Saturday, 12 February 2011

Winner Takes It All

And so it continues. At half-time we could have been forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed as the players were booed off as we found ourselves behind against a team playing better and more incisive football and had failed to create a decent scoring opportunity. The only difference from Plymouth and Colchester was that in those games we’d kept a clean sheet in the first 45 minutes whereas this time we’d got away with only conceding one. Obviously nobody had told the referee the script as he failed to find a reason to disallow the goal – and paid the price. Some sort of divine intervention saw him stretchered off shortly after his aberration. But we should have known better. All it took was a rollicking at the break, a change or two, and suddenly we’re 2-1 up and go on to win the game, helped by substitute Abbott playing out of his skin.

Of course it wasn’t that simple and another victory won’t disguise some of the limitations. In the first half Peterborough were first to the ball and used it to good purpose. With Anyinsah absent we’d started with Wright-Phillips and Eccleston paired up front, Wagstaff and Jackson taking the wide berths, Semedo and McCormack the central midfield positions, and with Bassone returning the defence as was expected. But we struggled to keep possession or to do anything with it. Early mistakes by McCormack and Jackson nearly cost us and with no obvious attacking threat down the flanks the service into the front two was poor. Most of the time we were on the back foot, with Semedo repeatedly called upon to do the equivalent of putting fingers in the dykes to stem the wave of Peterborough attacks. For the most part he did the job and the defence just about held firm, but whereas we’d not troubled their keeper Peterborough had hit the post, wasted a couple of inviting opportunities, and had finally taken the lead when their guy had time and space in the box – as a result of willing runners either side – and held onto the ball long enough to curl in a shot which gave Elliot no chance.

It’s fair to say that the midfield just wasn’t functioning and at the break we were pleased to still be in the game. Things needed to change and the first alteration was the subdued Wagstaff being withdrawn; surprisingly Abbott was the man brought on, with Eccleston moved out wide right. And after a mixed start to the half within the space of a couple of minutes we’d scored twice, both goals coming from work down the right. First Francis takes the plaudits for an excellent run and cross, which saw Jackson time his run to perfection to meet it and score. Then Eccleston worked some magic and delivered a ball in which found Wright-Phillips in space. He made no mistake. Peterborough, having controlled the game, were suddenly behind and we were able to play a different game, with a real threat on the break.

They still posed plenty of threat and at 2-1 I don’t think anyone would have bet on no further goals. An injury to Bassone, which saw him stretchered off, but we seemed to make the game safe as Abbott fired in a shot from the edge of the area that took a couple of deflections but found its way into the net. It was just deserts for a player who had come on and made a real difference with his ability to win headers and hold up play. Perhaps more important he competed for everything. It looked like an object lesson in how a player needs to be ready to make a contribution when called upon and for that he deserves credit. With us by now happy for the game to finish, Wright-Phillips was withdrawn for Reid, with Jackson stiffening central midfield. The various stoppages saw six minutes of added time and that was enough for Peterborough to pull one back as a corner was not dealt with and their guy had ample space in the box to score. But mercifully enough the final whistle came before it became truly frantic.

So, a team has scored against Sir Chris but hasn't stopped his winning run. We once more had the breaks, primarily as Peterborough didn’t move as far ahead in the first hour as their dominance might have suggested and as we came back to score a couple of very good goals. The third gave us the breathing space we needed. It ain’t perfect by a long shot, but for me the credit today goes to the defence, Semedo, and Abbott. The real plus point today is that we didn’t lose it when Peterborough were dominating play and took our chances when they came. Winning is a very nice habit. But Powell said for some reason we weren’t at the races in the first half against Yeovil; today we weren’t either. Sooner or later that’s going to cost us unless we put it right, which means getting the best combination in midfield. That's for tomorrow. Today Suzanne has seen five goals and a Charlton win. That's enough for me.

Player Ratings:

Elliott: 8/10. No chance with the goals and dealt once more with everything else capably.

Francis: 7/10. Perhaps deserves higher as he made the vital contribution for the first goal; just wonder about their second goal and who allowed their guy that much space.

Bassone: 6/10. Distribution in the first half wasn’t great and got crocked in the second. Hope it’s not serious.

Doherty: 8/10. The midfield deficiencies saw the defence under a lot of pressure today and he and Dailly were largely responsible for us staying in the game. Excellent.

Dailly: 8/10. As for Doherty. They threatened all game and the central defence held up well.

Jackson: 6/10. Gets an extra mark for the goal, but otherwise subdued. With Wagstaff ineffective, we suffered in the first half especially from having no serious threat down the flanks.

Semedo: 8/10. Countless tackles and interceptions when we were under the cosh, which was much of the game.

McCormack: 5/10. He’s been playing better of late in my view, but today he struggled. The choice between him and Racon is still a difficult one.

Wagstaff: 5/10. Once more failed to provide a real outlet or serious threat as an out-and-out winger. Can’t complain at being replaced at the break, after which the threat down the right came into being.

Wright-Phillips: 7/10. Didn’t seem to work in the first half alongside Eccleston, but that was probably down to the poor service. Scored again – and who can ask for more?

Eccleston: 7/10. Far more of a threat when moved out wide for the second half and played his part in turning the game around.

Subs: Abbott (8/10 – whatever his limitations, today he came on, helped tilt the balance in our favour, and scored what turned out to be the winner; deserves a big pat on the back and my man of the match); Fry (7/10 – did the job required to replace the injured Bassone); Reid (7/10 – not much time or opportunity to sparkle but helped to run down the clock when the final whistle was all we wanted).

5 comments:

confidentialrick said...

Nice report BA , but only a 7/10 for WP? What does he need to do for a 9?

Boney Boy said...

Agree that the defence and Semedo saved us in the first half. We couldn't hold on to the ball in midfield and the combination of bwp
BWP and Eccleston as the forward line couldn't compete for the high balls that were played up to them.

Like many others in the ground, my heart sank at the sight of Abbot ( aka "the Polish Pele")coming on as sub for the second half, but it turned the game. He competed and won headers, retained posession and showed some suprisingly good touches.

All three goals came from crosses from the goal line on the right. Eccleston, who moved to play on the right in the 2nd half was involved directly in two of these and played a pass to Francis to create the first. So perhaps Sir Chris isn't just favoured by good luck, but win by changing tactics and players.

Mike BARRY said...

I cannot see how the choice between Racon and McCormack is not an easy one.
At half time it was obvious we needed craft in the midfield.
McCormack cannot provide that. If he was hustling and providing steel in the midfield then that might justify his inclusion. However, he was not providing that either. He seems lost out there; it seems as if the club have not defined what position or role he should play in.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Many thanks for the comments gentlemen. The marks for both SWP and Eccleston were a little harsh I agree; but I felt they took a bit of the rap for the first half, even though the service to them was sparce.

The mix in central midfield for me is still a bit unclear. Seems to me that Semedo and McCormack are both able to play the enforcer role and only Racon the real flair going foward. Leaving out Semedo would be daft at the moment, so it looks like whether more stability from McCormack or more flair from Racon is the best combination. I do agree on Saturday McCormack had an indifferent game.

What worries me most, however, is that so far we've been lucky with injuries and suspensions and we've got by with only three central midfielders. I don't know what happens if two of the three become unavailable.

Gillis said...

Good report, BA, and I agree entirely with the player ratings, which is nice, because Charlton fans agreeing is a rare and beautiful thing.