Saturday 16 February 2008

Good Does Not Always Prevail

As they reminded us in Apocalypse Now, good does not always prevail. And we didn’t today. Over the 90 minutes I don’t have the feeling that we were robbed, or that the referee cost us the game - which is not to say he had a good game; if it takes a ref 85 minutes before showing a card to a Watford player it’s fair to say he’s been lenient (OK, just crap). Watford were ugly, often if not nasty then brutish, but did more than us in the last 20 minutes, during which time they looked more likely to win it than us. But for a tremendous last-ditch block by Fortune they might have done.

Our sin was of course not being able to hold on to a two-goal lead. You don’t give a team like Watford any encouragement. The problem was maybe that the players at half-time felt like the fans (or at least me): 2-0 up, let’s get this game over and go home and celebrate. You had the feeling early in the second half that we weren’t attacking with the same intent, having carved Watford open a couple of times to establish the advantage. And having regrouped after conceding two in two minutes we didn’t seem to have the energy in the final phase to suggest that we could win the game. We failed to create a good chance in the second half and were restricted to a few shots and some threatening balls into the box which didn’t break our way.

It had all started so well. The same starting XI as against Sheff Wed and, while Watford ensured that much of the game was spent with the ball in the air, there were moments of pure class from us, most obviously the two goals. For the first a good ball in was flicked on by Gray, then helped on by Varney for the onrushing Ambrose to bury from short range. Watford couldn’t get a touch. And the second may have been an own-goal but it was such a wicked ball in from the right from Halford that the forward behind Shittu would surely have buried it. With Sam looking threatening, Gray having a much better game, and Ambrose having rediscovered how to take a corner things were looking good.

Watford offered little before the break and looked if not outclassed then at least incapable of matching us when we got it right. Youga was having a strange game, seemingly intent on showboating going forward and playing a succession of dubious balls forward but also making some key interceptions (and he did pick up after McCarthy put his arm around him and had a quiet word). A shot did come back off the post just before the break, but I thought we looked comfortable. Maybe the break encouraged such thoughts.

Their first goal was poor and Ambrose, possibly Youga as well, must shoulder a good deal of the blame. They were slow to close down their guy on the right edge of the area. He seemed to mishit a shot which bobbled towards the penalty spot, only to find a couple of Watford forwards who had held their ground (and didn’t look offside to me). We were rattled and Fortune conceded a corner. What happened then I’m not sure of. Some said that Shittu held down our defender before heading in. I’d need to see it again. The defence, including Weaver, seemed to freeze and the ball was headed in from close range.

Now we had to chase the game and failed to do so. Cook came on first for Ambrose and looked good to me. He delivered a number of superb crosses from the left and most of the time brought the ball forward with intent (he did get crowded out once or twice). Iwelumo and Thomas came on for Sam and Gray but didn’t really change the game. One day we will know why Thomas had to leave the field to replace his shorts. Watford were reasonably content to take the point, but as the clock wound down they were passing the ball much more than before and creating space as we seemed to tire. Zhi and Holland failed to hold them back and at the final whistle, while obviously disappointed at losing a 2-0 lead, there was the feeling that if the game had continued for much longer we would have lost. Booing the ref as he left the field is always fun – and he didn’t give us enough protection. But it wasn’t the key element.

Watford? You can’t really call them a yo-yo team. I quite like yo-yos and they have a purpose. Watford are more like a bad smell; you just don't want them around. I have nothing against them as a club but quite frankly they’re going nowhere. If they get promoted they will be an embarrassment (again). They are a long way short of having anything like the sort of quality that might survive in the top flight. I just don’t want to be in the same division as them. Their fans sang ‘we love you Watford’ and I don’t doubt that they do. There’s just nothing about their play for any neutral to love – and a lot to despise.

Dropping two crucial points is bound to have a deflating effect on the team and the fans. Thoughts are bound to turn again to having to settle for the play-offs. I guess it’s time to forget about such things and just concentrate on winning the next game. We probably now have to go on a run of three or four wins, maybe more. We can do it, but the two points not secured today mean no spring in the step. At least I’m going to win the lottery tonight.

Player ratings:

Weaver: 7/10. Need to see their second again; he may have been at fault.

Halford: 8/10. Thought he had another splendid game.

Youga: 6/10. I’m not sure if he deserves a 9 or a 5. It was a peculiar performance and one that perhaps sheds light on why Pardew had to substitute him against Sheff Wed. First blot on his copybook as far as I’m concerned.

McCarthy: 9/10. I don’t think he was to blame for either goal and still has the defence operating far better as a unit than before.

Fortune: 8/10. Deserves a high rating for that late block after their forward had got the wrong side and looked about to score their winner.

Ambrose: 6/10. A very mixed bag. Good first half, scored a goal and seemed to have worked out how to deliver a corner. But disappeared in the second half and carries some of the blame for their first goal.

Holland: 7/10. No complaints once more. Did seem to tire towards the end.

Zhi: 6/10. Also tired towards the finish and I felt a few times didn’t want to take the responsibility when the ball dropped to him around their box.

Sam: 6/10. Looked dangerous in the first half and delivered some dangerous crosses. But faded in the second half.

Varney: 7/10. No lack of effort, but it just didn’t break for Luke today. Had a hand in the first goal.

Gray: 8/10. I thought he had a much better game than against Palace or Scunthorpe. Was more involved and linked play well. A goal would be nice.

Subs: Cook (8/10, looked lively), Iwelumo (6/10, did get brownie points for coming on and barging straight into Shittu), Thomas 6/10 (barely had the chance to get into the game).


Anonymous said...

You are 100% correct. The ref was bad, but they generally are and the teams that go up will be the ones that can win games despite bad refereeing, where the away fans sit, and whether the opposition is physical or not. We simply were not good enough over 90minutes today

Anonymous said...

now that Thomas is back SAP has got to start him, Sam whilst has alot of skill is such a frustrating player, hardly ever does he release the ball ontime , always one to hesitate rather then make that killer pass.

I felt SAP should have brought Thomas on with 30 mins to go. This is one irritation of mine, SAP justs subs way too late in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Agree re Youga- defensively sound(tackling etc) but woeful distribution-no thats too posh-his lumps forward when not under pressure "disappointing".
That first Watford goal-if it was onside the movement must have been wonderful.And it was the first bit of football they played.
They will never prosper in the Premiership with that "style" of play.

Anonymous said...

I thought we were the better team (at least we tried to play football), but again we haven't won when we should have done and this has been the story of our season. The home matches against Scunthorpe, Barnsley, Plymouth, Sheff Utd, Burnley, Hull and Colchester were all similar. If we don't go up, then hopefully next season we'll have learned how to play the same way but actually WIN matches.

Anonymous said...

Thomas had to take off his black cycling shorts he had on under his shorts.

Anonymous said...

I have now accepted that Charlton will not gain promotion this season. The team that Pardew has created is simply not working, and it would appear that Pardew is still struggling to find his best team, or indeed the best formation to play.

The team is not gelling, and every area looks uncomfortable. The “big money” players brought in have not adapted to the Pardew way. Strikers are not scoring and most of the team look short on confidence. Clearly for whatever reason Pardew has got the current squad of players badly wrong.

How he gets this right I really don’t know but in my opinion things are going to get worse before they get better.

Anonymous said...

Watford may well be 'Ugly' as you say but if we want to get out of this division we have to put them away. We need to be less decorative and more willing to mix it in midfield. Ambrose is a prime example of what being lightweight gives you. Cook looked like he could as yet be the Pardew masterstroke for the run in.

Burgundy Addick said...

C'mon guys, let's not get too negative. After the game I didn't feel robbed. Having seen the goals again I do. Their second was an obvious foul by Shittu on Fortune - as demonstrated by a number of Sundays showing the pictures. If we'd held it at 2-1 for a while it could have turned out very different.

I like the way Pardew is getting the team to play and very much hope he sticks with it. Yes, we need to be more ruthless and better at closing out games, but we will continue to get better. Let's keep the faith as it's not over yet.

Anonymous said...

Well guys, Vicar here. After this performance we will require some divine intervention to get in to the play-offs, let alone promotion.

Not being negative BA, just realistic. We need more grit and guile. As for Watford being embarrassing in the premier league-how would we perform?

Forget this season, lets hope Pardew can build on something for a solid year next season.

Burgundy Addick said...

What's the world coming to? Vicars being realistic? I suppose while for the rest of us football can be an escape from reality into fantasy and delusion for a few hours the reverse might apply to men of the cloth. Well, that's my cheap shot for the day.

If we go up we probably would be humiliated next season, but that's still a price worth paying given our financial position. We have the core of a team to build on which, focusing on the positive, will either be good enough to go back up the season after next or to run away with the league next season.

Anonymous said...

Steady on BA, bit rough on the Vicar.
We are all frustrated and with justification. It is not the result but confirmation that we are lacking what's required.

In this league you have to adapt, play football when it is possible, scrap when you need to and more then anything have the courage to step up and attack the opposition.

We lack grit when its required. The energy level drops when the pressure comes on. If Our team want a play-off spot then they need to start fighting for it or else we are stuck like the Vicar and others have said.

We are in a dogfight and every point will count in the end.

Take away the intelligence and energy of Mc Carthy and Holland and
where would we be BA?

Burgundy Addick said...

I acknowledge it was a cheap shot. I hope it was taken in the good spirit it was meant.

Given that we spent a fair bit of the season without Holland and McCarthy we can't attribute our place solely to them. A number of others deserve mentions in despatches. I do think we've suffered from injuries at bad times and overall lack a killer instinct. But the football we are playing now is far better than a few months ago and bodes well for the future, whether or not we go up this season.

Lungrot said...

I agree that we're playing our best football now and considering the number of changes that the team has been through, we've done well to stay up where we are.
The sweetest way to go up, would be to get a top two spot on the last day of the season.
The loan signings look good and we don't seem to be missing Reid. We just need Andy Gray to start scoring. Something we can't do anything about is referees. Like last season, i'm sure we've lost more points than we've gained due to poor decisions. These things are supposed to even out over a season and without being biased I don't think they have. Varneys 'goal' away to Sheff Wed was as much onside as Watford's but barely got a mention.