At least the team for Burnley is starting to take shape. The cavalry has arrived in the form of centre-half Darren Ward from Wolves and striker Tresor Kandol from Leeds (I think). Ward I believe originated from Millwall and arrived at Wolves via Palace, while Kandol was recently on loan with the Spanners. So they should feel if not at home reasonably aware of where they are headed. Just as well really in view of our, ahem, injury situation. I just hope they haven’t forgotten their boots on the way down – or perhaps the club is going to save some money by telling them to stay up north until tomorrow and make their own way to Burnley. They can meet the other players on the pitch.
With confirmation that Fortune is out for the season and the fresh news that Gray will not be pulling on a Charlton shirt again in this campaign at least (bugger, why didn’t he take the Stoke loan move?), plus the confirmed absence through injury for tomorrow at least of Hudson and doubts about Murty’s fitness, it was a case of having to do some very quick business. It would appear that the club has given up on efforts to get Brown from Hull, so I imagine there was a rapid scan through the ‘centre-halves available’ list over the past couple of days. So be it.
Ward has to be viewed as the first name on the team sheet for tomorrow. Presumably alongside Holland, unless Youga is switched to the centre. That’s where the options end, with Semedo still sidelined. Elliot deserves to retain his place in goal and the full backs will have to be Murty or Mouatouakil and Youga or Basey. The main decision regarding the rest of the team is whether to stick with the 4-4-2 of Tuesday night or revert to 4-5-1. At least there are options. If it’s the former, presumably Bailey and Spring will form the central partnership (with Holland needed elsewhere the only other options are an early return for Racon or switching Ambrose inside).
There is a decision to be made on the wide berths. If Soares keeps his place on the right either Sam is retained on the left or Ambrose comes in for that position. Personally I’d opt for Soares on the bench at the moment and put Sam back on the right, where he is clearly more comfortable, with Ambrose on the left. But its a fine decision, especially as Soares may well have more of an impact than in games to date as he gets used to the players around him.
If it’s 4-5-1 with Burton on his own, the decision is whether to play Shelvey or Ambrose in the hole. I didn’t see the cup game at Norwich, but by all accounts Ambrose played well and at the moment I’d be inclined to opt for him, with Shelvey a possible impact sub. If we go with two strikers it looks like Burton plus one of Kandol, Dickson or the returning Fleetwood. To my mind front twos are all about partnerships. Parkinson and Kinsella are much better placed than me to determine which combination has the greatest chance of success, especially as I know bugger all about Kandol.
So, two possible teams depending on the formation. As reports suggest that Burnley have defensive injury problems of their own, I’d be inclined towards 4-4-2 in an effort from the start to outscore them. How about: Elliot, Murty/Moutaouakil, Ward, Holland, Youga, Sam, Bailey, Spring, Ambrose, Burton, Kandol/Dickson. Subs: Randolph, Shelvey/Soares, Moutaouakil/Basey, Shelvey, Dickson/Kandol/Fleetwood. I think that’s just about everyone. If its 4-5-1, you include Soares and move Shelvey/Ambrose into the hole at the expense of one of the strikers.
Either way we are going to put out a team with players out of usual position and possibly five who have been at the club for a matter of weeks (clearly in one or two cases hours). Again, so be it. Much was said at the AGM about the drawbacks of relying on loan players, but just what was the club supposed to do about the centre-half situation? Someone had to come in and needs must.
Whatever the team selection, the injuries cannot be used as an excuse for a tame performance. The lift to morale from Tuesday night and the effort and commitment put in by the players simply has to be sustained if we are to have a chance of staying up. Tomorrow is in many respects a greater test of character than Tuesday.
On a sour note, it is disturbing to read about the complaints of Palace fans regarding their treatment on Tuesday night. There is no excuse for the club not to investigate the matter fully and to take action if appropriate – or indeed to exonerate the stewarding if the allegations are unfounded. At the AGM there was a collective reminder about the Charlton way of doing things. I have full confidence that the club will stick to those principles.
Finally, there’s always someone worse off than yourself (part XX1). You just have to feel for Killer these days, or rather the charity (Demelza Care For Children) which benefits from his matchday bets. The poor guy has been bending over backwards through the season not to put the money on us losing and the returns must be truly miserable. For Tuesday night he had the chance to put the lot on a glorious victory and went for the draw. Don’t remember him missing opportunities like that when he wore the shirt.