Friday, August 24, 2007

Wednesday preview

The disappointing final half-hour at the Brittania Stadium has turned Saturday's fixture against Sheffield Wednesday into something of a 'must win' game, especially with tricky trips to Palace and Colchester to follow.

However Saturday's fixture ought also to be a time for reflection. It was as recently as January 1996 that our 2-0 FA Cup triumph over the Owls secured as the Sunday back page headlines, yet just over a decade later we are firmly in the ascendancy on far more than a one-off basis. Although it's also a valuable lesson in what can go wrong after relegation, it's also a time to have a reality check and realise how far we've come.

Like the two fixtures that preceded it, this game may be equally problematic but I remain strangely relaxed and confident about our chances even in the event of just a point or worse. Indeed should that occur, I will be plunging an improper amount of money into the hands of an unsuspecting bookie whilst declaring, "....yes my good man, I will snap up the 12/1 on Charlton to win the Championship."

Why am I so confident? Because I appreciate that despite barely 5% of the season having gone, it is easy to focus too much on the somewhat random scorelines that actually occurred in those first two games, and not enough on the points total we would on average expect to have accumulated if we had played as well (within reason) as we did. If we are still sat in the bottom half after say 20 games, then the scorelines take on some statistical significance (and we'd be miles behind the leaders), but not yet. Had we played very badly of course, I would have felt very differently; I have it on good authority for example that Watford look far from impressive.

We didn't look like world beaters, but rather a team with immense promise not quite finding top gear. The quality of some of our football at Stoke especially was first rate (relative to the rest of this division) and with 43 games left to find our rhythm, I'll snap up any double-digit odds after Saturday in the name of 'legalised theft.'

The chances of me entering Ladbrokes (not Paddy Power? - Ed.) on Monday morning have increased in light of the untimely injury to Yassin Moutaouakil. It was probably no coincidence that we conceded two goals after his departure, with Jonathan Fortune asked to act as a makeshift right-back, and his continued absence offers Pards plenty to muse upon.

With the rather unconvincing Osei Sankofa injured, Pards may well continue to ask Fortune to deputise, reluctant I would imagine to shift the impressive Semedo from his central holding role. The arrival of Zheng Zhi (and even perhaps Therry Racon) at least offer alternatives to Semedo in midfield, but I would expect Pards to decline the chance to unbalance a side already lacking a little confidence. Amdy Faye would appear to be an obvious straight replacement for Semedo, but comments in the media today suggest his Valley days are numbered. (seems an ideal time to give Cory Gibbs a first start? - Ed.)

In midfield, Jerome Thomas was lively in the second half at Stoke and will probably start at the expense of Lloyd Sam, whilst Chris Iwelumo may also have done enough to warrant a start, although don't be too surprised if McLeod gets the nod over Bent given his obvious complimentary skillset to the big Scot.

Hence I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Fortune, Thatcher, McCarthy, Bougherra, Reid, Ambrose, Thomas, Semedo, Iwelumo, Bent. Subs: Randolph, Zheng, McLeod, Powell, Sinclair.

I don't miss the Premiership, but I miss the convenience of the Premiership.....the blanket TV coverage, the endless post-mortems, the radio commentaries (!). Before I head back to the veritable Championship-free zone also known as the USA, it would be nice to have that first win under our belts to act as a springboard, even if it does prevent me from pilfering a bookie. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Ambrose, McLeod), Sheff Weds 0. Attn: 21,249.


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