Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sheffield Reactors

Sheffield United 0 Charlton Athletic 2

We needed a reaction, and we got one – a fine victory, and thoroughly deserved too, with hopes rekindled in the race for promotion.

I still think that to catch and overtake three of Stoke, Watford, West Brom, and leaders Bristol City is a task too much in the last ten weeks of the season, but the three points won at Bramall Lane are certainly welcome and could rejuvenate a drive to the end-of-the-season line.

Alan Pardew was certainly a much happier man than after last weeks heavy defeat; he started the game making four changes – out went Jon Fortune, Grant Basey, Lee Cook and Andy Gray, and in came Sam Sodje, Kelly Youga, Chris Iwelumo, and surprisingly Jerome Thomas. New signing Scott Sinclair was left on the bench. The team also lined up in a 4-5-1 variation, with Luke Varney playing wide right rather than upfront alongside big Chris.

Various bloggers including myself have asked if this formation should have been used while we strove to win away games recently, and it was nice to see Pards fall back on something tried and trusted. In the past though, this formation has struggled in home games, but with two Valley fixtures to come this week, and with Varney in one wide position, Pards can easily maintain the same line up should he wish, but with a more conventional 4-4-2 formation.

Charlton played well throughout at Bramall Lane, and had chances before they took the lead – Darren Ambrose and Iwelumo both going close. The first goal came in first half injury time – no surprise there then! Greg Halford, much maligned after a poor display last week launched one of his long throw bombs into the area. As at Blackpool following his similar throw-in there, the ball bounced around and fell to a Charlton player – Chris Iwelumo this time – who poked it home.

Ten minutes from time, an Ambrose corner – won after good work by Thomas – was gleefully headed home unchallenged by Sam Sodje for his second of the season.

The second half did see Charlton’s goal come under some pressure, but the expected bombardment was withstood well, and Nicky Weaver didn’t have to make any major saves. As the clock ticked down, Quinn launched a very late tackle on substitute Jose Semedo, and was rightly sent off. Hopefully, the Portuguese-r and the rest of the side will be fully fit for the next few games.

After the 3-0 home reverse against the Blades, this win balanced results over the season for the two teams.

Now, with just eleven games to go in the regular season, Charlton will be hoping to take this game as the springboard for future results and performances, starting at home to Bristol City on Tuesday. As has been said in the past, it is no good winning well away from The Valley if you follow that with a poor home result. It is key that Charlton go into Tuesday nights game confident and fully backed by the home crowd. In a similar vein to the Stoke home game at the end of January, the team can win if they play well, and have the full backing of everyone there (well, the Charlton fans at least…). A win and three points in this coming game will have us looking back at the top of the division, rather than over our shoulders at the chasing pack once more.

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