Hurt, angry, pissed off. Not because we’ve been relegated (although that hardly fills me with joy), but because we failed to win a game that was there for the taking. Just another poor team that comes to The Valley and goes away happy. I guess a lot is down to expectations. Against Birmingham we were heartened by a solid and committed performance against a team intent on promotion and winning, and could easily have won – only to see comments on sites from Birmingham fans saying they should be beating teams like Charlton. Today we didn’t match that level of intensity and, after the game should have been won in a few minutes when we scored twice, ended up handing a very ordinary Blackpool team, that I expected us to beat, a point.
After a most enjoyable pre-match drink, the team news was surprising. No Kandol or Dickson, even on the bench, with Burton brought into play the lone striker and Tuna given a subs place, alongside Randolph, Holland, Spring and Wagstaff. Basically the same set-up as before - 4-5-1 with the defence and midfield unchanged – but it was hard to see possible changes that could win us the game.
The first half was, quite frankly, boring. It had all the drama of a pre-season friendly, belying all the talk of ending the season on a high. Blackpool offered next to nothing, while we offered an object lesson in how not to shoot. We worked some good situations, with Shelvey in particular making space outside the box and turning well to create a number of opportunities. But while we may have had 10 or so shots not one was on target. And there was no sense of drive or urgency to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Here surely was a chance to go out and beat an ordinary team; but if margins decide games we were falling short.
At the break I was cheesed off, but what do I know about football? Within 10 minutes of the second half we were sitting on a 2-0 lead and, given the indifference Blackpool were displaying, the points seemed in the bag. First a seemingly innocuous cross from the right saw Burton jump with their centre-back and deliver a delightful looping header into the net. I honestly didn’t think he had it in him. Then space on the right side saw the ball break to Shelvey just inside the box and he finished well this time. OK, the performance was subdued but goals win games and that should have been it.
After the goals flurry the game went on much as before. Blackpool made a couple of changes to no obvious effect, while Charlton were understandably playing with greater relaxation. That then extended to a woefully underhit cross-field pass by Zhi which was intercepted by their guy, who took it into the box and was tripped, by Hudson I think. DJ Campbell, who until that point had given the sort of performance that you expect from someone plucked from obscurity after impressing on the TV in a cup game only to fail to cut the mustard at the top level, stepped up to score.
At that point Parkinson made a mystifying change. He took off Burton for Tuna. We all hope that Tuna is one for the future and blooding him in appropriate circumstances would be something widely applauded. Bringing him on to play as a lone striker in a game that was far from over, one that would mean relegation if we did not win, did not amount to ‘appropriate’; maybe Burton was tiring, but he had performed the lone striker role quite well and scored a good goal. It didn’t seem to matter as the game meandered towards its finish with no further incidents (although Holland replaced Youga at left-back, presumably because of injury). But then Blackpool made a change which sent some shivers up the spine. There was just something about the way Lee Hughes came on. I don’t know what he’s doing there, or the background, but he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder from the off.
It was into stoppage time before the ball found Hughes on the left side just inside the box. There was no doubting the quality of the finish as he curled one into the top corner. We all knew what that meant (I had no idea how other results were going). Perhaps most tellingly the strike meant that for all the improvement in performances of late we have won just one game in 11. A winning mentality was sadly absent today. We now have some months to work out how to get it back for next season.
Elliot: 7/10. Had very little to do and no chance with either goal.
Butterfield: 6/10. Fair enough, but both Blackpool’s goals came from his side of the pitch (although the first was down to Zhi’s pass) and he offered little going forward.
Youga: 8/10. Good game. Got forward well – including going well beyond Bailey on some occasions. I assume it was an injury which saw him go off.
Hudson: 8/10. Fine display. Blackpool just didn’t look like scoring – until Hughes came on.
Ward: 8/10. Same as Hudson.
Sam: 6/10. Frustrating. He should be winning us games like this and, although he created more in the second half, he just didn’t. There was a good deal of shoulder-shrugging in evidence.
Racon: 6/10. More subdued than of late, reflecting the overall mood of the team today. Not a bad game but not great.
Zhi: 5/10. His pass changed the game. Everyone makes mistakes but it was a bad one. Otherwise he failed to impose himself on the game.
Shelvey: 7/10. Would have been a higher mark but for the shooting in the first half. He made most of the chances for himself and was a threat all afternoon, scoring one. Just adjust the sights a little.
Bailey: 7/10. Gets a decent mark as much for some defensive work as what he did going forward. Found himself in good positions out wide but it’s still not his natural position and he doesn’t have the pace or trickery to operate as an outright winger.
Burton: 8/10. I thought he had a decent game and added a goal. We might as well get used to him because I’m assuming he’ll be around next season.
Tuna: 6/10. Some good movement, which wasn’t always spotted by others, but this didn’t seem to be the time of the game to bring him on.
Holland: 7/10. Added a left-back berth to his positions this season. Did what we expect.