Our great start to the season came to a halt tonight in our worst League defeat since April 2008, when we lost by the same scoreline at Barnsley. You'd have to go back to January 2007 for a worse scoreline, and that was a 4-0 defeat at Arsenal, which you could probably claim was a better result than 3-0 at Colchester.
Strangely though I don't feel all that bothered about this result. Sure, I wasn't at Arsenal on 2nd January 2007, but I'm guessing that it was more of a hammering than tonight was. My second away fixture of the season and after the 2-1 win at Orient I was quietly optimistic that we would come away with all three points tonight - clearly I was wrong.
We have looked a lot less impressive since we beat Brentford way back on the 5th of September. In fact we have only won one of the four games since that one. Southampton and Norwich were, perhaps, excusable as they came down with us; Exeter were beaten, not at all convincingly, but a win is a win. Tonight, however, was confirmation that we are not going to walk this division.
To be fair the first goal was a freak. Whom ever is responsible is a little irrelevant, it was a shocking back header, and Rob Elliot came off his line when there was no need for him to do so. I wouldn't think that either of those events would happen more than once a season, and to have them both happen at the same time is just plain bad luck.
As I said after the Exeter game results are affected by one off events. Had Colchester scored a freakish own goal I suspect that the result tonight could well have been 3-0 to us - well ok maybe not, but I genuinely believe that the result could have been different.
With that in mind we need to accept that today was not our day and move on and look for a confidence boost with a nice easy game this Saturday.
I have given Parkinson enough stick in the last twelve months, and after the start we've had this season I can hardly really complain, so I'm going to allow this result to pass and chalk it off as a bad day at the office. However, there are many signs that this team and formation needs tweaking before much longer. I'm not saying that we have been found out per se, but we have developed a few weaknesses in recent weeks and they seem to have become bigger and more apparent.
I'm tempted to put a lot of it down to Semedo being missing to break up the opposition's attacks. Spring was quiet on Saturday and almost invisible tonight, but that is probably just wishful thinking. Overall we have been able to dominate play against the weaker teams that have come to The Valley with reluctance to attack us and have given us space. It is easy to look good when the opposition get bodies behind the ball and allow you to pass the ball around in front of them. Llera's long cross balls to Lloyd Sam have been very successful, but when he is closed down he clearly cannot make those passes.
We looked very good against Exeter until they decided to come out and play, and especially in the second half they controlled the game for long periods themselves. Many people came away suggesting that Exeter were a good side, yet they are down in 18th place and have only won two of their ten games. I have been refusing to be concerned by the fact that none of the teams we have beaten are doing very well this season, but after tonight I am a lot less confident that we are going to be successful with the same lineup that won us those six games at the start of the season.
Other worries are that Lloyd Sam still blows hot and cold, yet we rely on him a lot.
JonJo Shelvey has looked tired in the last twenty minutes of games. He is young, and he covers so much ground that it is both understandable and excusable, but it does mean that we become a lot less effective in the latter stages of games. It almost means that we need to go into the last twenty minutes of games with a two goal lead.
Llera has a real lack of pace, and seems to get flustered when put under pressure - again not a worry when the opposition dare not attack us or we have a good lead, but when teams come out to 'have a go' we look very shaky at the back.
When we defend we drop too deep and then it becomes literally impossible for Dion Burton to do anything with the long balls pumped up to him. In fact I think Burton has been great this season, but when Shelvey gets tired he tends to play deeper and deeper. That makes marking Burton easier, and even if he can win a long ball up to him he has no one to lay it off to. Thus he has to try to take it down and control it, and that is not at all easy when you have two men on you, and they know you have to take the ball down.
When we defend (again too deep) we seem to surrender the midfield which forces us to lump the ball up to Burton exasperating the problem above.
Basically the little cracks in our side have got wider and wider, and now the opposition managers are working out how to both, stop us from creating so many chances, and expose our somewhat limited defence. For example, Rob Elliot has created many attacks this season with quick throws and long kicks. Tonight, as soon as he had the ball, he had a forward blocking him so that he was not able to get a quick counter attack going.
In my view we had too many players that under performed tonight. Maybe that's fatigue, maybe it's something psychological, but either those players need to raise their game or Parkinson needs to change things around. As already mentioned Shelvey looks tired; Llera looks slow and flustered; Spring looks out of his depth (to be fair I'm not sure that holding defender is his best position); Racon looks less creative (I'm going to assume that this is due to Semedo being missing); Burton looks ineffective (as mentioned before this may well be because he is being left more and more isolated).
If Semedo is not back for Saturday I would bring Shelvey back into the middle, drop Spring and play McLeod up front with Burton and I would go toe to toe with Leeds and try to outscore them. I would being in Sodje for Llera irrespective. We need a plan B and on the basis that I now have massive doubts that we can win this division I would describe Saturday's game as one of Curbishley's 'Bonus Balls' in that anything other that a defeat is a bonus, and it will give the players a chance to pit themselves against a decent team with a new formation. I would also keep the same formation for the Barnet game (all be it with a few changes to rest some players) to give them more playing time.
McLeod looked sharp tonight, and despite the fact that I would be willing to let him go in January I think it's worth seeing if the goal he scored against Exeter is the catalyst that starts him on the way to scoring a few more.
As for Chris Dixon who has now scored more goals in the last two games than Charlton have, well we can call him back after 28 days right? That should be long enough to have a good look at McLeod then we can make that decision can't we?
Overall I don't think any of the players have let themselves or the club down this season. Spring has come into a side that has played eight games together and has been asked to do a job that is a little out of his comfort zone. We did win on Saturday, and he must feel under pressure as you don't want to lose your place in a team that has been winning.
Llera needs a special mention, tonight he was truly awful. Rob Elliot should probably not have come for the ball when a defender was not under pressure. I was not close enough to hear if either of them called for the ball, but Llera directed the ball into the corner. Even Sunday park teams know that when you head the ball back you head it wide of the post. For the second goal he allowed his man to get past him and couldn't catch him. I know he is not the quickest player on the field, but on the basis that he has never been quick he should never have allowed Odejayi to get past him with the ball. From there on his game just got worse and worse. I am a little embarrassed to confess that I was one of those that cheered when he was called off. I know it doesn't help the players, and I never booed him, but you really needed to be there to see just how terrible he was.
I have a theory as to why he was so bad tonight. I think it might have been that he was scared to put his foot in in case he was booked and missed the Leeds game. Either way his performance was well below par, and was frankly unacceptable. That said he was part of the MK Dons side that did so well last season, and he has had good games for us so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of doubt and put this one down to a bad day at the office. You'd be horrified if I were to enlighten you to some of my bad days at the office. Also I will, here and now, publicly apologise for that cheer when he was substituted. It was unfair and uncalled for as I have no doubts that he was giving his best.
I'd still like to give Sodje a game on Saturday, he did play at Leeds at the back end of last season and I think he will be an asset for us up there. Llera can come back in for the Barnet game to give him a little confidence boost for the league games when Sodje is away on international duty. It's a long season and I'm sure that all of the players in the squad will get their moment, but I think it might be a good time to give Llera a rest.
On the basis that I now think our most valuable and irreplaceable player is Semedo, I really hope that he is fit to play on Saturday.
Up the Addicks!