Saturday 30 October 2010

Effort Brings Due Rewards

Before the game we’d all have taken a win of any kind; after that, having conceded seven in two, a win with a clean sheet. So no room for anything other than delight – at both the result and a performance which, if it lacked some quality and precision, left nothing to be desired in terms of effort and commitment. After what happened last time at The Valley it was pleasing to see that the players were well aware that a determined display was required. In the post-Brighton debate over Parkinson, it must count that in key areas players ran their socks off. This time we did have something to hang on to, and if the second half was more about stopping them equalising than getting a second (can’t say making it safe, having blown a three-goal lead last Saturday) this was an example of the ends justifying the means.

Overall, Racon and Semedo put in the best combined performance I’ve seen from them this season; indeed, what stood out for me was Racon’s tackling as much as his distribution. Doherty and Dailly both had the occasional iffy moment, but broke up attacks and headed the ball away countless times. Benson’s play outside the box was the best to date and he nearly rounded off the day with a flick that went just over after some superb trickery down the line by Martin late in the day. Anyinsah was a threat all afternoon, while Wagstaff scored the goal and was the main outlet when we needed to relieve the pressure (although his choice of pass when in good positions in the second half especially let him down). Let’s not go overboard. Sheff Wed proved to be strong but surprisingly limited and rather sluggish opposition, at least until they brought on Johnson in the second half. And the game turned on us scoring a rather fortunate goal (albeit deserved on the balance of play in the first half). Far from perfect, but we know the circumstances and the season at the moment is still about improvement. After Brighton, two wins, back into the top six (and only six places below Palace now). I think we’d have all taken that.

The team was unchanged from Carlisle, with Parkinson opting not to alter the defence, bring in McCormack, and to retain Jackson wide left. A change of ends after the toss-up meant the chance for the Covered End to welcome back Nicky Weaver, but the mix of boos and applause probably summed it up. There’s no hard feelings really. We didn’t like him before he came to us, cheered him when he did, and it’s not his fault that the time he was here was a horrible period for the club. Good luck to him. In fact Weaver was to feature prominently in the first half, for good and bad. He reminded us that as a shot-stopper he is one of the best, turning away a couple of decent strikes. But his inability to command an area, or indeed come off his line, meant that any good cross caused them problems. A couple of repeats of the corner that saw Benson score at the death against Carlisle nearly produced a similar outcome.

We did have the better of the first half, in terms of possession and chances. Wednesday had their moments, but aside from one Elliot save, turning a shot round the post, and one wicked shot which curled just wide everything was blocked before it got through. At the other end Benson and Anyinsah were winning balls in the air they had no right and looked menacing, crosses were narrowly not converted, although clear-cut chances were hard to come by. However, we took the lead when a corner was half-cleared and someone put in a lousy shot which bounced back off a Charlton shirt invitingly for Wagstaff around the edge of the box. His shot was true, giving Weaver no chance. The only sour point of the first half was how the referee could have a long chat with one of theirs after he’d deliberately pulled back Jackson in a dangerous position and not produce a card, only to pull one out when Semedo clipped someone breaking out.

Wednesday came out a little more purposeful in the second half and as the game wore on it not surprisingly became increasingly about whether we would hold out. Their substitutions were with attacking intent as they had to chase the game, and Johnson in particular made a difference. We became less intent on supporting the forwards from midfield and were, quite frankly, quite happy for the game to be over. There were some dangerous moments. One header should have been buried, there were a few goalmouth scrambles, and substitute Morrison (formerly of the team a few places above us) almost got through but poked it wide of Elliot. Nevertheless, there have been much sweatier final 20 minutes and most of the time the defence coped very well. Martin came on for Anyinsah and again almost rounded the game off by completely trumping their guy down the line and delivering it for Benson, while also picking up a booking for having to jump over a tackle which if he’d stayed on his feet may well have produced a penalty. I also thought we should have had a penalty before then when Anyinsah turned his man and was pulled back just enough to stop him getting to the ball before the next defender.

Racon gave way to McCormack at the death, but by then all we wanted was the final whistle. Cue some relief and some quiet satisfaction over a display which was very good in the context of what had gone before. It’s a game of margins and while others may disagree we played as well against Brighton in the first half. That time everything went against us. Subsequently we’ve snatched a last-second winner away and won at home with a clean sheet. So it’s something better than Australian or Beaujolais for me tonight (and everyone else I hope). Let’s hope we feel the same way after Swindon on Tuesday (personally I’ll be in Amsterdam drinking whatever is put in front of me).

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. Only really called on once, when he made a decent save, which is testament to those in front of him and very welcome after the recent goals against tally.

Francis: 7/10. Decent game, contributed going forward in the first half in particular.

Doherty: 8/10. Made a couple of errors, but overall was a rock and neutered their long-throw threat.

Dailly: 8/10. As for Doherty. Wednesday didn’t have the pace to test us on that front. Must be relieved not to be asked to play full-back any more.

Fry: 7/10. Gave away a few needless free-kicks but otherwise solid.

Jackson: 6/10. Seemed a little off the pace sometimes but added solidity and nearly scored in the first half with a decent shot.

Semedo: 8/10. Excellent game. Sensibly managed to avoid getting sent off after the early booking, despite their antics.

Racon: 8/10. My man of the match. Excellent distribution and exceptional tackling. He and Semedo ran the game in the first half at least.

Wagstaff: 7/10. Could have been a 6 or a 9. Scored, did many things well, just loses a mark for not making the most of some very good positions in the second half, choosing the wrong pass.

Anyinsah: 7/10. Put himself about and almost got through on a number of occasions. Stayed on his feet when tugged back having turned the defender.

Benson: 7/10. Much better all-round contribution, just a pity that flick or any of the first-half headers didn’t go in.

Subs: Martin (7/10 – played centrally, coming on instead of Sodje or Abbott, and almost laid on a second); McCormack (only on for a couple of minutes).

Thursday 28 October 2010

On A Lighter Note ...

It’s all been too serious of late. And having taken up too much space waffling extensively on matters Charlton, there hasn’t been the opportunity to squeeze in an update on whether during the past week in Lyon I managed to make it to the crucial CFA Group B Lyon Duchere away game at Besancon. The truth is I didn’t. My partner Suzanne was up for it in principle (no, honest, apparently it’s a very nice town and an overnight stay could have been rounded off by the game), but it would have meant sacrificing our one full day of pure R&R (with associated and aforementioned rabbit in mustard) for a two hours-plus drive back on a Saturday night - and perhaps more to the point having to take a risk on running out of petrol in light of a problem or two in this department of late in France, with a little reserve required to get me to the airport on Sunday.

(Sorry if anyone’s expecting dramas, but I didn’t see any riots during the week. If I’d known that shops were going to be looted, I’d have joined the protest march and directed it towards a good wine shop I know. I could just see the reports: ‘Police are looking for a man with an English accent wearing a Charlton shirt and carrying two bottles of Chateau d’YQuem and two bottles of Petrus’. If you think that might have resulted in a rather limited number of suspects, don’t forget that there is another Duchere-supporting Addick out there.)

So having already passed on a seven-goal thriller at Carlisle, it was with some trepidation that I checked the France Football site today for an update on what I might have had. I was aware that Duchere are not noted for their high-scoring games. Prior to Saturday this season’s eight games had produced 16 goals (nine for, seven against), not bad but less impressive (11 in seven) when you strip out that exceptional 4-1 home win over low-flying Chasselay (a town which as noted in a previous comment may have featured in a Monty Python classic but whose defence must be permanently lathered, much like our own of late). What I hadn’t done was check on Besancon’s record in that department. They actually went into the game unbeaten this season, but with only two wins out of eight. The other six were drawn and the accumulated goals tally for their games stood at 13.

I think people should be able by now to see where this is going. Duchere and Besancon did indeed duly play out a 0-0 draw on Saturday evening. I don’t have a match report to pass on, but you can imagine the entertainment quotient for a game that I guess will live longer in my memory than that of any other living soul. Suzanne may have been sold on going to the game, but just how many brownie points I would have lost will forever remain, fortunately, a matter of pure conjecture.

The result nevertheless set me thinking about the worst 0-0 draw I’ve ever seen. It’s another I may have mentioned before (prior to the Notts County game), when on New Year’s Day a County-supporting friend and I drove from London to Nottingham (and back), in a very poor state, to watch two utterly indifferent and hungover teams on a quagmire of a pitch. Never mind goalmouth action, I don’t think the ball moved more than 10 yards either side of the centre-circle all game. All I do remember of the occasion was the pair of us (plus a few others) pleading for those in a tea shack the other side of a fence to get to us whatever liquid (quite literally) they might have had. Aye, we had it tough.

That’s one of only two tea-shack related incidents at football matches I can recall. The other was when for some inexplicable reason some friends and I drove south from university at Sheffield one Saturday to take in a Chesterfield v Millwall game. We went in what passed for the away end, thinking it better that with London accents that was the safer option (nobody in their right mind would be there and not a Spanner). After about 20 minutes I was in the queue for a cuppa and Chesterfield were awarded a penalty. The poor runt of a Chesterfield fan with the task of dishing out the refreshments was obviously a little keen to see what was happening on the pitch. Far be it for me to condone this sort of behaviour, but a big, hairy Spanner waiting to be served leant into the cabin and hollered “are you serving the f***ing tea or watching the f***ing game?” There was a quick reordering of priorities.

So, Sheffield up against us again on Saturday. Always brings back memories for me, given my three years there (more if the post-graduation period on the dole is added; well, after the strains of securing a philosophy degree you need time out to consider the first steps on a career path). Recent experience has not been positive. With a fellow Addick driving, we went up to Bramall Lane for the match in our final Premiership season. On the bus to the ground an old lady asked us if we were OK to find the ground and I explained we were, given my time there (when for a while as sports editor of the university paper I used to avail myself of the press pass to United games). ‘Did we treat you right?’ she kindly inquired. Well, you did before, but not on that day, which saw an aimless and spineless performance from us rounded off with a late winner for them from Gillespie (where is he now? Apparently Darlington if Wikipedia is to be believed). Nor on my next excursion to the city of steel, to Hillsborough in our final Championship season. That saw us routed 4-1. The recent results at The Valley against Sheffield teams have of course been more mixed, but nobody’s going to forget the pasting dished out in Pardew’s last game.

Consequently I feel we are owed one. Could be a decent game, against a (relatively) ‘big’ team in this division, one currently fourth. Oh merde, I was going to say I’m quite looking forward to it. I think I used those words ahead of our last home game.

Monday 25 October 2010

The Eternal Optimist

Modern technology can be a mixed blessing when it comes to periodically tracking the Addicks’ fortunes from foreign shores (I’m sure our resident overseas bloggers have got it down to a fine art), especially as the chances of wandering into a sports bar and finding us on the telly have declined somewhat in the past few years (ah, those halcyon days when in Madrid I managed to catch the last 20 minutes of a home game against Villa and Hughes’ late winner). And while for those actually in attendance in Carlisle on Saturday afternoon it might have been a roller-coaster, for me it proved a veritable montagnes russes.

Having left the rabbit to marinade in the mustard overnight (OK, if truth be told we left it in the salted water overnight because we forgot about it, but my partner Suzanne apparently dreamt about rabbits and corrected the mistake some time in the wee small hours while I was still comatose and probably dreaming of more earthly pursuits), there was no need for extensive shopping at the La Croix Rousse market. But we went anyway, out of habit, with this being an excuse to have some pastis while perusing the property mags. And the afternoon was whiled away in an enjoyable yet fruitless exercise in pouring euros into machines to try to win a cuddly toy for Suzanne. Having given up and settled on another bar, it was time to check how things were going on, since one usually regular supplier of info by texts had, following last Saturday’s setback, decided to go shopping for curtains instead of doing the right thing and staying glued to the radio and updating me.

Zoot alore! We’re winning 3-1! The euphoria was tempered when the mobile made it through to the BBC page on the game, as I realised we had been 3-0 up. And before I had the chance to ponder on the chances of playing out the game the page updated to show 3-2. From afar it seemed inevitable there would be an equaliser and before the pastis was finished that was confirmed. The afternoon sun was setting and the mood darkened as the temperature dropped. Could we hold out? The rabbit couldn’t wait much longer and I handed the phone back to Suzanne for the walk back to the car. As we got in she looked again and the text had updated to say ‘full time’ while the result at the top was still showing 3-3. Bugger. A 4-0 home defeat followed by blowing a three-goal lead. All that was left when back in the flat was to check the details and the table. But wait. Something’s wrong. No, something’s bloody good. Open the good red after all Suzanne, I'm not a miserable old git any more.

I can’t comment on the game, having only watched the highlights on my return to London. But what a difference a goal makes. No, it doesn’t mean all is great; but imagine the reaction if Benson hadn’t buried the header. Small margins indeed; and Parky must have said a quiet word of thanks to whoever he might think is up there.

I was surprised by the vehemence of the reaction to the Brighton defeat. Yes, it hurt and hurt badly. But I didn’t think it was our worst performance of this season (and there were many worse last season). Brighton looked something special (well, they do have Kishishev, who I will always fondly remember for that golden period of him, Murphy and Smertin, plus Rommedahl and Thomas supplying the ammo for Bent), were full of confidence, but were still flattered by the eventual margin. When I said as much after the game to friends, someone I didn’t know took issue and asked me whether I was happy with us drifting to being a mid-table third-tier outfit (we agreed we’d both seen that before). Of course not, but before the season began we all knew that was an entirely possible outcome, given the changes made, so you come back to what can be done about it? Inevitably that leads to ‘change the manager’ as the only available recourse, since I’m not aware that if we’d all turned out our pockets we would come up with the investment needed to make a difference.

It’s clear that a good number of fans after Brighton believed that the stage had been reached when Parkinson had to go. I’m not in that camp, on the grounds that it’s not evident to me that he’s lost the dressing room, that the stage has been reached whereby change of any kind would have to be for the better, that sacking him will cost us more money we don’t have, and that I can’t see a better manager (or at least one with a better recent track record) would see us an attractive option. Winning the first two games was with hindsight a false dawn, one which encouraged unrealistic expectations. I think we all believed before the season started that it would take time for a new team to gel and that results would be patchy at best. OK, the season’s one-quarter old now and a humiliating home defeat to move us down into the lower half of the league hardly suggests that things are moving in the right direction. A last-gasp winner that leaves us one point off a play-off spot and three from second at least provides some balance.

I saw a post on the club site asking whether Abbott and Benson are the worst forwards we’ve ever had. Well, they’re not (off the top of my head Endean comes first). I’m far from convinced about Abbott (but hope I’m proved wrong and he has made a difference in some games), but for crying out loud give Benson a chance. Outside the box he’s struggled, but after four first games without a goal it’s now five goals in five games – and five goals which have earned us six points; not one hasn’t mattered in the result. Of course, four of them have been scored away from The Valley, where one in four games – of which we’ve only won one – doesn’t help as regards the popularity stakes. When it comes to matters on the pitch, for me the greater question is why are we conceding so many goals?

Four seasons of horrible failure have not surprisingly left their mark. For many years being a Charlton fan was a source of considerable pride for us all (it still is a source of pride, but the talk now with others centres on where it all went wrong, not the ‘Charlton model’ for punching above your weight). Looking up at the likes of Doncaster and Shrewsbury, let alone (temporarily) Palace and Millwall, and watching a club like Brighton moving swiftly past us hurts badly. But when the crowd have sung ‘we want our Charlton back’ it can surely only apply to attitude and commitment, not some sort of right to be in the top two leagues. We have to earn that right. I don’t take issue with those who believe that Parkinson isn’t the man for the job; but some of the post-Brighton reaction on the club site came across as people believing that we simply deserve more, because of what we’ve been fed through the Curbishley era and have come to expect and because of the awful extent and pace of our decline.

I don’t think Murray’s done Parkinson many favours with some of his statements. Stressing that we have to do everything possible to get back to The Championship and that a top-six finish is expected is all fine and good. But when you’ve just sold every player with a price tag and released just about anyone that could be (for perfectly good reasons) it just struck the wrong note for me. He’s suggested that the squad is now better balanced; indeed it is, but through the loss of most of the quality that was there. This isn’t real criticism over intent and goals, but rather tone and timing. From Parkinson’s perspective, it might sound like ‘I’ve taken away your best players and given you a shoestring with which to build a new team, now go and get me promotion’. The comments may have been intended to galvanise support, but if the chairman expects top-six how are fans expected to react to the Brighton result (especially with the depressing news that Youga isn’t going to return and that Reid is out for a month)? After all, he doesn’t have to appease activist shareholders any more.

Murray has earned our full support and there’s no-one else around willing to fund us (I’d be very surprised if we manage to break even this season), let alone provide the sort of funds to buy us promotion. Parkinson can’t be blamed for our relegation from The Championship and it’s still entirely unclear to me whether we will finish nearer the top or the bottom, or more important that a change of manager would increase the chances of the former. Carlisle certainly doesn’t mean the pressure’s off. But another brace from Benson on Saturday, a much-needed victory at home, and a move into a play-off spot would make for an entirely different mood than last time around. May it come to pass.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Bewitched, Bewildered and Beaten

When you lose 4-0 at home you need a stiff drink or a sense of perspective, or both. With the former in hand let’s try the latter. First up, it wasn’t a debacle. Some may disagree, but we’ve played worse this season and will play worse and win games. Did we deserve to lose? Yes. Did the display amount to a gutless capitulation and justify calls for the manager to be sacked (the first I’ve heard against Parkinson)? No. It turned out bloody badly in the end. In my eyes, the first goal was very important (against a team that has conceded very few away so far) and the second was crucial. After that, the game was up, barring a miracle.

We were up against a team full of confidence and one with a clear instruction on how to play. We know what Poyet has done and what he demands, the question was could we match/better it. They’re not bloody Arsenal after all. They may try to play like them, but scratch the surface and the weaknesses are revealed. We did that a few times in the first 30 minutes, but this is a game – at every level – about margins and doing the basics well (as England recently demonstrated). We didn’t take chances that came our way and made mistakes at the back, which were punished. What does that say about us and them? Well, they look like they’re going places – although the season is long and who know about their squad resources - and the chances are we’re not. We’re still trying to work out how we play and they have it drilled into them. I won’t say good luck to them as I really don’t care. But today did drive home that the promised improvement as players get to know each other is still something we hope for.

The team was a little surprising in that Dailly was kept at right-back, with Francis on the bench, to continue with Fortune and Doherty in central defence, with Reid and Martin taking the wide berths. Benson and Abbott were paired up front. The first 20 minutes were about as good a game as we’re likely to watch this season. Brighton played it around, but not without purpose, while we were, if not matching them in their speed of movement and passing, showing that we had weapons to hurt them. But when it came to those details, the simple things, we often came up short. Crosses weren’t precise (Reid being the main culprit), control sometimes wasn’t good enough. Brighton could have taken the lead early on but were denied by a double save from Elliot, while good work from Martin ended with a delivery that Abbott headed over.

So much seemed to hinge on who would gain an advantage and unfortunately it was them. If their first goal was a training ground set-piece it’s one of the best I’ve seen. From a corner they played it in, out, and by the time they’d pulled us around towards the ball out and in again, to a guy by that time unmarked to score. If they meant it, full marks to them. After that, the margins went against us, thanks in no small part to the referee. Brighton might like to play it around, but they were happy to make cynical challenges when we looked like breaking through. Three or four were made and passed with the ref only talking to them. Not good enough. They were deliberate, stopped us in our tracks, and merited cards (in the end the ref finally gave one for such a challenge, against us, with only one yellow all afternoon).

At the break clearly we were still in it. But we needed the next strike to be in our favour. Instead a mistake by Doherty conceded possession in a very poor position and they danced the ball into the net. That saw heads drop and changes made. Dailly may have had a storming game at full-back against Plymouth, but you just felt for him today when in a classic position he pushed the ball past their guy and had to try to run past him. No chance and no contest. Fortune was withdrawn, with Francis coming on and Dailly moving to the centre, while the disappointing Abbott was replaced by Anyinsah. Not long after Reid was crocked and left, replaced by Wagstaff.

Not having to chase the game, Brighton were happy to play it around and we needed some inspiration to get back into it. It didn’t come. Instead they brought on LuaLua to torment us – and con the ref. He clearly lost control of the ball, which went some yards away from him, and made a meal of being ‘checked’ to win a free kick. Margins again. But the free kick was set up for him to score and put the game to bed. There was just time for him to embarrass Francis and deliver a cross for a fourth.

The final whistle was greeted with boos and calls for Parkinson’s head. I don’t think I’m deluding myself in concluding we were beaten by a better side but that the breaks didn’t go our way at crucial times. I don’t feel like calling for the manager to be sacked, or that today was a disgrace. It showed how far we still have to go and might help to frame expectations for the season, but that’s it. That said, it’s one win in six, against moderate opposition. The next couple of games the pressure is on – you can’t lose by four at home and think it isn’t. Another couple of poor results and the season would turn really sour. I think I’ll naff off to Lyon and hope for more perspective tomorrow.

I’ve rambled on recently about just not knowing what to expect from this season, especially after the two wins at the start raised expectations. I noticed that recently we were still about fifth favourite to get promotion, suggesting that others expect us to improve. Today showed us that against a team enjoying life and confident in how they intend to play we are still a work in progress. Doherty and others talked in terms of needing to improve and generate momentum from around November. I’m ready for that.

Player Ratings:

Elliot: 7/10. Excellent double save to keep the game scoreless and had no chance with any of the goals.

Dailly: 6/10. Poor sod. A cameo at full-back when needs must is fair enough, but it was a mistake to ask him to do it again. Keep him where he belongs.

Jackson: 6/10. Their first ended up being scored in his area, but no obvious problems, no great forward contribution either.

Fortune: 6/10. Nothing daft, but we conceded four. Our problem (to me) is that we have three adequate ‘big’ guys for the centre (Fortune, Doherty, Llera) and only one (Dailly) to play the Bobby Moore role.

Doherty: 5/10. Bad mistake (I think) which led to their second goal, which killed the game. He’s been fine to date, but this one was a big one.

Reid: 6/10. Fans’ favourite, but today his crossing when in good positions was poor. Tried to make things happen, just hope the injury isn’t bad.

Semedo: 6/10. Competitive as ever, but their play meant he was unable to command and we seldom controlled the game.

Racon: 5/10. Didn’t work for him today, at least not going forward. We need and expect more out of him if we are to dominate play.

Martin: 6/10. Good work early on, but seldom featured to good effect in the second half.

Abbott: 5/10. When the delivery from the flanks isn’t good his limitations seem apparent. Didn’t cause them any problems except for the header.

Benson: 5/10. His job is to score goals, which he has done of late. Whether he and Abbott together are the best possible pairing we’ll have to see against lesser opposition.

Subs: Francis (6/10 – taken apart for their fourth goal, but by then who cared?); Anyinsah (5/10 – no discernible impact, but the game was already up when he came on); Wagstaff (5/10 – ditto).

Thursday 14 October 2010

Sort It Out Parky

Outside of match reports and irrelevant ramblings (an all-encompassing sub-set if truth be told), I usually try to find some theme to posts, even if it might be obvious only to me (or any aficianodos of Ronnie Corbett monologues, which used to annoy the crap out of me when young but which now seem like genius). But I don’t know whether its lack of inspiration, lack of time, or some other factor, this time around there’s nothing I can do to link the following disparate thoughts.

Plymouth and Brentford? Only saw the highlights, so can’t comment. But I was struck by a reply posted after a guest report on the latter: Benson ‘just isn’t good enough’. Of course, a brace away to earn us a point makes hindsight a wonderful thing, but even at the time I thought ‘good enough for what?’ We all knew during the close season that we needed a real goalscorer, one guaranteed to top 20 for the season and one that wouldn’t cost us much if anything. Tall order clearly when we’ve gone from Ipswich to Southend when it comes to raiding clubs for their best players. The question really should be was he the best feasible signing and would he be better (and cheaper) than those we let go. I’m assuming he’s cheaper than the likes of McLeod and Dickson – and as they are now on the injured list at Barnet (alongside Basey apparently) and plying their trade in Cyprus respectively, it’s not as if there was a rush for their services.

By his own admission Benson has taken a bit of time to adjust to the move from Dagenham and to the higher division. And the whole team is still learning to play together. His first touch and hold-up play could improve, but he was brought in to score goals and after a slow start now has three under his belt, important strikes at that (they secured three points). A lot depends on him if we are to be in contention for a top six finish and I’ll forgive a great deal of indifferent stuff outside the box if he keeps knocking them in (I see Killer’s making another signing appearance in the club shop and I’m sure he could pass on some tips about focusing on the primary job in hand and not worrying too much about what goes on in the other two-thirds of the pitch).

Brighton? It will make a change to play the table-toppers rather than those propping up the division (and failing to beat them). Perhaps it might induce a different approach on the part of the crowd. The backing the team received in the games against Norwich and Leeds at the tail-end of last season showed the atmosphere that can be generated (albeit there are a few less around these days) when we need the points, put in battling displays, and are up against opposition that we don’t still feel we should be blowing away. They’re three points clear at the top, only defeated once, and have conceded only eight goals in 11 games (and only three in five away). Should be a good encounter and I’m really looking forward to it.

As soon as Saturday’s done I’ll be jetting off to Lyon for a week. Sounds so much more appealing than the thought of surfacing at some truly absurd hour to get over to Gatwick for an easyjet flight. Still, the end-result is very much worth it (this is known as arse-covering as my partner Suzanne could conceivably read this and I’m already having to justify not travelling out on Friday – flights were too expensive, nothing to do with CAFC v Brighton). It seems the jury’s out on whether the following weekend – when the lucky ones will be taking a pleasurable trip down memory lane with the journey up to Carlisle; really should be the last match of the season if we want to ensure promotion – we will drive up to Besancon for Lyon Duchere’s away fixture. Suzanne was actually quite taken with the idea (close enough to Dijon to pick up some decent mustard etc). Whether the enthusiasm wanes as the weekend draws near and the alternative of a lazy day cooking (her – not sexist, I do the same in London) and drinking (OK, I do that here and there) becomes apparent remains to be seen.

Palace? I think we all saw the latest bleatings from Jordan about how much money he lost (not enough) and how badly he was done by the hedge fund that wanted its money back (heroes to a man). The hedge fund in question, Agilo, specialises in distressed companies. Fair enough, but had they the necessary experience in dealings with distressed companies with one-hit wonder orange owners? Trouble is, Jordan actually said some things I agreed with. “For the majority of my tenure, Palace did punch above their weight”. Can’t argue with that as if they were where they belonged they’d be looking up at Welling. Unfortunately these were outweighed by the usual misconceptions. “We got into the Premier League and could have stayed there”. Well, no. You couldn’t. There is a bit of a track record I think you’ll find. “We had good managers”. Perhaps, but you kept sacking them. Jordan’s suggestion that he could return to football inevitably raises the question of just who we might wish him on (perhaps the outfit in Cyprus where Dickson has ended up is a match made in heaven).

Just why The Sun and others felt a need to publish thoughts of Jordan is their problem. Rather more disturbingly, a fellow Addick sent me a link to a version of the interview posted on The Homesdale Online. I don’t know if their account is accurate (and have some reservations about even commenting on the additional drivel), but it contained quotes on us not repeated in the other versions I saw. First off, we can be relieved that Jordan apparently said “the last club that I would buy or be involved in would be Charlton”. He is cited as going on to express his opinion of Murray, the Charlton board, and us - “I don’t like the way their fans conduct themselves in games and I don’t like the way I was physically attacked when I went to Charlton”. Let’s get it straight, any moron if they acted that way deserves to be locked up, along with the Palace fans who attacked Charlton supporters on the train. Yes, we went a bit over the top when we celebrated relegating them; I enjoyed it as much as the next Addick. And yes, we had to take it on the chin (not literally) the season before last when we were on our way down. But our behaviour was born out of the pain of the portacabin years (and for me at least that end-season game effectively drew a line under them). It seems Jordan still can’t comprehend the motivation for, and impact of (financially and otherwise), the ‘groundshare’, repeating that worn-out ridiculous notion that “they should be extremely grateful Palace gave them a ground to play at 15 years ago”. We weren’t given anything, neither do we have the slightest reason to be grateful. Only the truly ignorant might think otherwise.

Finally, one word of sartorial advice for Parky. I know the nights are drawing in and it must get cold being forced to watch matches from the stands, but there simply is no excuse, ever, for wearing a shirt and tie with a jumper.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Guest Views: We Lost

As this afternoon I was away entertaining my mother (well, drinking the wine bought in her honour and regularly checking the texts), the following report comes curtesy of a fellow Addick who was there. He goes by the name of Poorsodhastolivewithapalacefan Addick:

As I explained to my mate Andy in the convivial pre-match pub, the Lord Nelson in Enfield Road, you can never tell what the result is likely to be with Charlton. If we’re up we tend to be complacent, and if we’re down we tend to fight, eventually; if we’re at home against the bottom team we’re likely to forget to bother to earn the right to play, if we’re away at the top team we’re likely to play well. In other words we always manger to level the playing field, and this, as I have always bored those unfortunate enough to have their ears bent by me, is the most frustrating thing about watching Charlton over the whole 25 years of my life as an Addick. I’d have to get the venerable Dr Arnold Mesmer to see if this is borne out by the stats over the years but it always seems to me that we so rarely thrash anyone, and rarely get thrashed. And we always seem to win or lose by the odd goal. And if we’ve won n more games than we’ve lost then our goal difference is n, as is the current case: n = 1.

Enough maths. My hosts, with their team bottom and not having scored for 4 (four) league games were ever the pessimists: as they were last year when we drew 1-1, which seemed a bit of a turning point for us after a series of wins. So I was very distraught when the same team that played so well on Tuesday failed to get a grip on the early exchanges and Brentford had their tails up from the off. I suspected that their confidence was fragile but we never tested it. After about 10 minutes the game was up as Brentford, causing havoc down both wings, took the lead through Millwall reject Gary Alexander. A corner was poorly cleared and one defender hung back and played Alexander onside and he muscled his way through to thump the ball into Elliot’s roof (oh yeah, the only change from Tuesday was Elliot in for Worner).

Now if this had been Charlton at the bottom of the table we’d have taken our foot off the pedal just a wee bit having gone one up, eased back just enough to allow the oppo in. Not so Brentford, however pessimistic their followers were. Martin, Benson, Wagstaff, Jackson and Fry continued to struggle and Myles Weston (ex-Charlton, naturally taking centre stage in Charlie McDonald’s absence through injury) raided down our right again and again and eventually produced a cross that a midfielder eventually picked up on the edge of the box and struck a splendid shot into Elliot’s right corner from outside the box.

I had been looking forward to the performances of our midfielders Racon and Semedo after Tuesday and they did seem to be working well but they can’t do it all and failed to stop that goal. Martin in particular was a pale shadow of what we saw on Tuesday. The incessant rain was just not an excuse: the wings were not performing and Fry and Jackson were being exposed as fishes out of water. At 2-0 down, Brentford continued to attack. They obviously hadn’t read the Charlton training manual.

Full marks to Parky. He sorted it at half time moving Jackson back to left back and taking off Fry and bringing on Reid at left wing. He also replaced Martin with Abbott, who proceeded to have his best game for Charlton (shock horror, Nick!). Abbott was busy and winning the ball and using it sensibly and basically out-‘nous’ing the Brentford defence.

With the Charlton end chanting ‘Reidy’ he again produced the goods beating their right back all ends up and crossing from the bye-line to Wagstaff, running into the area to slot into the net. Brentford’s response, finally showing cracking confidence, was to take off Alexander and bring on an anonymous midfielder and hope to hold out and maybe threaten on the break.

And so it panned out. But though our shot count went up, our goal count did not (strangely, and it contributed much to our downfall, the foul throw count went up, from zero to three!). Brentford were a threat on the break and scored a third ‘goal’ which the officials mysteriously disallowed. Offside I think, according to my neighbours (I was in the Brentford end, er, side).

In a rousing finale Parky went for shit or bust taking off Fortune and bringing on the Akpo. He was mostly anonymous but did force the Brentford keeper into a very good double save late on. He managed to injure himself in the process and the game was up.

All that was left to me was to make sure I went and stayed long enough in the pub to miss Strictly Come fking Dancing. When will they stop thrashing this ‘reality’ TV to death?

Elliot: 6 not much chance with the goals, some good saves but still crap at corners – easily kept away from catching it.
Francis: 6 Like the rest of them, poor in the first half, better in the second.
Doherty: 6
Fortune: 5 Still not convinced he’s the answer to anything.
Fry: 4 out of position and rarely supported the attack
Wagstaff: 7 A 6 really, but he can score, and did
Racon, Semedo 13 between them
Jackson: 6 Stick to full back son
Benson: 6 Not a threat
Martin 5: Way too anonymous for such a talent

Subs: Abbott: 8! Galvanised the team and turned the match around, well, a bit; Reid: 7 Turned things around on our left wing; Akpo 7, though he only had 10 minutes.