Friday, January 18, 2008

Watford preview

Seeing the pictures of the crash-landed jet at Heathrow yesterday was a shock to say the least. The usual descent begins somewhere near The Valley before offering exceptional views along the Thames, and when you've woken bleary-eyed perhaps 40+ times in the past few years on the way home from the US, it's a special way to see London.

However one question has been bugging me, and none of the reports I've read about the incident seem to have answered it. Were the passengers in business and first class allowed to disembark the plane first? And if not, why not? If I'd been lucky enough to be up the front, and from time to time I am, then I'd be elbowing women and children out of the way to launch myself down the chute. I think we should be told.

Anyhow, I brought up that plane because Charlton's direct flight back to the Premiership is in danger of crash landing at Vicarage Road tomorrow. The alternative route, requiring a two-week stopover in 'Play-Offs' is considerably less appealing, and firmly the equivalent of flying economy.

Defeat tomorrow would leave us at least 7 points behind the top two, and possibly 8 if Bristol City win at Palace, which might not sound much but with 18 games left, it requires a considerable differential in form to make up. In the above scenario, if the points-per-game of the leaders was extrapolated to the end of the season, 86 points would be required for automatic promotion, implying Charlton would need 43 points from 18 games, a huge and surely unattainable requirement. Obviously the teams above us might lose form, bringing down the target, but we could find ourselves 7th tomorrow night, and six teams won't all lose form at the same time.

I'd love to be there tomorrow, not least because getting to Watford from where my parents live is even easier than getting to a home game. Memories of Vicarage Road usually involve that infamous walk through the allotments, a little hint of rural England, before arriving at the old away terrace. Unfortunately our recent record there is not great (just one win since 1974) and a midweek 4th Round League Cup defeat (despite Premiership status) in 2001 particularly hurt.

It's unclear to me why we have played 27 games but not yet played Watford, but perhaps it's an opportune time to play them given their current poor form, and yesterday's departure of their much-heralded, but surely hugely overpriced star player. Nonetheless, I continue to be a big fan of Ady Boothroyd, whose record at Watford is exceptionally impressive, particularly in light of the forced sales of the likes of King, and Ashley Young. I was probably not alone in thinking that they might capitulate this season, but recent hiccups aside, it has not been the case.

This week did however see Watford receive some positive news, when injured midfielder Al Bangura was permitted to stay in the UK, rather than be deported back to Sierra Leone where he claimed his life would be in danger. Don't get me wrong, I would always put human rights considerations before the rights of Watford's promotion challengers, but if having one's life put in danger every time they went home was an issue, let's spare a thought for Palace's squad, most of whom are presumably forced to live in the badlands of Streatham or Brixton.

It sounds like we played rather well at WBA during the week, but we still lost and moreover we ended up playing 120 minutes on a heavy pitch, demonstrating precisely why the decision to play an unchanged side was strange to say the least. Nonetheless, it was pleasing to hear the WBA-biased commentators waxing lyrical about Kelly Youga's contribution, once again emphasising to me that you'll never find out how good a young player can be unless you risk him in first-team football. Thank goodness we weren't tempted to let him go on the cheap.

After the 4-1 thumping of Blackpool, Pardew must be tempted to leave things unchanged for the fourth consecutive game, but Watford's physical approach is well-known and strongly argues the case for the return of Chris Iwelumo, not least to counter their obvious height advantage at set-pieces (Henderson, Davenport, Mackay, Jackson etc..). With a fee agreed today for Andy Gray, a reasonable bid for the continually frustrating Izale McLeod ought to be accepted, not least given the obvious promise of Chris Dickson.

Thus, I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Moutaouakil, Youga, McCarthy, Bougherra, Ambrose, Holland, Zheng, Sam, Iwelumo, Varney. Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Semedo, Thomas, Dickson.

NY Addick predicts: Watford 2 (Davenport, Henderson), Charlton 2 (Iwelumo, Zheng). Att: 15, 281.


At 8:43 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Yes, I remember that league cup defeat, went to extra time and we still lost, and it was a midweek match, a nightmare finding anywhere to park - which is why I am not going this evening.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Blackheath Addicted said...

Hold your breath for this afternoon; it's shaping up as the most important as the season. If Palace beat Bristol City and we beat Watford everything gets very tight for second spot (WBA could be six points clear). If the reverse there's a big gap after Watford and Bristol City. The league changes too quickly to say it's crucial, but it's right up there.


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