Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Next... Bury at home

Despite being determined to make this blog more consistent I failed to find time to write a preview or a report of the Exeter game. I wasn't at Exeter, and after being at the two games against Sheffield, which were more significant and probably exciting, I guess I just found Exeter a little uninspiring.

Thankfully the team didn't and we dug in and secured a third 1-0 win on the bounce. Interestingly Exeter hadn't lost for four, and there are no easy games at any level. The goal, that I saw on the television, did look a little fortunate, but they all count, and I'd take that and move on. It is another three points towards our total, and we extended our lead over Huddersfield by two points, and we traded our game in hand on Sheffield and MK for a three point extension. All great news.

Tonight we play our game in hand against a Bury side that have won three and lost three of the last six games. That makes them sound a little inconsistent, and should be unable to match the league leaders. It follows, as Bury are sitting eleventh in the table and should, one would expect, beat the relegation strugglers and lose to the promotion candidates, which is pretty much what they have done this season.

It is imperative that the managers and the players (and I am confident of them) and the fans need to recognise that teams like Bury will not just roll over and wait for us to score a hat full of goals. We will probably face a team that will get ten men behind the ball and defend, defend, defend.

It is in games like this that we need that little extra bit of quality to break down a stubborn team that will time waste and generally frustrate us to try to come away with a point, or to snatch a winner. Our defence has been amazing in recent weeks. Since the end of October we have six clean sheets, two one all draws, a one nil defeat with ten men for 85 minutes, a 5-2, where we went to sleep at 5-0 and a 3-2 win at Yeovil which is probably the exception.

Thus I am confident that if we score a goal we will not lose and will probably win. Two goals and I'd be amazed if we lost.

We are playing (at least the results demonstrate) like the Curbishley sides that we now look back on with such fond memories. Powell has even mentioned in a press article (might have been on the web, I'm not sure) that he has based his approach on Curbs, and it looks like it is working. The team that won the First Division Championship had a very similar approach. We managed six 1-0 wins that season, and we have four this season already. What this does (having a very tight defence) is make each goal much more likely to be a game changer.

If you regularly win by the odd goal in five (or even seven) then each goal is just part of a match. If you normally win (or lose) by the only goal of the game, it becomes a bigger thing to score (or concede). People talk about big scoring games as though they are special, and as they are unusual they are special. However, if you do see four goals plus every week they soon become less exciting. The 3-2 win at Yeovil was special because it was unusual for us to concede two goals, and we have only scored three or more on seven occasions, and only won by the odd goal in five twice this season - Rochdale away being the other.

Ultimately I'd be more than happy with 1-0 wins all the way to the end of the season - except for tonight. Back in September 2008 I took my son to his first football game. We lost 2-1 to, of all sides Sheffield Wednesday, and apart from the first half of the following game against Ipswich he hasn't been back since. He didn't, exactly, take to it, and found that it was a bit loud. In his defence we have, since then, discovered, via some medical tests, that he has unusually sensitive hearing, and this has been a problem that has come up a few times since.

Anyway we are discussing his birthday party (which is in May) and I floated that he might like to take some friends from his school to a football match (there are many football fans at his school) and he thought that was a good idea. He has become a 'Charlton fan' in the intervening period (since he came three and a half years ago) but has not looked interested in coming to a game again - until now.

With my Dad away and with Mrs KHA working in the City again, it did pose an interesting dilemma. Obviously with my Dad and his wife away it depleted our baby sitting options, and I had a spare ticket. To be fair my wife did offer to come home from work early to look after him, but he says he wants to go, so come he will.

It could have done with being a less cold night as he is only seven, but he rarely complains about being cold, and I have been given a whole pile of clothes that I should wrap him up in. I suspect that he is a little less excited about going to football than I am (both for him and me) but I will come prepared with sweets, drinks and an iPad2 (with headphones that will also be able to tackle the loud noise - should that be an issue) which should ensure that even if he fails to enjoy the football I will be able to stay until the end.

With this in mind I would like to see a number of goals tonight - preferably more of them being scored by us, and with any luck I just might be able to tempt him to come again on Saturday, but I'm not holding my breath.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Season Tickets

For the last couple of years I've been a little underwhelmed about the season ticket offering. There have been a number of reasons as to why I've not felt truly satisfied in recent seasons but I have discussed those in detail already, and it never does any good to repeat yourself, especially in writing.

Anyway today we were advised of the deal to renew before 5th April (or maybe a day or two later to account for the post) and I'm impressed and more than satisfied.

Interestingly the main reason I'm so happy is that the current board have already shown that their genuine ambition is every bit as much as the talk that they have given.

One can understand why a football club (or any business) would set out to use their PR machine to maximise revenues, and when you are selling a annual subscription to anything you only need to 'sell' it once a year, so you can make statements that fail to come true and you have a whole year to 'fool' your customers before asking for their money again.

I'm not saying that the club has done this intentionally in the past, nor am I saying that they've done it by accident, but the truth is that the ambition (or rather the success achieved) has fallen very short of the published aspirations at the time of asking for fans to commit to season tickets.

So, taking nothing away from the previous board members and Richard Murray, this new regime has delivered both in terms of providing support and resources to the manager, but also with success on the field. I mention the previous board (and, of course, Richard was involved previously and still is) because it now appears that they were doing everything they could for the club, but just ran out of money or didn't get the breaks or made a few misjudgements.

Anyway, all is very rosy in the Charlton garden right now so it is a very good time to be asking the fans to commit to another season. Clearly we are not likely to have as much success on the field next season in a higher division, and if we fail to go up now it will be because the wheels have come off and most fans will be disappointed.

Weirdly the relative comparison between this season and next and last season and this makes for a interesting debate. Based on how terrible last season was, particularly the recent form when the club invited sales of season tickets, you could argue that the improvement constituted a better deal. Of course, very few of us realised how much better this season was going to be over last season. I mean we finished on 59 points last season - one less than we have now with 20 games to go.

On the assumption that we will be in a higher division next season we are likely (and I'm not being negative here, just realistic) to win many fewer points and we might even be in a relegation struggle, yet we are all probably more keen to commit now that we were twelve months ago. I waited until June last season as I thought I wanted convincing by the board that they were going to do more than bring in a handful of free transfers during the week before the season started, which is what we've seen in recent seasons.

I would go as far as to say that the transfer activity this (2011) summer was as significant as I can ever remember. Sure we didn't break the transfer record like we did in the Premier League a few seasons running, but the squad rebuilding was much more more comprehensive. The fact that the squad gelled in time for the season is a magnificent achievement. Clearly it was helped by making early signings. This is, however, not a new revelation, but it is something that we (and many other clubs) have failed to do in the past.

So what I'm trying to say is that the board, and Chris Powell, have gone about their business in the way that we wanted them to, and they have made good judgements where they suggested they would. There is absolutely no reason to question their motives or judgement, even if the undisclosed nature of the transfer activity means that we don't know how much money they have invested. Having said that even if they've put little money in (after the sale of Jenkinson) they can't be knocked as they have managed to put together a squad that is clearly good enough to hold it's own in this division - and this is the only division that we could compete in this season.

I never intended for this to be a review of the season, and it's not, but it helps to give the background for me to make the bold statement that I think the club has delivered this season and, despite the nice comments about how our support has helped and is appreciated, I believe that this season the balance is in the club's favour. I believe that the price we paid for our season tickets was not only better value than recent years, but under price for what we have seen.

There I've said it. I think that I should be grateful for what has been provided for the £400 I paid for my ticket last June, and with a price of £375 for next season (I didn't buy early enough for that price last year) I can't believe my luck.

Needless to say I will be renewing by the 5th April deadline.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Charlton 1 - 0 Sheffield United

I was confident of a win, but I was all too aware of United's form coming into this game, along with the fact that they had managed to hold on to several of their players from last season, and that was always going to give them an edge in tight games this season. That little bit of extra quality that can make a chance or score a goal.

However, as I say I was confident of a win, but I went to the pub with Dave from Drinking During the Game, and suddenly felt the need to declare that I'd probably take a draw. Dave was having none of it, he was looking for a win and wouldn't accept a draw before kick off.

Interestingly I have always tended to settle for a little less. I might be confident of a win but would take a draw when I probably shouldn't, but when we are four points clear, and have just won away to another top five side there is some logic in ensuring that we keep the four point lead with some more winnable games to come.

Anyway, I needn't have worried as we did win, and despite the fact that I was nervous for most of the second half we never, actually, looked like conceding a goal after half time. Rather like The week before, our defence looked strong and impenetrable. Taylor and Morrison are looking more solid each week, and the full backs also both have a good claim for player of the year. Solly's marking and tackling is amazing and Wiggins has pace to burn and gets up and down the wing all afternoon.

In fact we have built our success this season on both defence and attack. Until his recent barren spell Bradley Wright-Phillips was scoring us the goals to win games. We had a brief spell where we were scoring a lot of goals, but throughout that we have been tight at the back. What that means now is that, in most cases, one goal will mean a win.

Again our only goal came from a Johnnie Jackson free kick, and this week's was even better than the one that beat Wednesday. He really is a great player, and Skipper.

The game was, until the sendings off, a little drab to be honest. We scored the goal we needed and then we defended while looking for a goal on the break - something that I think Wright-Phillips is the perfect player to get. Bradley has had a barren spel but his confidence doesn't look to have been affected and I think it's only a matter of time before he scores again. I suspect that he is being given more attention, and I think that Paul Hayes is probably going to make more chances for him than Kermorgant, but the latter will, probably, chip in with more goals of his own.

Either way Paul Hayes looks like he has fallen right down the pecking order for the time being. After cameo's in the last two league games for Clarke it was Danny Haynes that came on yesterday. He didn't get long enough for me to say very much, but he looked fast and sharp, and I'm confident that he will make an impact before the season is over.

The only real point of interest in the game, save for the goal, was the incident and the aftermath that reduced both teams to ten men. From the East stand it looked like a firm tackle with studs up, but the replay on the TV shows that it was not, in actual fact, a two footed tackle. Interestingly there has been some debate on the TV recently and it would appear that two footed tackles are not banned. The issue is wreckless and/or dangerous. I am no specialist, but the tackle did look like it could have caused injury, and as the referee had a good view and was so close I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. We will know what the club's view is when we discover if they will appeal the three match ban.

The video, and still, footage of James Beattie's throat attack on Yann was not in any doubt. Beattie has not been offered a contract with United yet, and this might make a difference. I have never liked ths player from when he first scored against us for Southampton over ten years ago, and his red card for Everton when he head butted William Gallas and proceeded to, literally, run over him when he wouldn't get out of his way shows what sort of man he is.

Lucky for us, probably, as with an extra man, with the pressure that they had been putting on us I think we might have conceded our lead, but it wasn't to be. I have always said that I would be happy to win a drab game, especially in a big game, so I'm not going to complain. In fact, I couldn't be happier.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Next... Sheffield United at home

It is quite a coincidence that we play both teams from Sheffield in the space of eight days, but what is more unusual is that we play two of the teams that will almost certainly finish top five back to back.

I'm going to try to avoid making any other comments about the fact that they both come from the same city except to say that I lived in Sheffield for a year when I was doing my MBA.

It's a decent city, although I've only lived in that one and Canterbury, so I can't really compare that well. While I was at University I joined a football supporters club. For those that have been to university you will know that there is a club for, just about, everything - especially at the larger Universities.

Before I made some proper friends, two of which I still speak to on a regular basis now, nearly twenty years later, I did some socialising with this football supporters club. Something else that many of you will know is that most of these clubs are formed in September and disbanded by the New Year when all the students have made friends, started relationships, or discovered alcohol or other chemicals to keep them entertained.

Anyway as well as a quiz and a few nights out drinking the football supporters club arranged a tour of Bramall Lane, which was not that far from where I was living at the time. The tour was great - just like any other I suppose. However, part way through the tour we bumped into Dave Bassett, the then Manager of Sheffield United, who were in the Premier League at the time. It was the first season of the Premier League, and Brian Dean of United had scored the first, ever, Premier League goal.

I mention all this as Harry Bassett couldn't have given us more time. He talked to the group of us (about half a dozen, from memory) and talked about United and all our clubs. There was only one Sheffield United fan in the group, but this didn't stop Harry from making us feel very welcome. This reminded me of what Charlton was all about. This was the time that we were at Upton Park, a few months before we came back to The Valley.

Anyway I decided that day that Sheffield United would be my second team - my team away from home, if you like. I'd always had a thing for Liverpool when I'd been a kid, like a lot of children born in the early 70s, but I didn't go to Anfield until 1996, and that was as an away fan when Charlton went there. I went to Bramall Lane a few times during that season, as well as coming home for every Charlton game. As a fan of Sheffield United, I clearly didn't have a lot of time for Sheffield Wednesday - and still don't today.

Anyway enough of my history. Second team or not I want us to win tomorrow, maybe not as much as I wanted us to win last week, but a lot never the less.

Following New York Addick's analysis I am not treating this like any other game - even if Chris Powell is. Clearly the professionalism and the training should be the same (or close) but the significance of the game, and the increased crowd, should ensure that the players know this is not like any other game.

Last week was fantastic. It was great to win away to one of our promotion rivals; it was great to beat a team that was unbeaten at home all season; and it was great to beat a team that has some fans that are, shall we say, very confident of their club and it's stature.

However, this is the first time it has been 1st vs 2nd. We nearly had that when we beat Huddersfield back in November, and, save for United playing a game more we could have had it last weekend. This, however, is the real deal, a top of the table clash.

The fact that we will still be top at 5pm, and we will still have a game in hand on the team in second takes nothing away from the significance of the fixture for me. This is an opportunity for us to make another statement about our credentials, and for us to increase the lead, over second, to at least seven points.

As well as beating Sheffield Wednesday at home for the first time this season we also signed a new striker last week, and I have a funny feeling we will see something of him tomorrow. We now seem to have a surplus of strikers, and I am more than happy with the two that have been starting. I know little about Haynes (or Clarke for that matter, save for his scoring record this season) but I trust Powell's judgement and I can't wait to have a look at them - from the bench, of course. It does make it look like Hayes is going to struggle for match time, but he has failed to make an impression from the bench, and he just isn't going to force himself in front of Wright-Phillips or Kermorgant.

I am confident of a win tomorrow. I know that Sheffield United have been in great form, and we have drawn two and lost one of our last six, but we have performed better in the big games this season, and after last week I am as convinced as I think one can be in January that we are on a march to the second division.

Tomorrow will not decide our season, but it may define it. If we end up seven points above at least two teams tomorrow evening it is entirely possible that we will end up being more than a win from second place from the start of November to the end of the season. Not at all bad, if you ask me.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sheffield Wednesday 0 - 1 Charlton

I did say that the game would be tense, and it was. What I didn't predict, however, was that we would win and keep a clean sheet. I didn't, in all truth, dare to believe that we would win.

I was going to celebrate like mad if we managed a draw to be honest. I couldn't get any access to the Internet on my phone so I didn't know what the other scores were until I'd left the ground, but that aside, I did think that avoiding defeat would have been a decent days work.

I find it interesting reading reports from fans that have vested interests in the clubs. I did mention the Wednesday fans on their forum before the game, and I have read some of their comments since the game. They claim that we were time wasting from the first minute. I hate time wasting, so I'm probably likely to be more biased on this subject, but I didn't feel like we were time wasting. Sure, we were not taking goal kicks and throw ins in a hurry as we were not chasing the game and an away side will always look to regroup from a stoppage in play. Only if you are losing towards the end of the game do you want to see your 'Keeper running to get the ball, put it down and then immediately kick it anywhere towards the other end of the pitch.

Other points they made were their two near misses while not mentioning BWP's one on one that Weaver saved. Also the Wednesday fans think the ref was on our side but I counted at least three incidents that could have justified a red card for them that was yellow.

One point I do agree on was Morrison. He looked shakey at the start, and he made a couple of mistakes that made him look nervous - having said that we did keep a clean sheet so I have no complaints.

What I didn't mention before the game was that Charlton fans are just as likely to spout rubbish, and I am, personally, a little embarrassed by some of the comments I've read on Charlton Life this morning (Sunday). Maybe I'm being uncharitable towards our fans following a big win, but I think there is often something to be gained by honest praise of opponents if and when appropriate.

Anyway my 'unbiased' view of the game is that we managed a good side and a strong vocal support to secure an unlikely but, probably, fair result. I've read a lot about how Wednesday are not all hit and rush, but there was little evidence of that yesterday. What we need to remember is that this is not Wimbledon in the old First Division in the late 80s, it is third division football, where it is both acceptable and, potentially, profitable to play a 'direct' style in this division.

I don't understand football snobbery at this level. Sure I'd rather watch passing football, but I am more interested in winning, and what ever gets us out of this division. It's clearly working for Wednesday who, until recently, had been top two fr weeks.

Anyhow, back to the game. As I was hoping to avoid defeat I thought it was important not to concede early. The opening ten minutes or so they came at us almost constantly. This was when Morrison looked a little shakey, and this was obviously a crucial time for us. I haven't seen us much away this season, so I can't comment on our normal game plan, but we did look like we were settling into the game before we started to open up and play a bit.

There were no real hair raising moments, but we did look like the away side. The fans were not as vocal as I'd expected, but it was early days, and many fans tend to wait for the team to lift them and not vice-versa.

As the game wore on we did start to look like we had found our feet and we had a few attacks. Nothing to get too excited about, but we did look like we had weathered the initial storm and the match had grown into the tense game I was expecting with the result likely to be a draw or a one goal margin win. Wednesday were negative in breaking up play. I would be tempted to call them cynical but to be honest I was going to save that word for the second half when they got much worse.

A free kick outside the box on our left gave us a good chance. You will all have seen the goal now, but it was a great free kick. Top right corner.

Suddenly we have something to defend. The last fifteen minutes we defended while attacking on the break, and I was glad to see half time, althought in the cold light of day I realise that we were not in any real trouble during that time, it just felt like it.

The second half had two different phases. For about half of it we both had breaks but we stood firm at the back and we just didn't quite hit that pass right, or just couldn't reach that ball. I guess, in truth, Wednesday were doing most of the attacking and we were hitting on the break, but we both had half chances (they were attaching the other end so my view was not as good). Then Megson took his last gamble and changed his side to a 4-3-3 and went all out for the win.

This had a couple of impacts. 1) They attacked more. 2) We defended more and more deeply. 3) This was the point that I would use the word cynical as their game plan seemed to be to sacrifice defending and just attack. This left them unable to cover break away attacks so they, literally, fouled every player that got on the ball. This should have brought a red card. If the first one had been red then I suspect the game would have changed as they would have had to defend differently. Ironically a red card would have changed the game and, it could be claimed that, it would have finished Wednesday's chances, but then so would have a goal if any of our attacks had been allowed to continue without a cynical, professional, foul. 4) The crowd seemed to wake up and made some serious noise.

It needs to be remembered that this team have only drawn two games at home this season and won nine. They even beat West Ham, with a last minute goal, at home last weekend. The fans, obviously, believed they were in the game right to the end. It made me more nervous, especially as the referee wasn't going to show a red card and we were not likely to get another shot on target if our players weren't going to get past their last defender, with both the ball, and their legs.

Bradley Wright-Phillips did manage to out run a defender and come in from the left to earn himself a one on one with Weaver. It was a great save, from a very narrow angle, but it was a reminder that this is a proper goal scoring striker and shouldn't be dropped despite a run of not scoring in recent weeks. When his luck changes and the goals come back I suspect that we will have more wins by bigger margins - but I'm more than happy with 1-0s or 2-1s.

From my perspective, especially with the increased support from the crowd I was happy to accept a draw at any time until the last fifteen minutes. I thought of a win as a bonus, but as the game came to a close I started to believe that we should hang on. Also as the noise levels increased I was convinced that if they'd got one we would have been under massive (and I used that word on purpose) pressure, until the final whistle, for them to get a winner.

They did play, and the fans supported, like a team that hasn't lost a game at home all season. They clearly believed that they would get a goal, but it wasn't to be and we won what I think was a defining game in our season. It wasn't as big a result as Huddersfield at home, nor, probably, Sheffield United away, but due to it being nearer the finishing line, than the other two games, it can feel more like an indication of what the end of the season will bring. Next week is another game of such stature, and I can't wait for that one either.

Just a couple of other observations: Chris Solly was immense. He has really proved himself this season and I couldn't be happier about it. Bradley Pritchard is another payer that has proved himself his season. No disrespect to Bradley but he has not achieved what Solly has this season but he made a big step up and with a layoff through injury to contend with, he has earned his place in the side and been more than worthy of it. It's a shame for him that Dale Stephens is back in the squad, but it is good news for us.

Semedo was unnoticeable today, save for his tackle that should have earned him a red card for him being the last defender. Sure it was on the half way line, but he was still the last defender. I think Semedo is the type of player that is better suited to a team that is looking to be negative and break up play which is why I think we haven't missed him so much. That Wednesday play this way is to his benefit, but if I'm honest I'm not sure he was of much benefit to them as they were chasing the game for such long periods of time. Anyway I wish him well. We signed him on a free and he left on a free and always give his all and seemed genuinely loyal to us while he was here. If he was able to earn much more elsewhere then good luck to him.

Last comment is about the coach journey. It was a long day leaving at quarter past seven and getting home at quarter past ten, but it was comfortable, we parked right outside the stand we were in and with an iPad loaded up with things to watch I wasn't too bored either. This method of transport seems even more acceptable with hundreds of fans missing the first half due to a problem on the trains. I would be tempted to do other away games on the coach if and when I am allowed the whole day out again.

Ironically, rather like the win over Huddersfield, this will have the shine taken off it somewhat as Wednesday are, suddenly, not the main challenger any more. They are now 4th so we are looking at Sheffield United and Huddersfield as the two, one of which we need to keep in front of. This is probably the biggest insult we can throw at the Wednesday fans I suspect, and if we fail to beat United next Saturday then this situation will be compounded.

Having said that, it was very, very nice at the final whistle yesterday, what with Sheffield Wednesday being such a massive club and all.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Next... Sheffield Wednesday away

In September 1988 (at the age of 17) I decided to go to an away game on my own. My Dad was away or busy (I don't remember now) and I went on the 'Football Special' to Coventry. I didn't, actually, talk to any other Charlton fans, but I did walk with them and the Police escort to the ground. It was a great day out. Bob Bolder went off injured with a dislocated finger (I think) and Steve Gritt went in goal. We lost 3-0 but Gritty made a couple of great saves. One in particular was a full length dive across the goal and diverted the ball from the top corner with an outstretch hand. the ref blew for a foul or offside so it wouldn't have counted, but we gave a great cheer all the same.

the result was, obviously, terrible, but the day out had been so enjoyable I decided to do the same again for the next away game - Norwich on 1st October. This was the game that Paul Mortimer scored the goal that is top of my personal Top Ten Goals. This was probably one of the most memorable games I've been to, that was not a significant game before kick off.

Strangely enough I didn't go to another away match that season until 21st March when we drew 2-2 at Highbury, but it was a special time in my life with regard to developing what has become an obsession with Charlton (well it is isn't it?) and turning 18.

Anyway, the reason for the brief trip down memory lane is because yesterday I decided, well applied for a whole day pass anyway, to go to Sheffield this weekend. I had been thinking about it for a week or so, and had my Dad been around I'm sure we would have gone, but with him just a few days into a six and a half week holiday in Tenerife, I was going to have to go on my own, and that is a very different decision. I'm not 17 any more and I have to seek (if not beg for) permission to spend all day at a football match these days. The situation was compounded y the fact that my wife started a new job on Monday and for the first time in years she is back in the City, with the long journey, early starts and late finishes.

I did ask in such a way as to make it seem less of a big deal until I had some acceptance, but to be fair to her I did make it clear that I would be out all day on her first day off with our son since she'd started her new (and more demanding) working schedule.

Anyway with a day pass in my proverbial hand I bought a ticket online and subsequently bought a seat on the coach that goes from down here. It leaves earlier that I normally get up, but I suspect I can always sleep on the coach? I'm not sure I've spent a whole day on a coach since I was at school, but I'll be prepared with a good book, and iPad with some games and films on it and an iPhone with some songs to listen to. I'm sure the journey will just fly by, or not!

Anyway the purpose of all this is, of course, not research into cross country coach journeys but to see the top of the table clash. It's interesting that when we played Huddersfield, due to the Sky cameras it failed to be 1st vs 2nd as Wednesday had climbed above Huddersfield on the Saturday.

Wednesday's home form has been outstanding this season, but to be fair they have only beaten MK Dons of the top five. They drew with Huddersfield, when they were, themselves, having a bit of a sticky patch - two wins in six and back to back defeats. It is clear that they are good at home, in fact, they are good, full stop, but we are good away. In fact we are good full stop, but I don't want to sound arrogant.

The defeat to Orient was, obviously, in part (I think large part) due to having to play most of the game with ten men. Stevenage was one of those games that we could have drawn, or won, if we'd had a lucky break, so I can't see us being played off the park. I can't see us struggling in any of our league games this season but if we are going to it is as likely to be this one as any other. This makes it a bog game for lots of reasons.

One of those reasons is the interest that there seems to be on Charlton Life this season with the Owls Forum - specifically how many of their fans believe that they will, at some point, catch and overtake us as we are just not as big a club as they are. I have to confess that having had a quick look at this forum I am, also, a little bit intrigued as to keep reading what this delusional fans come out with. To be fair to them their form (after the first three games) is better than ours during the same period*, so they could claim that they are doing well. We are the top two based on form during that period, as well as from the start of the season based on average points per game - Sheffield united have played one more game than both of us.

Thus we should expect, probably, that this game will be a little tense, and will be won by the odd goal (if it isn't a draw). I think Wednesday will have to come at us, and I'm not sure that will be the best approach. After all we are not top of the division by luck alone, and as our away form shows we are clearly able to soak up pressure. I think we should (and will) keep it tight at the start and hope that as they become more and more tense at not breaking us down they will allow us chances to grab a goal, or two.

I have to confess that I would take a draw right now. Not because I think we are not worthy of a win, but because it is enough away from home when you are five points ahead of the team in third with the second placed team to come to you in the next fixture. I'm not sure I'd gamble for a win at home to Sheffield United if I was offered the draw either, but that is a decision for another day.

This game will not settle the season, nor will it have that much impact on the confidence of either side as we are all, really, playing for one of the top two places - first is a bonus. However, if we do win the next two games then it will give the fans a lot more confidence as the gap to all of them will be that bit bigger.

As I've suggested in the past, I sometimes take games on a match by match basis and look for a good game, and a result irrespective of the impact on the league table. I'm trying to do that right now, but however much I try this is a massive game for us (and them) and the result is important for the league, the day out and to show some of those delusional Wednesday fans that we are genuinely worth our place at the top of the table.

Up the Addicks!

* Sheff Wed have managed 46 points from 21 games compared to our 45 points from 21 games. However their goal difference if +15 and ours is +24.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Fulham 4 - 0 Charlton

The history books will show that we lost this game 4-0 and were clearly the weaker side. This is not exactly what happened, but despite how well we played at times in the second half I never, really, believed we would do anything other than lose after e'd conceded in the 8th minute.

To be honest, I never thought we'd do anything other than lose as soon as the draw was done. You see the Premier League clubs have just so much more quality, and this will always be enough to overcome a third division side if both the manager and the players are committed to winning the game.

In our time in the Premier League we had some poor results against lower division sides, but that was when we were fighting for our survival (or thought we were) and didn't have the same comittment to the cups as those teams that believed they were safe had.

Fulham have, despite many Charlton fans saying otherwise, become an established Premier League club. They have 'survived' longer than we did, and they have gone a lot further in cup competitions than we did. Sure, they have had more money injected into their team than we had, but the result is that they are better than we were six years ago, and they are much, much better than we are now.

Fulham, from the top down, we're taking this game seriously, and that meant that the was very little chance of us getting anything from the fixture.

In fact the game payed out exactly as I expected. Fulham carved out a goal from a great defence splitting pass, and they they sat back and allowed us to pay while not being in much trouble. In the second half we raised our game and looked like we were going to score and they did the same and almost immediately they scored what was sure to be the winner.

I'm not critising our payers, I think we'd played well and at times looked like we were as good as Fulham, but the main difference between us and them was that they had that little bit of extra quality thought their side. They also passed the ball around without giving it away, something that we are getting better and better at, but we have a little way to go before we can compete with an established Premier League side.

Strangely enough my dad and I were talking about the possible outcomes on the way to the game - both this result and the rest of the season and I pretty much decided that I wanted us to lose. I know that might sound silly, but I was concerned of what would happen if we drew an even bigger away fixture in the 4th or 5th round and the player's focus cost us a few results in the meantime. Worse was the worry that if we had a big game at Old Trafford or Anfield and lost there the hangover might cost is so many points that we might be struggling to finish second, and the playoffs are something of a lottery as we know.

So my favourite outcome, despite hating Fulham, was for us to give a food account of ourselves and lose by one goal, maybe two, and believe that we could have won had we hae a lit of luck, a different refereeing decision etc.

In the end the 4-0 did, probably, flatter Fulham, but I can't help wondering what would have happened if they'd needed to beat us 5-0 to avoid relegation. We will never know, but it was a great day out with both my Dad and other Charlton fans, and to cap it all off when the Skipper threw his armband into the crown my Dad caught it.

Today my Dad flys off to Tenerife for six and a half weeks, so he is going to miss a few games. If I was offered five points clear of second, and seven points clear of third when he comes back I'd rip their arm off. That would mean that. Have eight fewer games for the pack to catch us, and we will have played three of those teams along the way.

For now I think the players and the fans did us credit, and we still have a lot to be thankful for this season, and I believe that we are going to have a lot to celebrate come May.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Next... Fulham away

I'm not going to do a full preview of this game as it's late on Friday evening and chances are that no-one will read it now and even if they do they will have read a few others.

However, I do have a few things to say about them and our chances tomorrow. I have an abnormal hatred of Fulham for reasons that I've discussed before, but as we've fallen so far in the last five years my interest in these other teams has been lost in my obsession to get out of this division and return to a level where the club can be sustainable in the long term.

Not that this means I don't hate Fulham any more, I just don't have the energy to show it in quite the same way.

I'm also acutely aware that their budgets in terms of wages and player transfers should ensure that we just cannot compete with them if they have any reveal interest in winning this game.

For that reason I'm going tomorrow and I suspect that unless we are very close to getting something, or we are cheated in some way, I will not feel angry or disappointed if we lose. Clearly I don't want to get hammered, but any result that sees us lose by less than fee goals and I will be perfectly happy with the day out.

Having said that I am not expecting to be impressed with the stadium. I know we are not in the same league as Man Utd, but The Valley is as impressive as all but the top football grounds England has to offer, and very few can put it to shame.

I also, suddenly, realise that I don't have as much anger towards our former players as I used to have. When Danny Murphy left us for Spurs I understood it as they are (and always were) a bigger club than Charlton. I suspect that Murphy came to us as he thought he was more likely to play, and this was, probably, the main reason he was willing to leave Liverpool. However, I was still angry about it as it was such a bad time for us - the news came through after 11:45pm on the last day of the transfer window. Maybe he realised with us that he'd rather be a big club than be playing regularly - especially as Curbishley had dropped him. As it happens, he was correct to fear that he wouldn't be able to hold down a place at Spurs, and he moved on to Fulham, where he has contributed to a European cup run that culminated in a final, and he hasn't been in a team fighting relegation every season.

Maybe if he'd joined Fulham before Spurs he would have ended up with us and we would now be in the Premier League and Fulham would be in the third division. I know this sounds fanciful, but I honestly believe that if we'd won that Fulham game at The Valley, when they equalised from a free kick that should have gone the other way, we would have stayed up.

It's all in the past now, but I no longer harbour any bad feeling towards Murphy, and I actually consider it to have been a privilege to watch him, and others like him, play in a Charlton shirt during what I fear will be the only golden era I will see at The Valley in my lifetime. So, tomorrow, I'd take a draw right now. I don't think we'll get close, but there is no point is accepting anything less right now, and even though I expect us to beaten easily, stranger things have happened.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Yeovil 2 - 3 Charlton

Never would I have imagined that we would have been 8 points clear of the second placed team after Boxing Day!

In fact, if you'd offered me this in August I would have said no as I would have been sure that it was some kind of trick and that when I realised out the gag I wouldn't have been able to get out if it.

Back in May 2010 we were, for a period of, I believe, twenty minutes, in second place on the last day of the season. The end result was that we fell down to 4th and lost in the Playoffs. It just goes to show how much things can change as at one point yesterday afternoon we were losing 2-1 and Sheffield Wednesday were winning at Walsall and our gap, that we'd worked so, so hard to build was going to be less than you can overturn in one game.

I announced to my Dad when we let in the second goal that I'd take a draw if Wednesday also drew. I never imagined, for a second, that that last five minutes of the games would see such a swing. I sent another text to my Dad after the game to suggest that this could be the day that we won the title. I know that sounds a little premature, but eight points is four straight wins while we draw four, or three straight wins while we lose fee on the bounce.

Sure Wednesday, along with half a dozen others, are able to string together four or five wins on the trot, but I can't see us going four games on the trot without a win to the end of the season, and even if we did that it would have to coincide with a run that matches as soon as any of those sides have managed all season.

You also need to take into account that fact we have performed well against the top sides (from memory - two wins and two draws against the other four sides in the top five) and they will be playing each other every few weeks which will, obviously, cost at least one of them points.

I really thought that Sheffield Wednesday were going to be our biggest challengers after Huddersfield lost to Bournemouth, but with they, literally, throwing away a win at home to the invincibles, and then conceding two goals in injury time at Walsall they have failed to make up any ground while we drew two games that I would have fancied us to win before kick off.

I have no interest in looking (well I do, but I'm writing this in the car with no interest access) but I'd be surprised if there are many examples of a team throwing away an eight point lest with half the season to go, and let's remember that we are in front because we are, in actual fact, the best team in the division.

I know that comes across as arrogant, but we are not one point in front after the games. No, we are eight points ahead after 22 games, and the teams below us have not had a bad half season either, in terms of points total. I mean Huddersfield are the best team that has ever played football in England since football was invented, and we are nine points above them.

I just had to check the league table for that stat and I discovered that Sheff Utd have gone second and are now only seven points behind us - all of the above still applies though, it's just one point different.

Anyway, after what looked like being a bad day we all got what we, most, wanted for Christmas.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Charlton 2 - 0 Brentford

Following on from the doom and gloom of our second league defeat of the season we have, again extended our lead at the top of the table. After winning the manager of the month award Chris Powell has seen his side win one and draw two of the four games in December.

However, with that month behind us we have started the year as we finished November with a 2-0 home win. Brentford have not been very consistant this season, but they did manage a draw at Sheffield Wednesday in November, one of only two games that they have failed to win at home this season (the other being Hudderesfield) and they came back from 3-0 behind to snatch a draw at home to MK Dons on Saturday.

I thought we would be tired towards the end of the game after playing with ten men less than 48 hours ago, but I didn't expect to see one of our players unable to run from mid way through the first half. Johnnie Jackson seemed knackered and dead on his feet after about twenty minutes. He managed to stay on the field until half time, but he did look like he was struggling. If it weren't were Rhoys Wiggins behind him I thing me night have been in a little bit of trouble down our left flank. He seemed more lively in the second half, but I wasn't surprised when he went off.

To be fair to him he hasn't been involved for a month and then playing 81 plus minutes and coming out again less than 48 hours later he was hardly going to feel on top of the world. Still we won and he wil be fitter for Saturday and, more inportantly, for the two games against the Sheffield teams that will have a big bearing on our season later this month.

On the subject of the Sheffield teams, United lost for the first time since they lost at Stevenage seven games ago (we went on a six game winning run aft losing there) and that left them to fall back into third and Wednesday climbed back up into second, but are five points and a massive ten goals difference, behind us.

With MK Dons eight points behind us it does look like we have some margin for error.

I'd still take second right now, and if I'm honest I don't think I'd be distraught if we managed to draw our two next league games. It would probably mean that our lead would be slightly reduced, but it would ensure that we are still top after playing the two teams currently second and third. Have said that I fancy us to get more than two points from those two games.

However, before that, we have Fulham away in the FA Cup tcoming up. Fulham have just reached full time and beaten Arsenal 2-1 at the Cottage. I have a feeling that we will come away from there feeling very disappointed. Time will tell.

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy being top of the league, where we've been since the 13th of October.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Leyton Orient 1 - 0 Charlton

One of my New Year's resolutions is to find time to write this blog on a more regular basis. I'm not setting any specific targets, just that I intend to make a bigger effort.

With that in mind I thought I should comment on last night's game, although if feels like it was last year now after the alcohol I consumed last night.

The game can be summarised easily. We started off ok, the game was just settling down nicely and we were finding our feet away from home then Hamer was sent off. Then we played out the first half defending for our lives, and managed to keep the score down to 0-1. The second half Orient dropped back a little and we gradually took over and towards the end we were unlucky not to grap an equaliser.

There were some significant points in the game worth discussing. The sending off was debatable. I think Hamer could have stayed on his line ad Morrisson was chasing back with Mooney, and it would have been very difficult for the former Charlton striker to score - particllarly based on the later evidence of his ability to hit the target.

Of what there is no doubt is that the ball hit Hamer's arm outside of the box. This, itself, gives the Referee the justification to show him the red card. We need to remember that he only gets a split second to make the decision, and despite the fact that if he'd stayed on his line it would have been a non event, Hamer did stop the ball on a goalwards direction with his arm outside of the box.

I have no real critisism of Hamer, he made a judgement call and suffered the worst outcome.

I watched the game at my Dad's house (I don't have Sky TV - but I'm getting it tomorrow) and his first comment aft the red card was that we were playing for a draw now. This was not a negative comment, but in truth it is very hard to avoid defeat if you play one short for more than 80 minutes. Having said that both Brighton and Colchester managed to draw with us in similar circumstances last Christmas.

It is questionable if Wagstaff was the best player to make way, but I thought I heard, or read, that he has been struggling with an injury so it might have been something to do with that.

The other points of contention were the 'off side' goal just before half time, and the 'foul' on Lisbie that, I believe, should have been a penalty.

On the whole I had plenty of time to get used to the idea that we would lose - over 80 minutes, and as disappointed as I was I can live with a defeat when we had ten men for almost all of the game, and we are still 4 points clear, with a much better goal difference from second, and another point above third.

I have no real complaints about any of the players. Hayes looked a little off the pace when he came on, but he hasn't played a lot recently, and I'm not sure he is a goal scorer either, and when your game involves holding up play and creating chances for others you are going to struggle with a limited cameo playing ten versus eleven. He has plenty of time to make a contribution.

It was very encouraging to see the Skipper back though. He managed over 80 minutes and the seemed to be no no ill effects or reoccurrence of his hamstring injury.

On the whole I would have taken this position at the start of the new year if it'd been offered to me in August, and with a fully fit squad and Leon Clarke joining I am confident that we can push on in the second half of the season.

The next three league games are massive!

Up the Addicks!