Sunday, 30 November 2008

Back-to-back Birthday..

The last time we won two consecutive league games was 4th and 8th of December 2007 against Cardiff and Ipswich respectively.  As that anniversary looms, we face Blackpool and Coventry on 6th and 9th December. It will take back-to-back wins and the results to go for us if we are to climb out of the bottom three.

Blackpool away on Saturday is going to be a very hard game and Parkinson will need another steely defensive performance if we are going to have a chance of getting anything. Bloomfield Road was the venue for our worst defeat of last year and we really owe them one for that. The Seasiders are currently seven points clear of us and a win for them  next week would create a significant barrier between them and the bottom six.

Blackpool won 2-1 at Plymouth yesterday but their form of late has been poor. Prior to yesterday they had lost four in sucession, three of them at home. They should be nervous and we need to exploit that. We are also due a bit of luck and if we get it up there, then I think we have every chance of the victory that would give Parkinson a respectable win, draw and defeat from his first three games in charge. Dare I say it, it would also set us up for the Coventry home game in midweek which could see us lay the ghost of consecutive wins.

In the meantime, we have the distraction of the draw for the third round of the F A Cup. It takes place at 2.15pm today and is live on ITV or Radio 5. In line with all cash-strapped strugglers, a home game against decent opposition would be the ideal outcome. Phil Parkinson will be hoping he's still around to see it played.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Charlton Athletic 0 v Southampton 0

Ten (10) games now without a win. Three points adrift in the relegation zone. Most gifted player loaned (sold) to Championship rivals to pay-off Alan Pardew. Caretaker Manager in charge with a draw from two games. The turmoil continues. However, I think there is real hope. The players responded well at QPR despite the result and we got an improvement on that today. I hope the Board aren't too hasty with regard to a permanent appointment because Parky's earned his chance.

We started the game with a surprising four changes from Tuesday. Therry Racon was carrying a knock so Nicky Bailey returned to central midfield. Deon Burton was started upfront in place of Martyn Waghorn and Jay McEveley made his debut at left-back in place Kelly Youga. That left Jonathon Fortune to come in for Linvoy Primus. Burton's start was a surprise given the fact that Waghorn's on a short tenure and I was surprised that Fortune was preferred to Primus, but if I am honest, Primus was nowhere for QPR's goals in midweek. Youga has been inconsistent this season, so McEveley's start wasn't a huge surprise.

We got off to a flyer and Andyn Gray could have scored inside two minutes. Our first real attack saw a ball flighted over the Saints defence and three Charlton players competed for it. It fell to Gray who was furthest forward but he caught it on the wrong side of his foot and spooned it wide. Gillespie went close after that when he attacked the box and fooled the Southampton defence into thinking he was going to lay the ball off. Instead he fizzed a low shot wide of Kelvin Davis's right hand post. 

Charlton continued to dominate possession and create chances throughout the first half. Davis was in inpsired form and saved brilliantly from Gillespie, Bouazza twice and Deon Burton as the Addicks piled on the presure before the break. Southampton battled back in the second period, particularly when the Addicks tired and could have nicked a winner of their own. However, that would have been unjust and they probably deserved to escape with their point, although we would have seen them off if we had gone in ahead at half-time.  Parkinson introduced Todorov for Gray, Sam for Gillespie and Holland for Semedo before the end but to no avail.

Bottom-line for me is that the results will come if the performances are ok, and we've had two performances  out of two so far.  Weaver was well protected today but did what he needed to well enough. Fortune was quiet but effective whilst Hudson was everywhere.  Cranie took a lot of stick for his Pompey connections and looked rattled first half but responded very well in the second. Jay McEveley had a determined debut. He reminded me instantly of Danny Mills; quick to tackle, committed and fast to break. He plays the ball yards into space to chase and careers on into the opponents half. His delivery is similarly full-blooded to Mills' own and two of his driven crosses nearly produced goals. Like Mills, he also got the obligatory booking.

Bailey responded well to being dropped in midweek, but he and Semedo didn't look as fluid as Semedo and Racon. Bouazza had a cracking first half but faded in the second period as he is prone to. Gillespie played an intelligent game even if he failed to create as much as at QPR in the week.

Up front Gray toiled again but you have to wonder when he can't beat Chris Perry in the air throughout the game despite a four or five inch height difference. Deon Burton was more impressive than I had feared but he is all about laying the ball off and helping those around him; I'm not sure that's what we need and surely he doesn't offer us anything longer term.

Southampton didn't look a poor side and I will be surprised if they are still in a relegation scrap come the end of the season. Their fans were largely muted and they were well short of the predicted 3,000. I'd call it two, but I guess that's not bad in the circumstances. There were more police on duty today than I have seen in eons and they had a strange road-block in operation on Charlton Church Lane between Wellington Gardens and Floyd Road; maybe they were expecting a suicide car-bomb on the Con Club!

I hope all of the other views are positive because there was little to complain about today other than the result and much to praise. Sometimes you have to be patient.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Weeekend Championship Preview, Game 20

Game 20 - blimey! With four matches left to the half-way mark, we are well short of the first-half points total we need to stay in the Championship. Several wins are required and that has to start with Southampton at the Valley tomorrow. For me, it's Parky's last chance and a failure to record our first win in ten games where we have garnered only three points must see the Board move to appoint someone new to the club with fresh ideas and proven motivational capabilities.

I think we can do it if we pass the ball with the confidence and urgency we showed at QPR. Starting with the same side that began at Loftus Road would be ok, although Parky might consider the more attacking Moutouakil at right-back and McEveley on the bench to help Youga concentrate.

It' a big weekend elsewhere and this is how I see it going...

I wonder whether Luke will get to show the Rams what he's capable of here? Either way I don't think it will be enough to stop Owen Coyle's side from bouncing back from their 3-2 reverse at Oakwell.
Prediction; 2-1

Charlton Athletic v Southampton
Six pointer here and Southampton have shown signs of recovery recently. They asked for more tickets this week as interest on the south coast increases. It's a must-win game and I believe we will do just that. A defeat here and it will be hard to see when we might win again without further radical change in the shape of new management. We haven't kept a clean sheet since September so one's well overdue.
Prediction; 1-0

Rangers looked less than average on Tuesday and any performance remotely close to that here will see Palace scoop the points and clambour above the Super Hoops. Having scored four last time out at home and two at Norwich in midweek, I think they are in the mood to win again.
Prediction; 3-1

Ipswich Town v Sheffield United
United must be a bit frustrating to watch right now. They are winning games but disappointing in between times and would have believed they could overcome Wolves at home in midweek. Chris Iwelumo killed them off with two goals and they will need to score first here I reckon if they are to have a chance of winning. Portman Road will provide a sterner test than the Valley.
Prediction; 2-0

Forest looked doomed and Colin Calderwood's promising managerial career with them. Barnsley have shown how to climb off the bottom of the table and are now eight points clear of us. This is a chance for them to record a rare away win.
Prediction; 0-1

A long trip in prospect for the Seasiders, and, I suspect, and even longer one home. Blackpool are a club we could do with catching and this is a home banker for me.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City are in a slump at the moment and this will be a tough trip. Preston fought for a point at Derby in midweek and will be confident of getting the win here.
Prediction; 1-0

Norwich are another side struggling right now and one we should be capable of catching. Another home banker for me but Wednesday have been inconsistent of late and tripped up at home to Coventry last time. Surely they won't repeat that?
Prediction; 3-1

Golden opportunity for the Hornets to climb the table here and I am sure they will do it for their new manager.
Prediction; 3-0

Midlands grudge match and top versus second. I can't see the Old Gold losing but the Blues might have enough fight for a derby point. 
Prediction; 1-1

Hate derby which probably kicks-off at 9am or something stupid. Swansea have already beaten Cardiff at the Liberty Stadium in the League Cup and I won't be surprised to see them do it again. It's the Sunday game which might be good to watch if we're feeling flushed from a Valley win and are awake by kick-off.
Prediction; 1-0

Reading v Coventry City
Surely Reading won't slip-up twice in-a-row at home?
Prediction; 3-0

If you are going to the Valley let's get behind the side from the off and suck that first goal in. Come on you Reds!

Bad business

It's got to stop. The continuing merry-go-round of players won't help us get the points we need to avoid relegation. We have to get some continuity in the squad as well as the preferred eleven. Yesterday's loan activity, frankly, was a major disappoint for me. 

On reflection, I think the real news was that Luke Varney has been sold to Derby albeit in the shape of a loan move until the transfer window opens. His and Derby's comments reflect that. As if to off-set the sale of one of our most promising players - let's face it he was just that in spite of his run of misses in front of goal - we have signed Deon Burton. I can't dress this up as anything other than it is - an act of short-term desperation. Parky needs to make a comment about Dickson and Fleetwood here. They haven't been given a fair crack of the whip and if they offer us nothing more than Deon Burton then they must be finished, just like him. 

Many will be pleased to see Varney go but not me. He is still young and under a different management may yet blossom. Perhaps we will get a decent fee but I believe we will live to rue yesterday. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Varney misses out - Peter not Luke

Radio Five is announcing the appointment of a new Chief Exec at Arsenal and it isn't Peter Varney. Sir Peter was interviewed for the position but has been passed up for Ivan Gazidis, a former administrator with the Major Soccer League, unsurprisingly someone I have never heard. Presumably he speaks good English and has an intimate working knowledge of the Premier League?

Arsenal's loss I say. If Peter's feeling refreshed and ready for work again, what chances he'll help rescue the sinking ship? I have attached a picture of him here with our Chairman, or at least the bloke who used to be our Chairman and is still recognised as such by the clubs supporters.

Jay McEveley

The Daily Mail is reporting that Derby left-back, Jay McEveley is coming to the Valley on loan to shore up what has been a general weakness so far this season. McEveley played a big part in Derby's promotion season as well as last year's relegation from the Premier League. He has a couple of Scotland caps and at 23 years old still has considerable potential. 

We really need to settle on a first team and as well as some first reserves. We have had little continuity this season in any position. Lack of consistent form and injuries haven't helped and we are likely to be hindered by possible losses of loanees in the weeks ahead. In the unlikely event of signing a top-class striker on loan, you have to hope that McEe=veley will be the last , at least until January, if indeed this deal materialises.

Interesting to see no sign or mention of Heidar Helguson last night. Something's obviously happening because neither club are saying anything. My bet would be on Rangers falling back to the original loan period and everyone moving on. It wasn't as if he was needed in the QPR attack last night, what with Blackstock finishing two of the three chances they created. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

QPR 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

An ultimately frustrating evening for the 700 Addicks in the appallingly small and quiet crowd of 12,268 at Loftus Road tonight. What is clear is that Phil Parkinson got a much more whole-hearted display than we have seen of late (although I wasn't at Plymouth or Birmingham). The fact that we conceded two soft goals from QPR's only three real efforts was the ultimate disappointment and won't be good enough to keep Phil Parkinson in this job if it happens again.

All credit to Parkinson for being bold and making changes. He started with Racon and Semedo in an untried central midfield pairing and it worked well enough - it will be interesting to see if Bailey was dropped or is carrying a knock. Bouazza was played out left and Gillespie started on the right. Martyn Waghorn got his first start up front with Andy Gray. The four in front of Weaver were Cranie, Hudson, Primus and Youga.

We started brightly and passed the ball well across the park without showing too much threat. Waghorn and Gray were playing with a big gap between them which made it look like we only had one up front when the ball was played into the box. Rangers have a beanpole defence and it's easy to see how they have only conceded 9 goals in 10 home matches.  They scored with their first attack of the game after 17 minutes. Tommasi broke down the left flank and looked to have let the ball run out at one point but was waved on. His cross skipped across the face of the Charlton goal and Dexter Blackstock was on hand unmarked to knock it home in front of the disgruntled Addicks fans. 

Charlton carried on dominating possession and carved out a few openings but nothing clear-cut until an attack down the right flank switched quickly to the left and Bouazza cut in to cross for Therry Racon to fire home. The goal lifted the Addicks and we continued to dominate proceedings going into the break. Agyemang came on for Rangers at the start of the second half but he had little effect as Charlton continued to pass the ball around from side to side and back to front.  Andy Gray was leading the line well with limited support from Waghorn who looked lost at times - he did get on the end of one effort but his shot was well blocked. Linvoy Primus then had a chance when he pulled down a ball in the box but his shot skimmed the netting on the roof of the Rangers goal. Early days for Waghorn but it was no surprise when he was subbed for Luke Varney. 

Varney had warmed up at half time and was rattling shots into the goal for ten minutes with Rob Elliott. He looked relaxed, sharp and confident. When he came on I sensed he was going to make the difference. He got our best chance of the match following a goal-mouth scramble. QPR cleared and tried to step-out at the same time but the clearance spun back into Varney's path with the goal gaping and 700 Addicks drawing breath. Almost unbelievably, he lashed his 8-yard shot into the top tier of the stand where the Charlton fans were seated and you felt our chance of winning went with it. We continued to press, however, and Gray and Hudson both came close. 

With fifteen minutes left, QPR brought Ledesma on in midfield and started to play with some forward urgency which woke their docile crowd and five minutes later Blackstock got on the end of a cross to head high and wide of Weaver's dive for the winner. It was cruel blow and whilst the Addicks ploughed on you knew we were beaten.

All-in-all an encouraging display for Parkinson but this is a results business and he simply has to get one at the Valley on Saturday if he's still in charge. Gillespie had a fine debut and was probably my man of the match, although he didn't look entirely comfortable at right back after Sam came on with eight minutes to go. Racon and Semedo added urgency to central midfield and outpassed their opponents. Bouazza had a better game to but probably only as a result of seeing more of the ball.  Unfortunately we still looked toothless upfront. The back four played well enough save the two goals. Youga was possibly the weakest link but I might be singling him out unfairly here.

Saturday is another test and we need the win to get within a point of Southampton, although we are unlikely to get out of the bottom three as Watford are now three points clear with a much better goal difference. 

Phil Parkinson's Red & White Ar-my!

No, doesn't sound right does it? "Su-per Phil Parkinson?" Nah. "Parkin-son, Parkin-son, Parkin-son?" Nope, I'll leave it to the Covered End to come up with the right one, assuming he gets long enough.

Curiosity has got the better of me and I am going to Loftus Road this evening. It's strange, but for some reason I'd really like to see it work out for Parkinson.  A week ago I'd have got shot of him with Pardew but I liked what he said on Sunday and if he can motivate the players he'd save the club a million or two  that will need to be spent on moving him on and bringing someone else in. After all, we have to face facts and all we are looking for now is someone who can pull us out of the mire and keep us up this season. 

As I said yesterday, I am sure Parky's fate will be decided in the opening 45 minutes at Loftus Road depending on how the side responds. The team he puts out will also be telling. You have to assume that he will start with the usual suspects and that he will look for a positive response from them to support his longer term position. He could, of course, be bold and make one or two changes to signal his intent; Weaver must be close to being dropped and he has Waghorn and Gillespie to consider. 

If he fails tonight (in terms of getting a response from the players) we shouldn't be too harsh on him as it will reflect more on the squad, I believe, than him personally. Having said that, it would be great to get a performance and even a result to avenge their win in similar circumstances at the Valley a year ago. Paul Sousa had a bad start at Watford and I'm not sure all is well in their camp. It could just be the perfect time to play them.


Monday, 24 November 2008

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 19

It will be very interesting to see how Charlton play tomorrow night at QPR. I think you will be able to tell inside 45 minutes just how much of a factor Alan Pardew has been on results. It will also throw a big light on whether or not Phil Parkinson commands enough respect from the players to have any serious chance of holding on to the Manager's post longer term. In another full programme, here's who else is playing whom...

Birmingham and Wolves are looking increasingly like the automatic promotion candidates. If City can follow-up their fine 3-2 away win at Swansea with another three points here, they might extend their lead over Reading to five points. Kevin Phillips to strike again.
Prediction; 2-0

Wednesday blew up at home to Coventry on Saturday and I can see them going down here as well. They have managed only five points away from home out of a possible 27.
Prediction; 1-0

Watford waved goodbye to Malky McKay with a 3-0 win over QPR on Saturday. Brendan Rodgers is a surprise appointment and hardly awe-inspiring. I can see him starting with a defeat at City.
Prediction; 2-0

Play-off dogfight and Reading will want to recover from a surprise home defeat to Southampton. Cardiff too went down at Plymouth and I will go for them to grind out another home win here.
Prediction; 1-0

Both of these sides are unpredictable. Coventry have lost more at home than away and Swansea have been playing well away from the Liberty Stadium. A draw looks a decent bet.
Prediction; 1-1

Derby County v Preston NE
Derby have been faltering of late but this is a great opportunity to stop the rot and catch-up with the play-off chasers.
Prediction; 2-1

They had to play each other sooner or later, so the gap between them and us looks like narrowing one way or the other. If Doncaster are going to win another home match this year, it looks like this one. 
Prediction; 2-0

Good win for Palace over Bristol City on Saturday. Warnock will be looking for a charge between now and Christmas if they are to have any chance of emulating last year's play-off feat. Norwich won with ten men at Forest and will be eyeing unlikely back-to-back wins. A point each looks likely.
Prediction; 1-1

Intriguing match in prospect here. It should be a straightforward home win but the QPR team slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Watford on Saturday in Paulo Sousa's first match in charge. They had three booked and Fitz Hall dismissed as well. Ironically enough, the game mirrors QPR's win at the Valley last season when they arrived with Mick Harford in caretaker mode and bottom of the table. We were flying high and fell flat on our faces. There's hope here but it will depend on how the players react to Parkinson. I've got to go with the home win and assume Parkinson won't be seen as much of a change and that it will take someone fresh to get our side concentrating and playing as a team for 90 minutes.
Prediction; 2-0

Hum-dinger on the cards here. Wolves are flying and will travel here to have a go. United are up to fourth and will be buzzing after Saturday. United have a mean home defence but have now scored more goals away. Kevin Beattie to get the winner.
Prediction; 2-1

Southampton v Plymouth Argyle
Southampton's win at Reading was their fourth away win this season. At home they boast the poorest form in the division with only six points from 27. Argyle will fancy this although Saints might have enough for a draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Keith Gillespie joins on loan

Well I didn't see that one coming. The 33 year-old has apparently fallen out with Kevin Blackwell and has agreed to join on loan until 3rd January. He is hoping to make the move permanent, although he can't have been too impressed with what he saw on Saturday, assuming he made the trip down. Maybe he was at the match and saw a final chance to impress before the light goes out on his impressive career?

I can't say his signing sets my pulse racing. Whilst he was often a thorn in our side, his star has faded in the last couple of appearances against us and I am not expecting him to pull up any trees. All part of the process I guess in lower our expectations....

Elsewhere, stories abound that Heider Helguson has walked out on QPR and could be heading to the Valley. Apparently QPR have tried to contract him to the end of Janaury which would make it difficult for him to get another club and his initial agreement was until the 3rd January so he could keep his options open in the Janaury window. If this story has legs, then it would lend support to the notion that we had been pipped by Rangers initially for his signature. It would also add some much needed spice to tomorrow nights encounter with the billionaires. 

Parkinson gets a chance

The view amongst Addicks appears to be that Phil Parkinson is damaged goods as he was Pards' man and must carry part responsibility for the mess we're in. I wouldn't disagree with that but the Board have acted decively in appointing him caretaker and he will, at least, get a chance to show if he can motivate the players and if they will play for him. He will be hoping that the Board haven't already done their homework and that he gets a few games at least before they get close to announcing a successor.

His first match couldn't really be harder; an away game in west London against a QPR side who have won six and drawn one of nine home games so far. However, if he gets a few more matches we have several games coming up from which we could expect to get a couple of wins, who knows, maybe even two in-a-row. Southampton at home is winnable. Blackpool away in the week is a toughie but they aren't great shakes this year and we could get something there. Then we have two home matches against an inconsistent Coventry side and then Derby County who have been stuttering again after a run out of the bottom three. If he lasts that long, we have Norwich the week before Christmas at Carrow Road and a real chance of our second away win of the season.

I promised myself I wasn't going to QPR but I'll have a look at my diary for tomorrow and might get over to see for myself whether Parky's got any chance of a longer term appointment. It would be a cheap option if it worked out.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Charlton Athletic 1 v Sheffield United 3

A day that has long been predicted came to pass yesterday; Charlton Athletic were easily beaten again at home; we got the five goal spanking that's been coming for weeks and, finally, Alan Pardew has been sacked.  The false optimism of two half-decent away performances couldn't disguise the drivel we've been served up at the Valley for most of the season and the last four home matches in particular. He had to go.

The starting formation was like looking into the eyes of Audley Harrison. It was obvious we were going to lose. I thought Mr P had learnt this lesson. You simply can't expect to win matches playing 4-5-1 unless you have superior midfielders (which we simply don't have) and you have to play to win matches at home. 

It took Sheffield United a whole seven minutes to open the scoring and the goal was soft. United broke down the right and a superb cross found Greg Halford at the far post. He could probably have scored himself but instead he held the ball up for a second before rolling it into the path of Kevin Beattie. Halford nearly scored minutes later from 40 yards when he caught Weaver out of the six yard box but his lob struck the bar and post before spinning out. Amazingly, Charlton equalised after 15 minutes when Linvoy Primus headed home unopposed from a Bailey free-kick. We didn't deserve parity and it didn't last long. Sheffield United were dominating possession and they were breaking in numbers whenever we we did get forward. Brian Howard's free kick after 29 minutes was glanced on by Gray Speed and it beat Weaver easily. 

I had been texting a mate in the ground about the score and predicted the third before the break. It came courtesy of another Weaver clanger. Throughout the first half Weaver spent as much time as he could patrolling the edge of his area so as to distance himself from the abuse he was getting from fellow citizens for being a"fat, greedy"  Wednesdayite. It was from this position that he dropped a catch and Kilgannon simply swept it in to end the match. I say "end the match," but there was, of course, another half to be played. However, it was effectively the end for me as I left for the warmth of the Royal Oak at half-time telling my step-father I couldn't bear to watch the next two goals.

A strange thing happened in the pub. First, there were only two of us who had left early and, secondly, no-one else came in after the fifth went in after only 53 minutes. That would normally have been a cue for a mass exodus. Maybe they all stayed behind to demonstrate, but I suspect plenty left but were too sick to stomach a drink. 

In the cold light of day, this game will be seen as a blessing for finally putting us out of our misery. I was as enthusiastic about the appointment of Alan Pardew as anyone. I was very impressed with his approach, the way he spoke to the media and his analysis of the game. However, he began to lose his way in the second half of last season and all of a sudden his pre and post-match comments began to sound very familiar and hollow. NYA hits the nail on the head perfectly in his piece on this yesterday. Pardew became tiresome, a bit like Arsene Wenger did when we all realised that he watches games with one-eye shut. More importantly, he had obviously lost the squad. The inept home performances against Burnley and Barnsley confirmed that and the Board should be given some credit for at least giving him a final few games, something they didn't give Iain Dowie. 

The big question now is who? Curbishley won't come back and I believe the Board will want a shake-up from someone new, which would rule out Parkinson and Kinsella. Parkinson has temporary charge but you have to assume that is merely protocol and that he will be heading for the door once a replacement manager is announced. The Board have obviously been contemplating the next move for a number of weeks like we have and I wouldn't be at all surprised if there is an annoucement later this week. We can't afford to have the current run of results continue for more than another week or two, or we will find ourselves seriously adrift at the bottom with Forest and Rovers.

QPR looks like mission improbable and we then host a poor Southampton side who have managed a couple of good away wins recently, most notably at Reading yesterday. It needs to be said that we are looking like strong relegation candidates now and it will take a major confidence boost of Harry "Fucking" Rednapp proportions to get it.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Who's loaning who?

Well, late joiners today aside it looks like we'll be well short of the four Murray-predicted loanees. Martyn Waghorn should play tomorrow but it looks like the rumoured Ian Harte deal is off and target Darryl Powell has re-joined Derby. You can't blame Harte for not signing a month's deal. He's a former top class Premier League and International and at 31 he needs to be tempted with something more substantial than a month's trial loan. Financially secure, a month's loan looks like an insult and if that's the way you start out then you have to wonder how you'll be treated after that. We don't know the story with Powell but his name's been in the frame for weeks so you can only presume he didn't get an attractive enough offer either.

Personally I am not bothered as I don't believe too many loans at the same time are necessarily helpful and I'm not convinced Harte or Powell offer us any more than we've already got. Sometimes you've got to take your medicine to get better. I'd rather see us persevere and some of the younger players get more of a look-in. 

The bad news is that QPR have signed Heider Helguson and he will likely face us with Dexter Blackstock in midweek. I can see him scoring against us, espceially if he hasn't opened his account at the weekend.  

Elsewhere, Cardiff have tempted Premier League flop Wayne Routledge from Aston Villa and Palace have signed bad-boy Ishmael Demontagnac from Walsall. Possible one-time Charlton target Ivan Campo is being loaned out "to the right club" and that sounds like it could be us unless we've already failed to meet Ipswich's terms. 

The way things are going, I suspect our next move may depend largely on the outcome of tomorrow's game. Win, and we might be tempted to let things ride. Draw or lose and they might press a few more buttons in the hope of getting a reaction. Failure to win in the next week with home games against Sheffield United and Southampton with QPR away in between will surely be the last straw forPards. It may all come down to the Southampton game.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 18

First, I thought England put in a very good defensive display last night which gave the platform their 2-1 victory in Berlin. John Terry has never been one of my favourite people but there's no arguing with his footballing abilities and he got a bit more respect from me last night for actually making the game after an injury scare, unlike all of the other "pull-outs" as he referred to them. What's more, I thought he gave a real Captain's interview after the game, talking up his colleagues and talking responsibility for the mix-up with the blighted Scott Carson that lead to Germany's goal. At least Capello looks to have got the captaincy decision correct.

Scotland meanwhile, played out a predictable 1-0 defeat at home to Argentina. The Argies didn't get out of second gear all evening and Scotland simply couldn't create any real period of pressure. 

I'm looking forward to a Valley match after a three week break and we are in dire need of a morale-boosting win - our last was October 4th against Ipswich. 

Swansea City v Birmingham City
The Blues will be trying to close the gap on Wolves in this Friday night encounter. Presumably it's been moved to a Friday to limit any potential crowd trouble, so expect some anyway. Swansea can climb into an unlikely play-off spot with a win here and they could just do it.
Prediction; 2-1

Doncaster got their third win of the season last time out and will be looking to move level on wins with the Addicks. Burnley should be too strong after a fine 2-1 win at QPR.
Prediction; 2-0

On paper this should be a home win. United have been vulnerable on the road having lost at Birmingham, Derby, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday. All were by the odd goal and they have managed wins at lowly Blackpool, Barnsley and Doncaster. This should indicate that this is a winnable match if we put in a spirited performance like the last two and avoid any silly mistakes or unfortunate referring incidents. I am not yet convinced we have turned any corners and won't begin to believe until we have managed back-to-back wins. A draw would be another disappointing result which would keep Pards hanging on, and I can see us getting a point.
Prediction; 1-1

No love lost here after City knocked Neil Warnock's troops out of the play-offs. Hard to call but I'm going for a City win based on their impressive away form and Palace's glass chin.
Prediction; 1-2

Derby beat Wednesday 3-0 at home last week whilst Ipswich went down 1-0 at Doncatser Rovers. Both sides need the points to stay in touch with the play-off, but home advantage may tell.
Prediction; 1-0

Norwich are making a bad job of getting clear of the drop zone and hover a point and a place above us. Forest are no great shakes but continue to battle in most of their games and won a good point at Ashton gate last time out. I'll take them here to win only their second home game of the season.

Good match in prospect here. Both sides are over-performing in my book. Cardiff have only lost three times in the league and don't give much a way from home. This looks like being a very close match and one goal might settle it.
Prediction; 0-1

The Tykes have pulled away from the bottom and find themselves in mid-table. A win at Preston would see them draw level with Preston on 25 points but I think that's expecting too much.
Prediction; 2-0

Ouch! I can see Saints getting a hiding here. Jason Euell was sent off at home to Wolves on Saturday and four others were booked. Tempers are clearly fraying and they will find a lot more frustration in store here.
Prediction; 4-0

Straight home win here. Coventry have been terribly inconsistent this year and Wednesday have won five at home already.
Prediction; 2-0

Rangers new manager Paulo Sousa will take charge of his first game and it will be interesting to see what response he gets from the players. His appointment is another strange one for me. He looks a prospect on paper in that he played at the highest levels but has limited management experience albeit in a support role with the Portugese national side under Scolari. This looks typical of QPR at the moment i.e. hoping to get lucky on the cheap. The players won't know him and he's still relatively young. He might need to win some respect before he gets more out of this squad of players. Watford haven't exactly set the ground alight for Malky McKay either so it will probably be a very close game. If it's not a draw I'll tip Watford to edge it.
Prediction; 1-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Blackpool
The Old Gold march on. They have a six point lead at the top and I can't see any chance of it being cut this weekend even if Blackpool have a party-pooper reputation.
Prediction; 3-1

Let's get behind the Addicks on Saturday and make sure they have no excuses in terms of lack of support if things don't go well. Come on you Reds!