Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saturday Night Fever

I thought I'd better get something on here today, as there's a good chance that I won't be able to get anything else on here for another three or four days or so. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't usually put anything on here on a Saturday evening, but it really has been quite a peculiar day, particularly in the Premiership. And that's not something you'd hear me say very often.

First up, Chelsea's defensive woes are in danger of gifting the Premiership to Manchester United. Without John Terry, they've now conceded eight goals in four games, and taken just two points from home matches against Reading and Chelsea. There's a John Terry shaped hole at the centre defence, but he was seen indulging in some light training on the pitch at lunchtime today, and the rumours are indicating that he could be back in just two or three weeks. They need him back as soon as possible because, at this rate, United could be out of site in a few weeks' time. United themselves are still being carried along by Cristiano Ronaldo. He managed another two goals this afternoon as United saw off a determined Reading side by the odd goal in five.

The comedy highlight of the weekend, however, came at Bramall Lane, where Sheffield United beat Arsenal 1-0 in spite of having to play thirty minutes with Phil Jagielka after Paddy Kenny was taken off injured. There is a case to be made here for asking Neil Warnock what hell he was thinking he was playing at. Five substitutes not enough for you there, Neil? It beggars belief that a manager would take such a risk in an era when so much is at stake, but he got away with it. The Blades saw off Arsene's toothless Arsenal side by the odd goal. This is the sort of thing that we like. This result did Liverpool a favour, as they survived a late onslaught to beat Spurs 1-0 at White Hart Lane.

Asides from this lot, there was plenty of entertainment to be had for the neutral observer. You had to feel some sympathy for Wigan fans that had travelled over two hundred miles only to see their match at Watford abandoned when the pitch turned into a swimming pool ten minutes into the second half. Personally, I'd have fitted them with snorkels and flippers, and left them to get on with it, but I don't make the decisions. Watford could have done with finishing the match. They're starting to look a little bit lonely at the foot of the table, after Charlton beat Aston Villa at The Valley. Alan Pardew's honeymoon may have started a little late, but it has started nevertheless. I still don't think that they'll have enough in the tank to stay up, but they are at least in better shape than West Ham United, who were beaten at home by Manchester City. Finally, in a match that could well turn out to be worth a few pounds by the end of the season, Bolton Wanderers beat Portsmouth at The Reebok Stadium. Look on the bright side, though: at least Sam Allardyce's ban on BBC interviews means that I'll be spared his gurning, smug face on "Match Of The Day" tonight.

Looking at The Championship table this evening, I was interested to see that Cardiff City, who led the table until last month, have already slumped eighth place. They stumbled again this afternoon, this time to a goal-less draw against a similarly out of sorts Crystal Palace at the soon-to-be-demolished-apparently Ninian Park. Perfect timing, considering their recent announcement of a £30m debt. Just a quick reminder here... the man in charge at Cardiff now is Peter Ridsdale. Just who you need to dig your club out of a financial crisis. It's also been a bad week for supporters of Leeds United, who revealed this week that Elland Road has been sold again, this time to a holding company "based" in the Virgin Islands. So that's their long-term future secured, then. On the pitch, things aren't going much better. They lost 3-1 at Stoke this afternoon, and Hull City's win against Burnley has left them even deeper in the mire.

The bottom two divisions are still both tight at the top. Nottingham Forest were knocked off the top of League One after they could only draw at home to Tranmere Rovers. They were deposed by Scunthorpe United. The idea of Scunthorpe vs West Ham in the Championship is a very appealing one. In League Two, the "big" (and I use the word advisedly) match saw Lincoln City consolidate their place in the top three by beating Wycombe Wanderers 1-0 at Sincil Bank. Are Wycombe not heeding my advice? I suspect that they're already thinking about Chelsea and the Carling Cup. In the Conference, Oxford United were knocked off the top of the table for the first time since August by Dagenham & Redbridge. St Albans, meanwhile, lost at home to a late goal against Exeter City. Finally, in Scotland... well, when was the last time that neither Celtic nor Rangers failed to win. Celtic were held at Motherwell, and Rangers... well. Ha ha. They were held at home by St Mirren, of all people. Sadly, though, Aberdeen in second place couldn't take advantage. They were stuffed at Tannadice Park by Dundee United.

And that's your lot, for now. I'll try and get back on here tomorrow, but if I don't get the chance, have a very happy new year, and I'll be back to entertain and infuriate you all very soon.


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