Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Thoughts on Millwall

It would seem that since I started writing this blog, just under two years ago, we have been inundated with new blogs. I was out on Saturday night, and feeling very hungover on Sunday. Thus, by the time I got around to writing up my 'report' there were already so many that I struggled to read them all.

It was then that I decided (not for the first time this season) that my blog was a little redundant. I am no where near arrogant enough to believe that what I have to say is any more interesting to read than what others have to say. The outcry (if you can call it that) that followed New York Addick's hint that he may call it a day is due to both the longevity of his existence, and the quality of his writing. Unlike Chicago Addick, I don't discuss anything other then football - except on exceptional circumstances. Of the other regular blogs Pedro45 writes a much more in depth preview and review of games, and Dave both writes well and is incredibly quick to comment on anything and everything. Wyn Grant's Diary is just that - a day to day history of events with more facts than personal thoughts. Doctor Kish is more of an account of Kett's thoughts, and summaries of their day's out.

I include all of those blogs, and many of the others that are a little less regular, as offering a complete 'solution' in the blog sphere and as such find it difficult to justify bothering at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm neither hoping for, nor expecting, an avalanche of comments suggesting that I keep going, and I'm not planning to stop, I just don't find the enthusiasm to get something out there quickly after games, and by the time I am ready there is very little I can add that hasn't already been said elsewhere.

Thus it is Tuesday afternoon and I am only just sharing my thoughts on a 4-4 thriller with our biggest rivals after not playing them for nearly 14 years. If I was employing myself to write for a job I would have sacked myself for such a lack of professionalism.

This not really an excuse, it's more of an explanation, and unless things change I will probably write a little less for a while as I'm struggling to find much to say that is worth reading (that isn't already there to be read by the time I write it).

Anyway, with that covered off I do have a few observations on the Millwall game. Strangely I have read differing views on the game. I am in the camp that thinks that we were just not as hungry as Millwall were. The game reminded me of many of the clashes we had in the eighties. Millwall (both fans and players) managed to intimidate our players in the first half an hour. After going to so much trouble to suggest that this wouldn't happen that is exactly what did happen. I know we were missing our two first choice full backs, and I'm convinced that had an impact, but many of the players were treating this like another chance to win three points. This is ok, but Millwall looked like they would literally run through brick walls for a result. We didn't even look like we were willing to climb over them at times.

To be fair we did get back into the game, but the first penalty was less than convincing - with the number of howlers the Ref made he could easily have not given it - but it was crucial for our fightback. I'm also not sure that Mooney would have scored had he not been tripped.

After we scored the third goal early in the second half we seemed to defend the lead. I know that has been successful in recent weeks, but in a derby game you cannot sit back and defend a one goal lead. For most of the second half we were over run by ten men. There were times when I caught myself counting the players on the pitch as we looked like the team playing with one short.

To fail to get a two goal cushion and to let ten men back level twice must be seen as a failure. For Leeds and Norwich to win as well just makes the whole day a disaster. I know we came back from 2-0 down, but that just doesn't excuse, for me, the fact that we couldn't close out a game against ten men at home when we led twice.

I am not going to apportion blame. I know Parkinson has been looking to bring in more 'Character' but (Richardson and Youga aside) we clearly need a lot more before we can hope to cope with teams with the determination that Millwall showed on Saturday. God knows what would have happened if Millwall had been allowed to keep the eleven men that stormed into a two goal lead for the whole 90 minutes.

We didn't lose, and we are still four points above Norwich, so we are still in a great position, but we are going to need to show a lot more resilience when we entertain Colchester, Norwich and Leeds next year.

My only other grumble is in relation to the action taken against the Millwall fans that stood up and danced in the East Stand after they scored both their first half goals. If the club are not able to employ stewards that can evict fans then they should bite the bullet and call in the Police (and pay them) to keep away fans from rubbing our noses in it in our own stand. I don't agree with violence, but I suspect that there would have been some very serious questions had one of the fans been stabbed after they were allowed to stay long enough to cheer for their second goal. The club went to a lot of trouble to keep Millwall fans out of the home areas, and on the whole they were very successful, but if the rumours of Charlton fans being attacked in the toilets in the East Stand at half time are true then I would expect to see heads roll.

The most insulting view of the afternoon, however, was that of the Millwall fans in the East Stand being marched into the South Stand rather than being ejected. From what I read the South Stand was sold out. Thus it was full to capacity. Thus there was no safety certificate for any more fans. I know they all stood up (something that Charlton fans do away, to be fair) but we must have broken the rules of our safety certificate by rehousing them in the South Stand. Call me pedantic if you will, but if you reward fans in the wrong section by giving them a seat in their own section there is no incentive for them to stay away. Either way, I suspect that we can have no defence, if the authorities demand that our next Millwall game is played behind closed doors. If we really did flaunt the safety rules rather then having the bottle to throw out the fans that were where they knew they shouldn't have been, and then went out of their way to let everyone know, we have to expect to be punished for it.

That aside it really was a fantastic game.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Next... Millwall at home

Needless to say I don't like Millwall. In fact I even penned something about why I hate them back in February 2008, you can read that here.

There are a few games that mean more in isolation than the three points (or advancing in a cup competition). Local derbies are in that category. We have, over the years, changed our dislikes from Millwall to Palace. Sure when we were sharing Selhurst Park they were our nearest opposition, but history and geography dictates that Millwall are our local derby. They are the club that have fans that most of our fan base work with. We (Charlton fans living in the locality of The Valley) probably have more Millwall fans on their streets that any other.

Yes, this is OUR local derby.

As has been said in a great post by Dave we all have our own history with Millwall, but the fact remains that there will be no one there that doesn't want to win this game more than most others.

Our record against Millwall was terrible for years. Partly due to the intimidation as discussed by Dave and partly due to the fact that when we've been in the same division as them we have tended to be punching below our weight and they above their weight. That made our derby games more important to them than to us.I know that sounds snobby and a tad arrogant, but the truth sometimes hurts, and Millwall are a lower division club and we are not!

However, we find ourselves in the third division, and we have to accept that we are here on merit, and until such time as we get out of this division we have to accept that we are on more of a level playing field with Millwall than we have been for many years. It is, of course, possible that we could fail to win promotion and Millwall could achieve it. It doesn't look likely right now, but we still have a long way to go.

So, there are three points up for grabs. It would be nice to keep the run going, but for me this is all about beating the neighbours. I don't know many Millwall fans, just a couple actually, and I don't see them anymore, and, in fact, don't have their contact details, so there is no bragging rights for me, but due to the way I was brought up, and my own personal history I really, really want to win this one.

Just to clarify, I don't have any anger towards the Millwall fans. Not only would I not want to punch one, but if I saw one hurt I would offer help. I was, probably, a little less diplomatic in my youth, but I have learned to be able to switch off the animosity that I have for the duration of the game as soon as I leave the ground. I wouldn't want to be my drinking buddies on Saturday night if we lose, as I'll be terrible company, but I cannot abhor football violence. I have no problem with singing (and swearing if I'm honest - even if I choose not to) at games like this, but as well as wishing for a win and a good atmosphere, I hope that the whole event goes off without any trouble. Millwall can have as many fights as they like with West Ham and Chelsea, and chances are those other two clubs want it too, but it is not something that I want anywhere near my club, or where I go to watch football.

That out of the way, I am looking forward to a good open contest. It is very rare that derbies turn out to be a one sided game, and to be fair to them Millwall have been a good side in this division for the last season or so. I think they will come full of determination. As Dave suggests, I think it is much harder these days to intimidate football players. Just because they have nice houses and flash cars doesn't mean that they are soft. The more money these footballers earn the more demand for their job and the tougher they need to be. There was a time when that "Millwall" (the word dragged out) over and over again would intimidate both players and fans. not any more. I cannot see Nicky Bailey or Semedo being bothered by a loud chant.

I am confident of a win. I would go as far as to predict a 3-1 win. I think, due the the pressure that comes with a game that everyone really wants to win, it will not feel comfortable until the final whistle goes, but I think it will be a good Saturday night out for the Charlton fans.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Next... Stockport away

Last Saturday's win at home to Southend was hardly lucky, but far from inspiring. We did look good at times, but overall we failed to win the midfield battle and that left us defending for large parts of the game when we should have been able to take the game to them.

In truth a similar thing happened at Brighton where we scored two goals from our first two chances (the only two we had in the first half) and then defended the lead.

With two clean sheets on the bounce for the first time in two months, and four months if you exclude back to back 0-0 draws, we can hardly complain if the team are going to carve out a goal or two then defend it to the final whistle.

I also think that our midfield is much better able to cope with Semedo in it, and he is back for tomorrow's game against the team most out of form in the league. In fact the form tables that I use on www.statto.com fail to look further than the last six games, and Stockport have lost the last seven.

Thus with Semedo back and with Basey and Omozusi looking more and more competent this game should be a formality. I am not yet convinced that Wagstaff is the answer on the left, but I have high hopes based on his last two performances. Clearly he is much more comfortable on the right, but as Lloyd Sam doesn't seem any happier on the the left I'm happy to go with Wagstaff for the time being. The biggest worry that I have is that with Wagstaff on the left we don't have any cover on the right, and cannot make a late substitution to add some energy to either flank. This is ok all the time we are entering the last twenty minutes defending a lead, but if we need to make a change to get a goal it leaves us a little short.

Such are the issues with having a small squad - something that we have not had real problems with over the last decade. Either way I'm not convinced it is going to be much of a problem tomorrow.

After tomorrow we have two tough home games followed by six very winnable games. I doubt that we will win them all, despite the fact that we have beaten all six already this season, but a win tomorrow will leave us set up for the two home games with confidence, knowing that one win and a draw will be enough for us to hold onto second place going into that run of six winnables.

I'm confident of a win tomorrow, and despite the fact that the pitch will be less than ideal I'm going to go for a hat full of goals too. I actually think we'll win 4-0, but on the basis that I've made that prediction a few times already recently (and not been right yet) I'm going to keep that to myself. Or not as the case may be.

My main hope for tomorrow is that we can avoid any more injuries or suspensions as the next four weeks we have a massive 18 points to play for.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Brighton 0 - 2 Charlton

As has been said elsewhere it was a terrible view. I didn't know who scored our second goal until I went online on my mobile 'phone. In fact I wasn't actually sure we'd even scored until I saw some of our players running away celebrating.

I know Brighton have had some problems, and due to our own 'exile' issues I have a lot of sympathy with them, but it is, frankly, shameful that they charged for the view that I got of the game. Also, while I'm complaining, there were literally hundreds of tickets left when I bought my two, but we were in the second row (the higher the better the view) and we were either side of an isle. If I'd paid half the price for tickets at a cinema I would have walked out. I don't know who's fault it is that the isle issue wasn't mentioned, or that the worst view seats were sold first but irrespective, it has made me significantly less motivated to go to away games.

The game itself I can hardly comment on as I'm confident that those listening on CAFC TV/Player had much more idea what was going on than I did. The atmosphere was also a little dampened, I expect due to the distance we were from the action.

It was a nice day out though. As I hadn't seen my Dad for about a month the long(ish) drive was a good time to catch up, and we also went to a Fish restaurant on the front - for a steak. Well we are British after all.

So my thoughts on the game are limited, but it was a good win. I know people (including myself) have been talking about our relative positions in the league and the fact that we really should have won, but you still have to beat the team in front of you. I didn't think we looked in any trouble at all in the first half. Brighton did attack more in the opening twenty minutes of the second half, but I really couldn't see the other goal well enough to tell you if we were lucky or safe, but either way we kept our first clean sheet since 10th October. Interestingly, if you include the two cup games that makes it our first clean sheet in nine.

I have always liked clean sheets. I know high scoring games are more exciting, but I like shut outs. I actually prefer a 1-0 rather than a 3-1, save for the obvious goal difference benefit.

Sadly both Norwich and Leeds also kept clean sheets, and Norwich scored more than us. I am worried about them, I think they could pose a real threat to us. However, we are four points above them, and I'd much sooner be four points in front than four points behind, and we seem to have found a little bit of form again, which bodes well for the run we have coming up before the end of the year.

Back to back wins, but had we not had Sodje sent off at Yeovil we could well be sitting on a run of four wins, something that many were suggesting would confirm our genuine promotion aspirations a month or so ago.

Over all a good night - and it didn't rain or drop below freezing. I'd have taken 2-0 before we left, but I don't think I'll be going to the Withdean Stadium again in a hurry.

Up the Addicks!