Thursday, 26 December 2013

Santa's An Addick

Well bless my cotton socks, Santa’s an Addick after all. Today we found a new goalscorer, saw Kermorgant back to his strutting best, came from behind to win, at home, and found the net three times for the first time this season. Doesn’t take much to make me happy. To be fair, we were due some breaks at home and today we had some, with Brighton generally playing decent stuff, hitting both posts, having one headed off the line, and fluffing a couple. On another day they would have taken the points, but this one was to be ours, reward for character and sheer determination to overcome a side that for stretches appeared to be better and stronger than us.

The team was unchanged from that for Bolton, with Wilson continuing in the more advanced wide position in front of the returning Solly, Wood keeping his place ahead of Dervitte, and Church and Kermorgant paired up front in a straightforward 4-4-2. The pitch was heavy, with the ball not running true in all areas, and the opening exchanges were to be fairly routine. After 20 minutes of honest endeavour neither keeper had been called into action.

That was to change, all too predictably for us. A quick check on the BBC report says “Charlton failed to deal with a ball into the box …”. In truth this was another example of a sneaky professional foul going unpunished. A ball in the air in our box was going to be headed clear before their guy gave our defender in the air a blatant shove in the back. Ball not headed clear, drops to their guy, who takes a touch and plants it into the bottom of the net. Referee and linesman both had clear views, neither signalled anything. It seems to happen so often to us I’m just sick of it.

Given our home record this season, Brighton could have been forgiven for thinking it was already game over. Certainly falling behind to a team that likes to knock it around and retain possession pointed to another dispiriting afternoon. Our response was decent enough, with Stewart creating the space in the box for a shot but not able to wrap his foot around it, Church having an effort (and a strong appeal for a penalty after being shoved off the ball in the box), and Wiggins going on a storming run down the left. But you wondered where a goal might come from whereas Brighton looked capable of adding to their lead, with their fluidity and movement periodically stretching us.

We badly needed to be level at the break and glory be we did indeed level things after around half-an-hour. Good work by Kermorgant got Stewart in on the left side and his lowish cross was either dummied or helped on by Kermit to an unmarked Wilson. I had no idea from where I sit if his curling effort was well placed or not until the net billowed, so it was indeed well taken.

That stung Brighton a little but despite the probing the defence held firm and we saw things out to the break. Couldn’t help thinking at the time that we looked happy to be back in it rather than having ideas about going on to win, but at half-time the game was finely balanced, with one of theirs yellow carded for a professional foul on Stewart, holding him back when he would have been breaking into space; couldn’t quite justify a red but wasn’t that far off. Felt like next goal would prove the winner, but what do I know?

The second half carried on in a similar vein, with Brighton enjoying more possession but with Stephens and Cousins working hard to prevent them turning that into scoring opportunities, while Church and Kermorgant worked their socks off to chase everything down. Stewart was becoming more influential, after a mixed first half, and he was to be instrumental in us taking the lead. A ball in from the left side saw Kermorgant attempt a sort of bicycle kick only for it to run on for a second time in the game to Wilson inside the box. He somehow managed to dig the ball out from under his feet and planted it into the roof of the net. Glory be, we’re winning at home! Final whistle if you please.

Brighton now had to chase things and made additional changes, while we had more space on the break, with Solly and Wilson making things happen down the right. This was the period when we had major breaks as from one corner their guy headed over, another shot was put wide from a good position, and then a header from another corner was cleared off the line, by Stephens or Wiggins.

With plenty of time left it was getting hairy, but then came the moment when it seemed we’d put the game to bed. A cut inside by Stewart saw him brought down, the ref played an advantage only for a resulting shot to be blocked, by a hand I thought. If he’d played advantage the first time I thought it should have been a penalty. Instead play was brought back for the original foul on Stewart. It’s been a while since we scored from a direct free kick, but Kermit’s got his strut back. A couple of paces and a beautifully curled effort over/around the wall. Their keeper didn’t move and we had the breathing space we needed.

Now it was all about seeing out the game. Brighton managed to hit both posts from the same attack and that should have told us that finally our luck at home was turning. We sent a signal of our intent as Church and Stewart went off, to be replaced by Evina and Dervitte, while all was done to run down the clock. Four minutes of stoppage time were indicated and just when we started to feel almost comfortable Brighton pulled on back. Don’t ask me what really happened as it was confused, with the ball finally put into an empty net by their guy. It wasn’t to matter in the end as the final whistle did eventually come, after Wilson had departed for Pritchard, who played his part by wasting some more seconds down the right.

An immense result and so needed. We know another massive game is coming up on Sunday. Another victory could change the season, but with these three points the pressure at least eases. We ended the game with all of our Frenchmen on the pitch. My partner Suzanne is currently making her way somehow across London and will be in attendance for the Sheff Wed game. Today she would have been proud of her favourite compatriot as Kermit was strutting, complaining – and most important scoring again.

Player Ratings:

Alnwick – 7/10. No chance with the first goal, not really sure what happened for the second, and otherwise capable. He’s been all we could ask for to date.

Solly – 8/10. He’s an excellent player and there’s no question that his return adds significantly to the side, which is no reflection on Wilson.

Wiggins – 8/10. One or two things didn’t come off in the first half, but generally his very capable self.

Morrison – 7/10. We were up against a decent team today and the defence was stretched, but he and the others held up well.

Wood – 7/10. Much the same, he’s reliable and effective. Just that on another day we could easily have conceded more.

Stewart – 7/10. Struggled to be influential in the first half, but became more effective as the match wore on. He adds some quality and the ability to unsettle a defence, which we badly need.

Stephens – 7/10. Decent game, plenty of work to do without the ball and generally effective with the passing.

Cousins -   8/10. Felt he had a better game than recently, perhaps because of the nature of the game as his ability to read situations and make important interceptions/tackles were to the fore.

Wilson – 9/10. Hope the guy takes his new song with the affection that is behind it. Solly’s back and is always going to be first choice at full-back, so it’s up to him to nail down the position in front of him. He scored twice when goals for us have been in short supply, so he’s earned my MotM for today.

Church – 7/10. Tireless running, much to good effect. Perhaps a slightly unfair mark.

Kermorgant – 9/10. Showed that when he’s fit and on song he is one of the catalysts for the team. A heart-warming display, rounded off with that sublime free-kick.

Subs – Evina, Dervitte, Pritchard (no marks are fair as when they came on we just wanted to see out the game, but they played their part).


Dave said...

BA - it was the cool Wood who was well positioned to head off the line.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks Dave, add a mark to Wood's score as if it was him it was a cute piece of play to get back (or should he have been marking the guy?).