Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sharpening the Blade

Seven games without a win – could Charlton finally end the run this weekend? It will be tough – Sheffield United sit in fifth place in the league at present, and they will be looking to bounce back after a home defeat last week (to Reading) that left them a little way behind the top three. You can guarantee that they will see anything other than a victory as dropped points, so Alan Pardew will have his work cut out getting Charlton ready.

Pardew has finally delved into the loan market, and brought in a player, but then again we were promised up to four by this weekend, so maybe we shouldn’t shout too loud…

Choices to make then, after finally getting a relatively settled team during the last two away games (just 12 players started in the two matches…), and it does seem that Martyn Waghorn, the striker who is here for a month from Sunderland, has to start, otherwise what is the point in him being at The Valley when we have so many others strikers available?

Starting at the back however, Nicky Weaver will hope that he is not made the victim, as others have this season, when mistakes in one match have cost them their place for several months! Weaves didn’t so much drop a clanger last weekend at St Andrews as push it up in the air for Kevin Phillips to head into the net. Then he pushed another ball straight back out to another blue shirt and the hard earned half-time lead had disappeared in just five minutes of goalkeeping mayhem. Personally, I can’t see (even) Pardew dropping our Nicky, unless he does the same thing this week and next, as he is a much better keeper than both Elliott and Randolph, our only other options (bar a loanee?).

Defensively, I expect the same players to start as at Plymouth and Birmingham, even though we conceded five goals in the two games. Moutaouakil, Hudson, Primus, and Youga are settling into playing with each other regularly, and any options we have do not really improve the overall defence, either going forwards or holding firm.

If we presume that Waghorn will play, and that is by no means certain, then the midfield five will be reduced by one this weekend. We will still play two wide players – almost certainly Lloyd Sam and Hameur Bouazza, but who will drop out from the middle? Well, it’s unlikely to be Nicky Bailey, as he has played much better now that he isn’t playing minder to Josh Wright and has his defensive duties strengthened by Jose Semedo. I would like to see our Portugeuser retained too, with Matt Holland dropping to the bench.

Up front, Andy Gray, without much training but with goals in consecutive games, is sure to start against one of his former clubs.

This is the team I expect to see run out to The Red, Red Robin –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Mark Hudson
Linvoy Primus
Kelly Youga
Nicky Bailey
Jose Semedo
Lloyd Sam
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Martyn Waghorn

Subs from Elliott, Crainie, Basey, Holland, Wright, Shelvey, Todorov, Varney, Dickson, McLeod.

Sheffield United have James Beattie up front, and a very solid team. They will take no prisoners, and look to counter-attack, just as they did when whipping a better Addicks team last season three-nil.

Pedro45 wants the team to get something from this game, and I predict a 1-1 draw. It will prolong the run of games without a win, but may just about send the fans home contented that the battling away form was true, and that maybe, just maybe, the tide is starting to turn. Of course, if we are 3-0 down at half-time as we were last time out at The Valley, then the manager can expect no more chances, give no more excuses, and the board will have to make the right decision for the Club - which is sack him.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Mark Hudson. Our skipper (left, just about to be sent off atr Cardiff!) will have his hands full looking after Beattie and any return from the game is key to him doing a good job on the ex-England striker. If he can be contained, then that will be half the battle, but if Beattie is allowed to rampage, then Charlton have no chance really.

I still do not think that Pards is the man to lead Charlton, and if we get nothing this weekend, and nothing from Tuesday’s game at QPR, then the next Valley match versus Southampton becomes yet another must win game, and possibly Pardew’s swansong. He has said he will not quit, so that leaves any decision with the board.

But to finish on a positive note, should Waghorn prove an inventive and ingenious loan, and able to do what Varney, McLeod, Fleetwood, Todorov and Dickson are not capable of according to the manager, then maybe Pardew will get more time and the Redvolution will have to wait still longer.

Saturday afternoon could tell us quite a lot…

Come on you reds!

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