Friday, 11 January 2008

Next... Blackpool at home

It's been a long time since we played Blackpool in the League, 1980/81. I have to confess to not being at either of those games, but bearing in mine the time that has passed since I'm not sure it is relevant for tomorrow. What is relevant, however, as Nelson points out is that the Tangerines are in a good run of form and we most certainly are not (at home).

The West Brom game aside, our performances at home have been poor since, and including, the draw with Barnsley. With us literally hanging on to a 3-0 half time lead against Ipswich, our only other win was a 3-0 against Cardiff. We have even managed to lose at home to two teams that occupied the bottom spot in the league during that run. The FA Cup was a pleasant distraction from the league, and result aside, was a much better performance, but one swallow doesn't make a summer. The change in formation added a lot of pace upfront, but neither McLeod nor Varney look like they have settled to this division, and bearing in mind we are half way through the season I think we have to assume that they are not going to do so anytime soon.

This leaves Pardew with a dilemma. Does he give them, and the new formation, more time at the risk of losing ground at the top, or does he go back to the 4-5-1 that has been successful both away and with Reid in the side. I would have liked to see a 4-4-2 against Colchester, but I would have taken a win either way, and for another defensive mistake (Bougherra being the culprit on this occasion) we might have got one. The issue for me with the 4-5-1 is that we must score first to prevent a dire game of time wasting and rough tactics. I agree with Pardew that the referee needs to protect us more, and keep the game flowing, but if we get that first goal the problem doesn't seem to arise in the same way.

All be it that a 4-4-2 has made us look exposed at the back on several occasions this season, we always have the fall back that we can score ourselves out of trouble. Or at least we are much more likely to than with long balls up to Iwelumo on his own. I still think that away from home the 4-5-1 has a place, especially against the teams that are going to really come at us. But I think it is now time to make a decision about how we are going to play at home and about whether we want 'win' promotion or just strive not to lose our place in the play-off positions. I still think that a top two spot is within our reach, but we do need a run of wins and soon.

That said, I have literally no idea what the formation will be tomorrow, nor do I have much idea as to the personnel that will play. Despite his cavalier approach in press conferences Pardew's teams have failed to inspire or excite me. The consolidation of relegation was that we would see more exciting football, more goals (scored by us) and more attacking fluid football. Since September we have seen little of those things, especially at home. In fact if you compare the nine league games from the end of September last season we managed 12 points scoring 8 goals and conceding 11 in the Premiership. This season we have managed just 8 points scoring 11 and conceding 14.

With our current home form I am less than confident of a win tomorrow. I am going to go for a 1-1 draw.

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