Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Charlton 1 - 2 Watford

Well this did't turn out how I expected at all. I was expecting us to be much better than this, relative to Watford, and I thought we would take the game to them and end up winning. Maybe I didn't think we would win convincingly, but I thought it would be comfortable - at least towards the final whistle.

It was nothing of the sort. We started off ok, but we did seem to be slower to the ball, slower to close down, and we failed to get any kind of passing game going. We decided (well Chris Powell decided) to do with a 4-4-2 with Fuller coming in for Jackson. This should have given us the opportunity to create more up front, as long as we could get the ball through the midfield.

In the end we were unable to get the ball out of defence without turning to hoofing it up the park. We did try passing the ball across the back line a few times, but inevitable we ended up passing it back to Hamer for a long kick.

Watford, rather like Palace a few weeks ago, just seemed to be quicker to every ball and seemed to have much superior passing skills than we possess. Watford seemed to be able to pass the ball through our midfield where as our midfield didn't seem to be able to even get the ball under control before they were being pressured by a yellow shirt.

Watford deservedly, in my view, took the lead, all be it from a corner, and one with the ball not resting in the 'D' of the corner when it was played in.

It was to our credit that we raised our game at that point and played the only real quality defence splitting pass of the evening (from either side) to put Fuller in for a chance that I suspect he has buried his whole career.

At 1-1 I was happy to see the clock run down to half time before we came out for another go. I did feel that the momentum might swing towards us. Watford had out played us for half an hour before they went a goal in front and then we raised out game and within two minutes we were level. I thought that maybe we would take the game by the scruff of the neck and win it, like I'd predicted before kick off.

If anything I thought the game changed and was put right in our lap when Watford's best player on the night was shown a second yellow card, this one for diving to win a penalty.

At half time I was confident that we would be able to go on and take all three points. It would not have been pretty, and the one player advantage would have been significant, but it would have given us three points, and that was all that really mattered.

How wrong was I?

We started the second half much brighter. We looked the more likely to score. It helped that Watford switched to a 4-4-1 and were always going to be playing long balls out of defence that would come straight back at them.

We had several decent chances to get the second goal. There were blocks, deflections and slightly mishit passes, but we carried on pushing forward and it looked like it was only a matter of time before we made the numerical advantage count.

Then Danny Green came in on a tackle a little late. It was a foul, but not a booking, even though he got one. Then a couple of passes and Cort was penalised on the edge of the box for holding. As this point I have no criticism of either player. Danny Green has been a revelation in the last few games, and no one ever said that tackling was his strong pint. Cort should have known better, but under pressure he clearly thought that he would either get away with it, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, or that the free kick was better than letting the ball into the box.

The free kick, or rather our defending of it, however, I am going to criticise. Three Watford players lined up next to our wall and started leaning into our players - you could even call it pushing. It was obvious to everyone in the East stand that they were all going to run out of the way and leave a three man sized hold for the ball to be hit through.

For some, unknown, reason none of our players seemed to realise this. Needless to say that is exactly what happened. To be fair it was a decent strike, but totally predictable and, worse still, totally avoidable.

That changed the game completely. Watford had a period of attacking again and again. Our dominant pressure just disappeared. Ten minutes later and Watford did drop back and started time wasting. I hate it, but I know it goes on, and had we been a goal in front away from home with ten men and fifteen minutes left I would expect us to do exactly the same.

We couldn't break them down and the final whistle saw the South stand celebrating and the Charlton fans leaving wondering if this season is going to end in disaster or if we are going to be able to get up to speed with this division before it is too late.

I'm not going to single out players, but I have to say that I am getting more and more impressed with Laurie Wilson, and I'm getting more and more concerned with having Hollands and Stephens as a central partnership in a 4-4-2. To be fair Hollands had a stinker tonight, and by the end he looked like his confidence was going. This is not what I remember him playing like last season, so I'm going to give him the benefit of doubt. Stephens looked like he might have been ready for Villa based on his performance on Saturday, but tonight it left me wondering if we should have ripped Villa's hand (and whole arm) off for the reported £2m we were offered for him in August. Again I suspect that he will improve, but we don't have many more games left for these players (and others) to really learn how to win in this division. We need some points on the board, and soon, otherwise we are going to be in a confidence zapping relegation battle, and another season (or more) in the third division just doesn't bare thinking about.

I'm not panicking yet, but I'm more worried than I was this morning, and with away trips to Blackpool, Leeds and Wolves in our next four we could well rue picking up just one point in the two home games that we could easily have won.

Up the Addicks!

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