Tuesday, 30 October 2007

The Mavis Riley's are back!

It was a poor week for Charlton Athletic. Three defeats on the spin and a six place fall to 8th in the Championship. We topped it off with a worrying performance on Saturday which lacked energy, commitment and passion. We've every right to feel disappointed and to show our disproval by booing at the end of the game, but aren't you sick, tired and slightly embarrassed by the whining neurotics who seem to follow our club in increasing numbers?

The internet has again been full of the inane rantings of "Charlton fans" who clamour to tell the rest of us that they have been proven right; Pardew is a lame manager, all of his signings are hopeless wasters and that they should be made to apologise publicly on the pitch etc etc etc. What did we ever do to attract these Insecurities? These same people were crowing just as enthusiastically as everyone else a fortnight ago but subconciously they were praying for a three match reversal where they could again give vent to their spleen.

I suppose I could get sucked in to the ongoing debate about "old" versus "new" supporters but will endeavour to avoid that because I'm not sure that's the answer, just that their numbers have increased disproportionately as our support has grown and relative success of late means they might be short of any grounding in reality or that they have poor memories.
Other clubs supporters view us very strangely and too often it's these muppets that are responsible. Every workplace seems to have one and they are held up to ridicule as typical Charlton anoraks. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a year-zero policy that some of our Millwall neighbours favour, whereby you drop down several divisions to lose the "hangers-on" but we need to find a way of marginalising these people because they are not truly representative of the vast majorty and they give us a bad name. Anyone have any bright ideas?

Let's face it, losing at Wolves is hardly a bad result; we created enough chances to have beaten Plymouth on Tuesday but Rob Styles ruined the game; Saturday's defeat was a bitter disappointment and salt in the wounds, but it was a London derby against a team who have been battling of late and for the first time this season we didn't put in a shift at home that I believe would have been enough to beat them on any other day. Their supporters also turned up in decent numbers and urged them on whilst we sat there in silence refusing to get into the game until we had a goal to cheer; if our positions had been reversed we would have struggled to get 2,000 to Loftus Road and their fans would have been a lot more supportive of their side.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Weekend Championship Review

An improvement in my predictions this weekend and I was a Hull City goal away from claiming £995 from Paddy Power (5 result £30 accumulator). That means I lost again but my confidence has been lifted and I feel close now to my first win of the season.

With Watford winning this evening (ho-ho!), that means the Top 4 all won and the next four, down to Charlton, were all beaten. The top sides are beginning to string out and we are a worrying 7 points adrift of the second automatic promotion spot which was ours little over a week ago. Watford, our relegation peers from last season are 13 points ahead of us and already look unassailable.

For the record I got 7 out of 12 correct results and was one goal away from five correct scores. I will publish my next few bets so you can all get on it too and join me in celebrating a nice big pre-Christmas win!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Charlton Athletic 0 v QPR 1

A disastrous week was capped today at the Valley with the poorest performance of the season and an embarrassing defeat by bottom-of-the-table QPR. Once again Charlton produced a stadium-emptying display for a watching nation on Sky television.

QPR were good value for the win and they should have had the winner even earlier in the second half having missed a penalty and an open goal. They were hardworking but their win was handed to them on a plate by a disinterested Charlton side. Varney and Iwelumo mis-fired throughout and our midfield was all over the place. Reid was subduded on the left in the first half and failed to up the tempo when he came into the middle after Semedo was substituted. Lloyd Sam had a poor game on his return from a three match ban but did come closest to scoring for the Reds with a second half free kick which Lee Camp pushed out.

The back four were again a major disappointment. Alan Pardew at least took some positive action after the midweek display by dropping Bougherra and starting Sodje at the back with Fortune for the first time. He also gave Grant Basey a debut at left-back and he was probably the only Charlton player to emerge with any credit. Sodje made two superb last ditch tackles but Fortune cantered through the game and again made several howlers, worst of which was his mis-timed tackle which gave Rangers their penalty. Turned inside out he waited until his opponent got into the box before bringing his man down. The resultant penalty was slammed off an upright by Rowlands and that should have been the wake-up call Charton needed but no-one looked that bothered and you knew what was coming.

Minutes later and Danny Mills, who looked more interested than the rest, was far too casual in the box and lost the ball to a Rangers player who amazingly failed to hit the target. They didn't have to wait too much longer though, another raid on the left saw Vine curl a deep cross which Weaver came for but never looked like getting. Weaver collided with Sodje and Nygaard, and went down looking for a free-kick as the ball fell to Bolder who fired home. There was still plenty of time left but we hadn't shown any urgency all day and continued at a pedestrian rate.

Alan Pardew should be furious after this performance but it's hard to see what options he has. Thomas came on for Semedo but failed to create anything and Izale Mcleod didn't touch the ball after coming on for Iwelumo with a good 15 minutes left. What we need is an international break but the last one doesn't seem to have done us any good. Two away games now look very difficult and we face running out a mid-table side in the next home game. The bubble has well and truly burst and we have a lot of hard work to do to turn this around.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

I can't let the bookie get away with it. He owes me.

Bristol City v Stoke City

Must be a home win here. Stoke bounced back from a 4-2 home defeat by lowly Wednesday to win 3-1 at equally lowly Palace in midweek. Bristol City should provide altogther tougher opposition.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Southampton

Hard one this as both sides are extremely unpredictable. I'll go with home advantage.

Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Scunthorpe

JFH and Robbie Fowler are determined to prove me wrong by racking up the goals. Both scored again in midweek but it wasn't enough to prevent Wolves taking the spoils at Ninian Park. Scunny are proving a tough nut to crack.

Prediction; 0-0

Charlton v QPR

London derby predictions have to start with a 1-1 view. We are dreadful on live TV but QPR are bottom and managerless. They have been scrapping however, so I'll tone this down (an early Charlton goal could signal a hat-full).

Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Colchester United

The Sky Blues to bounce back from the 3-0 home rout by Watford.

Prediction; 2-1

Hull City v Sheffield United

The "Robson out" campaign can't be far off despite some respite in midweek with a 1-0 win at Leicester. I fancy Hull to win Yorkshire bragging rights here.

Prediction; 1-0

Ipswich Town v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Both had good wins in the week. Wolves have won their last two and Michael Kightly is buzzing. That might be enough to share the points.

Prediction; 2-2

Leicester City v Barnsley

As we know, Barnsley will scrap and Leicester are rudderless at the moment.

Prediction; 0-1

Preston NE v Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth looked a confident side at the Valley in midweek but they rode their luck and Ray Styles helped break the game for them. If Preston can take their chances they should have enough here.

Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Blackpool

Is the Wednesday revival back on? They win at Stoke and lose at home to Scunthorpe in the same week. They're due a win on that basis.

Prediction; 2-0

West Brom v Norwich

Banker of the day.

Prediction; 3-0

Crystal Palace v Watford

Monday evening fare this one. A 17,000 crowd to see Palace fail again. The good news is that Neil Warnock and Simon Jordan will get to see themselves on telly again.

Prediction; 1-2

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

It could be worse...

Busy day at work today and think I have just about got yesterdays game out of the system. The news that Gary Megson is off to Bolton has also helped cheer me up enormously. What goes around, comes around Milan Mandaric, and I for one was laughing my head off to see you squirming on the box this evening about "deciding to let Gary Megson speak to their people." Serves you bloody right for the appalling way you dumped Martin Allen after four games. I know he's too old to learn any lessons and has too much money to dwell on it but maybe the better managerial replacements will think twice about risking their reputations with the basket-case that Leicester City appear to have become.

Wolves winning at Cardiff tonight tonight means we drop out of the Play-Off places. Maybe this will give us an extra edge on Saturday (I know this sounds desperate but...). Bristol City won again at home to Southampton, so open a gap on us and all of a sudden there's a real bunching with 8 sides separated by 3 points below the top 3.

Looking further out, we might be playing Southampton (Jason Euell) at just the right time. They are shipping goals so we might expect a 4-3 win. Bristol City away the week after that will be tough but maybe we will go there as under-dogs. We follow that at home to Cardiff where I will be furious if we can't prevent another ex Charlton player from scoring against us, especially a useless fat one.

Roll on Saturday!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Charlton Athletic 1 v Plymouth Argyle 2

Charlton lost their unbeaten home record this evening in a feisty encounter with Plymouth Argyle which will be remembered for another inept referring performance by the clown Ray Styles.

Charlton started with a reasonable enough line-up bearing in mind all the pre-match consternation over how we would fill the left-back slot. The solution was straightforward enough, Mills went in at left-back and Yassin Moutaouakil came back at right-back. Ambrose was replaced by Varney in a wide right position, which looked ok to me at the start, although he had a poor game and was ineffective (not unlike Ambrose of late).

The game started very brightly with a goal a-piece inside the first 12 minutes or so. Plymouth attacked from the off and deserved their early lead when some quick movement and slick passing saw them play in from the left and several touches later Ebanks-Blake found himself with the simple task of steering the ball wide of Weaver. I could be critical of the Charlton defending but this was very early in the game and there was worse to come.

Having taken the lead, Plymouth took a breather and Charlton picked up the reigns with several good attacking moves of their own culminating in a ball being played out to Mills on the overlap at the left edge of the box on 12 minutes. His rasping drive from 20 yards looked to have been tipped onto the post by Luke McCormick but the ball cannoned back and the unfortunate keeper knocked it over the line. At this stage we had a great game in prospect.

There then followed a number of niggly fouls from both sides which Styles either failed to punish or simply got wrong - Semedo was clattered three times. Todorov was the inevitable first booking when Coco finally decided to impose himself on the game. Unfortunately he then failed to book a retaliatory cut-down on Todorov minutes later that saw him stretchered off (to be replaced by Izale McLeod). At this point Mr Styles was probably concerned at the number of things he was getting wrong and the evident abuse he was getting from the Valley crowd. So, he decided he was going to award a free-kick for every subsequent tackle and a yellow card for anything bordering a committed challenge until the end of the game. I lost count at 10 yellow cards, six to us a and four to them. For every booking he blew his whistle as loud as he could, stepped back theatrically and summonsed the player towards him. No quick kicks were allowed and we had a 15-20 second delay as he took his notes for each booking. In between times his other decisions were inconsistent and on several occasions blatantly wrong. There was precious little advantage played and when he did he was waving play on because he couldn't decide if there had been a foul committed or not! He used these two "advantages" to demonstrate that he knew the correct signal for "play on" by waving his arms profusely as if to ensure we were all aware that he was somehow contributing to the flow of the game (which he failed to do spectacularly).

Luke Varney missed the best Charlton chance of the half when he ran onto a long through ball from Jonathan Fortune only to slam his shot at McCormick. Iwelumo met a superb cut-back cross from Reid at the far post and headed down powerfully but, for the third game running, his effort was stopped on the line. In the midst of this Charlton period McLeod gave the ball away in a deep position and Argyle countered swiftly. The ball was lobbed over the back line and Barry Hayles was allowed to get a toe to it before Weaver and it trickled in for 1-2.

Charlton came out fired-up during the second half and created a blizzard of chances in several concerted spells of pressure, but everything looked hurried and there was a sense of panic even with 25 minutes to go. Andy Reid shot wide twice with options available left and right; varney did the same; Iwleumo rose unchallenged to meet a great left-wing cross ten yards out but contrived to divert his header wide of the gaping right-hand post. I think every midfielder and forward fluffed chances during the second half in-between bookings and fouls awarded by Styles. Defeat looked inevitable when Charlton eventually slowed down and Plymouth were able to get back into the game towards the end of the match.

Credit to Plymouth, they came to have a go and you have to think that Ian Holloway had done his homework, although it's pretty evident what Charlton's problems are; we cannot defend for 90 minutes and we have a glaringly obvious problem at centre-back. Our conversion ration of goal-scoring chances to goals must be the worst in the division and this too is becoming a concern.

Danny Mills was my clear-cut man-of-the-match today (Lillian Nalis stood out for them). Reidy was a close second despite his misses. Yassin Moutoakil played well but I think Fortune and Bougherra were exposed for the goals and they don't look comfortable with each other. Semedo and Zheng Zhi both had reasonable games in midfield but Varney looked clearly out-of-position. Iwelumo had another busy game but was guilty of three bad misses. McLeod contributed little. Thomas looked lively when he came on beating his men on the left and putting in several excellent crosses, although he too finished his best opportunity weakly.

This was our first back-to-back defeat and we've heaped pressure on ourselves for Saturday. Our record in live TV games is truly appalling (I'll bet no-one has worse) and QPR will come to frustrate us. I'm so hacked off with this evening's game that I can't be bothered to look at the other results and am off to bed.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Another hammering at the bookies I'm afraid. The Championship remains relatively unpredictable even after 11 games played. The number of draws remains high and every week we get several complete reverses of form e.g. Wednesday scoring four to win at Stoke and Colchester netting three to beat West Brom. For the record, I only managed two correct results this week (Sheffield United and Watford) although I was within a goal of five other correct scores.

What with England going down in Paris and Lewis Hamilton losing it in Sao Paulo (you can't see him being handed the World Championship on a technicality) it was a depressing end to a disappointing sporting week. We will have to hope for better next month when the final games of the European qualifiers are played.

At least Charlton have a chance of bouncing back and lifting spirits this week. We need to avoid two bad results in succession this season if we are to maintain hopes of automatic promotion. Plymouth Argyle are going well and had a confidence-boosted 1-0 over Coventry at Home Park at the weekend. Hopefully, a long trip on a Tuesday night to a partisan Valley will prove too much for them. We need Andy Reid firing on all cylinders and surely we won't waste all of the opportunities we create again.

On Saturday we play bottom-of-the-table, managerless QPR and have to expect to win this comfortably. London derbies are rarely straightforward but an early goal might be all we need to break their resolve and we could make it a long day for them. We are also due to give someone a beating by four or five and this week would be as good as any.

We will need to match West Brom as they have every prospect of picking up six points themselves as the entertain Blackpool and then Norwich at the Hawthorns. Bristol City are also at home twice against Southampton and then Stoke City. Southampton were outplayed at home by Cardiff yesterday but managed to hang on to an early lead and nick the points. After the goals they have been shipping when going behind, they run the risk of a hiding at City. Hopefully Stoke will put up a better fight on Saturday after their disappointing home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday.

That leaves Wolves and Watford, both of whom face two away games. Wolves go to Cardiff and Ipswich and I can't see them coming through those unscathed. Watford are flying but will have to negotiate Coventry City and then Palace on Monday evening. An opportunity then for us to make some ground here.

Remember, the Royal Oak has re-opened and waiting times for a pint should be shortened due to the extension of the bar as well as the pub. Landlord Clive Still is a long-suffering QPR fan, so expect him to be hiding in the cellar after the game on Saturday.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Wolves 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

A wasteful Charlton performance was punished by defeat today at Molineux. A hatful of chances were missed and lazy centre-back defending encouraged Wolves to believe there were goals to be had.
In the first half, Luke Varney missed a sitter in the first attack, Iwelumo had a header brilliantly saved by Hennessy and Ambrose blazed over. Chrissy Powell was struggling for most of the first half following a heavy tackle and was replaced before the break by Sam Sodje. By contrast, Weaver hadn't anything to do though Wolves broke well and Michael Kightley looked dangerous throughout.

The second half was only a minute old when Jay Bothroyd beat Madjid Bougherra to a near post cross from Karl Henry and slammed home on the half-volley. Charlton rallied and Varney got a shot in at Hennessey; Mills fired over and Zheng Zhi did the same from another Iwelumo knock-down. Todorov and Thomas were brought on in a double substitution for Bougherra and Ambrose as Alan Pardew gambled for an equaliser. Varney managed another shot at Hennessey before Wolves broke with five minutes to go and Karl Henry applied the coup de grace. Alan Pardew will be disappointed with the number of chances missed and needs to look again at the how the back four operate. Andy Reid may have been less rested than many of the others but he was well marshalled by Karl Henry and had a quiet game.

The good news is that only Bristol City in the chasing pack won, so whilst we slip to third, we have every prospect of regaining second spot from the two home games this week. We are however, now 7 points behind Watford, a gap that will be very hard to close.

I'm off to the newly re-opened, extended and all-improved Royal Oak this evening to drown my sorrows. Maybe the England under-dogs can lift the spirits with a World-Cup winning rugby performance in Paris tonight?

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Dark Night for the Home Countries....

Oh dear. England and Scotland both beaten well east of Germany on a dismal European Cup qualifying night . It doesn't bode well for British and Irish football and there's every prospect of of the 2008 European Cup finals being played without any representation from these islands.

In Group D, the Republic of Ireland and Wales are already out. The Irish have gone out a respectable third to Germany and the Czech Republic but they have rallied in recent games. The Welsh, however, are staggering about punch-drunk and you feel it'll take a knock-out blow and some time on the canvass before they have any chance of long-term recovery. John Toshack was considering his options after the Cyprus game and it was hard to escape the conclusion that he feels he has been unable to influence his players and that he has little prospect of improving the situation. Incredibly frustrating for a man with superb playing record and an under-rated manageral career.

In Group F, Northern Ireland can at least hold their heads high after fighting all the way. Along with Denmark, they are likely to lose out to Sweden and Spain who only need one win from two reamining games each to qualify.

England's defeat in Moscow hands the Russians the initiative and they know that a win in Israel against a side who are now out of contention, would leave them needing a victory against no-hopers Andorra to clinch their place. Croatia only need a point from their two remaining games to qualify and one of those is a must win game for England at Wembley. The anti-McLaren brigade will be smelling blood and England do not need the added pressure that the press will now heap upon them.

Scotland meanwhile, were beaten by two good goals in Georgia. This after a great run of results which had put them top of their group containing the World Cup finalists. Their remaining match against Italy at Hampden on 17th November is now a straight qualifier and they must win if their failure to qualify for a major competition is not to be extended to 12 years at least.

Let's all hope that England and/or Scotland can yet make it because next years finals won't be the same without someone to cheer on.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

The Championship is back this weekend and we follow-up the Wolves away game with Plymouth and QPR at home; both games I believe we can and will win. A win at Molineau on Saturday would be a bonus and give us a chance of narrowing the gap on Watford who follow-up with tricky away games at Coventry and Palace in the next week.

Barnsley v Burnley

Not much between these sides and both keep it tight. Home advantage to edge it to the Tykes.

Prediction; 2-1

Blackpool v Crystal Palace

Kit Symons made his exit this week as Neil "Me, Me, Me" Warnock begins to unsettle everyone at Selhurst. Blackpool draw a lot of games and Palace have only been beaten by 1-0 scorelines when they have lost this season, so I'm happy to go for more of the same.

Prediction; 1-0

Colchester United v West Bromwich Albion

Two high-scoring sides come together at Layer Road and I can see West Brom winning the shoot-out.

Prediction; 1-3

Norwich City v Bristol City

Norwich are desperate for a result and caretaker manager Jim Duffy's gone for John Hartson to breathe some life back into the Canaries. Bristol City will be wanting to avoid another away defeat following their 3-0 tonking at Barnsley. All points to a stalemate for me.

Prediction; 1-1

Plymouth Argyle v Coventry City

Don't see many goals in this one. Both sides pressing to establish themselves in the top six.

Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Ipswich Town

Crisis club QPR continue down the rocky road. The much-hyped investment is still not there, another decent manager is shown the door and they find themsleves bottom of the table. Real opportunity for Ipswich to pick up the points.

Prediction; 0-2

Scunthorpe v Leicester

After two successive home defeats to Watford and West Brom, I can see Scunny getting back to winning ways. If Leicester get something here I'll change my appraisal of Gary Megson.

Prediction; 1-0

Sheffield United v Preston NE

I've been getting both of these teams wrong all season. United are under-performing badly and Bryan Robson will surely come under intense pressure if his side were to lose for the sixth time this season already. Preston to pile it on and get something.

Prediction; 2-2

Stoke City v Sheffield Wednesday

The Sheffield Wednesday revival was short-lived. Stoke to skate this one.

Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Hull City

Home banker. Watford far too strong and confident for City.

Prediction; 3-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Charlton Athletic

I don't think McCarthy's got it right yet at Wolves. Freddie Eastwood is a threat and Jay Bothroyd will be hoping to get on and prove us wrong. However, they aren't great at the back and we can win this if we're up for it. We need to hang on to Watford's coat-tails at the moment.

Prediction; 1-2

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Back to Business...

Fantastic Scotland performance this weekend in beating Ukraine. Four points from Goergia away and Italy at Home and Scotland will be there. I am going to Hampden next month for the Italy game; the place will erupt if Scotland make it and I can see the stadium still being full an hour after kick-off if they do as the party gets underway. Let's hope the hangover on the Sunday morning is because we want to remember and not because we want to forget.

I also watched a dogged England display as they ground out another amazing result at the Stadt de France. It's hard to think that England have actually made it to the Rugby World Cup final, but they have and no amount of purist pontification will change that. Despite what they are saying publicly they will be hoping to face the Argies next week. Whilst the South African's are hot favourites this evening, I can see the Pumas running them close. I hope so, because England have the game to beat them but not, I fear, the Boks and the wounds from they opening round mangling are still too fresh to be forgotten.

Back to business, and it great to see Chris Dickson's name appearing as scorer on the pub telly in Glasgow yesterday. First because that's four in a week, but also because it meant Millwall were losing (so they scraped a draw - it's not the end of the world).

Looks like we might need the win at Wolves on Saturday if Watford aren't to increase their lead at the top - they should beat Hull comfortably at Vicarage Road. West Brom and Bristol City are also away, at Colchester and Norwich respectively, so Watford will go six points clear if we don't match their result. C'mon you Reds!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Le Weekend

Off to Hampden tomorrow for the latest part of the quest to see Scotland qualify for a championship for the first time since France '98. Schevchenko and Voronin should provide the Ukrainian threat but confidence will be high that Scotland can win and cement their position in Group B. The midweek trek to Georgia will not be for the faint-hearted but the team will surely fancy it if they can celebrate another three points on Saturday. The Italy match next month at Hampden will be a decider on that basis, but two wins beforehand and any slip from France or Italy could even make that academic. Qualification for Scotland is critical because it would elevate their world rankings and they would likely go into the World Cup draw as seeds which means you are only likely to be grouped with one other seed as opposed to two.

One thing is for sure, I will insist that we are drinking in a pub tomorrow night that is showing Le Crunch. With Scotland whimpering out of the Rugby World Cup on Sunday (don't mention it, I am still furious), I will be cheering England on in a game that I believe they can win. The tactics deployed so brilliantly against the Aussies will be enough to force the French to choke once more. With up to 40,000 England fans in Paris it should be an amazing occasion. Allez les Blancs!

England's oft derided football team should make mincemeat of Estonia at Wembley too, irrespective of who's fit to play, so expect a rare double. Then we can all get back to the business and the focus on a tricky trip to Molineaux where a draw would not be too shabby with two homes games to follow.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

A Year On....

I've had a growing feeling of self-satisfaction this last week. Don't know about you but could be an uncomfortable case of smugness (the 8th Deadly Sin).

Twelve months ago we had given Iain Dowie the boot and were about to lurch from one crisis to another. Our fans were split over whether or not it was the right thing to do but almost everyone knew that Les Reed's appointment was a disaster very quickly afterwards as we headed to the bottom of the tank. All this after 15 years of relative stability and progress. Simon Jordan was revelling in our plight and reminding us all of how he'd warned our Board that "what goes around comes around" as he'd left the Valley with his tail between his legs on St. Jonathan's Day.

Four months later and Alan Pardew steadied the ship but it was too much to ask of him with what he had inherited and and we, ultimately, paid a heavy price for our £20m gamble to push on following the Alan Curbishley era. Simon Jordan had his perverse day in the sun.

Two months into a brave new season and Alan Pardew can give himself a big pat on the back. Having rebuilt the entire playing squad and backroom staff in little more than six months, his emerging new team are unbeaten in 8 and lying second in the table. All this achieved well within the sale budget and presumably he has repaid part of the Dowie debt as well. What's more, there should be more to come from this side and the division looks to hold little in the way of surprises so far.

By comparison Simon Jordan's Crystal Palace have stumbled on and the unfortunate Peter Taylor (he who didn't fancy the Charlton job) finds himself the latest scapegoat for Palaces' lack of genuine quality. I thought Simon might ride this one out a while but I was forgetting his monstrous ego. The anticipated appointment of Neil Warnock (yes, I know, Neil Warnock!) is adding to my sense of well-being. This really is a marriage made in court.

Down at the other corner of the Bermuda Triangle, the Lions have big problems of their own. They continue to struggle desperately to attract the finances they need to redecorate their house and it's hard to see any takers knowing the social skills of the family who live there. Having conceded four goals at Carlisle in the first half on Saturday, Poor Willie has been shown the door. Millwall's hierarchy (sic) and their supporters have, to a large extent, a much smaller slice of `Umble Pie to eat than their ugly neighbours. Knowing the limits of their expectations, they are always more circumspect than Palace in gloating. That, and the fact that the mindless majority couldn't care less what's happening as long as there's the prospect of a bundle several times a season.

The appointment of a replacement at the not-so-New Den will be interesting. You have to suspect they will go the least-cost route and appoint someone on the cheap, if not allow Richard Shaw a run at it if they can overcome their nemisis at Priestfield next time out.

The feel-good factor could well be here for a while yet.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Sitting Pretty?

Thought I'd have a look at how we were doing after 10 games in relation to our three previous promotion campaigns to the top flight in 1985-86, 1997-98 and 1999-2000.






In 85-86 we trailed in 7 points behind Norwich and only one ahead of Wimbledon in finishing second in what was a relatively low points scoring season for the top clubs.

Interesting that in 97-98 we also had 19 points; we finished fourth that year and qualified through the play-offs. We had also played 6 away and only 4 at home after 10, so might reasonably have expected to be 2 or 3 points better off had we played 5 home and 5 away. Although 4th, we were only 3 points off second and 6 points from Champions Nottingham Forest.

Champions in 99-00, we had reached 22 points after 10 games and finshed four points above 3rd placed Ipswich Town.

Goal difference in all the previous campaigns was similar i.e. +6 to +9 after 10 played, although we have scored and conceded less so far this year.

So what conclusions can we draw? Nothing for sure of course, but I guess we look a couple of points off an automatic promotion place in relation to previous seasons at this stage. It's interesting to note that we have only lost one game in getting our 19 points this year whereas in the other seasons we had lost two or three and yet had similar or better points tallies. If we can extend our unbeaten run and lose less matches we should make up a couple of points before we get to 20 games.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Weekend Championship Review

I'm not getting any better at this - four correct results, no correct scores but five within a goal of correct scores.

Blackpool v Plymouth------1-0--------0-0-----One goal from correct score
Bristol City v Sheffield Utd-2-1--------2-0-----One goal from correct score
Cardiff City v Burnley------1-0--------2-1-----And no goal from Fowler or JFH!
Charlton Ath. v Barnsley---3-0--------1-1-----We needed an early goal and we look to need two goal leads to avoid drawing.
Crystal Palace v Hull City - 2-0--------1-1-----Poor result for Palace Taylor must be on borrowed time or Jordan's increasing lack of interest may mean he's not prepapred to shell out on another manager when this season looks lost already.
Ipswich v Preston NE------2-0--------2-1-----One goal from correct score.
Scunthorpe v Watford-----2-2--------1-3-----Watford are looking strong and beginning to pull away.
Sheffield Wed v Leicester--2-1--------0-2-----Not even close.
Southampton v West BA---2-2--------3-2-----One goal from correct score.
Stoke City v Colchester-----1-0-------2-1-----Colchester lose their unbeaten away record.
Wolvers v Coventry City----1-1-------1-0-----One goal from correct score.

On a different note the New Zealand v France game last night was a pulsating match which like the earlier England performance against the Aussies will be long talked about in the rugby world. Two of the supposedly inferior northern hemisphere sides winning through to the semis and guaranteeing one European placing in the final. South Africa will surely be too hot for Fiji this afternoon but there's room for Scotland to throw another surprise this evening and I'm having a tickle on them with a 13 point start.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Charlton Athletic 1 v Barnsley 1

A game which grew in intensity towards the finish was ultimately a disappointment for Addicks fans. The first half was even enough without any real opportunities for either sides. Andy Reid struck the bar from a measured shot 25 yards out, but other than that there was little to choose between the sides. An exotic and well-organised Barnsley team played with plenty of purpose but as the game wore on you you see what they were really here for. Jon Fortune was replaced before half-time by Sam Sodje (he must have been carrying a knock).

In the second half Charlton began to apply the pressure and created a succession of corners and free-kicks. Zheng Zhi clipped the bar with a glancing header as Charlton began to up the tempo. Todorov came on for Varney and Thomas replaced Ambrose. Todorov missed a sitter but you knew it was coming. On 82 minutes Reid sent over a raking cross from the left which he looked to have over-hit. Big Chris leapt and then stretched to meet it. His knockdown was perfect and Zheng Zhi had the simple task of finding the net. The impressive Heinz Muller in the Barnsley goal was finally beaten and that looked to be that. However Barnsley were not done and with two minutes remaining on the clock they snatched the equaliser following a desperate scramble in the Charlton box. With five minutes of added time they even had the ordacity to miss the chance of the game which add least added a bit of perspective for frustrated Addicks fans.

All-in-all this will be seen as two points lost but we remain in touch at the top and have stretched our unbeaten run.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

Blackpool v Plymouth

I'm going for Blackpool to nick this and preserve their unbeaten home status.

Prediction; 1-0

Bristol City v Sheffield United

The Blades need a win from somewhere to get themselves back on track. Can't see it coming at high-flying City.

Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Burnley

The Bluebirds to get their first home win of the season without Fowler or JFH scoring!


Charlton Athletic v Barnsley

The Addicks to up the ante and improve their goal difference before the international break.

Prediction; 3-0

Crystal Palace v Hull City

Palace overdue a win and Hull don't have enough about them to prevent it.

Prediction; 2-0
Ipswich Town v Preston NE

Ipswich to maintain their 100% home record with ease.

Prediction; 3-0

Scunthorpe v Watford

Too hard to call this, so I'm settling for a high-scoring draw.

Prediction; 2-2
Sheffield Wednesday v Leicester City

Wednesday to win again and inflict more misery on Gary Megson.

Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v West Brom

I can see an open game here and plenty of goals.

Prediction; 2-2
Stoke City v Colchester United

Unbeaten at home versus unbeaten away. Home advantage to tell.

Prediction; 1-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Coventry City

Current form should secure Coventry a point in this midland derby.

Prediction; 1-1

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Midweek Championship Review - Addicks Stay Second!

Lovely result at the Hawthorns tonight - Charlton could well go top on Saturday - just the incentive we need!

Marginally better than the weekend with one correct score, three more correct results and six results within one goal of a correct score. Should have had more confidence in the Addicks, so I'l be sticking my neck out on Saturday for a comfortable home win. Bookie due a beating!


Barnsley v Bristol City; .......2-1......... 3-0....... Biggest defeat for City this year.

Burnley v Ipswich Town; ...2-0......... 2-2........ And Ipswich were leading twice!

Coventry v Blackpool;......... 2-1.......... 3-1....... One goal from correct score.

Hull v Charlton Athletic;......2-1 ..........1-2........ We had to score first to get something :)

Leicester City v Wolves;..... 1-0.......... 0-0........ One goal from correct score.

Norwich City v Scunthorpe; 0-1......... 0-0........ One goal from correct score.

Plymouth v Crystal Palace;.. 1-1......... 1-0........ One goal from correct score. A fine result nonetheless.

Preston NE v Southampton; 0-2 .........5-1......... Maybe Southampton haven't turned the corner yet!

Sheffield United v Cardiff; .....2-0.........3-3......... Sheffield United have started far slower than I had expected. Fowler and Hasselbaink are out to prove me wrong as well!

Watford v Sheffield Wed;....... 2-1.........2-1......... None needed.

Colchester v QPR; ...................3-0..........4-2.........Emphatic home win.

West Brom v Stoke City;........ 2-0..........1-1.........I'll settle for that.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Hull City 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

This is what some people call "winning ugly." I tuned in to BBC London Sport this evening for the live commentary from Ian Hand and Brett Angel. The game was boring to listen to so at least the hardy visiting fans got a win to celebrate.

A poor first half from a tired-sounding Charlton came to life on 40 minutes when Andy Reid made a rare contribution in knocking a long ball into the box. Three Charlton players went in to challenge but Hull goalkeeper Myhill got there first but only managed to punch the ball onto the back of one of them and it fell to Luke Varney to stroke home. That was the spark for a tetchy game to ignite; Charlton had been getting more than there fair share of the 50:50's and the referree was getting full volume abuse from the home crowd. On Charlton's next foray forward, Lloyd Sam clashed with Ian Ashbee and Ashbee kicked out as both players fell to ground. The inexperienced Sam retaliated and the fate of both players was inevitable as both sides flew into the melee. Jon Fortune and Dean Windass (no surprise there) were both in quickly and as the referree restored order Sam was already on his way. Ashbee followed and the frustrated Hull fans gave vent to their anger in 4 minutes of added time.

In the second half Hull seemed to lose the initiative and were unable to create any of the attacking pressure they had managed earlier. Mills was booked for a foul on Pedersen and also managed to drive an angled shot off the top of the Hull bar. Nicky weaver tipped an effort onto the top of the goal and Chrissy Powell put his head in the way of the Hughes free-kick that concussed him for a couple of minutes. Nothing much else to report until Reid found Zheng Zhi on a break after 88 minutes. Zheng burst through the Hull back line and crossed for Big Chris who beat Myhill to kill the game. McPhee managed a consolation in the last minute. Alan Pardew will be very pleased to have done what all promotion winning sides do by winning away from home without play particularly well.

The Addicks stay second behind Watford but remain three points clear of Barnsley and Coventry, safe in the knowledge that they can distance themselves from Barnsley at the Valley on Saturday which would achieve SAP's aim of a top-two position after 10 games. West Brom now know that they have to win at home to Stoke tomorrow night to reduce their five point deficit.

Saturday's match beginning to look exciting already!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Midweek Championship Preview

Tuesday's game at Hull City will provide another test of our promotion ambitions, coming four days after the visit to the Ricoh Arena. Jay-Jay Okocha will provide the threat from midfield and Henrik Pedersen and Dean Windass will challenge us upfront. Bryan Hughes should get an opportunity at some point to try and demonstrate what we're missing, but I for one, am comfortable he has nothing to show us that we haven't seen before. Having said that, I expect Hull to give us a hard game and possibly go one better than Coventry by taking all three points.

As far as the rest of the midweek programme is concerned, I suspect we might see fewer draws than of late. Here's my take...

Barnsley v Bristol City

- A close game in prospect here but I fancy Barnsley to nick this knowing that a win will move them above City in the table.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Ipswich Town

- Ipswich are poor travellers at the moment and they won't fancy this.

Prediction; 2-0

Coventry v Blackpool

- Coventry to make up for lost ground on Saturday. Blackpool did well to take a point at Vicarge Road.

Prediction; 2-1

Hull City v Charlton Athletic

- Tough for Charlton and we will need to score first to get anything here. I'm going with Hull to open the scoring and take the points (it would then put us under the requisite pressure to beat Barnsley on Saturday).

Prediction; 2-1

Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

- Leicester will be looking for a double of sorts having beaten Villa last week. I can see Wolves going down here.

Prediction; 1-0

Norwich City v Scunthorpe

- Oh dear! Losing at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday was a very poor result and Peter Grant might be feeling the heat after tomorrow. On current form Scunthorpe will relish this.

Prediction; 0-1

Plymouth v Crystal Palace

- It's a long way to go on a night game for Palace but I think they have enough about them to share the points.

Prediction; 1-1

Preston NE v Southampton

- Excellent win for Southampton at Sheffield United on Saturday and their camp will be itching to get out and do it again. George Burley's boys to make up for their poor start.

Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield United v Cardiff City

- Sheffield United are due a win and Cardiff might be feeling satisfied with themselves for nicking a point at Oakwell.

Prediction 2-0

Watford v Sheffield Wednesday

- Watford should be too good for an improving Wednesday team even without Marlon King and Darius Henderson.

Prediction; 2-1

Colchester v QPR

- QPR sacked John Gregory after their humping at West Brom on Sunday. I don't believe Gregory is the cause of their problems and they will be weaker without him.

Prediction; 3-0

West Brom v Stoke City

- West Brom are beginning to find the form that made them automatic contenders for most of last season. The goals are flowing and they will be confident of more against hard-to-beat Stoke side.

Prediction; 2-0