Thursday, 29 November 2007

Weekend Championship Preview & The Big Bet

The Big Bet first - £30 accumulator on Blackburn, Reading, Man City, Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday. Blackburn were surprisingly beaten by Villa 4-0 at home on Wednesday and I can't see them losing two home games in a row, especially against a Newcastle side low on confidence. Reading won't win too many games this year but Boro at home will be one they will be targetting in order to stay out of the relegation zone. I fancy Man City to win at Wigan - City are still fighting to maintain early season form and Wigan will be struggling with Steve Bruce. Plymouth to bounce back from home defeat by West Brom to beat Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday to thump Colchester at Hillsbrough - just hope the Manager of the Month prize doesn't choke them. I am very confident of a win before Christmas, so get on it!

Weekend Championship Preview

Blackpool v QPR

Blackpool suffered their first home defeat of the season in midweek and I don't expect them to repeat the feat on Saturday

Prediction; 1-0

Charlton Athletic v Burnley

Three home defeats is enough for promotion contenders at year-end, let alone pre-Christmas. Pards to go 4-4-2 from the off, Charlton to score first and take the points. Let's send the repugnant Hillbillies home empty handed.

Prediction; 2-0

Coventry City v Sheffield Utd

On the evidence of Tuesday night I am going to go for United to win again. I think they counter-attacked very well at the Valley and didn't get the recognition from Addicks fans that their performance deserved. We might feel a bit better about Tuesday if they do win again too.

Prediction; 1-2

Crystal Palace v West Bromich Albion

Last Saturday I would have gone for a home win here but West Brom's resilence in winning at Plymouth midweek has made me think again. I'm going to opt for another West Brom win - two-in-a-row for Warnock is more than he deserves as well.

Prediction; 1-2

Hull City v Cardiff City

Hard one this, so I'm going for the home win and no Fowler/Hasselbaink goals.

Prediction; 1-0

Ipswich Town v Barnsley

Can Ipswich extend their impressive home record to 9 wins with no draws and no defeats? My take is yes, especially against a Barnsley side that don't travel too well.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v Southampton

Leicester drew 0-0 at home to Cardiff last time out and Southampton lost at Ipswich. I'll plump for another scoreless draw here in the circumstances.

Prediction; 0-0

Plymouth Argyle v Scunthorpe

Argyle to bounce back from home reversal by the Baggies.

Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Colchester United

Brian Laws' side to avoid the Manager of the Month award curse and beat Colchester comfortably.

Prediction; 4-1

Stoke City v Norwich City

Glenn Roeder has got the first couple of performances that Norwich were looking for when they appointed him. I can see them getting another at an inconsistent Stoke.

Prediction; 1-1

Watford v Bristol City

Good to see that Watford are human after all. They are in danger of a Charlton-esque wobble if they don't get something out of this game. City too are flapping badly at the moment. Watford to edge it and settle the nerves.

Prediction; 1-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Preston North End

Wolves are grinding out the results and remaining in the hunt. I think they will be too determined for Preston.

Prediction 2-0

Free Season Ticket Anyone?

Apart from anything else, wasn't the attendance poor at the Valley on Tuesday? After four successive wins, three of which were on the road, you would have thought we could be expecting a crowd close to the seasons top gate which was 23,671 for the visit of QPR. However, it was actually the lowest of the season - 20,737.

The visitors brought about 700, so the number of Addicks must have been c 20,000. I don't know the official number of season ticket holders but 17,000+ re-signed in April and the figure must have crept over 18,000. Assuming that to be the case, we have been struggling to attract game-by-game fans all season. Visiting supporter numbers are understandably down but if you exclude them the home attendance has been pretty static.

The club looks to have done as much as can be expected in terms of promoting attendance - £20 for every game is very reasonable - and it's apparent that there are tickets available for every game. The obvious conclusion is that Championship football has a finite appeal at the Valley. The question then arises about what would our gate be if the club had not run the "free season ticket scheme" this year? You have to think it would have fallen away, particularly for some of the evening games which present travel problems for many of our long-distance supporters.

So, I think the club will have little option but to extend the free season ticket deal next season if we fail to go up. No doubt they will try and lock us in sometime in April before the matter's concluded.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Charlton Athletic 0 v Sheffield United 3

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and admit that you were beaten by a better side on the night and tonight was one of those for me. Sheffield United came to play and they counter-attacked as well as anyone at the Valley for a long while. They defended with spirit and ultimately wore us down.

Charlton started very quickly with Thomas and Sam attacking with pace and directness. Both were being backed superbly by Mills and Basey but our chances were limited to shots on the burst from both of them. Chris Iwelumo lead the line again but his head-ons and chest-offs from crosses were invariably to no-one as he was isolated up-front. Zeng Zhi and Semedo were contributing but Andy Reid was nowhere to be seen. The back four had a decent first half with the painful exception of the penalty that Sodje conceded with what looked like an unecessary far post push as a cross was whipped in. Nicky Weaver dived with everything he had but James Beattie's far too good not to score from the spot. So, 1-0 down at half-time with lots to do against a team who were breaking quikcly and supporting in numbers when they got the opportunity.

Alan Pardew made the switch to 4-4-2 at half time with Varney coming on for Sam and Semedo unfortunate to be subbed for Holland, but I guess Pards was hoping for more attacking midfield impetus to support the front two. For 25 minutes it looked like it was going to pay dividends as we began to up the tempo and stretch Sheffield at the back. Varney was providing more speed upfront and creating more space for Big Chris. Danny Mills was bombing forward and played a big part in our best two chances, one of which should have gone in. The first saw Zheng Zhi chase a long ball into the box taking two defenders with him. He played a neat ball back into the path of Danny Mills who skipped inside the first challenge and fired in a low hard shot which Paddy Kenny could only parry at the far post. The ball fell to the looming Iwelumo but his shot was somehow blocked again by the scrambling Kenny. Several minutes later Mills overlapped on the left wing and advanced towards the box before threading a pass in to Luke Varney. Varney took it in his stride beating the first man and careering in towards the near post. With everyone committed he rolled it back to Zheng Zhi but he blasted over with the goal gaping.

Basey was subbed for Madjid Bougherra and I can only assume he was hurt; he certainly took his time leaving the field.

Sheffield United were continuing to counter and Beattie had a goal disallowed for a close offside having finished off a three man move in the Charlton box. Not unlike the QPR game the warning signs were flashing brightly. United's second duly arrived on 75 minutes following our failure to clear a corner properly. The ball looped up to a United player who took it passed the first Charlton player and rolled it in to the six yard box where I thought Weaver had made it his own but somehow Cahill got a foot to it and poked it over the line.

Charlton huffed and puffed in the last ten minutes but you could tell the belief had gone and it was no surprise when United scored their third. Another swift breakout from their half and Beattie streaked clear on the right, he centred and his pass was knocked into the path of Armstrong who was clear on goal and beat Weaver with ease from 20 yards.

I'd certainly like to know what was wrong with Andy Reid tonight; he was even a yard slower than normal, anonymous in the first half and only marginally more effective in the second. Not sure what Alan Pardew does next. Maybe he perseveres, maybe he starts 4-4-2 at home on Saturday and goes for it? Burnley will certainly have their tails up after winning at Watford tonight. We've also handed West Brom the incentive they need at Plymouth tomorrow night. It's going to take another away win or two to make-up for this slip-up and we simply can't afford another blank on Saturday.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Blades Preview

Bryan Robson brings his steadily improving team to the Valley on Tuesday evening for an intriguing league game.

Relegated with Charlton last season, the Blades got off to a poor start and Robson's position was looking shaky. However, the vital signs appear to be returning and they will come to the Valley looking to atone for their slip-up at home to Plymouth on Saturday, which prevented them from climbing to 10th. They will also remember that they avoided defeat in the two Premiership games they played against us last season - drawing 1-1 at the Valley and beating us 2-1 up there earlier in the season when Keith Gillespie nicked a late winner after Reidy had put us in front.

They have lost four on the road so far - 1-0 at Watford, 3-2 at Palace and Scunthorpe and 2-0 at Bristol City. Their squad still looks distinctly Premiership, albeit maybe low-end. James Beattie has been scoring again and will likely be partnered by Danny Webber or Jon Stead.

According to the report of Saturday's game, United looked vulnerable at the back and Plymouth might have scored a second or third. Whilst 4-5-1 has been serving us well, I would like to see us start 4-4-2 at home as they have a goal in them and I feel we will need at least two to win it.

Sean Bean has been a regular vistor to SE7 in the past and has stopped several times at the Rose of Denmark for a pre-match beer. My impression of him has improved significanly as a result over the years - if he's down for the match I hope he enjoys his pint but goes home

I'm going for 2-1 and fancy a goal from one of our wide men and either Reid or Varney to wrap it up. We also need Jon Fortune and Sam Sodje to be on their game because James Beattie is a threat in the air and will need close supervision.

Come on you Reds!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Weekend Championship Review/World Cup Draw

The betting drought continues; only the mighty Addicks came in for me! West Brom, Bristol City, Sheffield United and Colchester all failed to win. Bear with me here, I will get this right. It's like waiting for a bus....

Only four correct results this weekend too - with one correct score. Within a goal of three other correct scores but reversed by Barnsley, Leicester, Palace, Hull and Plymouth.

I think this week will bring a semblance of predictablity to the proceedings as class will show over two games in a week which sees consecutive home or away games for everyone (Sheff Utd and Burnley at home for us). It's for this reason I believe we will be clear second come 5pm on Saturday if we can pick up maximum points. This is very important for our promotion hopes because we have another two games the week after - Cardfiff away and Ipswich at home - which could see us get within touching distance of Watford. If we can do this, it could be a very profitable Christmas and we could turn it into a two-from-three race if, as I believe, us , Watford and West Brom can get some distance from the chasers.

World Cup Draw

Hot on the heels of European failure, England and Scotland found out today who they will need to overcome to qualify for South Africa in 2010. England will again face Croatia and will also need to overcome Ukraine if they are to qualify - Belarus, Kazakhstan and Andorra should not present problems, even to an under-performing England side. Scotland face Holland and Norway as well as Macedonia and Iceland. The group winners qualify as do 8 of the best 9 runners-up.....

We deserve our biggest gate of the season this week although neither Sheffiled United or Burnley are likely to bring more than 1,000 fans, so we might have to wait for that....

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Preston NE 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

Ultimately a fourth successive clean-sheet win for the Addicks. A rare live TV victory and it never really looked in doubt.

Charlton were first out of the blocks and controlled much of the first half. Thomas was finding a lot of space and no real challenge on the right. Zheng Zhi was busy in front of him and Iwleumo laboured tirelessly up front. Lloyd Sam saw less of the ball and Andy Reid had a very quiet game or Charlton might have wrapped this up long before the end. The back four looked comfortable throughout. Basey and Mills were sound and it was left to Sodje and Fortune to huff and puff against what pressure Preston did have. Charlton created the few real chances of the first half and it was no surprise when Zheng Zhi controlled a ball on the penalty spot away from all of the rest of the players with his first touch and pushed a low shot back against the on-rushing defence and through a narrow hole into the far corner of the net. It was perfect timing, coming as it did on 47 minutes.

Preston tried harder in the second period and forced three good saves from Nicky Weaver; the reflex stop from Sedgewick's close shot was the best since he's been at the Valley and he deservedly collected the Sky Man of the Match award. Charlton didn't create a lot in the second half but continued to have plenty of possession in the opponents half and you felt we had another gear if we had to use it. Holland, Ambrose and Varney were introduced towards the end of the game and it was left to Varney to add the second late in extra time; Iwelumo headed on a throw from Count Basey into the channel and Varney latched onto it, accelerating passed the last defender and turning in to goal where he beat the unfortunate Lonergan on his near post.

This was a good, professional performance and came on a day when Watford, Bristol City, Ipswich and Coventry all lost. The Addicks have stormed into second and closed the gap on the Hornets to 5 points. We are a point in front of West Brom and they are now under pressure to beat Wolves in their derby game tomorrow. With two home games coming up this week we again have the opportunity to consolidate our automatic position, especially as West Brom face tricky away games at Plymouth and Palace after their derby tomorrow lunchtime.

Let's get behind them this week!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Weekend Bet

The pressure is mounting; no wins so far this season. I do a five result accumulator most weeks during the season and have always won once and more often twice or three times. In my mind this gives me an overall winning position, although I've never actually recorded winnings and losings properly. This year, I am, through an on-line account and I am nicely in the red. A win before Christmas is overdue and would put me back in front.

So, my selections this week are...

1) Bristol City to beat Leicester at Evens; City are firing on all cylinders and Leicester are in a state of flux changing managers. Good price.

2) Colchester to beat Palace; 6-5 is decent odds - just hope my heart isn't ruling my head.

3) Sheffield United to beat Plymouth; ordinarily I would avoid United but Plymouth might be affected by the uncertainty around Holloway leaving and 4-5 is good odds in the circumstances.

4) WBA to beat Wolves on Sunday; 10-11 is another good price when WBA are going so strongly and recently thrashed Coventry 4-0 in an away derby.

5) I've had a few beers this afternoon so hope I don't regret this one; I was struggling for an automatic fifth when I saw the Mighty Addicks at 13-10. Not a great price but reflective of the bookies view and we are well overdue a live TV win. So I am going with it - all or nothing.

A £30 accumulator with Paddy Power would net you £1043. Good luck!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

What European Championships?

England joined the rest of the home nations this evening in failing to qualify for Euro 2008. In a dramatic game at Wembley, played in pouring rain on a dreadful pitch, England fell two-nil behind in calamitous circumstances in the first half, rallied to 2-2 in the second and then conceded a cruel third to crash out.

The Curse of the England Goalkeeper moved to poor Scott Carson as he made an almighty blooper for the opener, failing to get behind a softish shot and allowing it to spoon up and into the top of the net. England's back four were at sixes and sevens minutes later as Croatia played their way in and around Carson for the second. England looked shell-shocked and lifeless for the remainder of the half and it took the introduction of David Beckham and Jermain Defoe to bring some life to the corpse. Defoe's shirt was pulled for a penalty, which Lampard put away, but it looked very fortunate. David Beckham then whipped a trademark cross in for Crouch to bring down and volley home for 2-2. Home and dry we all thought but Croatia weren't finished and a fine cross-shot from 22 yards beat Carson who only saw it late. Darren Bent skimmed the top of the Croatian net but England were beaten.

The recriminations will begin and Steve McLaren has to bear the brunt of it. If I were him I would have already decided to resign if we failed to qualify and at least go with some self-respect. I suspect he won't, however, as it will probably be financially beneficial to be sacked in post irrespective of personal dignity.

England really need to look further than the Manager. The dinsoaurs at the FA need weeding out but it's difficult to see the turkeys voting for Christmas. McLaren undoubtedly had injury problems but this squad of players haven't done it for him when it's counted, much the way they didn't for Ericsson. The European Championships will excite as much interest here as the African Nations Cup.......

Weekend Championship Preview

I'm not doing my weekend bet until Friday. In the meantime, here are my Championship predictions.

Barnsley v Watford

Barnsley have won 5 and drawn 2 of 7 at Oakwell this season. They need a win to keep them in play-off contention. Watford meanwhile have the best away record in the division having won 6 and drawn 1 of 8 away matches. I suspect they will do a job on Barnsley here and return south with the points.

Prediction; 1-2

Bristol City v Leicester City

City need the points from their 3pm kick-off to climb above the Addicks. Leicester have only been beaten once away from the Walker Stadium all season - that being at the Valley. A result here would do us a favour but I fancy Bristol to edge it.

Prediction; 1-0

Burnley v Stoke City

Hard to call this one; both sides are blowing hot and cold. I'll cop out and call it a draw.

Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Ipswich Town

Cardiff have managed only one home win this season but Ipswich haven't won away yet. The break may have recharged Cardiff's veteran frontline and they might be good for a goal that could win it.

Prediction; 1-0

Colchester United v Crystal Palace

Palace look to be in a spot of bother. I expect Colchester to win this and young Kevin Lisbie to apply some salt to the wound. This would be Palace's tenth successive game without a win and, I think, the seventh winless game under Neil "you've got five games" Warnock. Simon Jordan might just be wondering if he's made another mistake. Palace are in real danger of taking the lead in the relegation race and if Neil Warnock can't get a win soon I can see him mirroring Les Reed after Iain Dowie's start. Could be a delightful case of deja vu.

Prediction; 2-0

Norwich City v Coventry City

Glenn Roeder has brought a couple of new faces in to what wasn't a bad Norwich side anyway. I think they will start to put some results together and may get one against the Sky Blues. Coventry are poor one week and good the next. The uncertainty of the vaunted takeover probably isn't helping and Iain Dowie's being linked in the press with a number of the current managerial vacancies. Michael Mifsud has also been suggested as a target for the big boys in January.

Prediction; 1-0

Preston North End v Charlton Athletic

We could have done with a bit of prevarication from Preston but will have to face Alan Irvine's fired-up troops on the live TV game on Saturday evening. Hopefully we will catch them as yet unprepared although our live TV record hangs ominously and Preston have a decent home form irrespective. Interestingly, Alan Irvine informed the Deepdale faithful that he knows all about Charlton from our games against Everton last season. He might be in for something of a surprise.

Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Sheffield Wednesday

The fortunes of both of these sides have improved in recent weeks. Rangers need the points more than Wednesday and I reckon they have enough about them to get the win.

Prediction; 2-1

Scunthorpe v Hull City

Local derby here with both clubs struggling to make an impression in the division. I'll settle for honours even.

Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield United v Plymouth Argyle

Bryan Robson is fighting for his job at United and has been getting a response from his team in recent weeks. This has coincided with an overdue return to form for James Beattie. Wishful thinking but I can see United picking up the points to keep them going as they lose at the Valley in midweek.

Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Blackpool

I can't see beyond a home win here. Southampton are due a result and Blackpool have been unimpressive away from the Tower.

Prediction; 2-0

West Bromich Albion v Wolverhampton Wanderers

My immediate inclination is to hope Wolves might get something from this derby game but the last time I thought West Brom might slip-up in a derby, they hammered Coventry 4-0 at the Ricoh. Therefore, I'm opting for a comfortable home win on Sunday.

Prediction; 2-0

Monday, 19 November 2007

Wigan favourites for the drop!

Dave Whelan has lost control of his senses and is spending £3m in compensation to Birmingham City to take Steve Bruce off their hands; a man they have been contemplating sacking in recent weeks. Wigan are already up S**t Creek and they have just lost their paddle.

It's absolutely beyond me what anyone sees in Steve Bruce. Fine player though he was, he's been a manager for nearly ten years and has a paltry record. He showed an alarming lack of loyalty to his first few clubs, although Simon Jordan did at least manage to teach him a lesson after leaving Palace in the lurch. He's hung on at Birmingham for 6 years and managed his only notable success during that period in getting them promoted via the play-offs; hardly an over-achievement with the resources at his disposal. In the meantime we have had to listen to an ongoing diatribe about one of the "brightest young managers in the game" from a fickle media, as well as Steve Bruce's endless list of excuses why any failure by his side is always due to something other than them being beaten by the better team.

What you have to acknowledge about Brucey though is he needs no PR man to talk him up. Ever since he set-off in management he's been keen to play down suggestions that he'll one day end up at Manchester United or England manager, whilst always managing to do it in such a way as to leave you under no illusion that that's where he thinks he should be sooner rather than later.

In the circumstances, I think Bruce has jumped before he was pushed. Birmingham City might have delusions of grandeur in the Premier League but you need to be smoking strong herbs to see Wigan as progression. Star of the Future Stevie will be acutely aware of this and I'll bet he sees it as a stop-gap for something better. Expect no dramatic improvement in the Latics as they move closer to a return to Championship football. Exchanging places with Steve Bruce's Wigan would bring added satisfaction to a Charlton promotion, but you know he'll be jumping ship at next port. I only hope Dave Whelan makes contractual provision for £3m compensation in the event that anyone else is foolish enough to think Steve Bruce is a top class manager.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Scotland 1 v Italy 2

Well, as feared, it wasn't to be. The Italians caught us cold in first two minutes and were then able to play relaxed and controlled possession football for an hour before Barry Ferguson pounced to give Scotland parity and 25 minutes of fervour and hope before Panucci finished it.

Despite the complaints about the award of the last minute free-kick to the Italians from which they scored their winner, the Hampden crowd recognised that their team had given their all against a better side, the World Champions. The Italian team who ran to celebrate in front of their fans at the end were given a standing ovation several minutes after the finish by the Tartan Army who waiting patiently for 15 minutes to applaud their returning heroes and acknowledge what has been a fine campaign and which has brought a renewed pride and confidence to Scottish football.

The benefit of TV replays has shown that our goal was offside and that the disallowed Italian second was onside. So overall no complaints, we were beaten fairly and squarely and our team did everything they could to try and win the game. Next Sunday sees the draw in Dublin for the World Cup and we have to hope that our well-earned second pot placing sees us get a group that will be easier to qualify from.

England meanwhile look ready to claim their place in the Euro finals against-the-odds courtesy of a remarkable last minute win by Israel over Russia. Surely Croatia will not come with enough determination to win at Wembley having qualified already and after going down meekly to Macedonia on Saturday? After the great support shown to Scotland by the English media and what seems like a decent percentage of England fans, I hope my countrymen can be big enough to show less enthusiasm for wanting to see England fail on Wednesday; it's this perverse focus that stokes our national inferiority complex.

On a brighter note for me, the mighty Addicks are back in action at Preston on Saturday. We will need a dramatic improvement in our live TV form if we are to avoid defeat.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Window Planning

Wyn Grant reports that Charlton might be considering a January transfer window push for Hull's 22 year old midfielder Dean Marney. This sounds like a story with legs bearing in mind Marney is a London-boy and it was Phil Parkinson who signed him for Hull. I haven't seen him play but he is seen as an attacking midfielder and was brought to Hull to help get goals, the key area that I believe we should consider strengthening in January.

For me, I think the priority is another striker, goal-scoring midfielder or a centre-half, in that order. Whilst centre-half has been the bete-noir of the season so far, it looks like Sam Sodje might have settled the back-four. With experienced full-backs expected to recover before Christmas and provide options for the second-half, I believe we should be able to cope with a need to change the centre-back pairing again with what we've got.

The midfield has served us well so far but you have to worry about injury to Reidy. Maybe Marney would provide an option and possible cover?

However, I would be tempted to spend whatever we've got on a striker. Todorov's absence has left us looking short of options and Izale Mcleod has looked anonymous in the last half-dozen showings, albeit substitutions. The best is yet to come from Luke Varney and, whilst I think Dickson needs to be given a chance after his current loan spell finishes, we have to be prepared to accept that he might need time to adjust to the Championship. For these reasons, I would like us to go for a striker who is currently scoring and who may offer us something should we get promoted.

I can't see anyone I'd want from the Premier League coming to the Valley at the moment. Therefore, it might be a good idea to go for someone currently performing in the Championship who we could expect to step up and who's acquisition might unsettle or weaken a rival club. After all, it's been done to us with dramatic effect in the past. I've always rated James Beattie, although I'm not sure Sheffield United would sell. Counago at Ipswich looks a tidy midfeilder and even Michael Mifsud could be worth a punt?

In the meantime I am in the Scottish Highlands enjoying some late autumn sunshine whilst steeling myself for the drama tomorrow. The whole country seems absorbed with the Italy game. Talk of it is everywhere and expectation is high. Glasgow will be bouncing tomorrow afternoon!

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

D-Day Loometh

My holiday plans for next Summer will most likely be decided on Saturday. As things stand I'm not sure where we will be going although I have easy options in Scotland and Spain. What is clear, is that victory for Scotland over World Champions Italy will mean a week or two spent in Austria or Switzerland as Scotland extend their European Championship hopes. Negotiations with Mrs Peeps will wait for now.

I will be at Hampden Park for the showdown and I am already biting my fingernails. I have caterpillers in my stomach and a dream-like feeling that somehow it can never happen. How can our team of journeymen professionals beat the mighty Azurri, the multiple World Cup winners and reigning holders? The feeling is exactly the same as the quarter-final appearances that the Addicks have made in domestic cup competitions in my lifetime - you know, the anticipation but the overwhelming doubt that it can somehow never be.

I am reminding myself hourly that my national team have faced and overcome this feeling already on a number of occasions already during this campaign and that the players themselves will be honestly confident about their chances. We have a great record at Hampden Park and the game could be seen as easier than winning in Paris in September. Lightning will need to strike twice. The dream is still alive.

Focus on the Russia game will be intense north of the border too and, whilst I will be in a minority, I hope Israel can get the result that keep England fighting for a bit longer. The summer tournament will not be the same without some home country interest and if Scotland don't make it, I hope England do, although my holiday plans won't feature Austria or Switerland.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Weekend Championship Review

Still winless against Mr Power but better luck with my Championship predictions this weekend.
Charlton and Ipswich held up for me but Watford and Pompey failed narrowly to convert wins and Stoke let me down by losing at home to Sheffield United (I'll have to wait a fortnight now to resume my battle with the bookie). On the Championship front, I managed a creditable 7 correct results with two correct scores and an additional 2 games were within a goal of correct scores. I also tipped Coventry to beat Albion this evening, so here's hoping....

Manager of the Month?

Having three straight wins so far in November and the international break this coming weekend, Pards must be favourite for the November bubbly (do Coca-Cola still allow Champagne to be presented?). A win at home against Sheffield United on Tuesday 27th might be good enough on it's own, but added to any result at Deepdale would almost guarantee it.

If he does win it, we just have to hope that we don't get struck by the curse in December, although that's hard to see with three winnable home games (Burnley, Ipswich - poor away - and Hull) and aways at Cardiff and Norwich which we shouldn't expect to lose. The West Brom game at the Hawthorns is arguably the only anticipated loss before Christmas. The Cities of Cardiff and Hull will also give us our first opportunities of doubles, something you need to be racking up if you want an automatic promotion spot.

Looking ahead...

So, assuming we profit between now and New Year, what do our prospects look like for the second half of the campaign? Apart from Watford home and away, January and February look ok at the moment. I can see us getting a good return from home games against Colchester, Blackpool, Stoke and Palace. Away, we have to fancy our chances at Scunthorpe, Sheffield Wednesday and Blackpool. Assuming we get parity from Watford, I can see us still being in the hunt for March and April, and that's where I can see the danger.....

Following the Watford home game on Feb 16th, we entertain another five of the current top eight at the Valley. Wins against Bristol City, West Brom, Wolves, Southampton and Coventry will be big results as I believe most of them will be six-pointers. These could be the key games in determining promotion as our away matches look likely to be largely at mid-table or lower sides, Sheffield United, Burnley, (Ipswich excepted), Plymouth, QPR and Barnsley.

If we maintain current form you'd have to settle for an early exit from the F A Cup (to a Premier side please) just in the hope that it prevents possible injuries and keeps our players fresher for league battle. I suspect we have little to fear on this front as "Cup run" and "Charlton" haven't been an item really for 60 years.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Charlton Athletic 3 v Cardiff City 0

Charlton did what they were expected to by beating Cardiff relatively easily today.

Alan Pardew started with the successful 4-5-1 formation of the last couple of games although Semedo was back for Racon. You didn't really notice the one up front as Charlton had plenty of possession and found room to create chances in the first half. Cardiff had their best chance of the match in the third minute when Stephen Thompson shot wide after a three man passing move. Apart from that, Cardiff played with purpose and supported each other coming forward but they looked hopeless in the final third. It looked like the first goal would see them off and that's pretty much what happened. A minute from the break Charlton got a free-kick on the left, the ball was whipped in and several players went for it in a melee, the ball spun back as everyone headed goalward and Sam Sodje seized the opportunity to rifle home from 12 yards. If that wasn't easy enough, Cardiff were undone again within a minute in similar style. A quick ball in from Mills caused panic in the Cardiff defence and the ball was served up to the advancing Iwelumo who stroked home from 25 yards.

Cardiff huffed and puffed in the second half but the Charlton defence looked composed and steadfast. The third goal was again fairly straightforward; a Reid free kick was headed home largely unopposed by Zheng Zhi. Charlton played some nice stuff in midfield for spells in the second half and always looked capable of upping the ante but at 3-0 the job was done. Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink looked more at home in the Championship, heading a good effort wide and forcing a smart save from Weaver from a snap-shot. Cardiff did little else. Hasselbaink may be a mercenary but the fact that Cardiff play away in black must have appealed - his jacksy didn't look quite so large today.

A third successive clean sheet and the back four looked solid. Sodje looked like he was on a fiver per header and Fortune looked assured alongside him. Mills was strong again at right back and Basey looked commanding at left - probably his best game yet for the first team.

Reid was again the anchorman in midfield but seemed to play a little deeper today. Thomas had his best game since returning to the side and should have scored before the end when he raced into the box but somehow failed to hit the target. Zheng Zhi was industrious and his glanced header for the third was excellent. Lloyd Sam had a good game too, but I want to see more threat from him. Iwelumo lead the line again very well. Ambrose, Varney and Mcleod came on late but the game was over by then.

All-in-all a very satisfying home win that propels us back to second place. If we can avoid defeat at Preston (live on TV) after the international break we have two more home games and the opportunity to open up a gap in second place.

C'mon you Reds!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

First, thanks to all of those Curbs fans who commented on my last post about Alan Pardew. I am impressed that so many of you took the time to comment because it says a lot for the usually silent majority who know what a good job Curbs did for us. I ought to make it very clear that I have always been pro-Curbs, although his last three seasons were very disappointing for me. The point I was trying to make was that, for me at least, Alan Pardew is proving to be an even better manager. Early days I know, but I think the differences are there and visible.

Tomorrow we take on the Bluebirds and their 1,000 travelling fans for their first visit to Valley for 20 years. I usually avoid betting on Charlton but am so confident of a victory that I am making an exception this weekend. I have them in a 5 result accumulator with Stoke City to beat Sheffield United, Ipswich Town to see off Bristol City, Watford to beat Colchester and Portsmouth to beat Man City. Combined odds of 20-1 - get on it! As for the rest of the Championship, this is how I see them going....

Blackpool v Scunthorpe

Blackpool are unbeaten at home but have only won one and drawn 5. Scuthorpe have only been beaten twice on the road, so I am going for another home draw.

Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Cardiff City

No slip-up this time. Charlton to win with an assured home performance. Maybe we'll get a decent referring performance and/or a slice of good fortune to set us on our way.

Prediction; 3-1

Crystal Palace v QPR

London derby. Palace yet to win in 5 under Warnock and QPR battling for improvement and their new gaffer..

Prediction; 1-1

Hull City v Preston NE

Prestin yet to win away this season - can't see them doing it at Hull either.

Prediction; 1-0

Leicester City v Burnley

Steve Cotterill's departure at Burnley this week leaves them in poor shape to go to Leicester who are trying to get some momentum themsleves.

Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Norwich City

Glenn Roeder will haul Norwich out of the drop-zone but it might take some time. Plymouth will be looking to get back into a play-off spot and I think they'll be too strong at home for Norwich.

Prediction; 2-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Southampton
Wednesday haven't drawn at home and Southampton haven't drawn away. It's all-or-nothing for these boys tomorrow and I'm plumping for nothing for the Saints.

Prediction; 3-2

Watford v Colchester United

I suppose this is a bit of a derby match in some ways. Colchester have been nicking results here and there but I think Watford will be too strong at home. You wouldn't want to be the next opponents after their 3-0 humiliation by the Baggies.

Prediction; 3-0

Wolverhampton v Barnsley

Mick McCarthy will be meeting old friends tomorrow. Barnsley might have enough about them for a point.

Prediction; 1-1

Stoke City v Sheffield United

Stoke are becoming as unpredictable as Sheffiled Wednesday. United on the other hand are looking very predictable. james Beattie to head them a goal but it might not be enough.

Prediction; 2-1

Coventry v West Bromwich Albion

Monday night fare. Another derby albeit from different sides of Brum. Coventry will be up for this and it will be interesting to see how much West Brom miss Kevin Phillips. A Coventry will will help see us go second!

Prediction; 1-0

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Pardew - that's the difference.

Like you I'm guessing, I have been reflecting on our second successive away win built on a clean sheet with a dominant midfield and a play-for-ninety minutes attitude. Apart for the obvious recovery from the disappointment of losing three in a week prior to that, we have re-asserted ourselves when we needed to and done what most people thought was beyond us. We are back in the hunt and chasing down West Brom and Bristol City for the second automatic promotion spot. So, what's different and who deserves credit?
First off, we have to acknowledge the efforts of the players. Nicky Weaver arguably had his best game so far at St. Mary's and commanded his defence to another clean sheet yesterday at City. Sam Sodje has been the main change in our Achilles Heel position this year at Centre Half. Jon Fortune would appear to look happier too playing alongside him. Grant Basey has come into the game too in the last three matches and done very well at left-back. He's obviously still learning the game but has already shown maturity and speed of learning. His elders and more experienced colleagues may find it hard to get back into the side at this rate of progress. Danny Mills has been the most consistent player of the season so far.

Thomas has been making a visibly greater effort since returning (still need more) and although we've been playing five across midfield at times, they have mostly continued the decent performances we've come to expect (or very decent in Reid's case). Big Chris has shouldered the burden of loan striker like Darren Bent did for most of the past two seasons and Luke Varney has shown his maturity as well in responding to his sidelining by playing with determination and focus when called upon to joined the fray.
For me, however, the biggest difference has been Alan Pardew's management. His reaction to all of our performances so far this season has been just about perfect. He reads the game brilliantly and judges the mood as well. He knows when to hold and he knows when to go. After the early season defensive bloopers he shared the supporters views and urged improvement. When there was none he acted by getting Sodje at the last minute. For me Curbs would have commented about bringing fresh faces in and then done nothing. He made no bones about the poor performance against QPR but avoided blaming individuals and instead took his share of the responsibility and directed the focus on our need to recover in the next two tough away games. He stood up for the players he's recruited and showed them faith. Curbs might have looked for other explanations and expressed concerns about the next two matches.

Having started 4-5-1 at Southampton Pardew's plans were rocked by the unfortunate dismissal of Semedo but he held his nerve and encouraged his side to hold possession and play in the Saints' half. This is a complete reverse of what Alan Curbishley would have done in the last few seasons as Charlton manager. He would have tried to shut up shop and take a point. Inevitably we would probably have put up a good showing but ultimately been beaten. Curbs would have used all of his defensive substitutions and Varney would only have come on for Iwelumo. At 0-0 with a minute on the clock, our lone forward would have been back in our box winning headers or at best hanging on the half-way line with the intrsuctions to head for the corner flag should he get the ball. Pardew's optimism won out here because we finally got our reward for being bold as the front two combined for the winner.
A similar tale for the City game too. Curbishley would have become concerned midway through the second half when City finally got a spell of pressure and cretaed some chances. He would have seen the threat to his point and we would have seen a defensive substitution as we retreated back to defend the draw. The point was obviously still in Pardew's mind but he was judging the game based upon our showing and could see we were holding own own despite City waking up and he held his nerve in pressing forward. He had changed already at half-time to a more attacking formation and it was working well, so why change it. I am sure we would have held on and deservedly claimed our point if we hadn't scored, but fortune favours the brave.
The players he brought in aren't Premiership quality but we paid Championship prices and Darren Bent's sale funded the lot. Buliding a complete squad from scratch with limited funds and competing pretty much from the off is a remarkable achievement. It owes everything to Pardew's knowledge and judgement of players and of this division. Maintaining that challenge and overcoming set-backs are the really hard parts and that comes from having the management skills and personality to re-organise and re-motivate your team.
Yes, I am an unashamed Pardew fan. It's hard to argue against the evidence. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Bristol City 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Another great performance on the road and the second win in a row gained by another Big Chris last minute header. Two clean sheets in succession to boot - maybe we finally have the basis of a centre-half pairing emerging as well!

I had hopes of hurtling down the M4 late this afternoon and catching kick-off but things got protracted at work and put paid to that. Couldn't raise BBC Radio Kent, so had to tune in and follow the game on Five Live Sports Extra. Haven't tuned in on this before - what a disappointment. The female host (Jackie?)commentates sporadically in between chit-chat with Leroy Rosenior (not a win-double). They also cut back and forth to other grounds for updates which does nothing to help you follow the game - not recommended if there's an alternative.

Still, the game started brightly enough for the Addicks and our 5-man midfield of Sam, Racon, Reid, Zheng Zhi and Thomas saw plenty of the ball. We had the first couple of corners and Iwelumo and Zheng Zhi had shots on goal. Reidy had a free-kick pushed out for a corner by Basso. Basey had a free-kick turned away on 30 minutes and another corner was wasted. City were dishing out some tough tackles and the view of the commentator was that referree Scott Mathieson had let five bookable City tackles go unpunished before Lewis Carey finally became the first City booking for a high tackle on Reid. Charlton then went very close as the ball pinged around the box from the resulting free-kick but we couldn't get a clear shot in . Thomas then had a chance from the next free-kick but his header and subsequent attempted shot was blocked by Basso.

Bristol City got their first corner of the half after 40 minutes and did nothing with it. They forced their first chance of the half on the stroke of half time. Basey missed a header from a free-kick and Ivan Sproule should have done better than direct the ball ball across the face of goal. So Charlton on top in the first half having the majority of the possession and enough chances to have been in front. I wanted a bolder start with 4-4-2 formation to press for the lead so was a little disappointed. Maybe Kappacio Kid was right - he advocated 4-5-1 for the first half to keep it even and then go 4-4-2 second half in chasing the lead.....

Alan Pardew duly made the change at half time and Varney started the second half at the expense of Lloyd Sam. Varney was fouled 20 yards out on 52 minutes but Reid's free-kick went wide of the left-hand post. McIndoe was the second booking after tangling with Danny Mills. Three late challenges on Varney were eventually punished with the third City booking of the evening. Charlton continued to force corners and Thomas was making a lot of progress on the flank. A Bradley Orr run was ended on the edge of the box on 70 minutes and Danny Mills cleared the subsequent free-kick from McIndoe off the line. City began to dominate possession for the first time after Noble replaced Trundle. Thomas was booked for a high tackle and Darren Ambrose was introduced for Zheng Zhi. City continued to pressure and Weaver had to save from Byfield following a 30 yard free-kick. Danny Mills had a chance with five minutes left but Basso saved. It looked to be fading out but Reid beat Orr in the last minute and found Big Chris on the 6 yard box and he buried his header. Madjid was brought on immediately to help run down the three added minutes of time. Phil Parkinson was sent to the stands in the last minute for kicking the ball away but it was all too late for City.

Reasonable night for other results too with West Brom conceding a last minute equaliser at home to Wednesday and Ipswich going down 3-1 at Sheffield United. Watford did win at Norwich and Stoke beat Scunthorpe - there were five other draws. We are now up to fourth, two points behind West Brom and Bristol City. Cardiff won't fancy the trip the Valley on Saturday having only managed a draw at home to Palace this evening and I am confident we can make it three wins in-a-row to maintain our recovery from what now looks like just a blip.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Charlton to win away again?

Barnsley beat Blackpool this evening to push us back into sixth place. We need another win at Bristol City on Tuesday evening if we are to have a chance of regaining the fourth spot and, perhaps more importantly, to prevent Bristol City from extending their second place lead over us to eight points. What are our chances? Officially a miserly 7-4 which at least demonstrates the bookies faith in us.

City have won four and drawn three of the seven games played at home. They have also won the last three home games in succession and, having drawn at Wolves on Saturday, they will be confident of another three points. We have followed both of our previous away wins with draws (2-2 at Colchester after Palace and 1-1 with Barnsley after Hull) and I would like to see Alan Pardew be a little bolder tomorrow in the formation we adopt. The 4-5-1 might have suited us for Saturday but that plan was scuppered when Semedo was dismissed and it was the front two that created the goal, even if Varney crossed for it. We created chances in the first half at St. Marys but were also prone to the counter. In the second half when attack appeared to become our best form of defence we prospered with 10 men and I think there's a lesson for us in that at the moment.

So, I would like to see us start 4-4-2 and try to worry City from the off. If we sit back 4-5-1 I fear we might be inviting trouble. I haven't seen much of City this season and only recognise a couple of their players (Phil Jeavons is one and he hasn't played much). That's not to say they aren't a decent team and the table would back them. However, I am going to go for an away double, 2-1 to the Addicks. It would be great to respond to the three defeats in a row with three victories (ok, two and Cardiff to come). Oh, and it would shut-up the prophets of doom for a while!

C'mon you Reds!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Weekend Championship Review

I will have to wait another week for my first win of the season against Paddy Power. Arsenal blew my coupon before 3pm by failing to beat Man U. Fulham and Leyton Orient both managed wins later in the day but Scunthorpe could only hold Palace and Stoke slipped up at home to Coventry....

In terms of the Championship, it was another poor showing with only three correct results and one correct score. It really is a dog-eat-dog division this year. I did at least go for a Charlton victory and think there would have been more goals if we had managed to keep 11 men on the field. Ipswich could only manage a point at Norwich this afternoon and, whilst it lifts them above us on goal difference, they face two tricky games this week away at Sheffiled United and then at home to Bristol City. West Brom will be cock-a-hoop having dispatched Watford at Vicarage Road and will look to mainatin third or better on Tuesday when they play Sheffield Wednesday at home. They then follow that with a live game against Coventry City on Monday evening. Bristol City obviously have ourselves and Ipswich to negotiate and they look like our targets if we are to close in on Watford and West Brom. Watford have the opportunity to put Saturday's disappointment behind them at Norwich on Tuesday and if they fail to do that, they should surely beat Colchester at home on Saturday.

The pressure's on, and we need another performance at Bristol City. If we get something there then you have to believe we can play with a little more freedom when Cardiff City come to the Valley. I really don't rate City and I think their Summer signings smacked of desperation. I hope the Reds will prove me right and push Cardiff closer towards the relegation places. We also have their notorious supporters to deal with and, as they haven't been to the Valley in years, I will be surprised if the day passes off without incident.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Southampton 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Overdue some good fortune and a decent referring performance, Charlton got neither today at St. Mary's as they had to play for 55 minutes with ten men. However, they put in a battling performance and thoroughly deserved their late Iwelumo winner.

Charlton started with a quick-supporting 4-5-1 formation. Luke Varney was dropped in favour of a five man midfield with Sam, Semedo, Reid, Zheng Zhi and Thomas supporting the lone Iwelumo. The back four was the same that finished against QPR with Mills, Sodje, Fortune and Basey protecting Nicky Weaver.

The Addicks began brightly enough forcing a couple of corners and duly missed their best opportunity of the half when Sam Sodje's header from Reid's corner hit the bar after six minutes. Weaver saved smartly from Stern John before Jose Semedo was booked for a foul on Idiakez. The game was open and attacking. Andy Reid was prompting for Charlton and John, Wright-Philips and Viafara were combining well upfront for the Saints. Phil Ifil was booked for a foul on Thomas and Lloyd Sam followed him minutes later. On 35 minutes, Referree Hill decided to book Semedo again for an unnecessary tackle on Viafara. It was a harsh decision bearing in mind he was already on a yellow but the red card was flashed quickly enough and Charlton's chances of a win looked to have disappeared.

Unsurprisingly, Southampton finished the half strongly with Viafara shooting over after good work from John and Wright-Philips. John then missed a gilt-edge chance firing wide from 8 yards. In between, a Zheng Zhi break found Lloyd Sam but the youngster failed to hit the target by blasting over.

Charlton started the second half playing deeper and being urged on by the 2200 Addicks behind the goal. They were still looking to break whenever they could but were vulnerable to the counter-attack when they did so. Christian Dailly went off for treatment, giving Charlton parity and the open game of the first 35 minutes returned with both sides pressing. Zheng Zhi missed a sitter from seven yards out after Sodje knocked on a Mills throw in. Wright-Philips skated through the Charlton defence and only a last ditch block by Jon Fortune prevented Southampton from taking the lead. Dailly eventually returned after about 12 minutes but Charlton continued to take the game to Southampton. Andy Reid collected a pass from a Thomas run on the left after 70 minutes and his shot flew inches wide.

Zheng Zhi was booked for back-heeling the ball away after the referree had blown for a free-kick - another careless card. Moutaouakil was the first Charlton substitute as Charlton continued to match the Saints. On 80 minutes the home fans were becoming restless as Charlton continued to dominate. Grant Basey hit the side netting when he latched onto a corner and the Charlton faithful thought they had done it. Substitute Varney had a header tipped over the bar but Charlton weren't to be denied and Varney found Iwelumo six yards and his header beat Kelvin Davies.

This was a fine team performance. The back-four kept the first clean sheet against Southampton this season. Sam and Basey had very solid performances. Mills and Fortune stood up too and we can expect an unchanged defence at City on Tuesday. Reid and Zheng Zhi carried the game to Southampton when Charlton broke but we didn't get as much from Thomas or Sam as we might have expected. Iwelumo played his lone striker role well enough but it needed the injection of his strike partner to win the game.

The losing run has been stopped and Charlton can now travel to Bristol City with confidence on Tuesday. We're up to 4th and a win against City on Tuesday will put us within two points of them.

Up the Addicks!

Turning Point?

There are 10 games until Christmas. We are sitting on the fringe of the play-off places. This is where I thought we would be and was hoping for a push towards third by Christmas, which would leave us handily placed for January and February and the run in. Obviously, I wasn't anticipating being here on the back of three successive defeats.

I believe the result of todays match at Southampton could be pivotal in terms of the next two months and ultimately the season. Lose and we face the prospect of five defeats in succession and a hard struggle break back into a play-off place. Win and we can travel to Bristol on Tuesday with renewed heart before getting back to winning ways at the Valley.

However, today's game will be difficult and we will need as good a performance as we have managed away from home all season. Southampton have conceded more goals than any other side in the division. They are missing five defenders and I understand from Wyn Grant's page that Jason Euell may also miss the game. Ordinarily he wouldn't bother me but on the back of the recent sequence of former Addicks scoring against their old club, it might come as something of a blessing. If we are looking for any other omens, then the ongoing uncertainty about a potential takeover at St Mary's continues and the latest threat about have to sell players in January might just help us today.

On the glass-half-full front, we are overdue some luck. If the QPR performance was just one of those we seem to reserve for live TV, then we can expect a significant improvement and see us creating more chances which we will need to take advantage of their poor defensive record. For this reason, I hope we go 4-4-2 and not try 4-5-1 again as I fear it will encourage them to attack us and that will almost inevtiably lead to goals with our defensive record this season.

So, I can see an attacking game with both sides trying to take the lead. This could be decisive because there looks to be goals in this game. I have already plumped for the Addicks to win a five goal thriller and am sticking with this. I can't bring myself to travel in the wake of last week so will be relying upon Radio Kent to follow the game.

C'mon you Reds!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Weekend Championship Preview

I said I'd share my tips with you this week, so here goes. My five result accumulator this week is Arsenal, Fulham, Scunthorpe, Stoke and Leyton Orient.

It's not often you get Arsenal at odds-against at home. Yes they have to beat Man U but they are top, at home and flying. It's also the live midday game so gives watching it a bit more interest. Fulham will be targeting games this season for points and will expect to beat Reading. The Royals are having the dreaded second season and although showing signs of recovery of late have been leaking goals. I wouldn't ordinarily bet against Palace at Scuthorpe but the Warnock factor is the encouragement here and Scunthorpe are also odd-against. Stoke are slight favourites and I fancy them to beat Coventry. The O's are 4-5 at home which is a good price and Oldham are languishing.

I do a 5 game accumulator most weeks (except international weekends and poor weather) and typically gets odds from 25-1 to 35-1. I usually win 1-3 times a season and believe I end up every year in pocket. This season I am only betting on line so I can actually record what I spend/lose! This weeks selection could net close to 39-1 with Paddy Power. It's worth a punt - good luck!

Barnsley v Preston

Routine home win for Barnsley in the Yorks/Lancs derby. Eeee, it's grim up north.

Prediction; 1-0

Colchester v Leicester

Leicester are at least competing under the temporary guidance of Frank Burrows. Colchester will be keen to avenge their defeat at Ipswich and I fancy Lisbie and Teddy to do some damage.

Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth v Sheff Wed

The personality disorder that is Sheffield Wednesday meet the bouyant Argyle who will be under orders from Hollers to erase the memory of defeat at Preston last week. Argyle to grind this out.

Prediction; 2-0

QPR v Hull

Interesting! After something of a revival under care-taker Mick Harford, Rangers moved to appoint an Italian on Monday. You have to suspect there's some unrest at the club and Hull have enjoyed their away-days so far this year.

Prediction; 1-1

Scunthorpe v Crystal Palace

No bounce from introducing Mr Warnock and Palace have roared into the relegation places. He's upset the backroom staff and given the players a 5-game warning. There's no sign yet that anyone's listening - that or they really are one of the worst three sides in the division. Scunny to heap on the misery.

Prediction; 2-0

Sheff Utd v Burnley

Dour match in prospect this one. Neither side prolific and both scrapping for everything in recent weeks. More of the same which will be bad news for Bryan Robson.

Prediction; 1-1

Southampton v Charlton

I'm going to stick my neck out here. On the evidence of the QPR debacle this should be a home banker. However, Southampton ship goals like no-one else in the Championship and we can definately score here. If we create chances like we have been doing prior to Saturday and can score first, I think we can take the points. Whatever happens, I can't see this being 0-0.

Prediction; 2-3

Stoke v Coventry

Coventry were unfortunate to be undone by West ham in midweek but class will out and they might look a bit ragged come 5pm Saturday. Stoke lost 4-2 at home to Wednesday last time out and I can't see a repeat showing.

Prediction; 2-0

Watford v West Brom

This looks like a Premiership clash all of a sudden. Watford look streets ahead of the rest at the moment but West Brom have the talent to beat anyone in this division and they will be keen to match the Hornets.

Prediction: 1-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Bristol City

Tough one this but I'm going for City to maintain their impressive recent run of form by doing what Charlton should have and winning at Molineux.

Prediction; 1-2

Norwich City v Ipswich Town

The Farmers derby is a Sunday lunchtime kick-off. Form won't necessarily favour Ipswich here and the Norwich boys have a new manager as well as pride to play for. I can see this being a very close game but will go for Norwich to nick it.

Prediction; 2-1