Monday, 28 January 2013

Charlton 1 - 2 Sheffield Wednesday

Until last season I just didn't really like Wednesday. while at University (in Sheffield) in the early 1990s I decided to be a united fan so I didn't like Wednesday. They were both in the Premier League at the time and one year they contested the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley. Anyway I did go to Wednesday a couple of times - to watch the opposition. Tickets were not c. £60 in those days.

Anyway until last season I didn't like them but was not really all that bothered about them. Last season there seemed to develop something of a rivalry between us and I do like a bit of rivalry. I thought Megson's comments about us and them last season were a little insulting He continually suggested that they were better than us - even though we led the table for most of the season.

In the end Megson was sacked but by then I'd been to Hillsborough and seen us win by the one goal we defended like crazy.

So into this season and with them in a bit of a relegation battle, and with us desperate to stay out of one I really wanted us to win up there. As we all know we lost that game but I was hopeful that we would be able to beat them at home. Having already lost at home to Barnsley and Ipswich and being a little fortunate to beat Peterborough this was a chance to get it right against a relegation threatened team to give me (and presumably others) confidence that we would stay away from that dreaded third from bottom place.

Sadly we lost, but what was worse was that it was a rubbish game.

I thought for most of the game that we would be lucky to see either side score. In fact by half time I was totally convinced that it was going to finish 0-0.

Our goal came from the first real attack we had of any quality and then I was convinced it would finish 1-0. I couldn't see either side getting on the score sheet again.

Wednesday, obviously, threw caution to the wind and looked dangerous for ten minutes or so, but we stood firm. Then it became a little more end to end, but I still thought it would finish 1-0. I thought we would tire, but if I'm honest we looked very tight at the back. Clearly we were defending more and more deeply, but that is what I'd expect us to do, and that is what worked at Hillsborough twelve months ago.

That is something that I don't understand about some fans. They always come out after these type of games and say that if we'd been more aggressive and attacked more we might have got the second goal and then gone on to win. This is, of course, completely true, but there are, literally, hundreds of 1-0 victories in football. Each and every one of them must have had a team one goal in front for the last ten minutes, and chances are that the losing team was throwing everything at them to get an equaliser.

Scott Wagstaff, who had been running all over the place all afternoon had still not slowed down, and even though Kermorgant had been in the wars he was still chasing and harrying and this is the same side that saw out many one goal leads last season.

On reflection a substitution might have made all the difference, but often changing an eleven that have been defending deeply and hanging on causes goals to be conceded.

There was no way to know that we were going to be overrun at the death. Clearly it was easy to predict that we were going to be defending for our lives in the last ten minutes, but it was, by no means, certain that we would not hold out.

Maybe, just maybe, we should have seen it out for a draw at 1-1. I would have been disappointed but it would have added another point to our tally, and would have ensured that Wednesday stayed ten points behind us. Naturally we attached looking for the winner that I think all home fans thought we deserved.

Inevitably teams that concede a late equaliser then open up and attack for a winner leave gaps at the back.

It was a fantastic end to the game for Wednesday and even though I don't like them they had a game plan and they stuck to it. I don't like the way they play and I don't want us to resort to the negative kicking and pushing that they seem to be happy with.

We are still seven points in front of them and I suspect we will finish above them. Their dogged style of play will probably keep them up, but they will struggle to ever do much more than survive playing that way so if that's the pinnacle of their aspirations then good luck to them.

We now have a run of six tough fixtures against teams that are currently 5th (Palace), 17th (Birmingham - the only team below us), 3rd (Hull), 2nd (Leicester), 10th (Forest) and 8th (Burnley). By the end of that run we will know what we are playing for in the last eleven games of the season.

I would be more than happy if we are still ten points above the team in third place - we are currently 13 points clear. If we manage to beat Palace we will be just six points behind them. and no more than two wins from the top six. It is still all to play for but with two of the top three to play away from home in the next four weeks we might be as close to the playoffs today as we are going to get.

I'll take mid table right now.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Charlton 2 - 1 Blackpool

It wasn't until last week that I realised (when I read it somewhere) that we hadn't won a game at home on a Saturday all season. I knew our home form hadn't been great, but that stat had alluded me.

I am not superstitious about football and even though I believe that runs (or form) are indicative of results I think that random facts like days of the week, being on TV, Boxing Day etc. are all random and we were just as likely to win on a Saturday as any other day of the week, so sooner or later we would manage it.

One fact that does effect football results is upheaval in the dressing room. Having two managers walk out for 'better' clubs in the same season must have a massive demoralising effect on the players. Tom Ince is clearly destined for better things, but the rest of the squad are probably left wondering what the future holds if they have lost a manager to Palace (who are probably going to be in the playoffs at best) and one to Blackburn (who will need a great run in to even make the playoffs).

So I was confident that Blackpool would be far from out toughest opponents this season, and I was right. Take out the three defeats in nine days in December and we have managed 19 points in 9 games, which is top two form. In fact if we'd won just one of those three games we would be third in the form table for the two months once we settled into the division.

From what I've read we were the better side at Bolton (the first of the three defeats), we were in the game into injury time at Sheffield Wednesday, and Ipswich on Boxing Day - well, we deserved to lost that one if we're honest didn't we?

All things considered we find ourselves in mid table and with a decent haul of points and an outside chance of making the playoffs ourselves. I think promotion this season is very unlikely, and probably not terribly desirable as we would, no doubt, be whipping boys and I worry who the club will be sold to as soon as we get to the promised land.

Anyway we are in a situation where the outlook can change drastically from game to game. A defeat and the relegation zone seems closer and the playoff places seem even further away, and vice-versa. Thus a back-to-back league win was imperative, and apart from the opening minutes where Kevin Phillips (is he the only player still in the game from that Wembley Final?) had a chance cleared off the line I don't think we looked in any real trouble all afternoon.

I don't want to go for 'lazy journalism' but Blackpool really did play like a team that had lost it's second manager in as many months. Maybe Holloway was as good at managing as he is at providing one liners to the media! Blackpool look like a team that is not going back to the Premier League any time soon. Sadly, for them, their best year was last season and they just failed to beat West Ham in the playoffs and for a team that has spent all but the last six seasons in the third division or lower (since 1978) I think they might have had their day in the sun for the foreseeable future.

Either way, after the initial scare we grew into the game and fully deserved our two goal lead at half time. I have been critical, elsewhere, of the fans groans when we look to kill off a game so I won't complain, but from the break we looked like we just didn't want to let two goals in. I text my Dad (who is away) and said that I'd take a 2-1 win, and thought we would be unlucky to concede twice, but I thought it unlikely that we would add to our tally.

Interestingly Powell brought on Fuller late in the game and that changed it slightly and we created a few more chances. We also conceded at the death. With hindsight maybe we should have kept the 4-5-1, but I do sense pressure from the crowd for us to go out and score, score, score. I do understand it, football is no longer a cheap hobby and even though a win is the ultimate goal entertainment is also expected, to some degree.

The result, despite the very late goal, was exactly what we needed. Two wins, one at home and one away, following a month where we failed to win even one.

At the end of December I looked at where we were and what we probably needed to do to avoid relegation and I came up with a simple guide of winning 6 points in each of the next three months. Thus when we face Brighton away on 2 April (with seven games still to play) we will be as good as safe from relegation. I know that winning the last game of the season to secure safety is just as acceptable (and maybe a little more exciting) but I want to get to safety as soon as possible so that the club can start to plan for the following season and what I hope will be a decent challenge for promotion.

So in 2013 we have a league record of played two, won two and scored six goals. I'll take that!

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 7 January 2013

The magic of the Cup?

I've not posted much recently. In fact, it's been three months. A lot has happened in that three months, but a lot has happened in my personal life too and that has been the main reason for my absence. Sadly it looks like my own 'problems' are not going to go away, but Charlton's future, however, looks a lot more positive.

December was a bit of a disaster, particularly in light of what we saw in the six weeks before, but the fantastic win at Watford on New Year's Day puts that month behind us and sets us up very nicely for the run in. I am still a little torn between getting excited about the possibility of making a late run for the payoffs and being worried about being dragged into a relegation battle - one that could well end badly for us!

I'd take mid table safety this season and would consider it a huge success. I know that at the start of the season I was rather bullish about a potential promotion, but after the first ten games, and especially how we went from seven games unbeaten to not winning for a whole month I think we are not strong enough to finish top six.

Anyway this meant that the distraction of the FA Cup was welcome, and I was looking forward to seeing us tested against a team that we probably ought to consider a peer. They finished a few places below us in 2012, half a dozen paces above us in 2011 and three places below us in 2012.

The dynamic of the game was, I decided retrospectively, changed with our respective results on New Year's Day. We managed a fantastic fightback at Watford while they lost 6-1 at Leicester and hadn't won a game since 10th November.

They needed (their manager really needed) a result against us and they must have known that we would field a number of reserve team players. Under normal circumstances they would have done the same but, as I've already pointed out, they needed a result, they needed a win!

We started sluggish, and made two, obvious, individual mistakes at the back. One led to a goal the other would have until Dervite brought down Beckford and earned himself a red card in the process.

Ironically we were drawn against Huddersfield shortly after we'd played then in the league and it was hardly a 'Magical Tie'. In fact I would have preferred a lower league team. Obviously I really wanted an way tie to a top side for a fun day out, but the luck of the draw had given us that for the last two seasons, so it wa a bit much to ask for again.

Anyway we dropped three first team stalwarts, Huddersfield didn't and they went through.

Dervite's suspension with Cort being injured does demonstrate why the cup games are more of a hindrance than a benefit. My Dad and I have attended just about every home cup game for the last twenty years, but this year felt like a milestone. He was quite angry that were watching a reserve side, again.

The club made all the usual noises about genuinely trying to win the game - they do have tickets to sell, after all. However, in the end it was the same as usual. The proper description should be that we will pay a few first team payers and the players will play, but they know it doesn't matter to the cub, and it might just show.

Anyway, we lost and after the draw for the 4th round I'm pleased that we did.

Now we can concentrate on the league.

Up the Addicks!