Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Charlton Athletic 1 v Barnsley 2

Well, we managed to do it again. No, not win to continue the W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L sequence, but to trip up monumentally in front of a relatively bumper home Valley crowd. I don't wish to sound alarmist or to get this defeat out of context but it was worrying in many ways and I have very little confidence for Friday.

Our failure to score goals appears to be morphing into an inability even to create chances. Sorry to say but it's hard to see who is going to change this. Jose Riga made a huge error tonight, in my opinion, with his team selection. Given the criticality of the match and the need to beat the bottom-placed side, we had to go with our strongest eleven. Either Jose doesn't know who they are or he thought of resting players with Friday in mind. Either way he picked the wrong team.

Callum Harriott burst on the scene and showed us plenty of promise a year ago or whenever it was. The problem is he has been struggling for a long time to make any impact and his performances of late have become extremely poor and confidence damaging. Tonight's was woeful and he was lucky to appear for even nine minutes of the second-half. 

Why-oh-why wasn't Wilson started on the right flank? The first opportunity for months to play him in front of Solly and he is on the bench? Not only that but when he is introduced with us chasing the game, it is as a left-back sub to give Solly more rest ahead of Friday. Riga threw the towel in there and then, although the match looked beyond us.

We have four very capable centre-halves, but Michael Morrison is the natural leader and yet Riga chose tonight to rest him too. Bizarre. I am almost certain I could see Morrison leaving his marker and heading out to clear the in-swinging corner that was left to allow M'Voto to charge in and bundle the opening goal.

Having said all this, Barnsley were absolutely dreadful in the first-half. They looked like the worst side in the division (bar us on today's form). Mis-placed passes, failure to control the ball near the touchlines and negative tactics across the side. But of course they took the lead courtesy of the softest of goals.

They didn't really improve much after the break but their confidence soared after a freak mishit cross wrong-footed Hamer (who was too far off his near post) and drifted in. Not the first time Ben has committed this error this season but it was fluke.

After that Barnsley looked more likely to get a third for most of what I stayed for. Sordell and Obika continued headless chicken mode and we really struggled to create anything. Johnnie Jackson looked focused during the first-half but he disappeared after they took the lead. Cousins was his usual frustrating self. Winning balls and making quick ground but telegraphing every pass to the extent that most were blocked or deflected. This will be his bete noir as a professional footballer.

My final grumph will be another display of too much cynical professionalism from some of our players, borne pretty obviously from sheer desperation. Harriott was so ineffective he hit the deck more often than not looking for sympathy or for a consolation foul. Sordell did the same, even managing to sacrifice the best scoring position of the game for a hopeful penalty which he waited for contact to take. Absolutely pathetic.

I wasn't there to see the scrambled consolation goal from Asdarevic but that too was almost inevitable. It's the hope that kills you.

We are still a point clear of the Lions with a game in hand but tonight has demonstrated perfectly what games in hand are worth compared to points in the bag and we have put ourselves in the corner. If this season goes to the last match, I decided this evening I won't be going to Blackpool. Not only could I not bear it but performances like this evening's make it unjustifiable.

Roland Duchatelet's negotiation skills in agreeing a £4m price reduction in the event of a relegation begin to reflect rather well on him. Sad to say but if we go down I will be pleased that Jiminez, Slater & Co feel the pain too. They have fashioned this situation even if Roland failed to tackle it adequately having had the opportunity to when taking over fully three months ago. 

Final thought this evening for my mate Chicago Addick who flew back from Bermuda just for this game....

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Brighton & Hove Albion 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

No great surprise at the Amex this afternoon as Brighton moved into the play-off places with a routine home win. The stats of 16 shots for the home side versus two for the visitors (both off target) says it all really. It took the home side just eleven minutes to climb into the driving seat and a second before half-time killed the contest.

It was good to see Chris Solly return as a second-half substitute.That at least quashes the rumours that "he'll never play again." Wilson too was back, albeit in a mask, and we should be able to line-up with our best back four if you perm one from Wood, Dervite and Cort. Personally I think that's a tough call between them. Poyet and Cousins both played again and I assume in a central pairing. Poyet was at fault for the first goal but he's well overdue a learning mistake and this was not the worst game in which to make one. Jackson and Asdarevic completed the midfield with Sordell and Reza completing the side. 

Almost as important for us today was the fact that Millwall could only scrape another late equaliser at home against Watford and remain a point below us in the table. With Barnsley losing at Bolton and Yeovil only managing a home draw with Bournemouth, they both looked doomed, especially if Barnsley get nothing from their game in hand at the Valley on Tuesday. Indeed, another Tuesday night win for the Addicks and it becomes a straight fight between us, Millwall, Blackpool, Doncaster and Birmingham for the final relegation spot. 

A win on Tuesday puts us top of that lot, a point clear of Birmingham and Doncaster, two clear of Blackpool and, crucially, four clear of Millwall. Blackpool managed to lose to a rudderless Leeds United outfit today and their next two are home to Burnley and away at Brighton. Millwall go to Boro on Good Friday but then play a six pointer on Easter Monday against Doncaster at the New Den. There's a lot left in this but four points for us this week should give us line of sight to the safety mark and exert massive pressure on a couple of the others around us.

Barnsley will have very few fans down on Tuesday evening and we have a golden opportunity to hobble them but we will need to be wary because they will know their chances are running out and a loss to us will put them on the edge with only four games left. Doncaster aren't looking too clever either. Apart from their game at the New Den they have to play Top, Third and Eighth.

I can sense survival….

Tall order on the South Coast

Back from five tiring days at Centerparcs with the kids (well it is half-term). I missed the Yeovil match and the lack of stable wifi or mobile signal meant all I could do was find the result after the match finished. Obviously three vital points and a repeat on Tuesday against Barnsley would keep us on course to stay up.

By all accounts it wasn't a particularly good game with mistakes all over the shop and Yeovil looking worryingly potent in parts. Whatever, we scored more than a single goal for the sixth time this season and actually managed to get three, which tells you Yeovil will be heading out of the Championship. The reports I have read all focus on the fact that Lawrie Wilson was absent with a knock and that we look unbalanced with Morro at right-back. Not surprising really but he has been reasonably effective when he has played out of position  even if he has looked like a duck out-of-water. It does also question why Loic Nego or Morgan Fox weren't given a game. It would also suggest that Riga is under no pressure to play the loanees as this would have been a perfectly reasonable opportunity for Nego.

It was good to learn that Astrit Asdarevic scored his first goal for the club and that Reza set-up Sordell for a tap-in. That should give us a fraction more confidence if we feature those players at Brighton as I expect. Simon Church may have been "rested" for Brighton today but my guess is he will get a further  break as Riga looks for more goals. Even with Millwall managing an unlikely second away win in-a-row at Wigan (who fielded 8 changes with an eye on their Cup semi this weekend), today's match is a "free hit" in my view. We still have games in hand and can't be expected to get anything at a side pushing for the play-offs. We rode our luck last season to grind out a 0-0 and expect our recent W-L-W-L-W-L-W to continue. 

Unfortunately, I won't be enjoying myself if the sunshine down in East Sussex as it's my Mum's birthday and family and close friends will be having lunch at a pub down in Weald. I hope the mobile signal there is better than Centerparcs.

There will be as much focus on the result of Blackpool this afternoon as they are in free-fall and look increasingly like being caught by one or two of the desperadoes below them. They are at Leeds today who look completely lame, so failure there would set the alarm bells ringing for the Seasiders. We do look favourites for Tuesday's match at home to Barnsley but will need another committed performance. Not only would it effectively relegate the Tykes but it could put distance between as and Millwall again if the Lions see off Watford at the New Den today and climb a point clear of us. 

As I said, today is a "free hit" and it would be great to get something from it although I think that would be expecting too much...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Charlton Athletic 0 v Reading 1

After the euphoria of our 1-0 win at Elland Road in the week it was back to earth with a predictable bump yesterday. Play-off favourites, Reading, just about deserved their single goal win from what was the best and possibly only attacking move of the match.

Having said that, it wasn't a poor spectacle but it was all huff and no puff. Charlton shaded the first half and it was hard to tell these sides were at opposite ends of the table. After the break, however, Reading stepped up field and control shifted to them as they went in search of a winner. It was a Charlton substitution that precipitated the goal. Johnnie Jackson was replaced around the hour mark and David Petrucci made his debut. He looked to be carrying a bit of weight for a 22 year professional footballer and he lost possession on the edge of the Reading box that lead to their breakaway which Danny Williams finished in style. I don't wish to rush to judge Petrucci but he was clearly not fit enough to be playing in a Championship match yesterday and I suspect we won't see him for a couple of weeks at least.

Our big problem, once again, was our inability to create any real openings, let alone score a goal. Our goals for record is beginning to look like binary code for "we can't score" - 1,1,0,0,1,0,1,0,0,0,1,1,1,0. If you need more convincing, we have only managed to score more than a single goal in 5 of the 38 league matches played so far this season. That is relegation form.

What made it more uncomfortable yesterday was news that Millwall, Yeovil and Birmingham all won. The gap we had has been cut and Yeovil on Tuesday now assumes more importance than ever. Tuesday is not one of our games in hand and there is a full programme. Millwall go to Wigan and Barnsley entertain Burnley. It would be another great evening if we can score a goal and keep a clean sheet. I thought Dorian Dervite was outstanding yesterday amongst another solid defensive display.

Jose Riga has to be bolder in our remaining games and be prepared to throw Wilson forward in an effort to create more. Perhaps he plays full back for an hour and is then switched as we go for it? Simon Church got a full 90 minutes yesterday against his former club but he hardly touched the ball. I don't understand why Obika isn't getting more game time. 

Poyet and Cousins both had good games yesterday and I thought Cousins handled Danny Williams very well for an hour although he tired after that. I couldn't see why Jackson was taken off - maybe a knock - but we won a free-kick in good range shortly after he left the field which seemed to highlight the folly of removing him if it was just tactical. This was especially surprising given Calum Harriott did nothing once again. He must have been surprised still to be on the field at the final whistle when three others had been subbed.

I won't be able to make the Yeovil game this week nor Brighton on Saturday, so Barnsley at home a week on Tuesday is looking like it could be the most important game of the season.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

I've joined the Moonies and have been amazed

Back in September I had to have a grumble about Apple's lack of innovation and product diversity. It may have taken me fully six months but I have this upgraded to 4G network capability and changed my handset in the process. 

News that Apple's i-Phone 6 won't be out until September (in the US) and that a larger version - that I want and need - may not follow until later was the final straw. Earlier this week I acquired a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and have switched my i-Phone off.

I have spent a couple of hours each night this week getting accustomed to my new device and, frankly, am astonished by it. It isn't the robust glass and steel of Apple but that would appear to be it's only loss of points to the West Coast giant. So far I have managed to replicate everything I could do with my i-Phone but there is masses more I have yet to look at on the Note 3. Practically everything on it is hugely more capable and powerful than the i-Phone. The camera will get tested this weekend but it looks to do nearly as much as my SLR.

I haven't started with the S-Pen yet (picture) but that looks like it adds a whole new layer of capability and is where the device gets it's name from. Some people aren't keen on the size of it but I have to say it already looks and feels normal after five days. I do have big hands which probably helps but the Note 3 also includes a function that will reduce the size of the layout on the phone and shift it left or right for people with smaller hands so they can continue to operate it one-handed! They really do appear to have thought of everything and packed it in. Given the range of devices Samsung produce, let alone the range of products, it really is amazing what they are able to do. Apple really need a giant technology leap with the i-Phone 6 or they may find themselves falling to Earth as quickly as they took off.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Leeds United 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Well, well, well. Another night game and another Charlton victory. Three in as many weeks and we again have a 3 point cushion over third-bottom Barnsley and five over Millwall who appear to have thrown in the towel. Not long for "Scrubs" I fear.

I had to make do with following the game via Charlton Life but it was as good as trying to follow it on CAFC Player. Leeds are in turmoil at the moment and sounded very much like we took full advantage. We limited their chances although Ben Hamer was called on to keep us level before Reza Goochannjhad struck mid-way through the second-half with a superb curling finish which nestled in the far side netting. 

After that it was a case of seeing it out although we should have had a penalty when substitute Jonathan Obika was bundle over in the box. Nothing given and we then had to endure an added time penalty for dirty Leeds to add insult to injury. They had been taken swipes at Poyet all night and had suffered a spate of late bookings but the ref still saw fit to hand them a lifeline. As if fired by the injustice of it all, Ben Hamer jigged right and left on his line as McCormack ran in to score and showed him the left side of the goal just as he flung himself low and wide, getting a hand down to the shot and brilliantly pushing it out for a corner.

Jose Riga has to take a lot of credit for this result. He has managed to keep the squad focused and battling. No mean feat on the heels of a manager the players obviously cared a huge amount for and whom they did not want to see go. Reza Goochannejhad has looked a little lost since coming into the Championship but he clearly has an eye for goal and if he can find a way to stay on his feet and pose stronger defenders problems like he did this evening, then he certainly has the ability to find the net. His goal this evening showed superb technique and no lack of confidence.

The boys will be buzzing for Saturday and a rare opportunity this season to record back-to-back wins and just what we need to nail the Millwall coffin shut and to put Barnsley under bigger pressure. Tonight's win also brings Birmingham into reach and puts them in real danger. 

Finally a word got the 251 who made the long journey this evening. A handful short of probably the same crowd who were at Forest the other week too. Some will scoff at the small numbers but I prefer to think of the quality of the individuals concerned and there we win hands down. Charlton forever!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Derby County 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

A predictable beating by high-flying Derby County this afternoon. The Rams may have had a blip in recent weeks but a 5-0 trouncing of neighbours Forest last Saturday was just the tonic they wanted ahead of facing us. 

Our goal-scoring problem - just two goals in the last eight matches - hangs like a huge dark cloud over the tail-end of the season. Jose Riga decided to go with three strikers today and we were over-run in midfield as a consequence. It would appear to have been a pretty obvious mistake but I think he has earned the right to experiment following the win at Forest. It's just as well Riga has managed to get such defensive showings against some of the weaker sides. We are going to need that at Elland Road on Tuesday and at home to Reading a week today. Leeds lost at home to Doncaster Rovers today and with their club in crisis, we have a big shot on Tuesday. It's worth picking the most experienced side we can and playing 4-5-1 for at least 75 minutes. 

Barnsley beat Yeovil today and it's looking like our two home matches against the pair of them will decide our fate. Yeovil will be very flat this evening but the tykes have managed successive wins and will be eyeing the Valley as their big opportunity to jump clear of the trap-door.

Millwall looked doomed after only managing a point at home to ten man Blackburn. They were awarded two penalties, the second coming very late in the game but they still contrived to concede a last-gasp equaliser. It's a pity Palace managed an impressive home win over Chelsea today. Ian Holloway was looking good for a statue at the Valley alongside Big Sam's having managed a relegation double in south-east London in the same season. I haven't given up completely on that.