Saturday, 10 January 2015

Dispiriting Ending To Poor Game

Solly's shot venomous bounces down from the crossbar the wrong side of the goal-line, just after we give away a soft goal. The rest, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, is gossip. Except there's always more to it, or more to be said. After a decidedly mundane first half, who (if anyone) scored first became increasingly important; and having gone behind our response was poor. Brighton had read the script and seen the formbook: Charlton aren't scoring many, seem low on confidence, so nick a goal and there's a fair chance of going away with the points, so play it pretty safe, get men behind the ball. They did that well enough, with their goal exposing shortcomings from balls from set-pieces to the far post, and in truth saw out the game quite comfortably. We ended a poor game badly.

What was worrying for me was the contrast between how we reacted against Cardiff, despite being down to 10 men, and how we responded today. A glance at the BBC stats suggests that we had 20 shots; but only five were on target, and with the exception of Solly's shot, a smothering of an opening for new-boy Watt, a bit of pinball in their box in the first half, and what seemed a reasonable shout for a penalty for handball, I can't remember us carving out decent opportunities. There were other moments, a few times when the ball didn't quite fall right. But Brighton had about the same number of real openings and while the game deserved a 0-0 - not least for the way both teams played in the first half, admittedly in difficult, blustery conditions - they scored and we didn't.

With the obviously welcome return of Wiggins the defence pretty much picked itself. Absent Buyens, Peeters went for a central midfield pairing of Jackson and Cousins, with Wilson and Gudmundsson taking the wide berths, Tucudean and Vetokele up front, and Watt starting on the bench. Against a team effectively playing one up front and packing midfield, it put a premium on working the flanks.

The first half saw both teams content to knock it around to no great effect, with more misplaced passes and poor control of the ball than the conditions could justify and neither side looking as though they had the pace or invention to catch the other out on any break. They tested us out wide, but Wiggins and Solly dealt with those threats well enough. What did cause us concern were set-pieces. First, Etheridge came for what looked like a routine catch only to spill it, resulting in a little chaos as Bikey Amougou opted against hoofing the loose ball clear. Then in a taste of things to come one corner to the far post picked out an unmarked guy who headed back across goal. For us, Tucudean and Vetokele both struggled to hold the ball up against bigger and more numerous opponents, Gudmundsson down the left looked promising, but Wilson was having, well, a mare, with none of the marauding surges forward that we associate him with. With Jackson and Cousins naturally defensive, it all added up to stalemate.

I can't say whether our penalty appeal for handball was a good one (the ball was the other side of the pitch at the other end), but it was a more vociferous shout from the players than usual. The game badly needed a goal to shake the teams out of their overly-cautious approach, so I'd have given it in any event. There was a set-piece squared well across the box for Jackson, who just failed to get on the end of it, one ball in that was knocked on for a half-shot that Wilson then tried to help on its way, and one genuine opportunity when Vetokele had space but couldn't get the pass through to Tucudean, who in any event had criminally strayed offside. But at the break it was a case of expecting things to get better attacking the Covered End, although as the teams came out we did have the news that Jackson had picked up a knock. Gomez came on, with Solly moving into central midfield alongside Cousins.

Chances did indeed start to materialise in the second half. Brighton out of the blue found a guy in space going into the box, only for Etheridge to come out and smother well, and then the second one to our far post eluded everyone but their guy who headed tamely into Etheridge's hands. We made our next change, with Tucudean seemingly about to be replaced by Watt in any event but going down with an injury and limping off. And he almost scored with his first touches in a Charlton shirt, turning his marker inside the box only for his effort from a tight angle to be pushed aside by their keeper. Given that there were players available for one squared across the box, seemed a fair indication that his first instinct is to go for goal, no bad thing in a forward.

After about an hour the decisive minute arrived. Solly latched on to a loose ball outside their box and beat their keeper all ends up with a wicked shot, only for it to crash down from the bar and get cleared. As they went forward Bikey took one out. The free-kick was curled to the far post, Etheridge came off his line for it but failed to get a hand on the ball, leaving their guy with the simple task of heading in from about a yard off the line.

So be it, still plenty of time. But obviously a need to up the tempo and start putting them under some pressure, especially as they were even more likely to be content to sit back when out of possession, and to get Watt and Vetokele into the game. Instead I think we made a third change too soon. Peeters brought on Church for Wilson, making it a sort of front three with Church central, Igor pushed wider left, and Gudmundsson moving inside. With central midfield already disrupted by Jackson's departure, we increasingly looked - not surprisingly - as if we were having to make it up as we went along.

There were moments in the closing stages when we threatened, but I can't recall a real chance, even as late on we threw caution to the wind and put Bikey up front. Don't ask me what the formation was by then, it was just a case of getting it into the danger area and hoping something would fall. It didn't, and at the finish it looked like a pretty dispirited set of players trudging off.

Player Ratings:

Etheridge: 5/10. Has to be deemed calpable for their goal, coming for a cross that he failed to get to. One decent second-half save to block a one-on-one but also that spilled cross in the first half.

Solly:  8/10. Nothing wrong defensively, kept things ticking over when moved into central midfield, and was a whisker away from firing us ahead (and however the game actually finished, if that had gone in it could have been a very different result).

Wiggins:  8/10. Slotted back in to very good effect and pretty much blocked out the threat on his flank.

Ben Haim: 7/10. No complaints, generally effective despite the obvious difficulty of judging high balls in the wind.

Bikey Amougou: 6/10. Just seemed to me a bit out of sorts today, reflected in some decidedly sloppy passes, but still iconic.

Wilson: 5/10. He had a poor game, period. It was an opportunity for him to show what he can do in the more advanced wide position and he didn't take it.

Jackson:  7/10. Nothing dramatic from him in the first half, but as ever a calming influence.

Cousins:  8/10. Doing what he does best, providing good cover in the central position, reading the game well to make timely interceptions.

Gudmundsson:  7/10. No decisive impact today but always looked as though he might make one.

Tucudean:  5/10. Unfortunately ineffective, and straying offside when in a position to be played through by Vetokele seemed very poor.

Vetokele:  6/10. For the first time he looked like a guy in need of a goal. Struggled in the first half and later when in a front three.

Subs:  Gomez (8/10 - thought he was excellent, not least going forward); Watt (7/10 - does seem to have something about him, wish he'd been given more time to operate alongside Igor); Church (7/10 - decent enough, just not convinced that the change in formation to bring him on was the best call).


Anonymous said...

Perfect summary. The goalkeeper situation is unfortunate but since Hendersons untimely injury we have become extremely vunerable at set peices. Bikey's tackle that led to the goal was exactly in the same place as the goal that Blackpool scored. Both unnecessary fouls.

Apart from Wilson I could not fault anyone but we do need an attacking midfielder - someone who can beat a player and expose the back four - something which Moussa is capable off but unfortunately injured.

Calls for Bobs head are ridiculous.

I thought the second half was good today but really need a dominant quality keeper.

Anonymous said...

A good summary of the game. Crowd very quiet too but then there wasn't much to cheer about. Does the drummer really need to drum along to the boring 'Does your boyfriend know you are here?', crap btw? Only encourages them. Igor still looks half a yard off his true fitness level. A bit of an overreaction to the arrival of Watt too. Actually glad the next two games are away. Our early season form seems to have given us false hope. A mid-table finish was all I was expecting but our current form is a worry.

Anonymous said...

Always interesting how different people see the same game. Cousins, back in his proper position, was our best player by some way.Gudmundson always looks like he has quality, Watt was very impressive when he came on, especially his attitude. As for the rest.... Wilson had mare, Solly in Midfield is hopeless, Tucudean just isn't going to cut it at this level, Vetokele's first, and second touch have gone completely. Disagree with the comment re Peters - he is out of his depth. Our football has become as boring as his interviews. It is awful to watch, dull, slow, boring, predictable. He is killing the club. Mark my words, we will finish no higher than we did last season. His insistence in playing so many players out of position negates what good we have, which isn't even a plan A, let alone B. I think we need, and will have a new coach in place before the Rotherham home game, if not, it will be a continuation of diminishing crowds who refuse to come and watch this slow, tippy tappy negative rubbish, and achieve our lowest gate of the season.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I had thought of adding Cousins as my man of the match, but thought that Wiggins was an equal contender. Can't really blame Solly for not being outstanding in a position which is at the least strange for him.

Re Peeters, I'd say that unless and until there is any reason to believe that the players have given up on him making a change would be at the least premature. For me the drawbacks/problems rest in the consortium model of our owner. But that would be going over old ground, yet again.

Anonymous said...

Hi BA. I take your points re my earlier posting. My comment regarding Cris Solly in Midfield wasn't a criticism of him but of Peters for playing him there, again. Although I predicted Peters would be gone before the next home game, I didn't expect it to happen as quick as it did. The bigger problem does appear to be the owner and the model, agreed. The lack of addressing glaringly obvious problems in the last loan window, and so far this one, may indicate a lack of confidence in Peters, and a reluctance to allow him to spend on his judgement, or eben let him choose loan targets, if indeed he, or the new 'Coach' is afforded any influence at all in that process. My criticism of Peters is mainly tactical, especially the ploy of going 1-0 up then pulling the whole team back to the edge of our area to try and hold on to it. It hasn't worked for ages, he just didn't seem to realise and learn from it. We just hope the owner has learned something from the past year as we are now in a very similar position to 12 months back. (Maidstone Addick)

Blackheath Addicted said...

MA, fair enough. I am nevertheless still a bit surprised that some seem surprised by a reluctance to spend on the part of our owner. If the priority is to balance the books and all seems to be going OK (and for the first quarter of the season we did exceed my expectations), why spend more? Of course, if promotion were the overriding goal it's another matter.

Blackheath Addicted said...

Thanks for the comments guys. I was trying to keep in mind the positives (the ground, the Academy, the monthly spend) and would agree that there are worse owners around, if you set the bar as low as them. No outright asset-stripping, no move from The Valley etc.

But I just can't square the circle. There's no point in the board talking of maintaining the identity and traditions of 'this great club' and acting in a fashion which (in my opinion) runs counter to these, demanding that we fall into line behind an owner with a strategy that at least some of us consider to be poor and unlikely to succeed, with no real attempt to persuade/convince.

And one more item from the past I didn't include was Murray's suggestion last season that all we had to do was stay up and we would reap the benefits next (ie this) season. Does he still believe this?