Friday, 28 October 2011

Next... Hartlepool away

What a week we've had?

I thought we'd stumble over the line with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle last Saturday, and despite the fact they they made some defence howlers we still ran out 4-0 winners, and were 3-0 in front when they went down to ten men at the end of the first half. The icing on the cake was the saved penalty. In fact just about everything went our way.

The 2-1 win at Wycombe, which was fully to be expected is still a win, and still three points that we can put in the bag for the final tally up come May. Sheffield united, for example lost there, and I don't think they will be the only top six team to do so over the course of the season.

It's easy to be confident of a win against the struggling teams, but it's not always that easy, and you do have to go out there and win the game, and despite a nervy ending to the game we won, and that's all that mattered. With the bonus of no injuries or suspensions, and with Andy Hughes getting another start, and demonstrating that we need not be too fearful of the odd injury or suspension in the middle it was a good weeks work.

This was important, of course, as we had failed to win any of the three previous matches, and even lost to the team on a run of four straight defeats the week before. I accept that there will be blips, and as I said above just because we would expect to beat Stevenage, doesn't automatically mean we will do so. However, the real test is what happens after a defeat, and I think we have answered all the questions that were surfacing, including some of my own.

Powell's start at Charlton was followed by such a fall that it was easy to worry about his ability to lift a demoralised squad, but I am not too worried about that now.

So on the Hartlepool? Well they started the league campaign with four straight draws (MK Dons, Walsall, Huddersfield and Stevenage), before going on a run of five wins all be it against the less glamorous sides (Rochdale, Exeter, Carlisle, Bury and Bournemouth) then followed that up with three defeats (Sheff Wed, Notts County and Wycombe) they then beat Chesterfield, away, last Saturday before losing at home to Tranmere in the week. So they face us with one win in five (with four defeats), having lost their last three home games.

If you analyse their results with respect to the teams they do look like a solid mid table side that will not pull up too many trees against the top six but should be able to keep above the relegation zone. They finished 16th last season after having finished 20th and 19th in the two seasons before.

So, their side shouldn't be good enough to pose too many questions of a top side on a good run, they have struggled a bit with recent form so this will be a good test for us. This is the sort of game we have struggled in in the past, and Stevenage might not look like a one off by 5pm on Saturday.

However, I believe that we are no longer that sort of side. I think the players that we have wearing the shirt this season are better than that. I was never sure if it was complacency or the inability to break down teams that defended in numbers, but I do believe that Stevenage was a blip and I think we will collect three points tomorrow.

I'm going for a 1-0 win tomorrow. I still think there will be games when we need to grind out a win by breaking down a tough side and keeping a clean sheet. I think tomorrow will be one of those.

Elsewhere I was buoyed this week, despite the unpopularity of my pleasure, by Sky TVs decision to move our game with Huddersfield from Saturday 26th November to Monday 28th November. I have always been committed to attend every game, and I have missed all sorts of family occasions in the process. I have sent my wife to weddings on her own, and have passed on all sorts of social occasions in order to keep my 100% attendance on a season by season basis. However on the 26th of November I am, for the first time and I hope the last, attending a posthumous graduation ceremony for my late brother-in-law. Some of you will remember that he died in a car accident in 2008. It would seem that all universities have a scheme to extrapolate results up to date (there was a small celebration in the summer of 2008 when his first year results were released) but we were unaware of this tradition until until a few months ago when Nottingham University contacted my in-laws to invite them (and my wife and I) to attend the ceremony.

Having only attended two graduation ceremony in my life - both of them my own, I would not normally recommend them as a fun day out, and they would always be a second choice to a football game, never mind a top of the table clash (I know it might not be by then), but I felt that it was where I should be. The fixtures weren't out when we committed to go (not that my decision would have been any different), but I feel vindicated in going as circumstances have conspired to ensure that I won't miss a game after all.

To all those that are now going to miss the game as it has been moved from the Saturday, and to those that will have increased travel costs due to early booking of train tickets (something that I was not aware of until this week) I do sympathise, but I have to confess that I couldn't be happier about it.

Up the Addicks!

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