I can't say I've taken too much notice of the fall-out from our first defeat of the season on Saturday, in part as I suspected there would be on-line Addicks falling over themselves to proclaim that the wheels are falling off first. Following the disappointment of the defeat I didn't fancy the doom and gloom, regardless of whether there was credible foundation in the criticism. I'm not one to stick my head in the sand, it's just that my own view on the new-look Charlton side this season is still largely positive and following such an impressive unbeaten start to the season I think the team deserve a bit more faith. We are, it must be said, exceeding my expectations, after all.
What is undeniable, however, is that we are in desperate need of a good quality 90 min performance this Saturday, because at present the doubters are able to make some valid observations whilst the case for the defence desperately needs a shot in the arm. I can't deny it is worrying that the best performance that I've seen this season came from our second 11 in the JPT v's Reading. Work stopped me from attending the game Saturday (which was annoying considering it's my closest away game), so I can't offer anything more than a simple passing comment on the team selection, which did surprise and disappoint me. The inclusion of Cort for young Solly (who has been one of our top performers this season) and the re-shuffle at the back as a result sent out a worrying message that the impending physical assault from Stevenage had got to Powell (which would have been a boost to the players of Stevenage). It smacked too much of an obvious countermeasure and I would question whether a team who sat undefeated at the top of the league should have taken such action. Perhaps Powell is guilty of over-thinking the game at times in his attempts to establish himself as a manager.
Dave at Drinking During the Game urged us in his post-match report to 'Reflect, if you will, on Huddersfield's 4-0 win at Exeter this afternoon'. He doesn't elaborate on the statement, but few would need to think too deeply to understand his hard hitting point. I doubt Huddersfield changed the dynamics of their team to suit Exeter, and the West Yorkshire team have now gone the equivalent of a whole season without a league defeat (if you don't include the Play-Off Final). Huddersfield are as powerfully impressive as Norwich were when they escaped the 3rd Division a couple of seasons back. By the turn of the year it was almost inevitable that they'd be going up, such was the consistency, might and unfaltering quality of their performances. I never sensed arrogance, it is just what happens when you know you are good enough and should be winning games if you play to your strengths. Charlton have lost to inferior opposition (in terms of player for player comparison) too many times in the last 4-5 years (and beyond...), especially at the Valley.
Another point I've picked up on elsewhere is the one surrounding Paul Hayes. I think it's quite interesting that Hayes has never received much positive attention, but no sooner was he was dropped in favour of Kermorgant (a move few would have questioned at the time) his worth to the team - linking the midfield with the strikers - has been notably lacking. New York Addick wrote 'Paul Hayes may be a player best appreciated by the purists' in his latest blog, and I can't agree more. I was concerned when he was left out of the side and now I hope that Powell reintroduces him on Saturday. Not least of all, BWP, who looks a little out of sorts, may well benefit from his re-instatement to the team.
But it's easy to look at those teams around us and question our ability to fend them off. Only a few weeks ago we were soundly beaten at The Valley (albeit in the JPT) by an impressive looking Preston team who looked far too good for League One, and yet despite this, a week later Preston loose 2-1 to Leyton Orient and, according to a friend of mine who watched the game, struggled to do anything worthwhile after a decent first 20 mins. It may well be stating the obvious, but you can't be top of the league after 13 games without some credible foundations worthy of praise and we should rightly be proud of our current position, after all, it's a tough and unpredictable division, for sure.
Work in progress...but still top!