One of the most depressing games I have ever watch Charlton play was the home fixture against Brighton in October 2010. We lost 4-0, in the third division. I would say that, technically, that must rank as the worst result in the thirty-three years that I've been following Charlton. It was not the result itself, but that it happened in the lowest division that the club has played in. Bearing in mind this result, all be it against the same club, meant that I didn't feel terribly deflated at the final whistle.
Yesterday we narrowly lost 1-0 against a team that seemed to be able to hold the ball better than us but, more importantly, seemed to be very tough in the tackle and out muscled us all over the pitch. I'm not saying that this happened because we were not up for the game - although that might have been the case, but Brighton played like a team that was scrapping at the bottom of the division and was determined to do everything they could to ensure that if they lost that did so getting, properly, stuck in.
There were a could of great chances for us to score before Brighton did and had we done so I suspect that the result would have been a 1-0 win. I believed (right up until Bob Peeters was sacked) that we just needed a bit of good luck and things would improve.
Some of the players look like they weren't giving their all and that could be due to the manager (the most likely scenario) but it could just have been that they felt that they were fighting an uphill battle with having to play so many young players that were not strong enough, mentally, to cope with it. I have always believed that young players need to be nurtured and need to be surrounded (in the first team) by experienced pros that can help them out and cover for them when they make mistakes. It helps to have someone that you know and respect to keep giving you encouragement when you break into the first team.
It is very difficult to be successful with many young players in the same side. The Class of 92 was an exception but when interviewed they all mention the players that were there to help them and Man Utd had some serious players at that time.
So an over reliance on young players - some of which are just not ready for Championship football yet (in my view) and we were always going to struggle. It is not when things are going well that the character of young (and experienced) players is tested and the start of the season was, clearly, unrepresentative of the strength and quality of the squad that has been assembled.
All of this aside and it is not, really, good enough for us to have managed one win and six draws in the last twelve games (9 points in 12 games) and, more worryingly three draws in the last seven league games (3 points in 7 games) on a run that has also included losing 2-1 at home to Championship side Blackburn with the best side we have available at the time playing.
The fact that we are where we expect to be based on a 46 game season is irrelevant when based on the last eight games we are bottom of the table averaging half a point per game.
Brighton, incidentally, had managed just six points from their last seven games before yesterday so this, like Blackpool at home in the middle of December should have been a banker win at home. I know there is no such thing, but I'm sure you get my point.
I still think we have more than enough to get out of trouble and ignoring the effect on attendances of a good run of form when the season ticket applications go out, and the ability to attract players, finishing forth from bottom is about as good as finishing seventh in terms of the division we start next season in.
However, we do need some points to avoid being relegated and if we average half a point from now to the end of the season we are likely to end up in the third division next season.
Tony Watt looked lively when he came on but I thought Laurie Wilson looked poor yesterday. He didn't look very interested in busting a gut and he looked like he had lost his concentration. Even if Bob hadn't 'lost the dressing room' his treatment of Laurie Wilson this season (irrespective as to if it is justified) is enough to make any player give up trying. I know many will say that as a professional he should give his all every time he plays, but with very little playing time, being passed over for a 17 year old and having no discussion about a new contract it is likely that Laurie is, already, in his mind moving on to his next challenge.
My main criticism, however, is aimed at Andre Bikey. He has had some terrific performances this season but in recent weeks he has taken to, literally, stamping his feet and waving his arms at other players - including young players. His outburst in the local newspaper was not what I like to see from Charlton players, or the reporters, to be honest. It was a divisive article and was always going to be a head turner (winning clicks on the paper's website) and bringing attention on the reporter. I don't like that, nor do I like to see players (or children, for that matter) stamping their feet and shouting at everybody. Bikey was doing this again yesterday and I assume was so angry/frustrated that this motivated him to make the rash tackle on the touchline when putting the ball in the stand would have been easy. The free kick was the set piece that Brighton scored from. Bikey was still stamping his feet towards the end of the game even though it was his 'mistake' that cost us the goal and possibly the result.
Bikey needs to curb his temper because I think when I see him stamping his feet that this must be the side of him that has earned him the reputation and the five red cards that do him no favors.
I will, probably, cover the sacking of Bob Peeters in another post later in the week - probably when we have more news about his replacement. I would love it to be someone that has experience of the English game but, like most others, I suspect that it will not be an Englishman, and probably someone that has spent little time over here. Having said that Riga falls into that category and I was more than happy with what he achieved with us last year.
My optimism when we brought Rhoys Wiggins back into the side yesterday and had Tony Watt on the bench yesterday seems to have all evaporated.
Up the Addicks!