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.

Sunday 8 November 2020

Five Best FA Cup Moments

 When you wake up and realise that Canvey Island will go further in the FA Cup than us (I’ll admit to a vested interest here, an uncle of mine turned out for them in the 1960s and the only plus point for me if we’d beaten Plymouth would have been the chance to get them in the second round), it’s perhaps time to reflect on some better moments in the competition (and no, Northwich Victoria does not get a mention). 

Most of the ‘magic of the cup’ has gone, probably for good; it’s now limited to the very real delight for the non-league clubs that make the first round proper and especially if they reach the third round, to a lesser extent for Championship clubs to test themselves against Premiership opposition (their reserves at least), and in the final stages for the main contenders to contemplate a Wembley trip and a trophy. Hopefully next season we will be in the second category, but for now, as outlined by Lee Bowyer after the game, there are no regrets at exiting early.

So what would be my five best Charlton FA Cup moments, given that I can’t include actually winning the damn thing? In reverse order (and with the order determined by at what point in the process we were happiest):

No.5:  Operation Riverside March 2006, quarter-final. Let’s face it there wasn’t much magic about this one, just really for the first time in my life the outside possibility that we could actually make Wembley. In what proved to be Curbishley’s final season we’d seen off Sheff Wed, Leyton Orient and Brentford and a quarter-final tie at home to Middlesbrough was winnable, even though the team, having enjoyed an excellent first couple of months in the Premiership, was already following the norm and in something of a decline. It was a 0-0 draw at The Valley in a dull encounter, then the free transport was laid on and some 6,000 Addicks were transported north for the replay. We lost 4-2, never being ahead. Best actual moment? Actually being in the draw for the semi-finals, don’t think we’ve managed that before or since in my lifetime.

No.4:  Sheffield Utd, March 2014, quarter-final. This time we’d beaten Oxford (after a replay), Huddersfield and Sheff Wed. A crowd of 30,040 to see which team would get a trip to Wembley for the semi-final. We all know what happened, poor display by a team struggling in the Championship, we miss a decent chance then get undone by two goals. Before the game Miere was promising to swing from the crossbar with Sir Chris if we won; after it Duchatelet had the excuse he needed to sack him, having offered him a new contract (which was turned down because of its contents). Best actual moment? Before the kick-off. Great atmosphere, good expectations, all fell apart when the football started – and got worse in the aftermath of the game.

No.3:  Wolves, February 1976, fifth round. We’d seen off Sheff Wed (again) and Portsmouth and took around 7,000 fans to Molineux (I was on a coach with my father). This was the season when Killer was flying high, going for the £10k (described then as a ‘small fortune’) for being the first in the top two divisions to score 30 goals (he failed to find the net in our final two games and finished on 28). We lost 3-0, with John Richards, who started on the bench but came on after 21 minutes, scoring a hat-trick – although we should have had a penalty when only 1-0 down (Hales said it was a pen and that’s good enough for me). Best actual moment? 20th minute of the game, before Richards came on.

No.2:  Man Utd, March 1994, sixth round. Apparently we sold out our 10,000 tickets in the first day they were on sale, for our first quarter-final since winning the cup, to take on Cantona, Giggs, Hughes etc. We travelled more to enjoy the day than with great expectations, but when Schmeichel late in the first half came out of his goal and was sent off either for handling it or for flattening Kim Grant (Ferguson unbelievably later said the ref would be embarrassed by his decision) we started to believe. Wasn’t to be. Ferguson was apparently persuaded to keep an attacking side and in the second half Hughes scored then Kanchelskis just ran us ragged. We lost 3-1, with Leaburn scoring the late consolation. Best actual moment? Half-time break, when we sang and danced to ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.

No.1:  Crystal Palace, January 1969, third round. This was our glorious ‘interlude’ season when we nearly won promotion (which has been in our minds of late with the sad death of Matt Tees, with Graham Moore not that long ago either). And we did have a splendid team (Wright, Curtis, Kinsey, Campbell, Went, Reeves, Gregory, Treacy, Tees, Moore, Peacock). The two teams played out an edgy 0-0 at The Valley, in front of some 32,000. It was a game we should have won but failed to take our chances. The draw for the fourth round was made before the replay and the winner would go to Highbury to take on Arsenal. We feared that chance may have gone. But on a glorious cold and damp January evening, spent trying to keep our feet on the grassy terrace at their place, Ray Treacy scored twice in the first half. Palace hit the post from a penalty with about 20 minutes left and we saw the game out. The trip to Highbury ended in a 2-0 defeat but we had a little glory, my first chance to watch us take on one of the ‘big teams’. Best actual moment: Tempted to say the final whistle but really it was when their penalty came back off the post, we knew then this would be our night.

It's not much of a record in over 50 years of football. But who cares? I’ll be there when we lift the trophy again.


Saturday 7 November 2020

No Complaints

Ahead of this one Lee Bowyer said “even though we’ve made a lot of changes from Tuesday, the 11 that is going out there, I expect them to win and I want them to win”. Those of us who have to try very hard to remember cup runs (leaving aside the Full Members Cup and Sir Chris’ last game in charge at Bramall Lane) probably had lower expectations and objectives: get a look at how Maddison is getting on, a chance perhaps to assess some others, including Maynard-Brewer given how important he could be should anything happen to Amos, and to just enjoy a game of football after a nail-biter or two of late, with avoiding any fresh injuries being a higher priority than actually progressing to the next round.

In the event it seems we managed to avoid injuries but came up short as far as actually going through is concerned. Fact is you can’t expect the same intensity and effort in a game when the team is selected and changes are made not with the sole objective of winning it. So we had a reasonable enough game, one which might have gone either way, but ultimately we didn’t create enough to have any complaints. Plymouth defended well and it took until the last one of the eight minutes added at the end before we forced a save from their keeper.

The line-up looked like a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3, whichever way you look at it. In front of Maynard-Brewer were Matthews, Innis, Barker (good to see him featuring again) and Purrington. Midfield comprised Forster-Caskey and Levitt along with Williams, Morgan and Maddison, with Aneke really operating as the lone forward. As we shaped up it seemed that Williams was wide-left and Maddison on the right, with Morgan moving around.

The first 10 minutes or so were all about Maddison, who was involved in just about everything hid did, to mixed effect. Not everything worked as on one occasion he took it on and shot (over the bar) when others were better placed, while his delivery from set pieces was not great. But we know he’s going to be rusty and there’s no doubt that he will give us a different option.

We played Forster-Caskey and Levitt together in central midfield in the first half against Northampton and it didn’t work well then. They both seem to me to play better when a Watson or Pratley are shoring things up, but today was about trying things. What nearly cost us in the first half was that Williams seemed to have a brief not to worry about tracking back to help Purrington, leaving it to Levitt or Morgan. We found ourselves stretched on our left side again and it nearly cost us, with Maynard-Brewer called on to make some fairly routine saves and one dangerous cross blocked by Barker.

After the bright start we had faded rather in terms of attacking threat, with Aneke getting no change out of Plymouth’s central defenders and looking frustrated from the start. At half-time the stats showed that we’d had 60% possession but two shots – against 13 for Plymouth (to be fair only four on target).

The second half continued in a similar vein. An Innis slip let in their forward, who’s poor first touch allowed Maynard-Brewer to smother it and then kick away the rebound. We did sometimes play some decent stuff outside their box but still weren’t really threatening, or when we did the final ball in lacked quality. And we paid for it on the hour as Plymouth took the lead. Matthews was left exposed against two and when the low cross came in their guy dinked it over Maynard-Brewer.

The changes came shortly after. Aneke, who had picked up a yellow card just after their goal (as well as headed over from a corner and landed on their defender, who stayed down for some minutes), and Maddison going off for Washington and Vennings. This seemed to give us greater energy – and of course now we were losing and having to chase the game.  

We did have some moments. Purrington got on the end of a chipped cross and his header forced a save. Forster-Caskey had also picked up a yellow and was perhaps fortunate to escape a second with a further foul, getting away with a lecture from the referee. He departed shortly after, replaced by Maatsen. And in truth Plymouth saw out the game reasonably comfortably, our best effort coming in that last minute as Barker flicked it goalwards only for their keeper to tip it over the bar.

At the end we didn’t look that broken-hearted. Good luck to Plymouth, we will take the positives in the form of increased match fitness for some and a rest for others. Clearly Maddison is going to offer us something different and will create and score (I think we knew that already), Maynard-Brewer made decent saves, Barker looked good. And that was about it. No point in player ratings for a game which ultimately didn’t matter. If you had to give a man of the match I’d award it to Barker. Get past the unwanted game against Orient and then its back to the real task in hand.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Matt Tees RIP

 Very sad to hear the news that Matt Tees has died, aged 81. Condolences and best wishes to all his family. I have no doubt that fans of all the other clubs he played for (primarily Grimsby and Luton) will be feeling the same as every Addick who ever saw him play. The record shows 89 appearances for us and 32 goals. Pretty decent return, but the numbers can’t convey what a heart he had, taking regular clatterings against much bigger centre-halves and dusting himself down and getting on with it. He was my first true Charlton hero.

By pure chance I’ve been doing some repairs on scrapbooks I kept covering the 1960s and 70s. So a few snippets are to hand. Manager Eddie Firmani admitted a mistake in selling Tees, in 1969, to Luton for £25,000, although it seemed Matt and his family hadn’t been able to settle in London and he had been looking for a transfer the previous season – only to take himself off the list to play his part in the promotion drive in 1968/69 (we ended up third with Derby and some other team going up). The situation had been confused by our bringing in Ray Crawford, who was to be fired by the club, and apparently Firmani’s plan to sign John O’Rourke from Ipswich (which fell through).

The glory games were when he was paired with Ray Treacy. In Treacy’s own words “I live off Matt Tees … he’s right in there, taking a helluva lot of stick. He’s brilliant in the air. Most of the chances I get come from Matt.” In the same article Tees himself commented that “I could do with a bit more weight myself really because when they hit me I go straight over”.  He did, but he got back up again, every time.

That glorious season was remarkable for me as a kid, it was the first time that I thought it might be possible we would win something (I had been reared on desperate battles to avoid relegation). Like Tees’ stay with us it didn’t last. Without him normal service was resumed the following season as we finished third from bottom (repeated that in the following season, finally relegated in 1971/72). But it was great while it lasted. And although we’ve had great goalscorers since I think it was not until Yann Kermorgant turned up at our place that we had a real successor to Matt.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

The Important Run Goes On


If we went into the Portsmouth game with the focus on attitude in light of injuries and suspensions, and passed the test with flying colours, tonight it was perhaps about attitude in light of the opposition (even though there were no grounds for any complacency given Fleetwood’s current form) and also the prospect of a much-needed rest once tonight was out of the way. We needn’t have worried as another tough night, against a decent team, saw us emerge victorious with the odd goal in five (yes, we conceded goals, but to be fair we only conceded in one minute of the game).

Bowyer’s team selection seemed to be a mix of continuing rotation and bringing back the two suspended for Saturday. So in front of Amos it looked like Gunter back at right-back (with Matthews taking a break), Purrington starting on the left, and Pratley dropping back into central defence to accompany the returning Innis. Watson also returned, seemingly with Shinnie in the centre and Morgan and Maatsen in the wider positions, while Bogle and Washington kept their places up front, with Aneke and Smyth among the subs (along with Maddison, Williams and Levitt). But as indicated on the club site before the game, the choices could point to a 4-4-2, a 3-5-2, or a 4-4-3. It did seem clear that Amos would at least start the game in goal.

It turned out to be a 4-4-2 after all – and in the early period of the game it was very effective, helped by a goal after three minutes. Purrington started it all off by winning a free kick near the corner flag. That one in to the near post was cleared for another corner. Same with the next one in. But the third cross was met on the full by Purrington and in it went. Seemed as though Fleetwood were focused on trying to keep Innis away from the ball. That worked.

It was almost two soon after, with great approach work, Shinnie to Morgan, Gunter on the overlap, low cross blocked. Maatsen found Bogle with a good ball forward but he shot over. Bogle almost got in again, from what looked like an offside position, but it was played behind for another corner, from which a deflection took it to the far post where Purrington came onto it only to volley just over the bar. Morgan played in Maatsen who found Washington with his back to goal, Watson ran onto it but shot just wide. Maatsen curled a shot over the bar, Bogle went down in the box but no penalty given, and from the resulting corner Bogle headed over.

To be fair in the second 15 minutes Fleetwood had come more into it, creating one or two moments of their own. But on the half-hour we extended the lead. Gunter intercepted and played it in to Bogle, who took it on into the box and shot hard. Their keeper parried it but the rebound fell to the inrushing Washington, who buried it.

2-0 up and none of us can remember the last time we conceded a goal. I don’t think we really had time to be complacent, but a couple of minutes later it was all square. There had been what proved to be an ominous moment previously, as Evans had held off two or three Charlton defenders. And when the ball came into him inside the box with only Innis for company he was able to turn and find the far corner. The shock went all around the empty ground. It was probably still going around as the ball was played in again from their left and this time Purrington was left on the ground and Evans met it on his own to score. It looked like a foul but nothing was given.

For the final 10 minutes or so of the first half we were not surprisingly a little fazed and decidedly second-best. It was good to get into the break to regroup. The half-time stats showed Fleetwood having had 64% possession – which was surprising in view of our early dominance - but we had nine attempts on goal (to their three).

With hindsight the game turned on another goal early on, again for us. Morgan collected the ball on the right side and advanced towards the box. Played a one-two and went for the return, only to be bundled over. No dispute about the penalty, or Washington’s conversion of it.

Not long after Fleetwood made a change and that seemed to spark a change of formation for us, with Purrington forming a central defensive three and Gunter and Maatsen becoming wing-backs. That seemed to give us more defensive stability but also saw us sit rather deep, allowing Fleetwood plenty of possession. Amos was called into action to tip one over the bar, and after Matthews had come on for Morgan (with Gunter going back to central defence and Pratley moving into midfield), he pulled off another decent save from a shot from the edge of the area.

We’d been under the cosh for 20 minutes or so, but then there was a period when we created the chances that could have finished off the game (if you can say that against a team which scored twice in about a minute). Washington shot just wide, then Bogle intercepted a back pass only for his first touch to take it too close to their keeper, who managed to get the block in. After that Bogle departed, replaced by Aneke. He was immediately in the thick of it and took one ball on from a throw-in, advanced, and curled a shot which struck the far post and out. Not long after he turned inside the box and shot just wide.

That period in its turn passed and with less than 10 minutes of normal time left it all got rather scrappy, which probably suited us fine. Maatsen got floored by Evans and took a boot in the chest for his troubles, although the action went unpunished. Just after Maatsen put in one of his own at the other end and did collect a yellow, prompting Pratley to have a quiet word in his ear, presumably about staying calm and not risking a second.

In the final stages Fleetwood won more corners, shots were deflected, but we managed to play out the five minutes of stoppage time without alarm. Indeed, looking back on the second half the major change was that not once did we allow Evans to get in a position to be up against just one defender. Amos did make saves, there were some desperate blocks, but not a real clear-cut chance given up. And Fleetwood’s frustration at the death was evident as one of their number dumped Maatsen into the siding boards.

It was another hard-earned victory in which everyone on the pitch played their part (for the record Fleetwood will probably feel hard done by to come away with nothing, but it turned out to be a close game and thems the breaks). Let them enjoy the break now, put the kids out against Plymouth, and let us enjoy the league table.

Player Ratings

Amos – 8/10. Dealt with what came his way well enough. Had no chance with the goals.

Gunter – 8/10. Started at right-back, had a short spell as a wing-back, then moved to central defence. And did each job very effectively.

Innis – 7/10. Did allow Evans to get around him to work the space for their first goal. Otherwise solid and dependable.

Pratley – 8/10. Called on to do plenty of work again tonight, in defence and midfield. Didn’t get everything right but boy he seemed to be involved in just about every minute.

Purrington – 7/10. Only question mark had to be over his role in their second goal. Was he fouled or did he slip? Hard to tell. Otherwise scored early on, might have had a second, and played well.

Morgan – 8/10. Very good game. Involved in much of our good first-half work, intelligent use of the ball, and won the penalty which decided the game.

Watson – 8/10. Pretty effective throughout, and for the first time didn’t get a card. 

Shinnie – 8/10. Ran the show in the first 30 mins, tougher after that but stayed at it.

Maatsen – 8/10. Not everything worked for him in terms of distribution going forward but he comes away with a lot of credit for the way he handled himself when Fleetwood were getting desperate.

Washington – 7/10. Took both his goals well, worked his socks off again.

Bogle – 7/10. I thought it was his best performance for us, outside the box. Inside it nothing came off, but the goal will come no doubt.

Subs: Matthews (7/10; pretty effective and sound); Aneke (7/10; a real handful for them for the final 20 minutes).