Saturday 26 December 2020

Not Sharp Enough At Both Ends

Today we looked for improvement from last time out against Swindon, in terms of both quality of performance and the result. Oh, and I was assuming a Range Rover would be coming my way. On all fronts, as against Swindon, the end-result fell a little short of expectations (especially as the guy who won the draw for the car was called from the pitch and wasn’t even watching the game). We didn’t defend well enough to win, again conceding twice, while too often we made the wrong choices in the final third.

That sounds ominously like a lack of quality where it matters, probably also an element of players being asked to take on different tasks and that creating at least initial confusion. Bottom line is we didn’t play well enough to dominate the game or to feel hard done-by with a point. Plymouth will probably say it was a game they were just as likely to win as us. We’re feeling frustrated that we’re not blowing teams away. Perhaps we need to lower our expectations.

The team saw three changes from the previous two outings, with Gilbey, Maddison and Bogle dropping to the bench to be replaced by Matthews, Williams and Aneke. But nobody was sure what that would mean in terms of formation. Could be a back five – with Gunter alongside Pearce and Pratley in the centre and Matthews and Maatsen as wing-backs - or a back four and either Gunter or Matthews lining up in a more advanced role. The club site talked of a back four of Matthews, Gunter, Pearce and Maatsen, with Pratley in midfield, but there was also talk of Maatsen starting in midfield.

In the event it was a back four, with Matthews switched to left-back. Maatsen did indeed get the more advanced role, with Forster-Caskey the other side of Watson and Williams offered the chance previously afforded to Maddison to play just behind a front two of Washington and Aneke. On the bench Smyth made a welcome return from injury, plus Morgan returned from isolation, but still no sign of Shinnie, who I think we’ve missed more than we expected to.

After five minutes we were behind, with our defence exposed. Guy played in down the left as we appealed for offside, Watson went to challenge him close to the by-line only to be comprehensively side-stepped, ball pulled back to their guy who was alert enough to escape defenders and slot the ball past Amos. It was a goal that smacked of collective uncertainty on our part.

For the next 20 minutes or so we dominated possession, created some reasonable positions, but looked just as likely to let in a second as draw level, with Plymouth breaking quickly and in numbers. Most of our good work involved Williams, although he sometimes just failed to get the weight of pass right (while the shot he had is best glossed over), and Aneke was holding the ball up well and playing in others. Washington was found in the box and he looked to repeat his recent curler, but this time his effort was well saved, Maatsen had a decent shot parried. Equally their guy went past Pratley with some ease, forcing the foul.

No matter, on the half-hour we drew level, perhaps in fortunate circumstances. A corner saw Aneke challenge their defender, who knocked off balance only turned it towards his own goal where Gunter was able to pounce and knock it in from close range. The ref’s interpretation of what was a foul (and what merited a yellow) did vary through the game, but if he’d given the foul against Aneke I don’t think we would have too much to complain about.

No matter again, we are level, now let’s see if we can get a proper grip. We were level for three minutes. Then a free-kick from an innocuous position was headed towards our goal then hit one of ours, to bounce down between defenders and Amos. Their guy was again the most alert and ran between the two to score from close range. Perhaps unlucky but nobody tracked his run.

All to do once again. And if anything we were fortunate not to fall further behind shortly before the break as their guy seemed to have a free header from a corner. Then just on half-time Maatsen let fly from outside the box and his screamer cannoned back off the bar with their keeper well beaten.

No changes at the break and the first 15 or so minutes of the second half were much the same as before, us pressing but looking susceptible to fast breaks. We had a free kick for handball just outside their box, with Aneke’s shot hitting the wall (and shortly after he picked up a yellow with a late tackle). Good positions but no real chances created, their keeper not being worked.

The first changes came around the hour. Watson and Williams made way for Morgan and Maddison. Williams/Maddison was a straight swap, but with Watson off and Pratley kept in defence Forster-Caskey moved to the more central position in front of the back four. And it only took a few minutes for the changes to pay off. Ball played to him some way out, but he drew a challenged and nutmegged their guy, ran onto the ball and fairly drilled in a daisy-cutter from outside the box. A great example of a player getting just reward for a piece of positive play, making something happen.

Over 20 minutes left, now can we go on and win the game? The opportunity seemed to be there, with Morgan slotting in well and by now Plymouth looking tired, perhaps having expended a lot of energy with their breaks forward, perhaps also them ready to settle for a point. And we did fashion the chance that should have won the game. Maddison managed to keep the ball in play inside their box and squared it for Washington. It seemed laid on a plate but he ballooned it over the bar. Steve Brown in the commentary box said it hit a bobble just as he went to hit it, which may be the case. Otherwise it was a bad miss.

With hindsight that was as near as we came. Bogle came on for Aneke not long afterwards and, although he had his moments, we didn’t seriously threaten again (Washington did play a good ball low into their box but nobody was there). In fact Plymouth played out the final period, including five minutes of stoppage time, quite comfortably, even threatening once or twice to get a winner themselves. Smyth came on for Washington with a few minutes of normal time to go and did find space, only for Morgan’s ball to him to be overhit; and Morgan did blot his copybook with a poor ball out of defence which led to a Plymouth shot.

At the final whistle nobody was holding their head in their hands at two points cruelly denied. The BBC’s match stats show we had 64% possession and had 13 shots to their 9, but both sides had five on target. We were behind twice and Plymouth might argue that our first goal should have been a foul and our second was just a moment of magic out of the blue. Bottom line is we’ve not kept a clean sheet for five games now and it’s pretty obvious that if you concede two you it’s tough to win, not impossible but tough. Not just the defenders, Brown got it right from the commentary box when he pointed out how quickly Plymouth were able to get the ball from their defence to our final third. We know that things would be different with Innis and Famewo but still plenty of work to be done defending better as a team.

Player Ratings:

Amos – 7/10. No chance with either goal, not a great deal to do otherwise.

Gunter – 6/10. Nothing wrong that I saw but not much in evidence going forward and takes share of responsibility for defensive failures.

Pearce – 6/10. Much the same really, nothing wrong but ...

Pratley – 6/10. Just about on effort. But often defended like a midfielder, pulled out of the centre, might have given away a penalty when he slipped. He’s doing sterling work for the team, just wish he didn’t have to in this position.

Matthews – 6/10. Can only assume Purrington was injured (he wasn’t on the bench) or there was some particular reason Bowyer opted to switch him to the left. Summed up by his attempt to cross the ball with the outside of his right foot rather than use his left.

Watson – 6/10. Was badly caught out for their first goal, otherwise decent enough.

Forster-Caskey – 7/10. Involved throughout, gave a decent account of himself when switched to the more central position.

Maatsen – 7/10. Not great with the final pass but lively in this position, might easily have got on the scoresheet with his shots.

Williams – 7/10. Was instrumental in a position which I’m sure he enjoys. But also was tiring when taken off.

Aneke – 7/10. Good game outside the box, nothing today came his way inside it. 

Washington – 6/10. Did good work but often made the wrong choices in possession and badly missed the chance that really should have put us ahead and might have won the game.


Morgan – 6/10. Did make things happen but final pass wasn’t controlled enough and poor late clearance nearly cost us.

Maddison – 8/10. For the goal alone deserves the mark. He will try things that don’t come off, but today one did.

Bogle – 6/10. No barnstorming finish from us today and we faded as an attacking threat in the final 10 minutes.

Smyth – Only on for a few minutes.


Saturday 19 December 2020

Disappointing Display And Points Squandered After Initiative Surrendered

Ahead of today’s game there was almost a feeling that with the postponement of our midweek game we’d been denied third spot, putting the onus on us to ensure a win today against opponents in poor form in order to make up ground lost through no fault of our own. Plus we were looking for evidence that the positive display in the second half against Wimbledon was indicative of what we might expect from a team still learning how to get the best out of each other.

We were, it has to be said, disappointed on both fronts as a patchy, too often scrappy, display saw us fall behind, draw level before half-time, then take the lead and have the initiative, looked like we’d go on to win by a few against pretty ordinary opposition. Instead we failed to make the most of some opportunities to score again, made a change to the formation which basically contributed to handing over the initiative to the opposition, and went on to concede an equaliser at the death. Two points squandered (adding to the two against Shrewsbury) and also questions to be asked about the tactics.

The team was unchanged from the last time out, which meant 4-4-2 (but a diamond midfield) with Amos, Gunter, Pearce, Pratley and Maatsen the defence, Watson flanked by Forster-Caskey and Gilbey and Morrison forming the point, with Washington and Bogle up front. The unusual week between games perhaps enabled Bowyer to shelve rotation this time around, while leaving things unchanged meant that we might get some insight into whether the rip-roaring, free-scoring Addicks performance against Wimbledon was down to the formation adopted or the changes made in the second half (Aneke and Williams coming on), or a combination of the two.

The first half proved to be something of a reminder that in the first period against Wimbledon we hadn’t set the house on fire. We had the upper hand in the first 10 or 15 minutes without really troubling them, a Washington shot being the only effort I remember, as we found it difficult to get through or around their five-man midfield. Swindon then did come into it more and asked a few questions, to the extent that it was not out of the blue that they took the lead.

They knocked it around on the edge of our area, we had chances to get it clear but failed to do so, and it finished up with a one-two which left their guy in space on the right side. Maatsen committed himself and their guy turned inside, slamming the shot past Amos.

That was the cue for renewed effort on our part and we had one or two openings, with blocked shots, Maddison kocking in dangerous balls, Pratley with a clear header from a corner but not connecting well, Bogle with a shot deflected over the bar. The downside was that we still hadn’t tested their keeper and too often there just wasn’t fluidity or effective movement. I made a note of one moment after the half-hour when Forster-Caskey got the ball in a decent position and looked up, with four or five Charlton players just ahead of him all standing still.

Nevertheless, perhaps as a reward for effort we did draw level with something of a gift. Their defender let the ball through under his foot and that left Bogle with just the keeper to beat. He took it around him and despite what looked like a foul managed to convert. A few minutes later, however, Bogle missed a sitter as instead of blasting into the net he tried to craft the shot and made a hash of it. We nearly paid for that as from a corner Swindon worked what looked like a practised move, ball to the far post headed back and their guy looking to sweep it in only for good defending to deny him.

At the break 1-1 was just about fair, but remembering the previous game we had expectations that we’d turn on the gas again and win it. And there was no waiting around as Aneke came on at half-time for Bogle (while an injury early in the second half saw Swindon lose one of their three Smiths).

Really nothing much happened early in the second half, Forster-Caskey taking a yellow for the team with a pull-back. But on the hour we went ahead. Good work down the left ended with Washington, possibly offside, who squared it to Aneke, possibly offside, who tapped it in. No flag, fair enough.

Now in front, you really did expect us to go on and win well, if we could take advantage of the space we were finding. A second change saw Purrington come on for Forster-Caskey, with Maatsen moving to the right side of midfield. Might have been down to shoring up the defence as guy Maatsen was up against was a handful, might have been due to a Forster-Caskey knock and/or the fact he was on a yellow. Either way the formation was the same.

We were now getting in to reasonable positions going forward (while another substitution saw Swindon reduced to only one Smith on the pitch) but making poor decisions. One break looked like four on two but the pass forward by Gilbey was poor and gave away possession, then Gilbey improbably jinked his way through only to again choose the wrong option. And with about 20 minutes to go we made another substitution, this one more puzzling. Maddison was taken off and Matthews came on, we went to a back five with Gunter moving inside. I suppose the rationale was to shut up shop, but it left a midfield of Watson, Gilbey and Maatsen, with possibly Washington dropping back too. The change seemed to herald us playing deeper and invited Swindon onto us. It also meant that Gunter wouldn’t be bombing down the line as he had against Wimbledon.

Into the final 10 minutes and it seemed we might be able to play it out, even looking dangerous on a few more occasions, these generally involving Washington. But he in turn chose the wrong pass, or to try to cut inside instead of shooting and losing possession. Gilbey shot over, Purrington picked up a yellow. Then in the final minute of normal time we conceded a corner. Ball in moving away from goal but their guy somehow managed to divert it back goalwards and Amos a little off his line couldn’t get a hand on it as it went in under the bar.

Swindon were happy with their point and we no longer had the personnel to chase the game in four minutes of stoppage time (especially as I assume we couldn’t make another substitution, having made three separate changes, so Williams sat it out). Two points dropped for sure and plenty to reflect on as we take the break for what is to pass for Christmas. Bottom line is we weren’t able to reproduce the second-half display against Wimbledon and weren’t able to close out the game.

Player Ratings:

Amos – 6/10. No chance with the first goal, some culpability over the second I think as he was off his line for a ball he couldn’t collect.

Gunter – 7/10. Decent enough game, but whereas against Wimbledon his bombing down the line in the second half was instrumental in our win today he gets switched to centre-back for the final 20 minutes.

Pearce – 7/10. No complaints, sound performance, not culpable for the goals. Plenty of good work.

Pratley – 7/10. Much the same, was generally effective and while we conceded twice I can’t remember Amos having another serious save to make.

Maatsen – 6/10. Was up against a much stronger opponent and stood up well, but was turned for their first goal.

Watson – 8/10. My man of the match. Very assured display, read it well, won tackles, kept things moving.

Forster-Caskey – 6/10. Hard with our formation today to make dents in a five-man midfield when those around you too often are standing still.

Gilbey – 6/10. Disappointing with his end-product today.

Maddison – 6/10. Not as instrumental as against Wimbledon, saw less of the ball, still looked capable of the decisive pass.

Bogle – 6/10. Got his goal but missed a very good chance soon after.

Washington – 6/10. Too many things from him today just didn’t quite work out, from shots to crosses and passes.


Aneke – 7/10. Another goal, we failed to capitalise after it on the fact that he had the beating off them.

Purrington – 7/10. Can’t complain, came on and did his job.

Matthews – 7/10. Much the same.


Saturday 12 December 2020

Improved Second Half Wins The Points

Now that was, in the end, just what the doctor ordered: five goals, including ones from midfielders getting into the box, and a storming second half performance when we needed to up our game after a mixed first half, one in which we’d dominated without creating clear-cut chances, then scored a beauty out of the blue, only to concede twice in three minutes to go into the break behind.

The team saw in front of Amos Pratley asked to drop back again into central defence alongside Pearce as Famewo wasn’t able to overcome a training ground injury (with Oshilaja on his way back on the bench), Gunter and Maatsen completing a back four. Midfield, with Morgan and Shinnie unavailable, was a diamond with Watson flanked by Gilbey and Forster-Caskey and Maddison forming the point behind a front two of Bogle (back for a start, Aneke on the bench) and Washington. My thought before the game was that this should be the position for Maddison to shine in, he’s been given the opportunity, up to him to take it.

It proved to be a competent but rather uneventful first 20 minutes, during which we dictated the play, with Maddison indeed prominent, but hadn’t really fashioned an opening. I marked it down as 18 minutes before a real shot in anger (a couple had gone before), with Pratley heading back from a free-kick and Gilbey getting one in which was saved. Shortly after, very much against the run of play, we very nearly went behind. A ball in from their right was deflected past Amos, who was coming out to gather, and it seemed they were bound to score, only for Gunter to get there first and clear.

Another 15 minutes went by without real incident, except for a poor tackle on Forster-Caskey which at least merited a yellow but wasn’t even given a free kick (the ref’s approach to yellow cards was to prove inconsistent to say the least) and the returning Piggott being given too much space to get in a shot. We did then break the deadlock, rather out of the blue. Moving out of defence Pearce looked up and played an excellent ball forward for Washington. He still had a lot to do, but turned inside and then curled a super shot into the far corner of the net. On the balance of play we deserved to be ahead, but on chances to that point Wimbledon had been closest. No matter, relax a little, play some football, get into the break.

That might have been the plan, but it went out of the window not long after. A ball forward found Pigott on the edge of our box and our defenders all backed off and allowed him to turn and look up. Like Washington before him he curled one into the far side of the net. Excellent strike but should never have been given the time and space. And it got worse as their guy managed to keep the ball in play along the goal-line and had a shot blocked by Amos for a corner. From that the ball was half-cleared, only for again too much time and space to be afforded to someone to put it back into the mix and find two Wimbledon players unmarked. The second of them headed beyond Amos into the net.

At the break there was an element of fair play to Wimbledon. They’d kept their 3-5-1 shape, defended well, and taken their opportunities. We’d been not sharp enough in our passing and movement, one moment aside, and defended sloppily at times and paid the price. We would have to play better to get the result we wanted.

There did indeed seem a greater sense of urgency when we resumed. Maddison played in Bogle but his control let him down, while a Wimbledon break from our corner created a three-on-two but they failed to take advantage. And on 52 minutes we made the changes, with Aneke and Williams coming on for Bogle and Gilbey. No change in formation, just personnel.

Almost as soon as he was on Aneke was causing problems, just failing to get his head onto a chipped cross, before he was ridiculously yellow carded for something, followed by a Wimbledon player shown yellow for stopping us taking a quick free kick, which they had been doing in the first half without comment. Then their keeper, who had already been timewasting, saw yellow for a disagreement over whether the ball was in the right place for a goal kick.

Back to the football and just after the hour we did draw level. Good work down the right between Waston and Maddison, on to Aneke. His shot was blocked but fell to the onrushing Forster-Caskey who scored. And before we had time to digest that one we went ahead. Gunter again found space down our right and squared it, for Williams to run onto and convert, from pretty much the same spot Forster-Caskey had found. Midfielders making runs into the box paying dividends!

There followed a spell of around 10 minutes when we had the opportunities to score again, to presumably kill off the game, but didn’t take them, raising the risk of a sweaty end to the match. Into the final 10 minutes of normal time and we made another change, Maddison – who had been involved in many of our better moments and was always trying to make something happen – went off for Purrington, with Maatsen moving further forward and Williams switching into the point of the diamond position.

Shortly after we did get the goal that effectively wrapped up the points. And it was a gift. Their defender slipped as he went to clear and Aneke pounced, taking it wider before shooting into the net. Wimbledon didn’t look like coming back from that, and after Oshilaja had come on for Washington to shore things up, they suffered the indignity of conceding a fifth. Purrington and Maatsen made space down the left, Maatsen played it inside, Williams’ shot hit the post, but Purrington put in the rebound.

All’s well that ends well as they say. What was pleasing for me was that at the break we clearly needed to up our game and we did, although the extra threat that Aneke brings was clearly a key factor. We need midfielders to be scoring goals and today they did, by making runs into the box. The stats showed we had 16 shots, 10 on target, much higher than some recent games. Plenty still to work on but the fans at the game, including Thomas Sandergaard, will have gone home happy. Me? The performance and the result merit a good Givry Chambertin, just to compensate for the fact that if we hadn’t conceded the penalty at the death against Shrewsbury we would be second tonight.

Player Ratings:

Amos – 8/10. Don’t think he was at fault for either goal, dealt with everything else.

Gunter – 8/10. Made decisive contributions today at both ends. His first-half clearance prevented a goal and in the second half his attacking forays made a real difference.

Pratley – 7/10. Did again what we asked him to do, but we did give them too much time and space at times and paid the price.

Pearce – 7/10. The same, although deserves special mention for the pass to Washington for our first.

Maatsen – 7/10. A little sloppy at times in the first half but nothing serious, and also contributed going forward in the second half.

Watson – 7/10. Decent game, provided the protection and ensured things ticked over.

Gilbey – 6/10. Played his part but not especially instrumental and replaced before the hour.

Forster-Caskey – 7/10. Gets the extra mark for being in the right place to score when one came back off their keeper.

Maddison – 7/10. I suspect he’s always going to have critics but one thing about him is he makes things happen. Not everything came off but he was involved in most of our good moments.

Bogle – 6/10. Worked hard as ever but a couple of times he should have made more of opportunities and didn’t cause their centre-backs too many problems.

Washington – 7/10. Thought he was rather ineffective in the first half, then he goes and scores a blinder.


Aneke – 8/10. No question he made a difference and was a key factor in the win. 

Williams – 7/10. Played his part and scored again!

Purrington – 7/10. Only on for around 10 minutes but scored.

Oshilaja – Can’t give a mark for five minutes but good to have him back available.


Friday 11 December 2020

Spread The Positivity

 It’s already been stressed elsewhere what a pleasure last night’s Trust-arranged Q&A with Thomas Sandgaard proved to be. Amen to that, thanks to TS and the Trust. The transcript’s already been published by the Trust, so people not able to listen in can read for themselves what was said, but just as important as the words were the tone, the openness, the evident willingness to listen, and the positivity. The contrast with what has gone before, at least since early 2014 (let’s be fair, the spivs did make some effort to communicate before it all fell apart for them, Duchatelet/Miere saw contact with the fans as a necessary evil, perhaps an opportunity to tell fans what Roland wanted but limit any fans’ input to discussions over the price of Bovril), could not have been starker.

Everyone will have their favourite moment/answer. Mine, which harks back to a familiar theme, is when TS was asked about his motivation for getting involved with Charlton as, it was jokingly suggested, it can’t be for the good his health. On reflection TS pointed out that in actual fact it probably is good for his health as he is enjoying himself. Spot on. I always found it sad that Duchatelet, by never being remotely interested in Charlton or football in general, or trying to unearth the reasons behind the appeal (he already knew everything of course), never seemed to get any pleasure from owning football clubs. To be fair, we never saw him with a smile on his face over anything, but it did make you wonder why he opted to get involved with football (other than as a sterile social experiment having failed in politics, or to try to prove a point that he knew how to make money from football while others couldn’t).

For now, TS is going to have to take our word for it that he has made very many Addicks, myself included, very happy. No doubt there will be bumps along the way, perhaps it will take us a year or two longer than we expect to get into the European competitions, but if the attitudes stays the same the guy can expect the continued full backing of the fans.

TS was asked basically what in return we could do to help. Fill out The Valley when we can and bring in friends and family, as well as help develop supporter networks. We may not be able yet to do the former, but we can start with some groundwork on the latter, by spreading the word that it’s going to be fun for all of us and why not come on board for the ride. Our club has been in the news for years for less than positive reasons, we can help counter the impression left and encourage others to return and new Addicks to be initiated.  

Saturday 5 December 2020

Poor Game Ends In Frustration

After Tuesday night’s defeat no doubt today we were looking for improvement, hopefully in terms of both the performance and the result but at least one of them. In the event it was generally gritty stuff, especially in a sterile first half, but with a goal from a rare moment of quality it looked like we’d come away with the points, especially as we somehow made it through the final 10 minutes without Shrewsbury getting a leveller, largely thanks to Amos and the bar. But just when it seemed we had made it to the finish line we managed to create a final moment of panic and gave away a penalty, which was duly converted. Over the whole game you’d say a draw was a fair result, but no question who was feeling happiest at the final whistle.

The team saw in front of Amos the return of Pearce to the defence, alongside Famewo who had himself come back from injury during Tuesday night’s game. Gunter got the nod over Matthews at right back, Maatsen returned after his suspension in place of Purrington. In midfield Watson was accompanied by Pratley, finally getting a break from his central defensive duties, plus Gilbey and Forster-Caskey, while Aneke started with Washington. Seems that Shinnie, who took a knock in midweek, was not fit and Maddison was also absent, apparently ill, added to Innis and Smyth (and Levitt and Oshilaja).

It looked like a 4-4-2, although we played more like a 4-1-3-2, with Watson in front of the defence and Pratley ahead of him, flanked by Gilbey and Forster-Caskey. It looked a solid set-up, but you did wonder where the width would come from and about the absence of pace.

And let’s face it the first half was a bore. Neither side was able to impose itself or fashion a decent chance, let alone score. We had to wait 17 minutes for the first real moment of note, with Gilbey making space on the left and curling the ball in, Aneke almost got onto it and then someone else at the far post, but no meaningful contact came from either. Shrewsbury had a free header from a corner as Gunter was on the ground, over the bar. Gilbey picked up a yellow, followed by Aneke, and just before the break a long kick out by Amos was taken down very well by Washington, who skipped past the defender, only to find himself on his own and his cross was put behind for a corner.

That really was it. Plenty of effort, also plenty of misplaced passes from both sides and little movement. We did look composed at the back, equally Aneke was finding himself up against three centre-backs and looking frustrated, looking to feed off scraps. Basically neither side seemed to have the pace or the wit to undo the other.

There was a little more intent from both sides early in the second half and both enjoyed a spell of relative pressure, with a Shrewsbury guy clipping the bar with a curled shot. For us Gilbey was wide with a curler of his own, after which he went off, along with Forster-Caskey, for Morgan and Williams. It was a change of personnel rather than formation, with Morgan on the left side and Williams on the right.

After another 10 minutes the usual change took place as Bogle came on for Aneke. And shortly after, completely out of the blue (but with two of the subs involved) we took the lead. The ball was played up to Bogle’s feet, around the centre-circle. He turned and played a pass to Williams moving forward. Outside him Gunter was bombing down the line and Williams fed him. The ball was squared and Watson came into the box at the right moment, hitting it into the net via a deflection.

About 15 minutes of normal time to see out – but stung by going behind, and perhaps energised by their own substitutions, Shrewsbury woke up and put us under pressure. Gunter was beaten in the box, only for their guy to cut in for a better angle and lose it, then with less than 10 minutes to go we got away with a real scramble. The bar was hit, Amos saved, then the ball was scrambled away. That near miss prompted another change by Bowyer, with Matthews coming on, presumably to shore up the defence on the right side. Embarrassing though it was for him, the only real options were to take off either Williams, who’d been on the pitch for less than 25 minutes, or Washington and go to one up front. It was the former and Williams trudged off.

In the final minutes and into stoppage time and now it was Amos keeping us ahead with a couple of excellent saves. It seemed as if we had got away with it, then Morgan managed to slice a ball forward and sent it towards our box, Pearce and Famewo seemed unsure what to do, we panicked and their guy was felled. Nobody could dispute the decision and, although we had hopes that Amos would save us once more, it was not to be.

Of course you can’t concede an equaliser in the final minute of stoppage time without feeling you’ve just thrown away two points, whether or not overall you deserved them. There was positives to be taken, most obviously the return of Pearce (and Famewo), but having played Gunter and Pratley out of position for so long, out of necessity, we now had Forster-Caskey and Gilbey playing in positions which did not get the best out of them. A draw isn’t a disaster and at least we have a week now to regroup. But the stats now show that we’ve won only one in the last five and the school report has to say ‘room for improvement’.

Player Ratings:

Amos – 8/10. Almost won us two points single-handed. He really is having a splendid season, we’ve not missed Phillips at all.

Gunter – 6/10. Was given the nod over Matthews to start at right-back (he was the incumbent before having to move inside) but was caught out a couple of times and it was his challenge for the penalty.

Pearce – 8/10. Good to see him back, the defence was sound until we scored but we creaked in the final 10 minutes.

Famewo – 7/10. Much as Pearce, decent game.

Maatsen – 7/10. Not everything he tried came off going forward but covered well and did the defensive stuff with aplomb.

Watson – 8/10. Much better performance I thought than in midweek, looked assured and got his name on the scoresheet.

Gilbey – 5/10. Perhaps still finding his feet and I’m not sure he will if we play him in this position.

Pratley – 6/10. Reasonable enough contribution, thought we’d see more of him cropping up in the box than we did.

Forster-Caskey – 5/10. As for Gilbey, hard to see him thriving being pushed into a widish position.

Aneke – 5/10. Frustrating game for him, feeding off scraps and outnumbered.

Washington – 5/10. Overall disappointing in that he didn’t really pair up with Aneke and his good moments were few and far between.


Williams – 5/10. Played a part in the goal but only on the pitch for a short time.

Morgan – 5/10. Harsh but it was his slice which led to the confusion and their penalty.

Bogle – 6/10. Also involved in the goal and started well, but we didn’t feature much as an attacking threat after we’d scored.

Matthews – 6/10. Can’t really give him a mark, or blame him for the fact he was brought on to shore up the defence and we conceded a goal.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Saturday's Options

My partner Suzanne sometimes laughs at me for being a ‘slave to routine’ (sometimes she laughs at me for other reasons). Out of bed, turn on PC power supply, go to kitchen, fill and turn on kettle, prepare coffee, glass of OJ from the fridge, back to ‘office’, turn on PCs, back to kitchen, pour water onto coffee, take coffee and mug to office, take Ipad and OJ into bathroom for the shower and Radio 4. For the record the routine is different in Blackheath as there are stairs and a radio involved, but you get the picture.

What she refuses to acknowledge is that while this is going on I am working: reminding myself what I need to focus on, what I expect to do, how I intend to address certain problems. Now I can walk and chew gum but I can’t do these things properly if I’m trying to work out her latest preferred location for my cafeteria and just why she is in the bathroom when she must be aware I am walking towards my shower Ipad and OJ in hand.

It's the same in other areas. We learn to drive, or touchtype, by going through dull routines, until they are second nature and automatic. That way you can concentrate instead on the important stuff, like looking out for other cars, reacting effectively to a developing situation rather than wondering which is the brake.

The point is (and I think there is a point) that there is a downside to player rotation and regularly changing the formation. This is not to overlook the positives of the approach, at least the former: in this division the games come thick and fast, injuries and suspensions are inevitable, while flexibility and ability to change when things aren’t working is highly desirable. I’d suggest the objective of having two players for every position and having some rotation of personnel is positive, as is an ability to change formation during games in response to events. But I don’t think that overlooks that it is also desirable to know your team’s strengths and how to play to them, to have a Plan A. And right now we don’t.

I also think player rotation and formation changes can have a mentally draining effect on players. Take the extreme opposite. Some of us remember Cambridge under John Beck, saw them play us at Upton Park and they were booed off the pitch at half-time for the dire nature of their play (but they were winning 2-0). Their defenders had clear instructions to wellie the ball out towards the sidelines (to win a throw, advance down the pitch winning more throws, then launch a bomb into the box for their giants to score); their forwards knew that whenever a defender got the ball this would happen, so automatically they anticipated it. Now nobody wants to follow this example, but the point is that this makes football easier to play, there’s not much of a thought process and players can move in anticipation of what their colleagues are about to do. Right now our players are sometimes bombing down the pitch with the ball, sometimes hoofing it long, sometimes trying to press – and more often than not the rest of the team is guessing what might happen next, which works against players making runs in anticipation of being found and can create the impression of a flat performance, one lacking collective energy.

A fellow Addick last night pointed out that we match up well against stronger sides, beating them for determination and focus and winning the physical battles. Keeping things tight in defence, despite the loss of central defenders, and in midfield was the cornerstone of victories against Portsmouth, Wigan, Ipswich etc. But when teams like Burton and MK Dons come along, teams brave enough to pass it, run at us, and pull us out of position we look second-best. That may be a reflection of areas we are weak in, including pace (without Smyth and Doughty), also I suspect is down to us not having an effective Plan A when the onus is felt to be on us to make the running in a game.

OK, we know we are still a work in progress with a large number of new players, some of whom haven’t played much football, while injuries have taken their toll. We have good reason to expect us to get better (and Bowyer has stressed that we are ahead of a reasonable curve in that sense). Some players are playing not in their favourite positions I suspect, not just Pratley and Gunter. So perhaps it’s time to take a step back and consider what might work well as a current Plan A – all acknowledging of course that Bowyer, Jackson et al have forgotten far more about football than I will ever know.

Start with some limitations. Up front, with Smyth injured and Davison on loan we are down to three strikers, one of whom is not trusted to last 90 minutes. Bogle is valued for his work wearing out the opposition and giving way for Aneke to benefit (of course it’s not that simple), neither of them has so far shown signs of being able to form an effective partnership with Washington.

At the back, we know the team if all are fit and available. Amos sits behind Innis and Famewo while Gunter and Matthews compete for a spot, as do Maatsen and Purrington. Pearce and Oshilaja are currently not being considered for a starting place (but obviously will feature at some point). Without Innis and with Famewo now back, the first question to be answered is who plays best alongside him, out of Pratley and Gunter, or whether a back three would be favoured. Leave that to one side.

In midfield we have an abundance of players, just no partnerships and nobody laying an undisputed claim to a starting place. Assume first that either Watson or Pratley play in the holding role. Then remember that without Doughty or Smyth we have no natural wide players. Morgan fills in there on one side, but I think it’s a waste to have Maddison do the same. Let’s leave Levitt to one side for now and consider the options: Shinnie, Gilbey, Forster-Caskey, Pratley/Watson, Morgan, Maddison, Williams, possibly Vennings too.

Taking all this together, I think our available resources point in favour of a 4-5-1 formation. Subject to fitness and form on the training ground, my inclination would be to start with a back four in front of Amos of Matthews or Gunter, Pratley, Famewo and Purrington. With a midfield five, have Maatsen play wide left (he’s certainly looked capable of that) and either Morgan or Mathews/Gunter wide right (I’d assume Morgan). Pair Watson and either Shinnie or Forster-Caskey in central midfield (I think they get the nod over Gilbey at the moment for this role), then have Maddison playing a more advanced role, with licence to bomb forward (and if he doesn’t take the chance offered Williams is the replacement, or Gilbey).

Up front I’d go with Washington. We don’t have to be wedded to starting with Bogle or Aneke and swapping them sooner or later. Bogle has not yet been effective in holding the ball up and his first touch doesn’t I think lend itself to him operating as a sole striker. Aneke is not expected to last 90 minutes. So start with Washington – and have both Bogle and Aneke available from the bench to really bully defenders later on and to be able to mix things up if necessary. With such a set-up we’d be looking for goals from midfield and to play through midfield, with two wide men and good defensive cover, taking out the option of hoofing it up to a big guy. We’d also have players who can change position if needs be.

I suspect that after last night we’re all giving some thought to what sort of team and formation we’d choose, not because of any lack of confidence in Bowyer but just because it seems as if at the moment places are up for grabs and nothing is settled. Burton outfought and outscored us, MK Dons outplayed us. So be it, it’s a long campaign, in Bowyer we trust.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Sobering Defeat

The 2,000 lucky souls who attended tonight will no doubt have been glad of their free cup of hot chocolate, as a cold early winter’s day turned into a damp and cold one before the game, then a dispiriting, damp and cold one after it. For our part you hoped the players would have in mind that not being fully on their game against Burton saw them come a cropper and wouldn’t be thinking that a match against a supposedly struggling side might be any sort of stroll. There was no such complacency tonight, rather MK Dons had the beating of us through a clearer game-plan and greater coherence, which is another way of saying we looked like a collection of players not used to playing together.

The team saw four changes from Saturday, two enforced (Maatsen’s suspension and Smyth’s injury). In front of Amos were Matthews, Gunter, Pratley and Purrington. Whether it would be a flat midfield four or a diamond remained to be seen, with Watson accompanied by Shinnie, Morgan and Gilbey – who perhaps tellingly got the nod ahead of Maddison with Williams starting on the bench – and Washington fit enough for a start alongside Bogle, who started in place of Aneke.

However, what proved to be a simple 4-4-2 proved to be no match in the first half for MK Dons’ 3-5-2. They started the brighter and caused us problems from the off, with their forwards finding space and midfield runners able to beat us for pace. That they failed to turn several promising moments into goals was down to poor final balls, poor control at the death (especially a one-on-one with their guy seemingly more intent on claiming he was fouled), and good goalkeeping, with Amos making two or three decent saves. In the first 20 minutes or so our best moments came from pressing their keeper into poor clearances. It was telling that Watson was giving away free kicks, while Morgan was given a final warning, then Pratley did get yellow as he seemed to tangle with their guy on the ground (who was also given a yellow).

We did improve as the half progressed, perhaps as the commentators suggested due to an injury to their playmaker. Gilbey came more into it with some penetrating runs, while Washington came close a few times, opting to try to bring down a cross he might have hit first time and almost converting a Purrington cross at the near post. But in general our front two were well contained, with Bogle winning some headers but to no great effect and otherwise not able to hold up play, and our midfield struggled to contain their runners, putting our defence under pressure.

It was no surprise that Bowyer made a change at the break, with Maddison replacing Shinnie, who it was suggested might have taken a knock. If anything this made us weaker in the central midfield area where we were overrun in the first half, although we were looking to Maddison to provide a greater attacking threat.

Nothing much changed in that MK Dons continued to create chances but were denied by Amos. And once more our threat involved their keeper, with a ball forward chased down by Gilbey only for the keeper to head it over him then fluff the clearance, leaving us scrambling to get in an effort while he was out of his goal.

On the hour Bowyer made a double substitution, with Aneke replacing Bogle and Williams on for Morgan, followed not long after by Famewo coming on for Watson, with Pratley moving into midfield. Just what the formation was by now was hard to tell, with Washington and Maddison in wide areas and Williams moving around. Nevertheless, we had then probably our best short period of the game as almost by willpower we came close to taking the lead. A Maddison Crossfield pass found Washington, who cut inside but saw his shot saved, then a combination of Aneke, Maddison and Williams managed to work the ball down the right and we had numbers in the box. The ball eventually broke to Pratley, who shot over the bar. And a Maddison break and cross was almost converted by Aneke.

Just as it seemed we might be taking the game by the scruff of the neck, with MK Dons forced onto the back foot, they went up the other end and scored. Nobody closed down their guy in midfield and then there seemed to be confusion over who was picking up who, leaving a simple pass to a guy in space in the box, who shot past Amos.

With about 15 minutes of normal time left there was the time to turn it around, but we became increasingly desperate, increasingly reliant on a long ball to find Aneke. It was only after two minutes of the four added on (which became five with an injury) when we almost scored an equaliser which we scarcely deserved. Ball into the box and pressure on it, their keeper parried it but it fell to Pratley, who lifted it over the bodies only for it to rebound off the crossbar. And that was indeed that.

This was a more sobering defeat than Burton. Individually the players worked hard, had good moments and bad; collectively we fell well short. It highlighted that we are still very much a work in progress, with no strong spine as yet and no combinations in the key areas. MK Dons exploited our lack of cohesion and with better quality in the final third would surely have won comfortably. We might have gone second tonight but ended up with a clear lesson that we will need to improve considerably if a top-two position is to be within reach.

Player Ratings:

Amos – 8/10. By a distance our man-of-the-match. Have to see if he might have done better with their goal, did come out for a cross and didn’t make it, otherwise it was a faultless performance with some excellent saves.

Matthews – 7/10. Another good display, up against a tricky player but not caught out, although was involved in the general confusion over who was doing what for their goal.

Pratley – 6/10. Can’t be blamed for the pressure our defence was under and fact is when he moved into midfield he twice came closer to scoring than anyone else.

Gunter – 6/10. Worked hard at it, did get caught out on occasions.

Purrington – 7/10. By and large he had a good game.

Morgan – 6/10. Some good moments, perhaps unlucky to be taken off.

Watson – 5/10. Was left exposed by others in midfield and too often saw the ball passed forward and their guys just run beyond him.

Shinnie – 6/10. Nothing dramatic but I think we lost what little cohesion we had when he went off at the break.

Gilbey – 5/10. Some good moments in the first half running with the ball, but didn’t seem to do much defensive covering and was less prominent in the second half. Also when on a yellow almost got in the way of a quick free kick, which if he had done would almost certainly have resulted in a second yellow.

Bogle – 5/10. Worked hard, won some headers, but not much movement and couldn’t control and keep the ball.

Washington – 5/10. A night for him when things just didn’t quite come off. Might have taken the shot in the first half instead of trying to bring it down, might have crossed in the second rather than shooting from a tight angle.


Maddison – 6/10. Unable tonight to make a decisive contribution, but he does make things happen.

Aneke – 6/10. Didn’t fall for him in the box tonight.

Williams – 5/10. Unable to make an impression.

Famewo – 6/10. Very good to see him back.


Saturday 28 November 2020

Deserved Win In The End

Today the question was would we have a performance like that delivered away at Portsmouth (determined, committed, effective, 3 points), or that away at Gillingham (could have been better, could have been worse, take the draw), or at Burton (error-strewn, complacent, played crap and lost)? Both teams were going into the game on the back of disappointing midweek defeats (Ipswich losing 0-3 at home to Hull) and will have been keen to get back on track.

In the event I’d say it was something between Portsmouth and Gillingham. No way around the fact that the defence is not going to be as solid as when we had either or both of Innis and Famewo, at least not until Pearce (and Oshilaja) are back, we coughed up some chances in the first half in particular which Ipswich failed to take. If they had scored first the game would have been different. But also we cut out the truly bad errors seen against Burton and put in a much more disciplined performance, while let’s face it Burton had players that caused us far more problems than Ipswich did. We were perhaps a little fortunate to be ahead at the break but the second goal effectively killed the game off and we saw it out without serious alarm, no question that by the end we merited the victory.

The team looked like a 4-4-2 (or however that is described these days, a diamond midfield), with an unchanged defence in front of Amos (Matthews, Gunter, Pratley and Maatsen), in midfield Watson in front of the back four and Shinnie and Morgan (given the start which his display on Tuesday night merited) either side of him and Williams given a start to form the point, while Aneke started instead of Bogle alongside Smyth. Gilbey and Morrison dropped to the bench.

One thing was clear from early in the game, that Amos was under different instructions and his kicking out seemed an indication that after Tuesday we’d adopt a more basic approach. And in a broadly even first 20 minutes Ipswich looked the more dangerous, especially as when their guy got goalside of Gunter only to shoot over, while we almost forced an own goal as an Aneke flick on was almost met by Williams only for the defender to get there first but force a save from his own keeper. So it was a little against the balance of play that we took the lead. Aneke won the ball on the edge of the area and fed it into Shinnie, whose ball back in took a deflection but sat up for Morgan to hit on the half-volley into the net.

That helped to settle us and Ipswich’s cause was not helped by an injury to their forward, who went off. Amos saved well from a flick from a free kick and then turned one over the bar after Pratley had failed to usher the ball out for a goalkick and was caught out. Just before the break Smyth seemed to be sent clear by another Aneke flick and went down under the challenge. If the ref had given a foul it surely would have been a red card too, but decided there was not sufficient contact.

At the break you felt that we would need to score again to win. They were edging the stats on possession and shots, we had the goal in the bag but had still allowed chances resulting from defensive errors. We were doing OK, Morgan was doing good work (at this point I had him down as man-of-the-half, not just for scoring), Williams was causing them problems, while Aneke was as ever a handful. Perhaps most important Watson seemed to be providing good cover, while Shinnie was more prominent in this formation than out wider in a flat midfield four.

The second half continued in a similar vein, with Ipswich not surprisingly starting with more intent, probably after a bit of a call for more effort from their manager. Not long into the half rather surprisingly Gilbey came on for Williams. Perhaps it was a knock or Bowyer feeling he was running out of steam. But the formation stayed the same. Then after the hour we had a further change as Smyth tried to retrieve a ball he’d lost and stayed down, obviously in some discomfort. The commentators thought it might have been his ankle or knee and when the motorised stretcher came out it looked pretty bad. He did leave the pitch, but was at least sitting up as it drove off. Bogle replaced him, which meant the first time he and Aneke would be paired.

That pairing didn’t last long, but before Aneke departed we scored again. A long throw dropped to Pratley, who hit it across goal and glory be Bogle got on the end of it to score at last. Hopefully the first of many.

It was Purrington who replaced Aneke, with Maatsen moving further forward, creating a kind of front three with Gilbey and Bogle. It was a little unbalanced but that really didn’t matter. In the final 20 minutes (and seven minutes of stoppage time) it was all about not letting them back into the game. And that was achieved well enough, only one or two anxious moments.

By the end it was a hard-earned victory, albeit at the cost of Smyth being added to the injury list and Maatsen getting another yellow and a one-game suspension. It was a job done well enough, not perfect but enough. 

Player Ratings:

Amos – 8/10. Why given anything less when the guy has made two excellent saves and dealt with everything else that came his way?

Matthews – 7/10. Another efficient and decent performance.

Gunter – 6/10. Was done once by their guy and that almost cost us a goal, otherwise not bad, if the mark was for attitude and effort in an unfamiliar position the score would be much higher.

Pratley – 6/10. As for Gunter. If Ipswich had scored from the chance that came from his mistake the game would have been different, but we are asking him to do a job.

Maatsen – 6/10. Think today he was trying to stick more to basics after the errors on Tuesday night. Also think the one-game ban will do him no harm, he could use the rest, perhaps needs a break to come back as fresh as when he started.

Watson – 8/10. Over the 90 mins I’d make him man of the match. Today he showed what we expected from him, in terms of protecting the defence and keeping the midfield functioning going forward.

Shinnie – 7/10. Decent performance, involved in our first goal, tidy and effective.

Morgan – 8/10. Excellent first half, less prominent in the second, perhaps as the personnel changes caused some confusion.

Williams – 7/10. Thought he played well in a position which suits him, caused them problems. But didn’t last the hour.

Smyth – 7/10. Slight concern that he bungled a first-half chance which came his way, went down under the challenge when it looked like he was through on goal. Have to hope the injury proves not to be serious.

Aneke – 7/10. We saw today what Bowyer has been talking about regarding it being tougher against central defenders before they start to tire. Decent game, caused problems.


Gilbey – 6/10. Came on shortly before we went two ahead and the rest of the game was about shoring things up not looking for more.

Bogle – 7/10. Now he has the first in the bag we hope for more.

Purrington – 7/10. Did well, broke up attacks. He will presumably have the opportunity to impress over 90 minutes in midweek.


Tuesday 24 November 2020

Outfought And Outscored

That was disappointing all round. When you’ve conceded four goals – and to be fair it could easily have been six or seven, even though their first two were absolute gifts and their third and fourth sloppy on our part – there can be no complaints about leaving empty-handed. The fact that Burton’s defence also creaked badly and that on another night we might have at least matched their four didn’t disguise anything. They wanted it more than us and had a better attitude from the start (helped by the fact that almost from the start we gave them something to hold onto). Don’t think that’s been the case for any other game this season. Plus they had the standout performers on the pitch. Our makeshift defence was found out, run ragged and given little protection.

The line-up saw Pratley and Gunter retained in central defence, with Pearce and Oshilaja both on the bench, with Matthews and Maatsen making a back four in front of Amos. Gilbey started alongside Watson (Morgan starting on the bench), with Shinnie and Maddison providing midfield width, while Smyth was brought back in to start alongside Bogle, with Washington rested.

We started poorly, giving rise to the thought that against the team bottom of the league and with a tough game at Ipswich coming up on Saturday perhaps the mental attitude wasn’t right, or perhaps just that the changes we’d made left us a little uncertain. Also give credit to Burton. They were at us from the start. Perhaps they had done their homework and seen ways in which they could unpick us.

None of that excuses the two goals we gave them in the first half. A basic error by Gunter left their guy clear in on Amos, and although he smothered the first effort he kept going and scored the rebound. Later, after their guy had headed over at a stretch, Amos managed to blot his copybook with a howler, giving them possession. A dink over him and we were two behind.

In between the two gifts we had one or two moments, Watson claimed a penalty for a shove at a corner, but we were making plenty of mistakes at the back. Gunter misjudged a ball that was going to clear him and leave their guy in the clear, prompting a deliberate handball and a yellow. Presumably for an injury just after half an hour Bogle had gone off, replaced by Aneke.

Nevertheless, we managed to get back into it before the break with a scrappy but very welcome goal. A corner led to some head tennis and it finally dropped for Smyth, whose first effort from near range was blocked but his second went in. OK, you think take that, get to half-time and regroup. Instead there was still time for us to afford one of their all the space he wanted from a corner at the far post. Sloppy defending prevailed throughout.

Any thoughts about getting back on level terms not long into the second half went out of the window after about five minutes when we were undone by a training ground routine from a corner. Short one in, knocked back, cross in, guy puts in header which Amos saves at point blank range only for the rebound (again) to be converted.

That was followed by a double substitution as Maddison and Smyth went off for Morgan and Washington. And the impact was immediate, Morgan playing in Aneke, whose low cross was deflected and looped up for a header at the far post, then a Morgan shot was parried. And before long we had closed the gap. A ball into Washington and although his shot was blocked it came out to Morgan. His cross saw Aneke control it and swivel, hitting a shot on the turn into the net. By a distance the best strike of the night.

Now we did have the bit between our teeth, with Washington and Aneke combining well, Gilbey playing Washington in only for his shot to be saved. And Watson picked out Maatsen, whose cross flashed across the box without getting the necessary touch in. It was all to be of no avail as shortly after Williams came on for Gilbey we let in another. This one was down to sheer persistence, their guys just didn’t give up on a ball we should have cleared several times. Eventually it fell for one of theirs in the box and he scored.

With still 10 minutes of normal time (and six of stoppage time) to go there were more chances, in between the yellow cards we were picking up (after Watson came Gilbey, then Maatsen and Aneke, giving us five for the night). The last meaningful one for us saw Washington through but with a narrow angle. He cut back inside only to see his shot blocked it seemed by Aneke. But for good measure Burton almost had a fifth, taking advantage of more hesitancy in defence.

Tonight defensively most of what could go wrong did. Up front we created more than enough opportunities to win most games. Indeed, the stats show that both teams had 16 efforts on goal, with six on target for us and seven for them; we dominated possession with 63% and had eight corners to their three. But none of that tells the story. We were below par and error-prone, Burton were determined and exploited our weaknesses. It is a game that’s going to provide Bowyer and his team with plenty of food for thought, can’t simply write it off as a bad day at the office.

Player Ratings

Amos – 6/10. Actually pulled off several fine saves, some of which saw the rebounds converted, but has to be marked down for the error.

Matthews – 7/10. Stands out in the defence for the fact that I can’t remember a howler from him.

Pratley – 5/10. Caught out tonight and bullied by their centre-forward. Not his fault of course, he’s filled in at the back manfully for us.

Gunter – 5/10. Really as for Pratley. Gave away the first goal, perhaps lucky to only get a yellow for the deliberate handball, uncomfortable throughout.

Maatsen – 5/10. By a distance his worst game for us. Small errors mounted up, miscontrols, his poor back pass resulted in a corner from which they scored. He will have been frustrated by it all but may be tired with the requirements of two games a week. He has been excellent until tonight. 

Maddison – 5/10. Not good in the first half, far less of a driving force than on Saturday. Seemed to be improving in the second but was then replaced.

Watson – 5/10. Has to go down as a poor game. He’s there not least to protect the back four; and tonight they needed help.

Gilbey – 6/10. Started slowly but so did they all. Grew into the game.

Shinnie – 5/10. Not as conspicuous as he was when Maddison wasn’t in the team, a little peripheral tonight.

Smyth – 5/10. Did get his goal but otherwise rather anonymous, no sign of his pace being used to good effect.

Bogle – 5/10. Not especially good first half-hour and then went off.


Aneke – 7/10. Made a difference to our attacking threat and scored an excellent goal. Not sure if he has to lose a mark for blocking Washington’s goal-bound shot.

Morgan – 7/10. A real impact as we improved considerably going forward after his introduction.

Washington – 7/10. Also made a difference, unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet.

Williams – 5/10. Found it hard to get into the game when he came on for the final 15 minutes or so.

Maurice Setters RIP

It is more sad news that Maurice Setters has died, aged 83. Our condolences go to his family and friends. And while quite rightly the tributes will no doubt flow from those linked to clubs for which he made major contributions, and from the Irish FA given his role alongside Jack Charlton, I hope they will allow us a slightly irreverent comment on his time at our club.

When the definitive history of Charlton Athletic comes to be written it’s unlikely that Setters will get much of a mention. His career with us spanned all of eight games (he did score a goal, which gives him a strike rate better than some of our forwards, which if my records are accurate was an equaliser at Bolton in a 1-1 draw, although another report I have on the game marks ours down as an own goal, forced by Setters’ pressure). But I think he merits an entry for unparalleled contrast between the scale of the fanfare which marked his arrival and the brevity of his stay.

We signed Setters in February 1970, on a free transfer from Coventry (but with reports talking of a signing-on fee of £10,000), presumably at the request of manager Eddie Firmani. The 1969/70 season was a tough one for us, coming straight after the glorious near miss for promotion of 1968/69. In reality it merely made that season the exception to the norm as we were back struggling against relegation. In what looks now a real act of desperation Setters, then aged 33 and with a dodgy knee (a quote from one report at the time read “my knee will never be as good as it was, but it will see me through a couple more seasons and I don’t think Charlton are looking for more than that”). One article on the signing is headlined “Setters hoists the Jolly Roger at Charlton”, another “I saved Coventry and now for Charlton”.

Setters came into the side and we did seem to be grinding out some points here and there. But then came a home match against Leicester. We began with Mike Kenning switched to left-back and by half-time the score was 0-4. Reports say we improved after the break and we ended up losing only 0-5. The following Monday, Easter Monday, Firmani was sacked, with Theo Foley moved up from assistant manager to acting manager, presumably with the brief to avoid relegation or leave. And Foley’s first act was to drop Setters (along with Harry Gregory and Dennis Booth, with Brian Kinsey back in together with transfer-listed Peter Reeves) for his first game at home to QPR. We drew that one 1-1 and later, when it came to the final game of the season, beat Bristol City 2-1, with goals from Alan Campbell and Ray Treacy (we conceded with two minutes left, which might have been nail-biting but we were used to it at the time), to avoid the drop by two points.

Setters seems to have stayed on our books through the 1970/71 season – when we repeated and ended third from bottom (we were relegated the next season) - but never appeared for us again, departing on a free transfer at the end of that campaign (he went on to manage Doncaster).

So he will be remembered - no doubt with affection, at least among those who weren’t tackled by him - for his better times elsewhere, a Charlton career that was just a brief chapter before the boots were hung up for good as a player. But that doesn’t change the history books. He wore the shirt.

Monday 23 November 2020

Random Thoughts Post-Saturday

An all-day on-line conference threatened to get in the way of watching Saturday’s game, but for once the switch to an early kick-off – to coincide with a lunch break (and a dipping out of the first afternoon session) – worked a treat. I thought we’d have won it on points but not convincingly; and more often than not when you’re one down away from home with 10 minutes to go you happily take the point. We didn’t fashion so many chances as to be confident of getting another, while Gillingham also had moments, with Amos pulling off another excellent save in the first half.

On the penalties, ours was pretty clear-cut, you can’t exactly go through Bogle to get to the ball without fouling him. Theirs was soft for sure, but when you see the reply it looks like Gunter was looking inside to see what the situation was and simply wasn’t aware of their guy’s position. Accidental contact but not a dive and on reflection I don’t think the ref had any real choice but to give it.

I hope Bogle wasn’t fuming at the end of the game. He gets the ball taken off him for the penalty (quite rightly, Washington is I assume the designated taker and scored well with his previous effort, wasn’t that bad a penalty either, have to give their keeper some credit), then after being replaced Smyth sets up Aneke for the equaliser, Chucks coming off the bench to score again. But if Bogle is wondering where his first goal for us comes from I hope he instead takes a good look in replay at at least a couple of moments when if he had been alert, on his toes in the box, he surely would have scored.

One in particular in the second half. Decent shot goes in from around the edge of the area, their keeper parried it, and the defender just gets to the rebound before Bogle. But when the shot is taken Bogle is standing and watching. If he takes the chance and once it’s fired moves in for any rebound he would have had a tap-in. I remember Shearer or it might have been Hansen many years ago highlighting Lisbie standing and watching, stressing that a top forward is making a run to be in the right place if it drops for him. Bogle may not be a goalmouth predator but just a little more thought and anticipation in those kind of situations and I’m sure it would help the goals to flow.

Ahead of the match I thought the main interest would be in how Bowyer would set up the defence, if Pearce, perhaps Oshilaja too, was considered ready for a return and maybe Barker was included again. We got by against Portsmouth with Innis’ one-game suspension and against Fleetwood when he was back but the excellent Famewo was ruled out. Then we get the news that Innis is out for a while, Pearce only made the bench, so it was back to makeshift (which is not to say that Pratley and Gunter together did not do a fine job), presumably with a similar approach necessary for tomorrow evening’s game.

Maddison undoubtedly gave us the best indication so far of what we might expect from him. He clearly brings tempo to our play going forward. Now it’s back to looking for good combinations in midfield, even if the rotation approach will continue. That may take a little time as there are plenty of options, especially now that Gilbey is available, but hopefully over the next couple of games we will be seeing stronger evidence of these guys developing understanding of each other’s play and strengths.

So on we go to Burton. Bottom of the league, one win in 13, and the leakiest defence in the division (they are averaging bang on two goals conceded a game). They are also seemingly recovering from a number of players and staff testing positive for Covid-19. We wish them all well on that front, but no presents tomorrow evening please.

Now to book the stream. After all, I’ve got to get into the hat for that Range Rover. Have to say, albeit belatedly, full marks to whoever came up with the wheeze; it may of course have been Thomas Sandgaard himself. Excellent initiative. I would have thought it fairer to offer this up as a prize to all those who actually purchased a stream for the Orient match, just on the grounds that I probably would have had a 50% chance of winning. Perhaps they thought that anyone daft enough to have done that would not be capable of driving the vehicle (in my case they would be correct). My only other thought on the matter is whether or not the club will be providing the winner of the prize with indemnity, otherwise perhaps he/she will get slapped with a writ from Southall (or some other crony).

Friday 13 November 2020

Reason To Be Bovvered?

Here we go again? The Trust says it ‘isn’t bovvered’ by Paul Elliott’s ‘order’ to Thomas Sandgaard to ‘leave the club’, with Richard Cawley indicating that the club feels the same way. I’m not a lawyer and I hope I’m wrong, but I am bovvered, at least to the extent that Elliott seems to have the legal grounds to do what he is doing.

The Trust’s Lauren Kreamer, who is a barrister, points out that a ‘notice’ in the current context is nothing more than a letter. Fair enough. But that’s a bit like saying because you get a letter demanding payment of a debt it doesn’t amount to a court order and therefore you don’t have to pay. A letter, or notice, is surely the necessary first step before going to a court to get an actual legal order. So while Elliott’s ‘order’ may well not be legally binding, this does not mean that one might not be in the pipeline (if there is no settlement in the interim).

There also seems to be some misunderstanding over what Elliott is claiming, namely that he may well now own ESI but so what? ESI no longer owns anything. I don’t think that’s the case. If the court has ruled that Elliott now owns ESI, that is not on the basis of something that happened yesterday. Elliott’s claim is that he was the legal owner of ESI (and consequently the club) before Sandgaard came along, even if the sale to him had not then been completed and shares transferred. The fact that there had been no actual transfer of shares is not conclusive. If Elliott had a binding agreement to purchase ESI, one which would be completed when EFL approval had been secured, that stands even though the application for EFL approval was rejected. There was an appeal process in place.

If I understand things correctly now, since Sandgaard’s purchase of our club Nimer et al have done a runner, he is no longer a director of ESI. So when the court here requested information from him related to the case he presumably decided he had no interest in replying. The absence of a reply seems to have left the court with no option other than to find in favour of Elliott (Lex Dominus), ie that Nimer no longer owned ESI at the time that Sandgaard bought the club from ESI.

Sandgaard’s case all along has been that it didn’t matter whether or not there was a court injunction in place to prevent the sale of ESI per se as this did not prevent him buying the club from ESI. The injunction only applied to the sale of the company. But somebody has to agree to a sale for it to be legal and that can only be the owner(s). If Elliott has now secured the court’s backing for the position that he was the owner of ESI before Sandgaard came along – and whether we like it or not it is indisputable that Nimer said at the time that was the case, with Elliott for a period of time acting as the undisputed owner of our club – and that the sale was going to be completed, I find it hard to see that a court can rule that Nimer had the authority to sell the club.

I should stress that I seriously hope I’m wrong and that Elliott’s efforts come to naught. Equally I don’t think any of this is ‘letting the cat out of the bag’. If it seems apparent to someone with as limited a knowledge of the law as me it will be evident to anyone Elliott engages to represent him. It may well prove to be the case that Elliott is just trying to get money. I hope so. Problem is that Sandgaard I think said he would not deal with him, thought he had found a way not to have to deal with him. If that is and remains the case, we have not heard the last of it.

Tuesday 10 November 2020

Victory But No Pizza

If getting a stream for the Plymouth game was done on a wing and a prayer but for certain good reasons, repeating the exercise for tonight’s utterly unimportant and unwanted game might have been seen as a cry for help. I’d intended to give it a miss, with the chance to get a look at the next batch that Duchatelet would have flogged at the first available opportunity not exactly a compelling reason. Then I was told that we had no chance of progressing in this tin-pot competition even if we won. That swung it.

Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch the most pointless Charlton game since the Full Members Cup early rounds at Selhurst Park back in 1986/87. Don’t know if they count the streams sold, but I’d guess the number was on a par with the attendance for those games. Yes, I was one of the 817 who turned out for the game against Bradford City – although when I checked it seems the Checkatrade Trophy game against Fulham in 2017 had a crowd at The Valley of just 741 (including 67 very disturbed Fulham fans). So unless they confirm an ‘attendance’ for tonight of below that number I can’t lay claim to having been ‘at’ our worst attended home game. To add insult to injury seems there was a chance to win a free pizza of all things (I have normal taste buds and find cheese utterly disgusting).

The team lined up as … well, your guess is as good as mine. Maynard-Brewer was understandably given another run-out in goal, Pearce was back for the first time this season, while Matthews and Barker also featured, presumably also in defence. Morgan, Maddison and Vennings we know, which left Aouachria, Ghandour, Aidoo and Henry. No disrespect to them but I’ll admit to having no idea where they played. The club site indicated Aidoo would be in defence to make up the four with Henry joining Morgan and Vennings in midfield, leaving Maddison and Ghandour either side of Aouachria in a 4-3-3. Did have high hopes that Wiredu would get off the bench to be on the same pitch as Aidoo, just to see how the commentators coped. But it didn’t happen.

In the event the two teams served up as much entertainment as we could reasonably have hoped for, with goals thrown in, no shortage of competitive challenges, and some tentative lessons to take away. Most important for us was Pearce getting back on the pitch, for the first half, and more minutes into Maddison and Mathews. But I’d imagine Aouachria and Mingi would take issue as they both got their names on the scoresheet.

We were the brighter in the first 15 minutes or so and deservedly took the lead as good work down our left ended with Morgan getting to the by-line. His hard, low cross was met a yard off the goal-line by Aouachria, holding off the attentions of their defender to score. However, as the half wore on Orient slowly gained the upper hand and probably should have been level at the break. In particular one cross from their right evaded Barker and their guy arriving at the far post just failed to connect properly. I think we were all looking for a decisive contribution from Maddison, for him to stamp his authority on the game, but like on Saturday there were flashes of promise and some good stuff but not yet this season the finished product.

Pearce retired at half-time, replaced by Mingi, and the game was still evenly balanced. An Orient shot was palmed away by Maynard-Brewer while at the other end Morgan took it through on the right side and shot well, only for the ball to rebound off the foot of the post with the keeper beaten. Then after the hour we scored what at the time seemed like a decisive second. A free kick was swung in from the left by Maddison and it evaded everyone until it reached the incoming Mingi at the far post. His header was blocked but adjudged to have crossed the line.

However, before we’d had the chance to sit back and enjoy the two-goal cushion Orient pulled one back. They were allowed rather too easily to cut across our box and the guy slotted home. Indeed, a couple of minutes later and it might easily have been 2-2, their guy cutting inside but his shot going over the bar.

Instead the decisive moment came with about 15 minutes of normal time left (after Gavin had replaced Aouachria and Powell had come on for Vennings, who had taken a knock); and it was probably the moment of the night. Maddison was played in and bore down on goal with the ball on his clearly favoured left side. An opportunity to see how he might finish and he fairly leathered the ball into the roof of the net. It was so fast there was a moment when nobody seemed sure it had gone in. So when his first really clear-cut chance for us arrived he took it with aplomb, which is satisfying.

After that Orient might have scored again, with Maynard-Brewer making a few more saves and a free kick of theirs clipping the crossbar, while Maddison had some opportunities to get another. It all ended amicably enough, a decent workout for both teams I guess – and no signs of any serious injury for us. Neither club will be too worked up about whether it was a fair result. And no, I didn’t win the pizza, which in the circumstances was probably just as well.