Sunday, March 18, 2007

Chinese interest rates

Chinese rates of interest rose for the second time this weekend thanks to the exciting attacking exploits of national captain Zheng Zhi. An injury to Marcus Bent saw him thrust into a central position just behind Darren Bent (a role his manager used to fulfil successfully), and he transformed our fortunes scoring once, winning a penalty and generally being a thorn in Newcastle's side. I probably wasn't alone in viewing his signing as a cheeky way of selling a few shirts in Shanghai, but he looks completely comfortable at this level.

I missed the first 22 minutes of the game thanks to the inadequacies of Setanta Sports, but for the remainder of the first half we were generally second best to a mediocre Newcastle side. The sight of Darren Bent in the line-up was encouraging with Pards rightly acknowledging that yesterday's results effectively left him with little choice. However it was the injury to namesake Marcus which though unfortunate actually served to our advantage, allowing replacement Rommedahl to add some right-sided width and permitting Zheng the attacking cameo.

There are several things that impress me about Pardew's management, but I find myself implicitly trusting his tactical judgement, and this credibility must flow through to the players also. You just sense that he will 'do the right thing' and it was exemplified again later in the game when despite defending a slender 1-0 lead, he resisted the temptation to replace the tiring Darren Bent with Bougherra (and presumably pushing Rommedahl upfront), going instead like-for-like (positionally only of course) with Lisbie, to ensure we did not lose our shape. Within minutes his hawkish approach paid dividends thanks to the second goal that completed my pre-match correct score forecast. Under Curbs we'd have been holding a defensive line just north of Charlton Park Road.

We only played well in spells but as in our previous two Premiership games, we showed plenty of attacking flair, and it was only Given's heroics and Bent's profligacy that kept Newcastle in the game. Obafemi Martins had missed a self-created gilt-edged chance early in the second half, but that let-off roused us, and Zheng's cleverly taken goal thereafter gave us the confidence to go on and really test their makeshift defence (which bizarrely included Damien Duff).

My baby son (Toby Charlton) is yet to witness a Charlton defeat, and he celebrated this vital win by showing he's already strong enough to roll over, a couple of months ahead of schedule. The galvanising influence of our newly found form seemingly affects both very young and old(er) alike. The eight goals he's seen us score in three games is not the return one expects from a relegation-haunted side, and hence the frustration remains that we are now playing 'top-half' football with a proverbial mountain to climb.

That mountain however looks more surmountable than it did yesterday night, and the injury to Sheffield United's Rob Hulse combined with our home fixture against them on 21 April makes the 7/2 odds on their relegation appear outstanding value, despite their comfortable run-in. Moreover, as Pardew always wanted, we are slowly dragging the likes of Villa and Fulham into the fray, whilst on Saturday week we have the chance to haul back in-form Wigan. The fat lady may have cleared her throat, but she is yet to find her voice.

The stop-start fixture list however is a further frustration, and the ongoing talk about 'fixture congestion' is certainly passing us by given that we will have played just 3 games in 48 days by the time the Wigan coach drives into The Valley. Frankly it can't come around the corner soon enough.


Post a Comment

<< Home