Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No Place Like Away from Home

That'll teach me to make cheap jokes at my mother-in-law's expense. Losing 3-0 at home to Sheffield United is bad enough. Listening to audio commentary from BBC Radio Sheffield just made it worse.

The point has been made elsewhere that Sheffield United are perhaps in a 'false position.' However our poor home form is a genuine cause for concern and appears to lack an obvious explanation. Home games versus Scunthorpe, Barnsley, Plymouth, QPR and Sheff Utd should yield more than two points, suggesting that either our promotion push will fade away, or perhaps we too are in a false position (ie. we should be even higher).

Naturally I don't follow other clubs' form as closely as Charlton's, but we do seem to have a disproportionate history of dire and unexpectedly heavy home defeats. Without wishing to stir up terrible memories, tonight's defeat is probably up there with the following (not to mention countless dire Cup losses):

- Charlton 2-5 Man City (2005/6)
- Charlton 1-4 WBA (2004/5)
- Charlton 0-3 Man City (2003/4)
- Charlton 1-6 Leeds (2002/3)

They bring back warm fuzzy feelings of nostalgia don't they? It's a wonder we ever returned the following week, yet I bet Saturday's crowd is bigger than tonight's.

So far we have taken 17 points away from The Valley and just 14 points at home. Perhaps those two late late winners at Southampton and Bristol City have lulled us into drawing false conclusions, and worryingly so too. But either way, the dimensions of the pitch are the same so surely it's psychological? Or perhaps the expectant Valley crowd are to blame too? Then again, I'm not one to criticise given that I tend to watch football matches like I watch complete and pensive silence.

Then again, there were several times under Curbs when we seemed so much more fluid and composed away from home too. Even during our outstanding 2003/4 season for example, we accumulated just one more point at The Valley than away from it (26 vs. 27). In 2001/2, we took 23 points away from home compared to just 21 at The Valley (winning just 5 of 19 games there).

Strangely meanwhile 2000/01 was a complete disaster away from home, just 14 of 52 points taken away from The Valley. And when we surprisingly made the play-offs in 1995/96, again we took the majority of our points away from home (36 vs. 35). For completeness, during Curbs and Steve Gritt's first season in charge in 1991/92, we also failed to experience 'home sweet home' (37 vs. 34).

So how worried should we be? Probably 'not very', but it would be nice to know what's causing the phenomenon (presuming it is something more than randomness). I think I'd be more worried as an Ipswich fan, whose team have unbelievably accumulated 24 of their 28 points at Portman Road. It must be leading to some interesting prematch pub conversations between those that travel to away games, and those that don't.

Despite having just recently written about the efficacy of 4-5-1, the formation (first put in place vs. Southampton) has proved itself away from home it seems, but the jury remains out at The Valley. I suppose if teams attempt to put ten men behind the ball, it effectively neutralises our wide men and isolates Iwelumo. It appears Pards realised this by half-time tonight, so perhaps on Saturday, one ought to presume Burnley will do the same. Frustrating for sure, but football is a reactive game as well as a proactive one.

Perhaps the simplest answer lies in the relentless nature of this division, and the fact that fatigue is a great leveller. Witness Watford's sudden loss of form too. It can't be much fun after all to travel to deepest Lancashire, play a tough 90 minutes, travel back and then take on a physical Sheff Utd side just three days later. These types of results are inevitable perhaps, and as someone who hates draws with a passion, I prefer to look at our form in terms of a far more positive '12 points from 8 games', rather than '4 defeats in 8'.

As the tagline of this blog states, so long as we're facing in the right direction (which we most certainly are), all we have to do is keep on walking.


At 9:34 AM, Anonymous mike said...

Last night's defeat was nowhere near as bad as those you mentioned. We should have equalised at 1-0 down; their second goal was a scramble and third a breakaway. The matches you listed we could've lost by even more, whereas Sheffield United had 3 shots last night.

At 10:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are in a false position, Sheff Utd were the first decent team we have played and they did a job on us. Our midfield lacks energy and end product and Iwelumo needs to watch what Beattie did last night as a lone striker and needs to start getting involved, holding the ball up, making life difficult for defenders. If it wasn't for the vital late goals he has scored he would be getting lots of stick.


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