Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Fortune recalled

Jon Fortune has been recalled from what turned out to be a short stay on Stoke City to provide extra defensive cover for Saturday's crucial match against Watford. Both the Herminator and Magic are struggling with injuries and Diawara is suspended after receiving a fifth yellow card against West Ham.

Rufus on Sky

Valley legend Richard Rufus featured in a Sky TV documentary 'Sport Uncovered' last night which included the American athlete Michael Johnson interviewing Richard Rufus on the Valley turf. The theme of the programme was 'Religion & Sport' and also featured Gavin Peacock. The show will be repeated on Thursday night/Friday morning at 1am on the Sky One channel (NOT Sky Sports) to see or set recorders.

What the balance is between sporting and religious content, and how much of a Charlton emphasis there is, I don't know.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Super Alan Pardew!

By the end of the game even the West Ham fans were taking up this chant as Charlton demolished the Irons 4-0 in a key relegation battle at The Valley. The grimace on the Egg's face was so severe that it threatened to split his shell and Alan Curbishley's post match comments were despairing.

I was surprised by how awful West Ham were. For example, for the first goal by Jerome Thomas, the Irons defence simply backed off without putting in a tackle or a challenge as he ran from the halfway line. That is not to take anything away from Charlton. Llanera are promoting a virtual Imagination Zone at Maidstone where you can image yourself in your Spanish apartment. Charlton were certainly in that zone yesterday, displaying verve, determination and skill.

From the East Stand it seemed as if Alan Curbishley slipped on to the pitch almost unnoticed just as the game was about to start. Charlton looked lively in the early encounters with Marcus Bent threatening.

Paul Konchesky was being booed every time he touched the ball (perhaps I shall get an E mail of complaint from his sister again). The Irons had marked out Darren Ambrose as a danger man and Konchesky received a yellow card for fouling him. Charlton had an opportunity from a free kick but El Karkouri's effort went wide.

Song won the ball fairly but referee Styles gave West Ham a free kick. Jerome Thomas fed Darren Ambrose well, and perhaps he should have scored, but the result was an unproductive Charlton corner (making our corners count is one area where more work is needed).

West Ham were determined to close down Ambrose and Quashie received a yellow card for fouling him. Thatcher put in a good tackle. Song won Charlton a corner. Konchesky created a moment of danger with a ball across the front of Carson's goal.

Marcus Bent put in a good cross for Ambrose who found the back of the net, although there were claims that it was offside. There was tension between Etherington and Luke Young with the former shoving the Charlton right back.

A West Ham break was countered and Jerome Thomas turned provider for Darren Bent, but the ball went across the front of goal. Thomas picked up the ball in his own half and set off the Irons goal, receiving no challenge and putting the ball into the far corner of the net to make it 2-0.

Marcus Bent had picked up a leg injury and had to be withdrawn in favour of Hasselbaink. Quashie put in a fierce shot from distance and Carson made an excellent two handed save. El Karkouri received a yellow card for a foul.

In a move started by Song, West Ham kept losing possession in the middle of the field, Hasselbaink kept possession and put in a long low ball along the ground to Darren Bent who had no trouble in beating the keeper to make it 3-0. Some of the West Ham supporters tried to leave, only to receive abuse from their fellow Irons.

Matt Holland received a yellow card. The free kick by Tevez sailed over Carson's bar. I can't remember when the Addicks were last 3-0 up at half time at home in the Premiership.

Half time: Addicks 3, Irons 0

Hasselbaink put in a pile driver from distance which hit the post. He subsequently received a yellow card. This time the free kick by Tevez was more dangerous and Carson had to tip it over. West Ham had two corners in succession and when the ball was played in again from the second one Carson had to make a good save. Diawara went down and needed treatment.

Carthorse Cole lumbered off and was replaced by Blanco, not that he made any difference. Thomas and then Bent were just wide with shots from distance. West Ham had a slight flurry and Carson had to save at the expense of a West Ham corner and then had to dive for another save. An effort by Matt Holland was just wide. Hayden Mullins was withdrawn and Newts came on to loud applause.

A free kick by Ben Thatcher led to a Charlton corner. Young fed Hasselbaink who won a Charlton corner. This was followed by two more in quick succession, but once again they were unproductive. Carson had to save from a West Ham corner. Charlton broke and with acres of space to work in, Ambrose passed to Thomas who scored with a superb strike.

Darren Bent was taken off and replaced by Zheng Zhi with Luke Young taking the captain's armband. West Ham won a couple of corners as the game entered time added on, but Luke Young cleared. A final Charlton corner gave Zheng Zhi a chance to hit the bar. It could have easily been 6-0.

On the train back to London Bridge spirits were high after this excellent win. There is still a lot to do, but we are on the right track.

Match analysis

Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch had to use the 'phone a friend' option to decide who should get the Silver Bone as there were so many deserving candidates. In the end Valley debutante Alexandre Song received his first ever award for an inspiring midfield performance. However, special commemorative silver biscuits were issued to Scott Carson,Darren Ambrose and Jerome Thomas.
Carson made a number of excellent saves and was in authoritative command of his area. It was good to see Luke Young back, having lost none of his ability to speed down the wing. Ben Thatcher turned in a very capable performance at left back. El Karkouri did not have as much to do as in some matches, but he did what needed to be done, although his free kick was a disappointment. Diawara received the accolade of a song from the Covered End. Matt Holland was always available to back up other players, making himself available for the simple ball.
Darren Ambrose had one of his best performances in a Charlton shirt.Jerome Thomas was lively throughout and scored two excellent goals.Marcus Bent had a good game until he had to be withdrawn through injury. Darren Bent showed that he has lost none of his sparkle during his enforced lay off. Hasselbaink showed that he still possesses enough skill to make a difference in a game. Zheng Zhi looked impressive in the ten minutes or so he was on. Faye had a cameo.

Hiss of the Match This has been awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to Carthorse Cole for being a thick, useless lump of a player.

Crowd rating A superb performance throughout, one of the best ever, 10/10.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Charlton are down anyway say Fink Tank

The Fink Tank in The Times has calculated that even under the best case scenario of results, Charlton have a more than 80 per cent chance of relegation. Manchester City and Fulham have only a one per cent chance and Aston Villa two per cent. However, they do give the Addicks a 47 per cent chance of winning today as against 27 per cent for a draw or an away win.

If West Ham, Watford and Charlton, there will be only four London area clubs in the top flight next season, the lowest number since 1981/2. In 1989/90 there were eight London clubs in the top division including Charlton, Millwall, Palace and QPR.

Pards looks forward to today's match here:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Coneheads come to The Valley

I had some difficulty working out which planet West Ham's front man the Egg came from, so I am grateful to this suggestion from Bob Miller, an Addick from Hamilton, Ontario.

Needless to say, this is a crucial match for both teams. The Addickted seem to be really up for it, whereas the Hampsters are full of gloom and doom, fearing it will be the end of their season. Of course, one possible result in a derby match is a draw which would be no good for either side.

Even if Charlton do win, Wigan are effectively seven points ahead of us given their superior goal difference. I think there is still a possibility that Manchester City could drop into it. Foreign buyers are circling Moonchester, but that may not be good news as the Wet Spam example shows.

Our record at home against the Irons in the Premiership has been a good one, three wins and two draws, one a 4-4.

Darren Bent should be available. There must be a question mark about how match fit he is, but I would certainly start with him given the alternatives. I would put Marcus Bent alongside him. Luke Young may also be available, while El Karkouri returns from suspension. There is no news of Andy Reid and we really need a playmaker to feed Darren Bent. For all the honest endeavour of Matt Holland, who has shown total commitment to the cause, midfield remains our greatest weakness.

Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch will be covering this vital match.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Dowie misled me, claims Myhre

Addicks goalkeepeer Thomas Myhre believes that he was misled by former manager Iain Dowie last summer. 'When Charlton brought in Scott Carson, Iain didn't tell me Carson had a clause in his contract stipulatng that he would be first choice,' he said.

While I think that Myhre is a good keeper, I think that Scott Carson is an even better one and it is one thing that we have got right this season. His return to 'Pool (and his absence for the last match of the season) could pose a real dilemma.

West Ham points deduction

There's a very full report on this here:

My hunch is that they will get away with it, although even two points would be good.

The 1-1 between Watford and Wigan suits us well enough, particularly given that Wigan had a player sent off. Former Gee Gees keeper Ben Foster had to struggle in the Hornets goal because they didn't have a substitute. Quite why this was I am not clear, but it implies they don't have much in the way of cover. So if Foster is out for a while, that will be another nail in their coffin.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Egg gives Curbs vote of confidence

Icelandic mastermind the Egg has given Alan Curbishley the dreaded vote of confidence at West Ham, denying reports that he has just three more matches to sort things out. The picture alone is worth looking at:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Clear out at The Valley

The last remnants of the much vaunted 'structure' at Charlton have gone with the departure of general manager Andrew Mills whose role was never entirely clear. At the same time Pouso and Sorondo have also been let go, presumably from whence they came. Pouso made one ineffective appearance in the shirt, rivalling the record of Karim Bhagheri (where there was at least some commercial justification) whereas Sorondo appeared to be perpetually injured.

Arrival of Dowie brings light relief

The arrival of Iain Dowie at the Ricoh Stadium yesterday brought some light relief to a rather gloomy, overcast day in North Coventry. Dowie burst on to the pitch amid two rather thin lines of dragooned primary school children, mounting a ragged cheer and waving placards praising the new Great Leader.

The Coventry City chairman declared that it was not a good, but a fantastic appointment, Dowie having 'talked the talk' in the interview. Dowie said that although he had talked to the new regime at Leicester City, he had never wanted to go there, but had always wanted to come to Coventry, subsequently talking of 'sweating blood for the Sky Blue shirt.' He plans to get Coventry back into the Premiership which I suppose offsets helping Charlton out of it.

Sky Blue supporters seem rather divided on their forum about their new saviour, although I laughed when one claimed that his 'scientific' training methods would provide a boost. But then the M6 motorway is there for a training run right by he stadium.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Charlton ranked mid-table in stress league

Charlton have been ranked mid-table in a 'Football Supporters' Stress League'. The Addicks are 42nd out of the 92 league clubs. Crystal Palace are 11th with Notts County top and Arsenal and Liverpool bottom.

The website used information from the last 25 years to calculate the number of times a team has regularly missed out of promotion, regular failure to win at home, losing matches from a winning position, financial problems leading to uncertainty of club's future and frequent changes of manager.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Badgers sent back to their sett

After all the talk of Retford United being a major threat, Leamington beat them comfortably 5-1 in the 5th round of the FA Vase in front of a ground record crowd of 1,380 at the New Windmill Ground. Alleged danger man Neil Harvey, a Barbados international, and formerly with Chelsea, Fulham and West Ham had to be withdrawn, so great was the dominance of the Brakes.

However, to start with it looked as if the match would be as tight as predicted. Brakes hit the post on 6 minutes, but it was ruled to be offside anyway. Brakes looked a bit nervous at the back. Brakes supporters responded to taunts of 'You're supposed to be at home' with 'You're just a small town in Worksop.'

Then home nerves were settled on 29 minutes when in a brilliant move Jamie Towers evaded two Badgers defending their sett and turned provider for Ben Mackey who slotted the ball home.

Shortly afterwards Josh Blake lunged at Ollie Chappell away from the ball and the Retford charm merchant retaliated. Both linesmen ran on to the pitch as a general melée broke out, but clearly the officials did not have a clear view as the referee awarded two yellow cards.

Half time: Brakes 1, Badgers 0

Mackey put Brakes 2-0 ahead on 49 minutes with a shot driven along the ground. After he had been withdrawn in favour of Dave Pearson, he had scarcely been on any time at all when made it 3-0. Jon Adams then took good advantage of some space he was given to make it 4-0 on 64 minutes. Pearson then slotted home his second on 74 minutes to make it 5-0.

The crowd were now looking for six, but a lapse of concentration allowed Retford back in to score a consolation goal. With the police guiding traffic out of the ground, the rest of us waited for the buses for the highly effective park 'n' ride service. Brakes now face Curzon Ashton away in the quarter finals.

Coventry City finally lose it

The news reaches Sky Blue fans

Coventry City are about to appoint Iain Dowie as manager according to the Currant Bun: Dowie

Coventry are my nearest league club and for years I had to put up with the 'We never go down' mantra of Chaventry fans. Fortunately, we trounced them in the cup, they went down and we came up.

This time I think Coventry have finally lost the plot. As we sing at Leamington 'Watch Coventry Citeee? You're having a laugh. We're watching Leamington FCeee.'

Friday, February 16, 2007

The big match is on

A snowbound New Windmill Ground: photo credit Kevin Hancock

After the New Windmill Ground was snowbound last week, tomorrow's 5th round FA Vase Brakes v. Badgers clash is on. Perhaps the week's delay is no bad thing. After suffering two defeats in the succession in the Midland Services Polymac Alliance, Leamington got back to winning ways a 4-0 away in over Quorn. The victory over the Huntsmen was made more sweet by the fact that they are managed by former Gee Gees boss Marcus Law.

Quorn are a good side, but Retford United tomorrow will be a sterner test. They are on form, having enjoyed a succession of wins. Striker Neil Harvey is an international with Barbados, while midfielder Ryan Ford played under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Striker Adam Karley came from Football League Lincoln City for a fee.

The North Bank as seen from the Sheepside

We'll be watching the game from the Sheepside tomorrow, having used the park and ride facility set up to cope with the expected record crowd. Our forecast is 3-2 win for the Brakes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dog reporters gear up for big match

Hooch and Ivy in fitness training

Our dog reporters are already gearing up for one of the biggest matches in Charlton's recent history against West Ham in ten days' time. 'All our dog reporters are up for it,' commented senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch. Hooch and new recruit Ivy have been working together on a programme of fitness training.

However, Hooch is far from convinced that Ivy is ready for such a big occasion. 'She is still an excitable young dog and, not knowing the historical significance of Alan Curbishley, she might bite him on his way to the dugout. Another area she has to work on is her relationship with Juneau the Soccer Cat.'

Nevertheless, Ivy is seen by Hooch as having great potential. He revealed that for the first time a human trainer has been hired for 1:1 personal training with the Belgian Shepherd. 'She is working mainly on obedience training and not barking at other dogs rather than specific football related skills.'

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Charlton play well, but still lose

A goal in each half gave Manchester United a 2-0 win over Charlton at Old Trafford today. Charlton played well, with an excellent debut from Bougherra and an encouraging one by Song, but the quality of United was too much for the Addicks.

Diawara and Bougherra were central defenders in a 4-5-1 formation with Marcus Bent up front at Old Trafford, writes Erith Addick Paul May. Song and Ambrose featured in midfield with Hughes and Zheng Zhi on the bench and Thomas excluded. For United Ronaldo was replaced by Jisung Park who tried his luck with an early shot that went high and wide.

Diawara put a long ball up to Bent but he had no one to flick it on to. Rooney advanced on goal but was denied by Song. Park raced towards goal and shot towards the top corner but Carson got his finger tips to it and pushed it over the bar for a corner. United played the ball back in through Higgs but Carson dived to his right to deal well with a downward header from Saha. A free kick from Rommedahl went straight to Gary Neville.

Holland won the ball in midfield off Scholes, Rommedahl had a great chance through a lay off from Bent but he put it into the side netting to the evident frustration of Alan Pardew. Holland won the ball again well, the move ending in a Charlton throw in. Charlton won a second throw from the clearance and then a third. Kuszczak, deputising for the injured van der Sar, had to make a great save from a header from Ambrose, giving Charlton their first corner, but it ended in a goal kick.

Giggs used space that opened up well, Rooney put in a shot that was saved by Carson but Rooney was offside anyway. Rommedahl and Bent exchanged passes well, but the forward ball put Charlton offside. An excellent chest down by Bougherra sent Charlton on the attack again.

United won a corner despite a good tackle by Matt Holland. Resolute defending by Charlton prevented United from making anything of it. A bobbling ball in the area was dealt with well by Carson. Faye fed Rommedahl well, but he got the ball stuck under his feet and it went out for a United goal kick. Saha's boot made contact with the impressive Bougherra's face, but he recovered immediately.

Ambrose made a shot on target, but Kuszczak gathered. United launched a counter attack, there was a deflected cross into the area, Thatcher hesitated and Park rose on 23 minutes to put a header past Carson. Charlton attacked, Ambrose just failing to make contact with a promising ball, and United countered. Park advanced and Diawara cleared for a corner. The pressure was now on Charlton, who had been rocked by the goal, the revived home crowd chanting 'We shall not be moved.'

Charlton were starting to give the ball away cheaply and Saha had an effort from distance that did not go too far wide. A cross from Rooney went across the six yard box. Rooney put in another cross and United continued to attack, a header from Giggs being picked up by Carson. Diawara was booked for going in late on Saha. Faye picked up a knock and seemed to be struggling. Giggs supplied Rooney who missed by inches. Faye was taken off to be replaced by Zheng Zhi. Thatcher made a good tackle on Park. Ferdinand was down for some time.

Giggs advanced and the ball was deflected off Song for a United corner. Carson palmed it away and there was a moment of danger with Carson on the ground and a goalmouth scramble. Charlton launched an attack, but United were able to clear in time added on.

Half time: United 1, Addicks 0

A rare mistake by Bougherra let Rooney in, but his shot took a deflection and went over the bar at the expense of a corner. Diawara provided a good clearing header.
Rommedahl was hesitant on the ball in a promising position and Scholes was able to take the ball off him.

There was a good cross into the area from Sankofa, Zheng Zhi went for the ball but received a slight push. Song broke up a United attack, Charlton went forward well but the ball by Holland was disappointing. Rommedahl tried from distance, leaving Marcus Bent upset that the Dane had not played him in.

Charlton were moving the ball about well, but United counter attacked again. Rooney was closed down by Bougherra. A volley from Giggs went wide. Ryan Giggs was taken off and Larsson was brought on with United not having everything their way.

Zi Zi put in a first rate cross after running down the right and Vidic had to some last minute defending to deny Bent. United attacked again but Carson dived well to save. Bougherra went down on the edge of the box and the stretcher was taken on, but he limped to the touchline. After his excellent debut performance an injury to him would be a great loss to the Addicks.

Ambrose and surprisingly Matt Holland were taken off (but perhaps he was tiring) and Hughes and Lisbie were brought on. Lisbie won a free kick in a useful position off Vidic. Rommedahl's ball into the box was a good one and it went inches wide with the keeper beaten. Bougherra headed wide from the corner.

A ball into the box by Park was read well by Hughes. Charlton advanced well, winning a throw in level with the edge of the penalty area. A cross took a deflection off Vidic leading to another Charlton corner. United were able to break and Saha's shot was saved by Carson.

United took off Saha who was replaced by Richardson. Rooney advanced on goal, Carson saved with his legs, but Rooney played it back into the area and Fletcher scored with a header.

Rommedahl put a cross into the box, Lisbie had plenty of space and could have turned and shot but laid it into the path of Zi Zi who put the bar high over the crossbar.
Park tried to feed Larsson, but Diawara provided good cover. Charlton were still fighting. The thousand or so Addickted responded with a chorus of 'Valley Floyd Road'. Fletcher put in a good shot but Carson saved it well with his palm. Rooney and Song received a talking to from referee Riley.

The game against West Ham is really massive now, one of the most important we have had for years.

PS: Sir Alex Ferguson had some praise for us, Wyn:

Interview with Pards

OK, it is the Daily Mail but it is a good interview. Moreover, there has been no adverse effect on house prices in New Eltham:

The Sub-Standard made some fun of the fact yesterday that Pards doesn't like the layout of the training ground and is sending the bulldozers in while the lads are off training in Spain. Good for Pards, I say. He's putting his imprint on the place in more ways than one.

New keeper on trial

Chris Konopa, an American goalkeeper of Polish descent, has been on trial at Sparrows Lane this week. 'I know that the chief coach and the goalkeeper coach were really excited on seeing me close up,' the 21-year old shot stopper said. Let's hope the Covered End feels the same way some day.

Full story here:

Friday, February 09, 2007

Match previews

It's difficult to write a preview for a match where your chances of winning are almost zero. We at least had a chance of getting something at home against Chelsea and came near to a draw. But it is difficult to see us getting even a point at Old Trafford.

Pards will presumably revert to a 4-5-1 formation with Big Bent roaming up front. One point of interest will be the likely introduction of 'Magic' Bougherra to replace the injured Talal El Karkouri. Even so, this will be a damage limitation exercise in relation to Charlton's already poor goal difference.

There has been something of a thaw in the Midlands overnight, but I may still be needed with my snow shovel at the New Windmill Ground tomorrow morning if the 5th Round FA Vase clash between the Brakes and the Badgers is going to take place. Opponents Retford United are in form, while Leamington have lost their last two league matches after being unbeaten all season.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Romm: people haven't seen the best of me

That is the claim of Dennis Rommedahl. Perhaps, perhaps not, we live in hope. Read the report here: Dennis

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Rommedahl rampant for Denmark

Dennis Rommedahl apparently did the business for Denmark against Australia last night, leaving Alan Pardew perplexed as to why he can't do the same for Charlton:

Bird 'flu hits Badgers clash

Saturday's 5th round FA Vase tie between Leamington and Retford has been hit by bird 'flu. With the possibility of the 1,263 ground record being broken, the owner of the nearby chicken farm has said that it cannot be used for overspill parking because of the risk of bird 'flu. Fans are being urged to make use of an enhanced park and ride service from the AP car parks, supplemented by a free minibus service from Leamington Station.

Snow forecast for Thursday is another threat to the tie. Perhaps the supporters will end up shovelling snow off the pitch as they did at an earlier FA Vase tie away to Loughborough Dynamo.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Feesh is back

Former Charlton defender Mark Fish is back in action in South Africa's top flight. At The Valley he never seemed quite the same after he had a nasty accident at home with a coffee table. He was known as a lover of fine wines and a poet as well as a defender. Read the story here:

Holland hopes to stay at The Valley

The contract of hard working midfielder expires at the end of the season, but the 32-year old hopes to stay on at The Valley whether or not Charlton are relegated:

Monday, February 05, 2007

A view of Magic

A somewhat critical view of our new signing at: Magic

Pitch announcer

It's obvious from the mailing lists that I am not the only person to be aggravated by our pitch announcer. To be fair, he may be working to some script which says: '2.50: It's ten minutes to kick off at The Valley and it's Premiership football, Charlton versus Chelsea.' This is admittedly useful for anyone who thinks they are at Park View Road to see Welling versus Bognor Regis or have forgotten that Saturday matches kick off at 3 p.m.

I suppose it's too much to hope that Brian Cole could be brought back but we could have a competition in which people can send in demo tapes and then the best two get a chance at a match, one for the build up, one at half time. Then we could vote on our choice as part of Player of the Year.

Lister Steve Loveday has made the good point that it's all part of the globalisation of football which encourages a 'beige' approach, i.e., being bland to reach out to the largest possible audience. But Steve, who lives in Canada and hence hasn't heard him, perhaps doesn't realise that this guy is irritating rather than bland.

On a completely unrelated point, in Notes on a Scandal Judi Dench plays a nasty piece of work and states that her father was a Charlton Athletic supporter and that 'it didn't bring him much pleasure'.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Madjid gives as good as he gets

New Charlton signing Madjid Bougherra says he was hurt by allegations by gobby Sheffield Wednesday boss Brian Laws that he had threatened not to play for the club if he wasn't allowed to move in the transfer window.

'I was disappointed to hear Brian Laws saying I'd feigned injury to guarantee a move,' said the Alegrian. 'I was injured in the game with Derby [on January 13th] and that kept me out for these last two weeks. I was injured in the first ten minutes but completed the game [which may help to explain subsequent problems]. There was a clause in my contract aboy me being able to talk to Premiership teams and I decided I wanted to.'

The Owls made a lot of noise about how Charlton conducted the negotiations, which took in one or two of the Addickted, but any fault seems to lie with them rather than Richard Murray. Remember that this was the team whose supporters took such delight in our first Premiership relegation.

Now we hope that Madjid will be able to weave his magic for us before very long.

Myhre in Viking deal

The currently injured Thomas Myhre has agreed a three year deal with his first club, Viking Stavanger. Myhre, who will remain at The Valley until the end of the season, also had talks with Lillestrom in his search for regular first team football.

Whether Charlton are promoted or relegated, they will face some difficult decisions on the goalkeeping front at the end of the season. Whether Darren Randolph can be relied on as a No.2 remains to be seen, but finding a new first choice goalkeeper will be a priority.

Good performance, shame about the result

Charlton put in a spirited, determined and often skilled performance against Chelsea at The Valley yesterday, but came away empty handed. A draw would have been fair result, but instead the Addicks saw Wigan pull away for them although defeats for West Ham and Sheffield United gave some encouragement. Indeed, even Manchester City fans were talking on 606 last night of being in danger of relegation.

Charlton fans must be unable to afford watches as the pitch announcer kept informing that it was 'fifteen minutes' or 'less than ten minutes to kick off'.

Chelsea won an early corner which was cleared. Marcus Bent won the ball well and put in a good cross but there was no one there there to connect with it. Faye put in two good tackles. Holland provided a good defensive header at the expense of a corner which was cleared by El Karkouri which led to a good run by Thomas. Charlton were passing the ball well and Bent was unfortunate to be caught by the offside flag.

Carson made a good save. Charm merchant Ballack spent some time mouthing off to referee Halsey and was lucky not to get booked. The expensive midfielder was conspicuous by his absence for much of the match and I must say that Chelsea did not look like a Championship winning team.

Faye made two errors in succession which allowed Lampard to strike from distance and make ot 1-0 on 18 minutes. Shortly afterwards Chelsea put an effort just over the bar.

Charlton won a corner but it was cleared. El Karkouri put in a curving shot from distance which would have dipped under the bar if Cech had not tipped it over. Carson came out to clear with Lampard bearing down on him. Marcus Bent won a free kick but El Karkouri's effort was saved by Cech. Charlton won a corner, but it was poorly taken by Rommedahl. In the one minute added on, a Chelsea free kick posed danger but Carson was able to palm the ball away.

Half time: Addicks 0, Chelski 1

Rommedahl was replaced by Hasselbaink after the break. He turned provider for Thomas who went on a run, but it was unproductive. Chelsea were awarded a dubious free kick by referee Halsey, but fortunately it was useless.

Faye put in a shot that was saved for a Charlton corner. Once again it was poor effort and this is clearly an area where more work is needed. Faye struck again and this time it was only Cech's quality as a keeper that kept the ball out at the expense of another Charlton corner.

Chelsea made a double substitution , Shevchenko's exit being greeted by chants of 'What a waste of money'. Kalou and Wright-Phillips came on, the latter reinvigorating Chelsea's game and making one run that led to a corner.

Charlton continued to press and after a free kick was awarded for a foul on Hasselbaink, his effort went just over the bar. Carson was called on to make another great save. Although three minutes were added on, it was evident that Charlton were not going to make the breakthrough they deserved.

News came in that Leamington had suffered their second defeat in a row at Biddulph Victoria with their lead at the top of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance cut to seventeen points.

Match analysis The Silver Bone was awarded by Monty Martin to Talal El Karkouri (8) who put in an excellent shot on goal and was stalwart in defence. The treasured trophy was also a recognition for his equaliser at Bolton. Carson (7) made some great saves and cannot be faulted for not saving the stunner from Lampard. Thatcher (7) has substantially strengthened the defence, is not afraid to come forward and has good distribution. Hreidarsson (6) provided some good defensive headers and his long throw ins can pose a real threat. Sankofa (6) is improving but is still short of Premiership standard. Bridge found it too easy to evade him. Faye (6) had two shots on goal, but also made two errors that led to the Chelsea goal. Hughes (5) gets an A for effort, but real skill was not in evidence.
Holland (6) played with his usual commitment and made some good interventions. Rommedahl (6) displayed his usual pace, but generally to little effect. Thomas (7) got forward well down the wing, but too much reliance was put on him and he was often attended by three Chelsea players. Bent (7) had an excellent game, operating as an effective target man and always chasing the ball. Hasselbaink (6) made very little difference when he came on, the anonymous Lisbie (5) even less. Diawara was limited to a cameo.

Juneau the Soccer Cat has awarded the Hiss of the Match to the cynical Chelsea defender Diarra who was lucky to get away with just one yellow.

Crowd rating A little subdued in the first half, but really got behind the team in the second as was acknowledged by Mourinho in his post match interview.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

67% chance of Chelsea win

The Fink Tank in The Times gives Chelsea a 67% chance of a win at The Valley today. Given that the Addicks are weakened by the absence of Darren Bent and Luke Young and have none of the new signings available apart from Thatcher and possibly Zi Zi on the bench (for the benefit of 1 million Chinese television viewers) this is a realistic forecast. The return of John Terry will also revitalise Chelsea.

Meanwhile, 'nerves are jangling' at The New Windmill Ground following the Brakes 2-0 midweek defeat by Stratford Town, their first defeat in the league this season. Brakes are away to Biddulph Victoria and the Leamington Spa Courier notes, 'Heaven knows what state everyone will be if Brakes fail to win ... tomorrow. There will be a full-blown crisis of Chelsea proportions by this time next week.'

Friday, February 02, 2007

Points deduction for West Ham?

The Irons may face a points deduction for playing an ineligible player according to the Daily Mail:

If points are deducted, house prices in New Ham could slump.

First eleven home to Chelsea

Your match analyst tomorrow

At Sparrows Lane (reports our training ground correspondent) there is a little calendar of events on the door for the week, ending with 'Saturday. 1st Eleven, home to Chelsea.'

Tomorrow's match against Chelski is certainly a challenge, although it is one that we have risen to in the past with ESPN Classics replaying our 4-2 win over the Kings Road side throughout today. Of course, it was that victory that precipitated the loss of Scott Parker and it's been downhill ever since. But now, under Alan Pardew, we are seeing a revival of the traditional Charlton fighting spirit, reflected in two good away performances.

Hopefully we might see a first appearance for Madjid Bougherra if he has recovered from his calf injury which would allow El K to be played in a defensive midfield position. (We have since heard that Bougherra still has a 'calf complaint' while Song has return from Africa with a 'bug'). The word from the training ground is that Zi Zi is keen, but not quite up to speed yet. Rommedahl disappointed again at the Reebok and it is possible that Super Kevin Lisbie could start as a wide right player.

A challenge for Pards is to decide whether to stick with a cautious 4-5-1 formation or go for 4-4-2. The latter would necessitate starting JFH as it is difficult to envisage Super Kev being played as a striker.

All the media attention will, of course, be on the return of John Terry and Thatcher might like to show that he means business with a vigorous early tackle. Ashley Cole is out for Chelsea, but Wayne Bridge is also a quality player.

I am being optimistic and going for a 1-1 draw. In the spirit of the occasion, lucky spaniel Monty Martin from Blewbury, Oxon has been named as match analyst and loaned for the day by our sponsors Kingdom Signs. He will also be providing player scores for The Observer.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Fortune goes to Stoke

One of the last moves in the transfer window was the loan signing of Jon Fortune by Stoke. Kelly Youga has been loaned to Bradford City.

Addicks supremo Alan Pardew said: 'Jon has gone to Stoke. We're well covered at centre-half now, and I need him to play. We do have a recall option after a month, and we'll see how he gets on.'

My view of Fortune is that, although he was a good squad player, he never really quite attained Premiership quality. He would play competently for most of a game and then make a dangerous error.