Monday, September 29, 2008

Hawk Hudson - the Better Bird of Prey

With another midweek match, Alan Pardew (left) has to think fast about how he is going to change the perception that this is just another mediocre season at The Valley. Bouyed by two away clean sheets, the team was visibly rocked when conceding a goal that they just shouldn’t have at home on Saturday, even though it only brought Sheffield Wednesday parity. Suffice to say, the equal-ness lasted a matter of minutes and Charlton fell behind and never did they get very close to drawing level for the fifty-odd minutes after that. The confidence is so thin at the moment, that you wouldn’t serve it with ice-cream!

Sure, the solidity of the team was broken by injuries received the week before in Nottingham; it is doubtful that Martin Crainie trained much, nor was Linvoy Primus around all week due to his knee injury, and with Jon Fortune out, who knows who played the part of centre back in training at Sparrows Lane last week.

Where Pardew probably went wrong was in not making a firm decision early enough about who would play where; if Yassin Moutaouakil (a much better bet to play in an attacking home game role) had been told that he was in on Monday – which is realistic – then that would have freed up Crainie to get fit for tomorrow’s away game, where his defensive acumen would have been better suited. If Kelly Youga had been given the chance at centre back alongside Mark Hudson, with Grant Basey at left back, then that would have allowed Primus to provide back up if the experiment with Youga fell foul.

Suffice to say, that piece of tinkering did not happen; Crainie played a solid but very unspectacular game, and Primus lasted an hour before being replaced on-field at the back by Matt Holland (such was Charlton’s dominance!).

Now we have a game where it is unlikely that the defence, the weakest part of the team at present, can be changed as that may present too many opportunities for a team we want to beat.
Pardew’s problem in midfield is that he now has too many options. I guess he is likely to switch back to 4-5-1 which theoretically allows him one extra player, but that could be one of any number of options.

If we presume that Luke Varney will play up front on his own, as he did at Forest, with Andy Gray on the bench if required, then it is likely that the attacking options will be backed up by Darren Ambrose, either through the middle, or in place of either Lloyd Sam or Hameur Bouazza, both of whom had lacklustre games on Saturday. That would leave Holland and Nicky Bailey to try to control the middle of the park. The problem with Pardew is that that is quite an easy option to chose, and I’m not sure he will go down that route. Pards has already said that he has four players chomping at the bit to get a start – they can only be Zheng Zhi, JonJo Shelvey, Ambrose, and Grant Basey, although I’m sure Jose Semedo and Moutaouakil would like to be involved from the start too!

So is there another option, and I know that this is a wild guess but bear with me, to play a completely new midfield in this match; a decision that would completely baffle the opposition?

Would Pardew recognise that Holland, Bailey, Sam and Bouazza could actually do with a rest every now and then and chose to play Ambrose on the right, Basey on the left, Zhi and Shelvey in the centre and Semedo providing a holding option? It doesn’t look bad on paper, would certainly show that we do have that strength in midfield depth that Pards is always going on about, and constructively prove that if you don’t cut it on Saturday, then your right to a place on Tuesday is not guaranteed!?!

In all truth I see Pardew switching back to that managerial favourite of tried and tested with experience, plus how much you cost or if you are on loan, rather than the much flaunted policy of letting the kids have a go – you know, you win nothing with kids! Well not at Charlton as they never get a game! He’ll probably say that we had to stick with most of the team as to change it would have invited ridicule had it gone wrong; note Alan, it is going wrong!

Anyway, rant over. I can’t see Pards doing that so this is the team I think he may send out in search of three more vital points provided they are all fit –

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Linvoy Primus
Kelly Youga
Grant Basey
Matt Holland
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Darren Ambrose
Luke Varney

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, Semedo, Zhi, Shelvey, Sam, Gray, Todorov, Dickson.

I expect Basey to be used in the holding role we saw at Forest; I just hope that the passing and time he takes are better than in that match, and in his cameo on Saturday. Sam is likely to get pulled ahead on loanee Bouazza, though either could make way for Ambrose realistically.

The bench is an interesting area too for this game. Semedo must be on it, as he is the only defender left (apart from Moots, who doesn’t give as many options), and so must a keeper (Elliott). I expect Gray to get a seat, but can ZiZi oust one of the incumbents or will his foot still be deemed to be sore? That leaves Toddy – who scored the winner in this game last year from the bench so he’ll want another chance – plus Sam, Shelvey, and Dickson, who was inextricably left off it on Saturday when he has done absolutely nothing wrong so far this year, to fill one place if our Chinaman makes it. Tough call Al…

Pedro45 hates this fixture and will not be travelling to the game; last season I was umpiring when the text came through telling me that we had won – blimey, I nearly gave someone out! This season, I will be in a bar in London drinking or eating, and not tied to the radio or Sky Sports News. Hopefully Second Division and Proud will text me the final score and it will be good news again this year and I won't spill my drink or get in a grumpy mood. Pedro45’s score predictions are usually wrong so why don’t I go for 8-0 to the Addicks and then I know I’m gonna be wrong…(wouldn’t it be lovely though, he he!).

My one-to-watch has to be Mark Hudson, our skipper returning to play against his old club. I see his old manager has been moaning about his departure in the local rag this week, stoking the flames; at least it has turned his attention away from blaming referee’s for his failures for a change. Mark, if we keep one clean sheet this year then this is the game we want to do it in; prove yourself right and show them you went to a better, classier, team. Oh, and if you score a goal that makes a difference, like Jon Fortune did, like Dennis Rommedahl did, like Paul Kitson did, or like Luke Varney did, then you could attain god-like status in SE7.

Up the Addicks!

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