Tuesday 9 December 2008

Please Sir, I Want More Straws

What is there to say? Were we poor? Undoubtedly. Were Coventry good? Not really, although they had a plan and weren’t the abject no-hopers that came to town at the end of last season. Were we unlucky? A little, although if you make your own luck you have to say we didn’t do enough to earn the tag. Did the players deserve to leave the pitch to a chorus of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’? Not really, but if the supporters can’t call for the manager’s head any more someone has to take the rap; and after the sixth consecutive home game without a win and 12 overall there’s a lot of frustration to go around. Empty spaces on the terraces on a quiet, cold evening accompanied by a nervous, timid display. Are we in a full-blown crisis? Without doubt.

Let’s deal with the game first. Weaver and Cranie were passed fit; Semedo dropped to the bench and Holland returned to play alongside Bailey; and Gray too took a place among the subs, with McLeod leapfrogging both Todorov and Dickson to start alongside Burton. Otherwise it was as you were, with the defence and wide players unchanged.

We probably shaded the first half an hour without really threatening. Gillespie was working well and Bailey and Holland were at least matching their opposite numbers. Burton was allowed the time and space for a shot, a couple of decent crosses went in, and Hudson met a corner well to bring a save out of their keeper. Not bad, but not much of a return. At the other end Coventry started slowly but became more threatening as the half wore on. McEveley slipped while backtracking and seemed to damage his shoulder (if it was dislocated allowing him to play on until Semedo had warmed up was at the least rash). After Semedo came on their player, Simpson, seemed to get more joy from getting wide and running into space (as well as winning challenges in the air by leading with the elbow). A dangerous cross to the near post well met by Hudson, then the ball in the net but ruled out for offside (although in days gone by it would have been given for their guy being played onside).

I began to think that at least the relative improvement under Parkinson of going in at half time at home on level terms was going to continue. But a whipped cross from their left and Simpson ploughed through a static defence to get on the end of it. Just another game in which sooner or later the opposition created a chance – in this case by one player reading a good ball in and showing the determination to make something happen – and took it while we tried to play steadily and hope that something would pay off. But with Burton and McLeod far too static and shackled the percentages were never really being made to work in our favour. We didn’t make enough happen to say we were truly unlucky at the interval – although perhaps it would all have been different if the referee had seen fit to award an appropriate amount of injury time. Two minutes after at least two breaks of longer than that for injuries and then the substitution. Clutching at straws? Well clearly, but what else is there to clutch at?

The second half seemed to be meandering along in a similar fashion when McLeod managed to move onto the ball and get goalside of his marker in the area. There was contact and, while the penalty was soft, it looked like the correct decision. Having given the penalty the only question was why their defender, who was undoubtedly the last man, stayed on the pitch. That decision too changed the game. Burton delivered an unstoppable penalty and suddenly it was game on, with a chance for the crowd to get involved and lift the team.

It doesn’t need saying that the one thing you can’t do in that situation is give the lead back straight away. A silly challenge and a free kick, taken many yards ahead of where the actual offence took place. And this time it was an unstoppable free kick that flew in off the far post, giving Weaver no chance. Cue return to frustration and despondency.

There was a double substitution, with Todorov coming on for Burton and Gillespie, who was injured on the touchline, replaced by Gray (just why it wasn’t Sam to keep the shape I don’t know), with McLeod moving wide. As in previous games Todorov’s introduction seemed to lead to more things happening. But the game was getting stretched and we were just as likely to concede, leaving players forward, as score again. And it was the final 15 minutes that were the most depressing.

Basically, lacking shape and bereft of ideas, and with players tiring, the mistakes came thick and fast. Misplaced passes, poor control, being outplayed by an average team. It all seemed to weigh on the players, whose mood seemed to be summed up by a challenge by Cranie which smacked of ‘I don’t care if you send me off’. If the game had gone on another 10 minutes things would only have got worse. There was nothing more on the bench, nothing more in reserve, and we were being beaten by Coventry.

There will be time enough for reasoned comment over the next few days – although the best thing we can all do is forget about football until Monday and leave it to the players and management to sort it out. It’s what they’re paid for. There are some things that we might usefully change, in particular dropping the very tentative approach adopted under Parkinson. With McEveley looking likely to be out for a while Moutaouakil may return (although whether he wants to is another matter) and I’d also bring back Youga. We’ve bolstered height and strength in defence in return for attacking possibilities and we’re still conceding goals – and not scoring, or creating many chances. Oh, and that notion that the new guy might prove to be lucky. Forget it.

Player Ratings:

Weaver: 7/10. No chance with either goal. A little tentative on some crosses but that’s nothing new.

Cranie: 5/10. That tackle late on suggested to me either he was very tired or was past caring (or both). Seldom got forward.

McEveley: 6/10. Not on long enough for a proper rating.
Semedo: 5/10. Disappointing. Seemed tentative and was getting caught out by Coventry’s tactics, found it increasingly difficult as the game wore on to make passes.

Hudson: 6/10. Can’t say he had a bad game, with one superb interception in the first half. But he is the captain and there was insufficient sign of him providing leadership as things were going wrong.

Fortune: 6/10. Didn’t see him do much wrong, just another game where we concede goals.

Bouazza: 2/10. I said previously that given the lack of contribution to the team from him I’ll rate him on whether he scores. He didn’t and his contribution was unchanged. He is clearly capable of a lot more but if he doesn’t produce it for us what is the point of playing him?

Gillespie: 6/10. I thought he had a reasonable first half, although his crossing from good positions too often provided an easy catch for their keeper.

Holland: 7/10. Decent first half, tried to up his contribution as things went wrong, tired towards the end and made mistakes. No shortage of effort but is it enough?

Bailey: 5/10. OK first half, with some good tackles, but too often he looks up with the ball and doesn’t see or feel what to do, hesitates, and is caught in possession. In part its the fault of those in front of him and their lack of movement. But it’s also about awareness.

Burton: 5/10. Good penalty but nothing much else.

McLeod: 6/10. Won the penalty but nothing much else. Deserves some praise for not hiding when things were not working.

Todorov: 7/10. I’m not sure what he needs to do to start a game. He continues to look by some distance our best forward. Maybe he’s still not up to 90 minutes.

Gray: 5/10. Not effective after coming on.


Lungrot said...

Tonights programme had the line-up for the Coventry match in May, which was the last time I saw us play well. (I missed the Reading game).
Only Weaver and Holland started both games. Doesn't that say a lot about the mess that this club is in? We didn't exactly have a great team in May, but it's a lot worse now.

Unknown said...

Unbelievably generous ratings, Blackheath! Holland had possibly his worst game in a Charlton shirt, as did McLeod and Bailey. I've no idea what we've done to Nicky, but he no longer seems to be able to complete the simplest of passes.

Anonymous said...

Oh Boy,!!!! BA I am worried.

We can all resort to moaning on and on about the shitty place we find ourselves in...

But to fight off despair I ask myself a question...

Are we the worse team in the championship?

No No No....

Right now, we are a team devoid of confidence, but worse then that we are a squad full of fear. Few of the players want to take the initiative, lots of ineffective running, hoping all the time that there name isn't attached to the next mistake.

Winning will only come when we have the courage to take chances, to fight together as a team. Its not there, hasn't been for such a long time.

The poor directors, it really is a frightening time,how long does one give Parkinson? Is Parkinson seen as a carry over from Pardew by the players, was his effort handicapped from the start. The lack of finance plus the time factor restrict the options.

I just do not understand our supoporters who boo the team. Now this club need motivation more then ever. The teams mood is so fragile, yes they are paid professionals but blame will not secure points. We the fans have such a huge role to play in this recovery if we will only see sense. This is your club, my club a part of all our lives...however shit they are playing, lets encourage them and bring about the change that will get us out of this dark place.

Three rows in front of me is a father and son. I know that their presence has had a profound effect on all the people around them. The kid is about ten or eleven and he roars on the team from the kick off.

His impact is so great because when the crowd go quite and the team are being outplayed he is still roaring encouragement. Intelligent comments to players, the kid knows his football. The players can't hear him but we around him can. We would not dare boo. When it gets bad his head is buried in his father's shoulder. I am so proud to support the same team as that kid, I know my friends feel the same.

We are all full of frustration, but now is the time for us fans to do what we are asking our team to do. To pull together and get out of this mess.

Cambridge Addick.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately , I think you are all too optimistic . The team is shockingly poor, there are far too many loan players ( which is a fundamentally flawed strategy)and in my view we will certainly be relegated and with the team that played yesterday , we will struggle in Div 1 as well.
I have been going for 40 years and this ranks as one of the very poorest teams we have had ( and there have been a few )

Anonymous said...

Good point Cambridge...great post.

The team is so
poor and playing without any self belief.

But their our team....support them.


Anonymous said...

Watched the game last night as a local neutral and have to say that I thought the crowd's performance was much worse than the players'. While there is only one goal in it any team can turn around a game, but the continual barracking and booing is never going to help (nor is leaving early). Charlton had periods of possession that could have led to more, but there seemed to be no pleasing some sections of the crowd - when possession was retained there was still booing, that seemed to unnerve a few players into rash balls - that inevitably got booed again. Every mistake was jumped on. Even at half time you'd have thought Charlton were four or five down, rather than 1-0 down and still in the game. While it was a poor performance, I don't think many (any?) teams would thrive in that environment.

Anonymous said...

Todorov appears to be the only creative spark that we have at present - not sure how he is going to get match fit however given that he has only started one game this year (clue to Mr Parkinson - it was the last one we won!)

Anonymous said...

A very fair assessment of the game, BA. Spot on in my opinion. It's going to be a miserable Charlton Christmas this year.