Charlton face Sheffield Wednesday in the postponed FA Cup tie at Hillsborough tonight. Many Charlton fans have become excited at the possibility of winning there and at Sheffield United, leading to a FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. I would doubt whether we would beat both Sheffield teams and there is a chance of a draw tonight which would lead to more congestion in our fixture schedule and probably another postponement of the crucial home game against Barnsley.
I always think that 'either or' choices between relegation and Cup progress are overstated. Of course, there is the risk of tiredness and injuries to a squad that lacks real depth, but wins of any sort can boost confidence and help to create momentum. As Rhoys Wiggins puts it in The Times this morning, 'If we can get another result [after QPR] against Sheffield Wednesday, that will add to the belief, give us all a big lift and we have a lot of games coming up. It would be good to get on a run. If the FA Cup is a distraction, it is a good distraction.'
I couldn't get to the QPR game as I was on my first holiday break with the whole family since 2005, but I gather that controversy about Yohann Thuram-Ulien continues. Having seen the television excerpts, I saw that he made one good save and nearly got caught out with a bad error. The Football League Paper gave him the lowest score of any player, a 4, although the Sunday Times gave him a respectable 6.
Let's deal with the conspiracy theories first. It is being said that Powell is being told to play Thuram-Ulien and one reason is that he could be No.3 in the French world cup squad. If that is the case, France must be short of goalkeepers. I think that a more convincing reason is that Hamer was judged not to be fully match fit on Saturday but could well be in goal tonight. If it is Thuram-Ulien I wish that Charlton supporters would back him up rather than barracking him. For better or worse, he is in goal.
Incidentally, I would like to be a fly on the wall when Katrien issues footballing instructions to Chris Powell! I just can't see it happening. What is becoming evident to me is that Katrien is much more than her master's voice and this smart lawyer is very much in charge at The Valley. She is, however, showing a proper lawyer's caution when responding to any direct questions from fans.
What of the Owls? Well, they also having some momentum, having defeated Huddersfield 2-0 away on Saturday. They are up to 15th in the table, but significantly are 7th in the form table. Their record at home in the league is, however, a bit patchy: won five, drawn three, lost seven. However, the chance of going on to defeat their steel city rivals and reach a semi-final at Wembley will be a big incentive.
After the Huddersfield victory manager Stuart Gray hailed his side's defensive qualities, but also highlighted their prowess in counter attack with the ability to be up the other end of the pitch in six or seven seconds. He felt that his side kept their shape after a disappointing first half during which they were frustrated by Huddersfield's diamond formation.
I won't attempt to forecast the outcome of this match, although a win for the Owls must be the most likely result, but Charlton have a good chance. Odds do not look good for us but are probably realistic: Sheffield Wed 10/11, Draw 12/5, Charlton 3/1.