Monday 21 February 2011

Two Steps Forward...Two Steps Back

How typically Charlton! I'm not sure what disheartened me more on Saturday: the obvious disappointment of defeat after another abject performance or the gut-wrenching sadness of such a sizable missed opportunity when the Valley was once again packed to near-full following the excellent marketing efforts from the club to woo back those fans lost in the clubs demise. The percentage of those who will return against Carlisle a week tomorrow will not be easily noticeable as the stark difference in gate highlights the mammoth task Charlton have in turning the clubs fortunes around. Chris Powell will not be naive to importance of that lost opportunity (even if some of the players are), but with his honeymoon period firmly over, we need him more than ever to lift the spirits of the Addickted. Clutching at straws it might be, but at least the fans never turned on the team. things could so easily have turned ugly as the game slipped away. It seems near-impossible for me to comprehend, but I guess there is a slim chance that there would have been willing Mum's and Dad's who would have bought their young children along for an affordable day out at the football (possibly a first experience) and may well have actually enjoyed it: we did see goals, after all.

But in reality, we have seen it all many times before. Charlton build up a day to something more like the final game of the season when promotion is just a point away, and we blow it every time. How fantastic it was to see the approach roads to The Valley bustling with hopeful fans. I've not forgotten those sights that were so common-place in the Premiership, although sometimes I truly wish I could so they wouldn't seem so poignant. Decent pre-match entertainment lifted the mood still further. My Mum came to the game with me and I would have so dearly loved her to have seen the Addicks put on a show so she could experience the Valley reverberating in hopeful unison. When the Valley was packed week-in week-out during the Premiership years, tickets were harder to come by unless I compromised my usual vista half way up the East Stand overlooking the half way line, so days like Saturday don't come around too often. I wonder how long we'll wait for the next one?

Whilst off the pitch the club are showing brave and encouraging steps forward, the obvious problems on the pitch remain. I will not cast aside Powell's four straight wins as manager before the two recent defeats, but even the most hardened optimist would not have failed to notice the frailties throughout that decent run of results. It is a fair point that we've have some sizable slices of luck recently, and it was always likely to run out. Until Powell solves the issue of how easily and consistently the play breaks down in a central midfield that seriously lacks a ball-playing, attack-minded footballer, then Charlton will sadly remain a club rooted within the third tier of English football. Passing the ball through the team has been too much for Charlton for 5-6 years now (since Danny Murphy left, perhaps). CP must trawl every contact in his phone book to try and bring in someone on loan before it's too late. Sadly, a player of quality won't be easy to find with what Charlton could afford to pay in wages. Automatic promotion seems a world away, and even the odds of success through the Play-Off's appears to be diminishing as the games pass by.

A tough game beckons on Friday night - when I'm less than hopeful of getting anything from the game - before a tricky midweek game at The Valley a week tomorrow. Mid-table looks more likely now than the top of the league.

Yet again Charlton search desperately for a spark of inspiration!

Looks like I'll have to keep on dreaming...ever hoping!

Sunday 13 February 2011

High Definition...

If anyone thinks footballers don't give a s#+t, then you need only to watch Pawel's reaction to his deflected goal yesterday to sense his immense relief. To say he's had a tough time of it recently would be an understatement, but for 45 minutes he looked everything you'd need to compliment BWP up top. His deflected goal proved to be the winner: good on you, Pawel, now go on and turn yourself into a cult hero in the mould of a Leaburn. Why would any reasonable human being ever assume that he was playing poorly because he preferred it that way? Perhaps the idiots that booed Charlton off the pitch at half time were disappointed they never got the chance to take another swipe at the big man and laugh at his shortcomings. This is League One, don't forget.

But those unsupportive idiots aside, yesterday was all about the growing sense of hope that Chris Powell has bought along with him. Guard against it you may - I wouldn't blame you, this is Charlton after all - but the matchday experience felt notably different. In recent years you could be as close as a mile from The Valley an hour before kick-off and not realise there's a game on, but you sense that's changing. Anticipation and excitement fills the air and there was a genuine buzz before kick-off. The big screen was back on: an unaffordable and painful reminder of better times that sat like a tombstone in the south east corner was bought back to life in glorious new form. It's significance mustn't be underestimated and the 'This Is The Valley' montage sent shivers down my spine once again. Just before kick-off the names of the Addickted who have fallen in the last 12 months rolled over the screen in high definition, and as the entire stadium stood to honour our fellow fans, I glanced over to Chris Powell who stood like the Pied Piper with the matchday mascots gathered around him. Sir Chris has bought his infectious smile back to where it belongs, and I've barely stopped grinning since. You need look no further than our East End neighbours to see what happens when an uninspiring manger takes up a post at a club.

Better bloggers than me will summarise the game far better, so as always, I won't go in to details. Needless to say it wasn't faultless. Far from it. Possession was still given away too freely for my liking, particularly in the first half, but Sir Chris got his tactics spot on in the second period, bringing on Abbott and moving Eccelston out wide. For me, it is proof that although inexperienced as a manager, Powell clearly knows the game inside out. I though Doherty was immense in the second period, as was Abbott and Semedo (of whom I can't help but view as some sort of dark superhero-type-figure, thanks to Arthur's vivid imagination in his 'Cometh The Haddock' posts) .

There will inevitably be the same boring story about how we're ridding our luck, playing poorly but somehow won, and how that luck will change and we'll be found out and become s#+t again. Maybe so: but maybe, just maybe, we have the best asset you can have in football...momentum. It's picking up pace, game by game.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Just When You Think You've Seen It All...

A moment of individual brilliance won the game for the Addicks, but the reports on an otherwise dull and uninspiring affair will undoubtably centre around the strangest refereeing decision I have ever seen.

Firstly, Colchester looked to have scored what appeared to be a well taken goal, only for the ref to blow his whistle and award a free-kick to the Addicks. Relief all around The Valley despite no clues as to why he chalked off the effort (if it was off-side, the Lino never flagged). Then, as Elliot was placing the ball for a free kick the ref has a change of heart...has a chat with his Lino...and gives the goal! Colchester go through the motions of celebrating, and all around the media sources the game will be noted as 0-1 to CUFC. As if that's not bad enough, with the ball on the centre circle and a very angry Charlton team ready to kick-off, the ref...and I promise you I'm not making this up...then gets into a discussion with the 4th official and...wait for it.........chalks the goal off and returns to his earlier decision of a free kick to Charlton!!! The Valley erupts: Colchester go mad. Back to 0-0.

My personal view is that as CUFC broke into the box to score, the ref anticipated an off-side decision and instinctavily blew his whistle (which he did BEFORE the ball crossed the line). And that's the point, he blew his whistle before the ball crossed the line, so regardless of whether the chap was offside or not, he HAD to give a free kick to someone or, as it turned out, a drop ball if he realised he got it wrong. To say it was hard on CUFC is an understatement of sizable proportions!

Never in 30 odd years of watching football have I ever seen anything like it. And the strangest thing is that, in truth, we may never really know what was going on inside his head. One thing's for sure, I'll give him full marks for having the balls to face up to not one but two changes of heart!

I suppose after that it was obvious we'd go on and win the game!

Final thought before I head up to bed, still shaking my head, is Sir Chris has a lot of work to do if this Charlton team are to push for promotion.