simply must start stringing consecutive wins together if they are to fully justify the tag of being good enough for promotion.

Pardew is unlikely to tinker much with the team, and the only changes are likely to be replacements for any injuries picked up since Friday. One such injury Pards will be hoping clears up in time will be the shin damage that scorer Luke Varney gained after one particularly vicious challenge. Varney admitted today that the leg was stiff, but with luck and the knowledge that he is guaranteed a place in the initial line up if fit enough should ensure he plays from the start.

Jerome Thomas is still out apparently, although his illness which caused his omission on Friday has now become a hamstring injury according to the club.

There were no other apparent injuries from that game, so unless others have been kicking themselves rather than the ball in training the last couple of days, this is the line up I would expect to see take the field at Hillsborough –

Nicky Weaver
Greg Halford
Madjid Bougherra
Paddy McCarthy
Kelly Youga
Zheng Zhi
Matt Holland
Darren Ambrose
Lloyd Sam
Andy Gray
Luke Varney

Subs from – Randolph, Moutaouakil, Fortune, Sodje, Powell, Basey, Racon, Semedo, Iwelumo, McLeod.

I just cannot see Pardew wanting to change the defence at all – Weaver is playing well; Bougherra and McCarthy are looking solid and playing with consistency at last; and Kelly Youga now has a solid opposite number in Greg Halford who gives the team balanced attacking and defensive options judging from his debut game on Friday.

It is unlikely that Varney will be paired with anyone other than Andy Gray, with Chris Iwelumo coming on as a late substitute either in search of additional fire power, or defensive acumen, depending on match circumstances.

On the wings though, if options were available, then Pards may have thought a little before deciding who he might pick. Lloyd Sam has great ball skills and works hard, but he really needs to start making all those runs count and get the odd decent cross or an on-target shot in that his build up play deserves. Lloyd must realise that once he beats his man the once then that is the time to cross the ball or shoot, and not to go back and try to humiliate the full back time after time before being closed down by other defenders. Darren Ambrose also has great room for improvement; in the last two matches, Ambrose’s corners and free kicks have been quite poor. He must start to make the right choice in these situations, and if the initial play is not looking like it will work, then Ambie must be strong enough to vary the planned delivery. And it is that delivery where Charlton fans have been most exacerbated with about 90% of dead balls failing to get past the first defender. Get it up Darren!

Sheffield Wednesday have themselves a few injury problems, and that seems likely to keep out ex-Addick Franny Jeffers, and current Addicks player Sam Sodje’s brother Akpo. Likely to lead the line is on loan striker Enoch Showunmi, and the game should also feature veteran midfielder Graham Kavanagh who is on loan from Sunderland. Kavanagh has had a distinguished career, playing for a large number of clubs and doing very well wherever he has been. He may be long in the tooth now, but Holland (who should know what to expect) and Zhi will need to put themselves about and not let the Irishman dominate the game as he likes to do.

Pedro45 would love to predict an away win for the Addicks, but will not for this game for two reasons – one, is that every time I seem to think we will win, we get stuffed, and every time I say we will lose, we get the correct result and three points. Secondly, Wednesday have a fascinating home record this season, and going in to their fifteenth home game, they have yet to draw. For these reasons, Pedro45’s score prediction is a 1-1 draw.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Paddy McCarthy (left). Our Irish centre back has been right back on form since Xmas, and is now a fixture in the team that will be tough to budge. As long as he plays sensibly, with heart but his head ruling, he is rock like. He also has to take lead at the back, as Bougherra is returning to his old club and will no doubt get some stick for deciding to leave them just over a year ago.

The home team will be dangerous, especially early on as Addicks fans will remember from back in August when they took a 2-0 lead at The Valley. The key point to remember from that match though, is that Charlton won it after a stirring second half fight back. I’m hoping that won’t be necessary in South Yorkshire, and that Charlton can deflate any new found Yorkshire confidence and continue to pressure the teams above them in the table with an easy win. It can be done, if the belief is there.

Up the Addicks!

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