Monday 28 October 2013

Fivers & The Final Third...

I can't be more proud of my young son. There he is at an impressionable age with all his mates supporting glamorous Premiership sides and yet he seems to have accepted life as an Addick. I've never once forced it on him, I honestly haven't, but I guess he's absorbed from me (and his nan) over time whatever it takes to want to wear his Charlton colours by choice and to be proud of doing so. It was his 7th birthday yesterday and he could have spent the whole day being fussed over by his mum, grandparents and friends, but instead he wanted to come to the Valley with me. I've been coming to the Valley long enough to know how hopeful anticipation can kick you so hard in the bollocks you won't ever forget the agony, but he has all that to come. Midway through the second half, just after McCann had rattled Charlton's bar with a bullet header, he turned to me and said he didn't want any goals if it may mean Charlton went on to loose. A 7 year old boy putting his team first, happy with a goalless game, taking a point.   

I was excited about watching Jordan Stewart and in the first half in particular I thought he linked up well enough with Wiggins, but overall I was left wondering what more he offered down the left above young Harriott. The latter not even afforded a place on the bench. On too many occasions Stewart looked happy enough to feed Wiggins on the overlap rather than use him as a dummy and try a quick cross himself or to take on the defender. One bright moment from Stewart, though, saw a dangerous cross fizz into the penalty area, teeing up Pritchard for a clear shot on goal midway through the first half. The Valley faithful rose from their seats in anticipation, but Pritchard lifted the ball up and over the bar. I slumped back in my seat, head in hands, wishing that the chance had fallen to a Kermorgant or a Jackson. My boy looked as disappointed as I was.

Our striking options took a massive blow when around half an hour in our Breton warrior finally admitted he needed to go off after taking an early knock on his troublesome ankle.

In the second half, only some truly woeful forward play from Wigan and some good fortune for Charlton stopped the visitors leaving with all 3 points. Charlton had a few half chances, one of which came about after a splendid lung-busting run down the right from Wilson, but even Pritchard could not get on the end of his tantalizing cross. Not at any stage of this game did it feel like it would finish up zero-zero, but it did.

In the end, it was another clean sheet which we should all be pleased about, but another game where the lack of quality and ideas in the final third cost us a much-needed victory. I though Stephens done well enough, particularly defensively, to be my MOM.

On the back of a sizable 'football for a fiver' promotional campaign by the club, some 23,600 people spread out into areas of the Valley that had not seen human beings since Johnny lifted the league One trophy back in May 2012. Encouragingly, outside the ground pre-match it was like those halcyon Premiership days, with cars jostling for parking spots, an air of anticipation from the thronging crowd and long queues at the burger vans, programme sellers and turnstiles. Inside the Valley, however, the additional faces done little to improve the atmosphere and irritated the regulars with their inability to find their seats without having to walk the full length of the row a couple of times, dropping tomato sauce from their burgers as they passed by.

Oh, I know...I'm being hard on those that have so much more in their lives than to follow Charlton more regularly. This result was not what they were hoping for from their once a season trip to the Valley. Being a season ticket holder for more years than I can even recall I doubt I've ever benefited from promotional days like this.

The most important thing for me is my boy enjoyed his day out. One day I'm hoping he'll be a regular at the Valley. Understanding that you don't always get what you want out of a game of football is an important step. 

Sunday 20 October 2013

Just Rewards...

If you are going to set your alarm earlier than you'd normally get up for work in order to pay good money to head north to watch Charlton on your day off then you will always have my uttermost respect, especially as you'd have done so expecting the worst. Reports suggested some 200 or so hardy Addicks done just that, and each and every one of them can take as much credit for Charlton's first away victory of the season as Simon Church will for bagging the winner. I'd love to do more away days, and whilst I may not have felt like it at 6am when their pilgrimage began, I certainly envied the travelling Addicks post match. Their commitment rewarded with a vital Charlton victory.
By my quick calculations (I'm not noted for my grasp of numbers) Charlton have now earned 9 of their 10 points against top 10 opposition, with 5 of those points taken of teams inside the top 5. What all this tells us is that being the underdog clearly suits Charlton better (no great surprise, we've had enough practise). Charlton have struggled with the weight of expectation, particularly at the Valley and we will need to overcome that if we are to continue to pull away from the bottom. 
I wasn't able to follow the game until late on as I was dragging myself around a football pitch with a bunch of other ageing men unwilling to hang up their boots, but from the reports I've read and the comments on twitter, it would appear Wood was once again outstanding at the back. His inclusion in the team has coincided with a more solid defense with only one goal conceded in 3. 
For effort and commitment, Simon Church cannot be faulted. Whether or not he proves to be a 20 goals a season man is questionable, but I like him a lot. He never stops running and I'm chuffed that he got the winner yesterday. He took his goal on the volley superbly after a clever through ball by Stephens.

It was also great to see Yann and Johnnie make welcome returns to the team as second half subs, although the latter may be a tad concerned about breaking bad back in what has been a pretty impressive centre midfield of late.
After the game Blackburn's manager, Gary Bowyer commented "We've seen the goal again. I'm not sure which part of the arm it hits him but it's quite clear it's handball". I can try and understand this better, Gary has seen the incident leading up to the goal again and suggests it's 'quite clear' and yet is unsure what part of the arm it hits? Hmmm. Doesn't sound that clear to me. Clutching at straws there a little, Mr. Bowyer?

Wednesday 2 October 2013

History Repeating Itself...

Given the similarities in circumstances, Charlton fans had spent much of the build-up to this game dreaming of a repeat of that memorable night back in November of last year when we grabbed an unlikely victory against table-toppers, Cardiff. But as the saying goes, you need to be careful what you wish for! Back then, Helguson scored after just 4 mins for the visitors, this time around our old skipper, Andy Reid, found the same spot in the same goal for Forest with a cross-cum-shot after just 3 minutes to stun the Valley faithful. History repeating itself?
So there we were; Charlton one down before many of the players had even touched the ball, with an injury ravaged team down to bare bones, against one of the best sides in this division. It wasn't looking good, was it? The Covered End raised the noise levels in defiance.  
We needn't have worried. We may not have had the flurry of goals like that Cardiff game, and nor did we grab victory from the jaws of defeat once again, but we got a spirited and passionate performance up there with anything Charlton had produced this season and that earned us a point. We'd have taken that before kick-off for sure. It was a point that felt like a win.
Richard Wood at the back was awesome, winning every ball and distributing well. I noticed how well he lead the players; constantly encouraging and talking. Cousins, Gower and Stephens looked excellent together in the middle, with young Cousins just edging out Wood as my man of the match. I've commented before that when Stephens plays well, Charlton play well, so hopefully he carries this form into Saturday's game. It was great seeing the ever-popular Andy Hughes come on with 15 mins left to put himself about and break up Forest attacks.  
And if you go and do one thing the whole game, let it be a well taken goal. Sordell has not got going for Charlton yet since joining on loan and he was rarely involved in this game, if the truth be known, but full credit to him for his finish. He reminds me so much of BWP's early time with the Addicks, where his body language can sometimes look a little disinterested. I got the impression BWP worked on that over time and he will be fondly remembered by Charlton fans in years to come. There is no question Sordell has the talent, as his goal proved, and I sincerely hope this is the spark he needs to get going for Charlton. And with Church limping off late on, we certainly need him.
At the end, the Charlton fans gave the players a standing ovation. A fully committed performance deserved that.
So on to Blackpool at the Valley on Saturday, where a repeat performance will give us a decent chance for 3 points. Thinking about how Cousins rasping effort came back off the post tonight, we are due some luck as well.