Thursday, September 18, 2008

Banking at the City Ground

So it’s three all going into the seventh game; crunch time for baseball lovers, but just another game during a long season for the Addicks. Should Charlton fans be too worried if the team gets beaten in their next match – away at Nottingham Forest on Saturday? Probably not, but what is assured is that if the team can win consecutive away games, the confidence will be greatly increased as the next set of three games in a week comes along from next Saturday.

Consistency is tough to get, and Alan Pardew knows it. When you win at home and lose away, I guess you are consistent; and then when you then lose at home and win away, that is a continuation of that consistency, albeit upside down! What Pards needs to instill in the team is a consistent positive attitude – we may not have played well on Tuesday in Yorkshire, but we didn’t lose. If we can keep on in this mode, and throw in the odd game where we do play well and still win, then the season may yet turn out to be a surprise.

After wins against Swansea and Doncaster, two of the three promoted clubs from League One last season, the Addicks now take of the third team to swim up the league ladder – Nottingham Forest. Regarded, even now, as a “Big Club”, on the back of two European Cups wins over 25 years ago, many will view this as a home banker. But bankers are not having a very good week I understand, and it could be that Charlton have enough nous and experience to squeeze out another victory.

Forest have a few decent players, as their large crowds can afford to pay a footballer a reasonable wage in the east midlands; Robert Earnshaw, so often linked with Charlton, is one who will need to be watched carefully, as will one of the key components when Forest beat Charlton in the cup a few years back Nathan Tyson. Forests most accomplished forward though is Andy Cole, a Nottingham-boy, but of Arsenal, Bristol City, Newcastle, Manchester United, Blackburn, and Burnley fame. He has certainly scored for at least three of those clubs against the Addicks in the past, and he will be keen to get his season off the mark once more. If Hudson and Fortune can keep him and Earnshaw in check, then we have a chance.

Alan Pardew meanwhile will be hoping he can play the same eleven that he has sent out in the last two matches. Well beaten by Wolves, the team showed much greater resilience against Doncaster, and it was good to see a clean sheet for the first time since early August.

The likelihood is that Pardew will have everyone who played on Tuesday available, but will three games in a week be too much for some?

I’m sure Nicky Weaver will be fine, and in goal; the defence is also likely to be unchanged with Crainie, Fortune, Husdson, and Youga filling the roles. Linvoy Primus is waiting for his chance but that is unlikely to come while the goals are not being conceded.

The midfield too could remain unchanged, but this is the area where we could see some players rested or revolved; Lloyd Sam did make the game on Tuesday despite limping through most of the previous match, so he should be OK to start on the right; Hameur Bouazza is likely to play left-side although Grant Basey will be an option if required. In the middle, Nicky Bailey is, at 24, more than able to play three games in a week but next to him, Mat Holland, about ten years older, may not.

If Holland does need a break, the options available to Charlton are plentiful thankfully - JonJo Shelvey scored a wonder goal in a friendly in midweek; Jose Semedo also played (at left back) in that behind-closed-doors game; and Zheng Zhi may well be fit after his bruised foot injury. Even Darren Ambrose is fit but struggling to get a look in at present.

Up front, unless Gray or Varney picked up any fresh injuries on Tuesday, we will see them continue with Chris Dickson on the bench and willing if the need arises.

This is the team I think our manager will send out in search of three points -

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Kelly Youga
Lloyd Sam
Matt Holland
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Luke Varney
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, Basey, Semedo, Primus, Zhi, Shelvey, Wright, Ambrose, Fleetwood, Dickson.

Pedro45 is quietly confident that the Addicks can win back to back games for the first time this season, but he is concerned that history and luck may prevent such an occurrence. If a mid-table team plays three games (in a week), then a win, draw and defeat could easily be expected, and my score prediction is therefore a 1-1 draw to balance the books.

My one-to-watch at the City Ground is going to be new recruit Martin Crainie. He may be young, but his shoulders will have to be strong enough this weekend to look after forwards who have scored bundles of goals throughout the divisions over the last ten years or so. He will be key element in covering Fortune and Hudson, who presumably will handle most of the marking duties on Cole and Earnshaw.

This is another pretty important match for the Addicks – not yet season defining, but it could be important in deciding if we are to be in the top half of the Championship for most of the year, or the bottom half. Move on up!

Up the Addicks!

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I'm sure Pards will rest one and maybe two. Shelvey and Ambrose would be my guesses to come in if he does. Holland and either Bouazza or Sam look most "restable;" Holland beacuse he's legs can't take three games in a week and Bouazza or Sam because they aren't setting the world on fire right now.Personally, I'd drop Bouazza as his first touch and distribution have been poor.
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