Congratulations to all those who got their reports up last night. For me it was a case of the warm and open embrace of your friendly local pub and Nepalese proving too tempting. There are twinges around the temples this morning, but nothing much to work against the smug grin I’m going to carry on my face for some time to come. We didn’t just beat them, we totally outclassed them. Maybe, just maybe, we will never play them again.
Hope you slept well, Luke. You should have done. Whatever turns your Charlton career take you cannot lose your place in the pantheon of true legends. Your name has already been carved in that special piece of stone alongside those of Killer, Powell, Kitson, Rommadahl, Fortune, Todorov and others. Just sit back and bask in the glory, at least until Tuesday night and Sheffield Wednesday.
So, the game. Greg Halford came in for Yassin Moutaouakil, adding solidity at the back but understandably not as influential going forward. Given that the defence was solid through the game, with Weaver having only one or two innocuous shots to deal with, you can’t argue with the move. Palace seemed to target Kelly Youga. Just why wasn’t clear as he dealt superbly with everything thrown at him. McCarthy had another storming game, while Bougherra was also impressive. Collectively the defence is looking better than at any other stage through this season. This may not be saying that much, and after all it was only Palace. But with Fortune, Sodje, Semedo, Monteiro, Basey, Powell, and Moutaouakil all available it’s looking much better, primarily because of McCarthy’s transformation.
Through the first half we probed and tested Palace, playing good stuff at times and carving out a few good chances. All that was missing was the goal. The moment should have come after splending work down the right and a great ball into Gray, who looked set to open his account only for their keeper to pull off a tremendous save. Otherwise the shooting was indifferent, the crosses once more lacking in quality (those from Youga excepted), but no questioning which was the better team.
The only spell of the game when we were in a little bother came just after half-time as Palace changed their formation with a substitution (it’s Saturday morning and I just don’t care who it was; their team comprises an endless supply of mediocrity so the name is of no significance). It took us maybe 10 minutes for normal service to be resumed. It was just more of the same, the only nagging doubt being whether we would turn superiority into goals.
The breakthrough, when it came, was pleasantly simple. A quickly taken free kick, a flick on, and suddenly Varney running on to the ball challenged by a defender. From where we were sitting in the East Stand it wasn’t clear that he was in a great position. So when the net billowed it was all the sweeter. After that it was a case of keeping it tight at the back and surely we’d be able to exploit the space on the breakaway. And so it proved, with Varney cutting in from the left to bury the second. Iwelumo, McLeod and Semedo were able to come on and enjoy the moment, with Varney denied his hat-trick but able to milk the applause with a late substitution. Well earned.
With the defence currently in good order, what were the negatives on the night? Ambrose and Sam were not entirely convincing. Ambrose is frustrating, great ability and good moments but poor deliveries again from set pieces and the basic problems of not being fast enough to go past people or strong enough to hold off opponents. Sam, who was ineffective against Scunthorpe, also had good moments, but he didn’t make the most of some of the positions he got himself into – and his shooting was poor. Thomas and now Cook are the alternatives or back-ups, with Thomas not available last night. At least with four in the frame, plus Varney capable of playing wide, there is sufficient cover.
Up front the jury is still out on Gray. He had an OK night, not a great one. Maybe he just needs a little more time to get used to the new surroundings. After all, Varney didn’t set the world alight at the start of his Charlton career. He has now.
Weaver: 7/10. Could be given a 10. Had next to nothing to do but takes some credit for being a part of a better organised defence.
Halford: 8/10. Impressive debut. Whether he makes the position his own over Moutaouakil remains to be seen.
Youga: 9/10. He was about to get my man of the match before Varney’s contributions. Was put under pressure and coped splendidly and often got forward to good effect.
McCarthy: 9/10. No more needs to be said.
Bougherra: 8/10. As above. Quietly effective.
Ambrose: 6/10. Could do better, especially with the set-pieces, but played his part.
Holland: 8/10. Another good game.
Zhi: 8/10. Showed no signs of being exhausted after his midweek exersions for China. Just failed to bury the third in the last minute.
Sam: 6/10. As with Ambrose, could do better but looked dangerous through the game.
Gray: 7/10. Not entirely convincing yet, but let’s keep the faith. Was very unlucky not to have opened his account in the first half.
Varney: 11/10. Thank you Luke. And my local Nepalese restaurant thanks you.