Saturday 30 November 2013

Two Steps Back...

This week has seen all sorts of rumours flying around of impending take-overs and speculation on who the new owners might be at Charlton. As tempting as it is to allow one's self to be even a little bit excited at the prospect of a new club owner with an injection of cash, in typical Charlton fashion, any hint of positivity is well and truly counteracted by dark rumours that players and staff have not been paid this month and the money problems are finally coming to a head.  
Just like off the pitch, on it Charlton seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back.
It's quite hard to put your finger on quite why it never went right for Charlton today, other than to say we appeared sluggish and half a yard off the pace. Up front we looked as blunt as ever. A limited plan A and no plan B. The weight of expectation inside the Valley continues to be a hindrance to Powell's men. 
We can't rely on wonder goals every game. I can't even remember the last time I saw two back-to-back Addick wins.
Ipswich, on the other hand, showed all the classic hallmarks of a Mick McCarthy team; well organised and pretty uninteresting to watch. They won't care and why should they? Within 5 mins their early pressure had got them a goal and having done their homework on us, they would have rightfully been confident that would be enough to win the game. It was. Credit to the travelling Tractor Boys who packed out the Jimmy Seed and made an atmosphere for an otherwise pretty flat Valley.
I'm really clutching at straws for positives today, but credit where credit is due, Charlton's media team produced a great matchday programme (or magazine, as they call it) which replicated the cover from the first game back at the Valley some 21 years ago. It was a nice touch and well received by Addicks.
Looking forward to the next two games, I can't see us getting much from Tuesday's game at Reading, who beat Forest away last night, and Yeovil looks an ominous journey to make next Saturday given their surprising 3-0 victory at Watford today. Is it too early to talk of 6-pointers? No, I didn't think so. 
There can be little question we are fighting for our lives down the bottom and the big question will be whether the take-over happens quickly enough (or at all, of course) to allow for much needed investment in January. Even then, there's no guarantee that incoming players will be able to have the instant impact we require.
In the meantime, we can do nothing more than back the players we have...and hope.

If I could just have a pound for every ruined Saturday night!      

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Volley Good Effort...

Eyes on the ball...bang! Back of the net!
There was no doubting the good fortune surrounding Charlton's second bite of the cherry against hapless Doncaster Rovers in this rearranged fixture, and thankfully, Powell's men were in no mood to waste their luck on a chilly night at the Valley.
Charlton let a number of good chances slip from the outset with Church the worst offender with an opportunity inside the opening minutes he should have done better with. Kermorgant hit the base of the post with a trickling left footed shot that had the excellent Turnbull surprisingly flat-footed. Johnnie Jackson forced a top class save from Turnbull moments later, but just when you began thinking it was going to be 'one of those nights', Stephens took centre stage.
Taking advantage of a poor defensive clearance following a decent Charlton move down the right, Stephens struck a full volley (above) that couldn't have been hit any sweeter. The roof of the Valley lifted as the ball thundered into the net. If you get a chance to watch the footage of the goal that was doing the rounds on twitter last night then just watch Jackson's reaction as the ball goes in. Rather than reeling away in delight he drops his head in his hands in disbelief. Priceless moment from our skipper! He later joked he had a few quid on himself to bag the first goal...
We may not have scored many this season, but we certainly have a few nominations for 'goal of the season', for sure. Half time, 1-0. Worryingly it should have been 4 or 5.
Second half was much the same, with Charlton going close with numerous chances. In particular, the ever-improving Stewart tried to upstage Stephens with a wonderful shot that rattled the bar. Before that Church had eased Charlton's nerves with a well taken goal after being put through one-on-one with the Doncaster 'keeper. I was so pleased for Church. You would have to watch him regularly to really appreciate just how hard he works for the team and nobody deserved a goal more last night. He is fast becoming my favourite current player.
Church could and should have had a second...but we won't mention what happened there!  
In the end it was a heart-warming team performance and a tough one to call for MOM. The two players who particularly stood out for me were Cousins, who was excellent in centre-mid and Church up top. A special mention for Ben Alnwick, who finally made his debut for Charlton after Hamer went down injured in the warm-up. He never had much to do (one diving save to his left in the second half the highlight), but considering he's been sat on the bench since he arrived, he looked confident and capable considering the circumstances of him being thrown in late on. There's something about this fixture and making the most of your opportunities no matter how they come about.   
The official gate was noted as just over 14,000, but horrendous train problems would have prevented many fans and season ticket holders from getting to the game so the real figure would have been much lower. Fair play to the few hundred Doncaster Rovers fans who made the journey down again. I bet you're hoping we don't meet in the 3rd round of the FA Cup at the Valley?
There's still a certain novelty factor to seeing Charlton win at the Valley. Hopefully we can begin to view victories differently if we can finally find some consistent home form. This Saturday Ipswich are the visitors and another performance like last night and we have a good chance to grab another vital 3 points.

Monday 25 November 2013

Ethical Dilemma...

So tomorrow night Doncaster fans will face the arduous journey south to the Valley once again following the abandoned game back in late August. It was a pretty rotten bit of luck on their part to see their side leading 3-1 before the ref finally worked out the pitch was unplayable.

All things considered, I'm slightly surprised Doncaster fans and football do-gooder generally haven't been building up the game with calls for us to give them a two goal head start, which, particularly where the Doncaster fans are concerned, is to their credit given the fact Charlton are blameless for the events of that day. Actually, I'm convinced the result of that game was not set in stone when the ref halted proceedings. Church had pulled a goal back for us, we was looking threatening going forward and Doncaster had a man sent off. I've watched football long enough to know how quickly things could have changed. In fact, it would have been Charlton's luck if we'd gone 4-3 up and then the ref called time on the game!

But thinking about the ethical ramifications of that lost game made me think of a memorable game from my old footballing days...

In my last season as a player I found myself in the unfortunate position of handling the ball on the goal line, which ultimately prevented a certain goal. Now at the time my team was playing terribly, already 3-0 down in a cup QF just 30mins into the game! Glancing over at the ref  I could see him reaching for his top pocket and so I began the long walk for an early shower. As I'm walking off I had a cunning brainwave. Turning back to the ref I cheekily said "what if I told you the ball had already crossed the line when I handled it?" The confused ref thought about it long and hard and all the while I continued to argue my case (I've no idea what the rules are on this, by the way). Surprisingly, even the opposition gave me classic sympathy vote and said they'd happily take the goal and I could stay on. Eventually the ref buckled, announced the goal would stand, and significantly for me, I got to stay on the pitch! 

Our opposition may have been dreaming of a rugby score, but the moment clearly shook us up and soon enough 4-0 turned into 4-1...then 4-2...4-3...and with moments of the game left we equalised! 

Now, here's the unbelievable twist. In the first half of extra time our 'keeper gets a straight red for a horrible challenge and, yes, yours truly is the recognised back-up 'keeper. The irony that I can now use my hands not lost on the opposition who are now all over the place with rage at how the game has turned. Their act of sportsmanship backfired! I had thick enough skin to deal with it, but the poor old ref was in a world of hate. I had a brief moment of feeling sorry for him, but that soon passed.

Now, I'm not bad in the onion bag, if I do say so myself, and on that day I played a blinder. Tipping shots over the bar, claiming crosses and all sorts.

We went on to win 6-4.

Did I feel guilty? I'm genuinely not proud of it, but I'd do the same again to win a game of football. Sometimes you have to accept circumstances and take advantage of them.

Sunday 24 November 2013

A View From The School End Upper...

Financially, Charlton and QPR are worlds apart. We all know that. The Charlton faithful headed into West London expecting nothing other than a very tough afternoon, but in fairness, that never really happened. QPR won all 3 point thanks to a wonder-goal that should win games of football from a player, Charlie Austin, that we can only dream of having. But despite QPR's talented squad and lengthy spells of possession, Charlton worked hard (no question about that) and managed to hang on for a respectable scoreline that few predicted. Occasionally we would go forward, but sadly, the equaliser just never looked like coming and even Johnnie's late free-kick opportunity sailed woefully over the bar. So often the talismanic hero, Jackson was unable to drag us through this game with such a large gulf in the quality of these two squads.

Considering what they have to look forward to this season, QPR fans sat in silence. A near sell-out London derby and the only time they made any noise was when the Charlton fans reminded them they were at home. Perhaps they have got complacent? 
So in the end, no complaints from me. I stood with the rest of the 1,800 travelling Addicks and clapped the players off. They reciprocated to a man. Game out of the way. Move on.
The defeat does, however, drop the Addicks closer to the bottom 3 and now Tuesday's 'bonus' game in hand against Doncaster has taken on greater importance. With Ipswich at the Valley next Saturday, this could be a very big week for Charlton. We could end it deep in the relegation zone or looking comfortably mid-table. I think it's fair to say that Charlton deserve a bit of good fortune sooner rather than later...
The result yesterday may not have been what we wanted, but I was pleased to discover a new quality venue for good quality beer thanks to my fellow bloggers Marco and Rob, whom I met up with pre-match. The Old Loyal Britons (or whatever they call it), in SE10 is my sort of pub; run by passionate lovers of good beer it thankfully has a policy of no piped music and no T.V screens showing meaningless games of football. In other words, people can shoot the breeze over a well kept pint. 
In all honesty, it was very tempting for Rob, Marco and me to have given the football a miss and stayed in there all day enjoying the fine offerings from Greenwich-based, Hop Stuff Brewery amongst others. To my envy, the chaps went back there post match, but I had to be on my way.
So on to Tuesday. There's nothing better than a midweek game at the Valley. 

Monday 11 November 2013

Brave Blues Defeated...

So after the disappointment of watching Charlton defeated at the Valley on Saturday, my big weekend of football continued yesterday with a trip to watch my home town club, Bishop's Stortford, go for glory in the FA Cup 1st Round.
I normally drive to SE7 to watch the Addicks, but yesterday my mode of transport to the ProKit UK Stadium was my bike. How refreshing it was to ride across town to watch the Blues, just like I did as a kid!
An impressive gate of 2,545 favoured the real event rather than watching from the comfort of their sofas courtesy of ITV's live coverage, and they were rewarded with an entertaining game. Northampton had much of the early possession and in front of goal Bishop's Stortford rode their luck somewhat until finding their feet towards the end of the first half. The Blues best chance of the half came from a header from centre-back, Francis, but the effort agonisingly rattled the bar.
The Blues more partizan fans behind the goal were in fine voice as usual and played their part in driving the team on (and winding up Adrian Chiles at half time). Around them, new faces joined in as best they could and the hope is some will return to support the Blues again. I've really enjoyed the experience of the games I've watched this season and I'm more determined than ever to make more effort to get to games when Charlton fixtures will allow. After all, so much of my football heritage is ingrained in this club.  
Emerton broke the deadlock for the visitors just after the hour mark and 6 minutes later Norris made it 2. The Blues refused to give up and impressive skipper, Reece Prestedge, gave the fans hope with a powerful, well taken shot 10 minutes from time. Sadly, despite their best efforts, the Blues couldn't find the equaliser. We had a goal to celebrate, at least. 
This game will bring a level of financial stability to the club for a short period at least, and that in itself is a sizable result for a club of Stortford's size. Hopefully a run in the FA Trophy can follow to add to the pot.
In the end, it just wasn't meant to be and now Bishop's Stortford must re-focus quickly on the league. Of course, the FA Cup run was always going to end in failure sooner or later, but with a top manager and a group of hungry, young players, promotion to the Conference remains a realistic aim.
Hopefully the loss of Blues star striker, Kyle Vassell, to Peterborough (rumoured to be a done deal) will not derail the Blues promotion chances, but I for one wish him all the best. He's one to watch out for and joins a growing list of players that have left Stortford for professional football (our very own Danny Green amongst them). Unsurprisingly he's being compared to Dwight Gayle, who had a very successful loan period with the Blues a few years back.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Floored Four Two...

It's the hardest thing in football to accept defeat when you don't deserve to, but sometimes you have to accept the kick in the nuts and move on. There were enough positives yesterday to do just that, but a very disappointing result it was none the less. After nearly 7 hours of football without conceding a goal (let's not forget that, by the way), we go and let in 4!

For me, Charlton's latest home defeat surprisingly hinged on the introduction of our biggest hero on 67 mins. It wasn't Yann's fault, but it was obvious the balance of the side had changed with young Harriott making way for the Breton Warrior. Lacking width, our style of play altered to the ridiculously ineffective long ball tactic and we looked less threatening as the game petered out.

I love the guy, but I'd love to know Morrison's successful pass rate if judged only on those that go forward. Probably best we don't know.

Right from the outset Leeds players deployed dirty time wasting tactics and constant whinging that the ref just never got to grips with. Players and managers come and go at Leeds and yet somehow that hugely dislikable side to their personality continues to come out on the pitch. It find it rather odd that a football club would want to retain a trait like that. Leeds 'keeper, Paddy Kenny, who was forced in to a number of top draw saves throughout the game, was easily the worst offender, arrogantly clapping the ref when he finally received a yellow card for a series of painfully drawn out goal kicks. Leeds other yellow card was also for time wasting (kicking the ball away), it won't surprise you to learn.

Michael Brown is a perfect fit for Leeds. Having had the misfortune of watching him many times over the years he comes across as a nasty little footballer with a horrible approach to the Beautiful Game. I hope I never set eyes on him playing football again.

It's amazing that with such a poor philosophy on football the team are followed by such impressive numbers on the road. Impressive in numbers; compliments end there.

But full credit to Ross McCormack, who, in my opinion, had an quiet game but for 4 decisive moments. His composure and quality where and when it mattered the sizeable difference between the teams. How Charlton need that sort of clinical finisher. He'd have gone home with the match ball if his own fans had returned it from the Jimmy Seed.

Mind you, it can't be often that you score 4 in one match but still not get the best goal of the game; that accolade going to Charlton's Cameron Stewart with a strike that was always going in the second it left his boot.

In the end, Charlton contributed to their own downfall but for a spirited performance alone deserved something out of the game. Yet again we fall short at home. No question the scoreline flattered a very average Leeds United, but they won't care one bit (and why should they?). McCormack had a day he'll never forget and referee Keith Stroud can look back on yet another performance littered with critical mistakes.

Actually, something tells me Mr. Stroud probably won't see it that way...

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Allez Les Bleus...

If, like me, you believe that there is far too much football on T.V nowadays then you'll also lament the fading tradition of a 3pm KO on a Saturday afternoon. Thankfully they remain commonplace at Charlton, but once inside the Premiership bubble your footballing calendar becomes far less predictable. excuse me for becoming an instant hypocrite!
Thank heavens for televised football matches and 2pm KO's on a Sunday!!!!!
Thank you ITV football (it will be the one and only time I will say that) for choosing to cover Bishop's Stortford v's Northampton Town in the 1st round of the FA Cup, and by doing so, has given me a chance to indulge in a full and hopefully memorable weekend of football, following my two favourite teams.  
First up on the Saturday, Charlton entertain Leeds United at the Valley and fresh from a glorious and much-needed away victory last weekend at Birmingham, I'll be hoping for a continuation of our recent good form and a rare home victory to celebrate. 
Then, thanks to the good fortune of the game being moved to suit T.V, on Sunday afternoon I'll be off to the ProKit UK Stadium (above pic) to cheer on my local side, Bishop's Stortford, in the cup. I'm a Stortford boy born and bread and first started watching 'The Blues' with my granddad when I was around 8 years old and although I don't get down there as much as I'd like these days due to my commitments as an Addick, I will be a proud fan on the day. There is a very different sort of buzz from following your local non-league team than from following a professional club, as anyone who enjoys the virtues of grass roots football knows.
As far as I can remember, this will be the first time Bishop's Stortford have appeared live on T.V and I'm chuffed to bits for the regular fans and the club, who should benefit greatly from the financial boost.
Bishop's Stortford are currently flying high in the oddly named Skrill South, sitting in 3rd place, 5 points behind leaders Bromley with two games in hand, whereas Northampton Town sit at the very foot of the Football League. This could well be the 'giant killing' ITV will be hoping for for their armchair supporter. Fingers crossed... 
Back in the 1982-83 season I watched The Blues go on a wonderful FA Cup run that finally ended with a heartbreaking defeat by Middlesbrough in a 3rd round replay. I've previously wrote about it here. Something similar this season would be lovely, and dare I dream of a 3rd Round tie against Charlton at the Valley? It wouldn't be great for the Addicks, in all honesty, as our form in cup competition, especially against lower league opposition, is truly woeful, but what a day that would be for me!
So, for this forthcoming weekend I will be mostly shouting 'Come on you Addicks' and as sung by the loyal hardcore of Bishop's Stortford fans, 'Allez les Bleus'! 

Sunday 3 November 2013

Sausages & Sunday Morning Doodles...

I wasn't at Birmingham yesterday so I can't offer much in the way of comment other than to state the obvious, which is that it was a much-needed victory and another spirited performance, by all accounts. One thing's for sure, my beer tasted good last night. Reports from fellow bloggers can be found here over the next day or so.
But...what I can offer you today is an average doodle of our Skipper, as drawn by myself whilst I waited for my bangers to cook in the frying pan in readiness for a sausage sarnie (brown sauce by the way, Danny). The subject matter for the sketch was kind enough to comment that it was a "good effort" soon after I posted it on twitter, but then went on to say "[that's a] Hell of a gob I've got on me". Sorry Johnnie, I was concentrating on my sausages as well... 
I was at that Peterborough game, stood more or less in front of Johnnie after he equalised in the second half, and it's one of my favourite pictures of our captain. The original photo can be found down the left hand side of this blog so you can pick holes in my effort if you wish.