Sunday, 30 September 2012

13.5 v 14.5

Just how good was that?

Charlton Athletic 1 v Blackburn Rovers 1

A few weeks ago I said that we looked competitive in this league against similarly matched sides and I was concerned that we might end up drawing too many games and suffering as a result. So another draw at home in a match we  were largely in control of should feel like two points lost and yet, like most of the 17,000 there, I was happy with the point.

Blackburn have a very decent side and should win more than they draw this season. I would take another point from our visit to Ewood Park now.

The disappointment of the day was that we started with only one up front as Ricardo Fuller was mysteriously absent. The official line is that he was ill. Whatever it was, we have to hope he's back for Tuesday night because he would have been the difference yesterday between one and three points. We played well enough with Wright-Phillips in the lone role and created enough to have notched a winner but an involved Fuller in a 4-4-2 would have won the game in my view.

That said, we played well against a decent side. Hamer and the back four were largely untroubled. Cort edged it from Morrison for a change and apart from being exposed for their goal, I thought Solly was as solid as usual. I am a fan of marmite and I though Lawrie Wilson had another very competent match as he settles into the side. He played particularly well in the second-half as we pushed up looking for the winner.

Credit where credit's due too in midfield. Dale Stephens looked a player yesterday although that might be because he was up against a past-it looking Danny Murphy. Hollands struggled to impress but Dixon Etuhu is an accomplished opponent. Kerkar and Green took the wide berths and both contributed. Johnnie Jackson played in the hole but was less effective although he netted our goal after missing a penalty moments earlier.

Blackburn took the lead after a quarter of hour when Etuhu beat Hamer from close range and it looked like it might be a long afternoon. However, we played on and with space in midfield, Dale Stephens was spraying balls about and we took the game to the visitors. From a free kick we were awarded what looked like a fortuitous penalty for a shove. As so often with lucky penalties, we missed it. Johnnie Jackson didn't give it enough of an angle and Paul Robinson managed to get his sack of spuds down quick enough to block it. Charlton sensed blood though and after Rovers failed to clear the ball was played back across the box and Jackson had another bite at the cherry from 15 yards and made no mistake second time. It was to be Jackson's last meaningful contribution because he limped off not long afterwards to be replaced by Bradley Pritchard who had a good second-half.

After the break and kicking towards the Covered End, we upped the ante and pegged Rovers back. Paul Robinson kept them in it with stops from Green, Cort and Wright-Phillips. We forced the pace in the last ten minutes and it got frantic in the Rovers box but they hung on and were grateful for the point. 

Jordan Rhodes managed one header in the second-half that was a foot wide but was largely in the pocket of Morrison and Cort once again. There was a strange last substitution by Chris Powell with 30 seconds left. He brought on Cedric Evina? It looked like a wind-up to me but who knows?

Watford on Tuesday and we need to take three points no matter who plays or what the formation is.

Saturday, 29 September 2012


A very long and tiring day in front of the telly yesterday. The USA took a predictable two point lead in the foursomes but it could easily have been four but for the brilliant debut of Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who played with ice in his veins in the heat of a raucous Chicago crowd. If we can keep the gap within three points, I believe Europe can still retain the Cup on Sunday in the singles. There are a lot of players with something to prove after yesterday.

My phone buzzed during the evening with news that Steve Keane was finally out, resigning bizarrely on the eve of our game having held the pre-match press conference and remaining defiant that he would never resign. I guess that suggests today's match will swing decisively one way or the other. Keane's decision seems to have taken everyone by surprise. There has been no immediate decision about a replacement manager and there is plenty of speculation. That might be just what we need to take advantage this afternoon.

Back to the golf and I thought Bradley, Watson and Kuchar were brilliant. Both attacked pins and holed putt after putt. Tiger Woods' Ryder Cup nightmare contined - he was awful during the morning session and only briefly looked likely after lunch when he was fortunate to play again. His partner, Steve Stricker, did even less and they couldn't match the Belgian rookie. It's a good job Colsaerts was inspired because Lee Westwood didn't hole a putt all day. Back him to win his singles match.

Friday, 28 September 2012


What a great weekend of sport coming up. The Ryder Cup in glorious 3D HD. Not as good as being there but as close as I am going to get. Mrs Peeps is off out wine tasting (guzzling) at the local school which will leave me at home with my own wine and the golf. I am going to savour every minute of it. 

We have a tasty home game tomorrow, more golf and then the finale on Sunday as the singles edge us towards an outcome. Ryder Cup golf is a spectacularly successful format. These guys are multi-millionaires who are used to high-pressure golf but the Ryder Cup is different. They desperately want to win for their team and they are acutely aware that every point is a step towards gloss or a stain on their professional record. The foursomes and fourballs are an aperitif for the singles. Invariably the hard-fought lead that emerges from the first two days can be quickly washed away in the singles and leave you wondering why all that golf was played for a slendour advantage, but the dividend often pays out at the finish when the gap between winner and loser is so tight you are reminded of the lead forged in the first rounds of battle.

The Yanks have been good losers in this event but they are bad taste winners. That's an enormous incentive for us retain the Cup and let them wait until Gleneagles in 2014 for another crack. It would cement a fantastic year of British sport and, who knows, it could throw up another challenger for the already fiercely contested Sports Personality of the Year.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Kermorgant injury an opportunity?

News that Yann the Man has broken his ankle in training is obviously not good news and we are going to have to cope for up to three months without his physicality and aerial presence. 

At this point I will upset the masses by suggesting that this might prove to be a blessing in disguise and that we might learn more about our other three strikers and who is best with whom upfront. The acquisition of Ricardo Fuller now looks a particularly wise decision and as long as we don't lose another striker, Ricardo, BWP and Danny Haynes should get the chance to really show us if they have more to their games playing with someone other than Yann as their foil.

Whilst Yann is the archetypal target man who has exceptional awareness of where the goal frame is at what seems like all times, his delivery of aerial balls he wins is nowhere near as good and too often he and Bradders play too far apart.

Danny Haynes and Wright-Phillips are both chasers whose game is primarily based on running onto balls, fashioning shooting opportunities and beating the keeper, although Haynes has a prodigious leap for a shorter man. Their game is probably not best suited to a struggling centre-midfield where no-one appears to have the time or ability to thread passes. They might need earlier delivery from the flanks and may have to win and play more diagonal balls than they might like. Then we have Fuller, who appears to have a lot more in his bag. He is much bigger and stronger than the other pair and his running on the ball around the box is much better.

I may live to regret these words but I think we might just find a more effective pairing upfront without Yann Kermorgant.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Pray for Steve Keane

We prospered at Portman Road on Saturday, due partly to Ipswich's poor start and partly to the disquiet surrounding manager Paul Jewell. You get these games during a season and, if we all press our hands firmly together and think hard enough, we may get another on Saturday.

If we are lucky, the indecision or misplaced loyalty of the fabulous Venky family (India's Bernard Matthews) may mean Steve Keane-Out hangs on until Saturday's Valley visit. If that's the case, then I am confident we will beat Rovers. Their players will know that he won't survive another defeat and they would be only 90 minutes away from having Eric Black takeover as the boss. If, however, the Venky's manage to appoint Black before then, we could face a rejuvenated Blackburn side with enough quality to give us a real game.

Blackburn have made a decent start in spite of Keane-Out although they have probably had a slightly easier start than we have. Like us they overcame Leicester 2-1 at home and they managed a winner at home to Hull that we didn't. They hit five at Bristol City but conceded three that day and have drawn at Ipswich and Leeds. Other than that, they beat Barnsley 2-1 at Ewood Park and lost at home last Friday evening to Middlesbrough.

I have just watched Huddersfield win 3-1 at Blackpool. Another "anyone can beat anyone" result and one which our players should take heart from. It was a bold Huddersfield performance against a capable Blackpool side and I hope Chris Powell was watching because they got their reward for being prepared to 
attack as much as defend. Town are now up to level second with Rovers on fourteen points. They don't look like they are missing Jordan Rhodes. Where did he end up again?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ipswich Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

A morale-boosting first away win of the season this afternoon at struggling Ipswich Town. As predicted, when we went for it, we got the goals needed to win the game and I hope Chris Powell has taken note.

Perhaps it was the relative fragility of the opposition or our reshuffled midfield but Kerkar, Stephens, Jackson and Green did much better than we have managed in recent weeks. Green went closest to the first goal hitting the side-netting and Kerkar saw plenty of the ball and was a constant threat down the left. Wright-Phillips had an effort blocked and Leon Cort headed into the side netting as well before Dale Stephens saw a 25 yard drive palmed wide by Scott Loach. In response, Ben Hamer stopped a straight header from Darryl Murphy. The game petered out in the last fifteen minutes of the first-half but it burst to life early in the second.

With their tails clearly up, Charlton opened fire after the break and a strong move down the left saw Wilson feed Kerkar who played it in to Fuller for Wright-Phillips before Jackson mopped up to score his first goal of the season and remind the doubters of his goal-scoring contribution in the last couple of seasons. Panic set in for the hosts after that and Charlton were rampant. Minutes later, Fuller picked up the ball in a two-on-two and strode past his man before drilling home the second. There were chances for a third but it didn't come and, almost inevitably, Ipswich pulled one back courtesy of a wicked deflection of a Jason Scotland effort.

To be fair to the lads, it sounded like they didn't buckle and held their own after that although Ellington came close in the five minutes of added time. The league table will make much more comfortable reading after this win and we should have a good go at Blackburn and Watford in the next ten days.

I understand Yann Kermorgant was absent today through injury in training on Thursday and was on crutches at the training ground yesterday. Hopefully nothing more than bad bruising because Fuller could have down with a rest at the end and a fired-up Kermy might have given Ipswich bigger problems. Danny Haynes was sub again today and when fully fit is another strong substitute. We might just have four capable strikers at this level if we can keep them all fit and play a more adventurous game. That might make our season.

Off to open a good bottle of red to celebrate this and winning £365 on a Charlton, Brighton, Wolves away treble. Lovely jubbly.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Three points please

Tomorrow we face Paul Jewell's Ipswich Town side and we should find this a much more comfortable match than of late. As long as we can weather some early pressure, the game should swing our way and I believe we can add some much needed balance to our early season results if Chris Powell is prepared to be more adventurous and not leave it too late as he has done in recent defeats.

A quick scan through the Ipswich Town website tells you that their experience is largely upfront. They rely on Jason Scotland, Michael Chopra and Paul Taylor to score their goals. Taylor was injured in the week's 0-2 home defeat to Wolves, Chopra has been struggling with form of late and Jason Scotland has never really lit the blue touch-paper. Lee Martin lurks as a potential nemesis and we will have to hope he has one of his frequent off-days as opposed to one of his purple patches.

I can definitely see us scoring at Portman Road and two goals should be enough to win the game, move us up the table and put us in much better fettle with two home games to come. It should also calm the manic depressives amongst us and once again get us looking upwards.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Derby County 3 v Charlton Athletic 2

This Charlton team continue to learn about football in the Championship. This evening we were battered by the Rams in the first-half, conceding after only seven minutes and were fortunate to keep it that after 45 minutes. Seven minutes or so after the break and we went two down and it looked like we might follow Watford's 5-1 thumping at Pride Park. 

Chris Powell reacted earlier than normal by bringing Fuller and Kerkar on for Hollands and Wright-Phillips on the hour but we were three down within several minutes as Julian Ward scored his second of the evening from the spot folloiwng a foul by Green.

As the first wave of Addicks fans logged out or switched off their radios, Danny Green rallied the cause with a 30 yard strike that stunned the home side and put them on the back-foot. A couple of minutes later, Green made the second for Kermorgant and all-of-a-sudden it was Charlton in the ascendency. We couldn't keep the head of steam but we continued to go forward and came close in the five added minutes as we had a penalty shout for handball turned down and a header cleared off the line. Ben Hamer was up in the opposition box again at the death but once again it was too little too late.

The pre-match debate will focus on team selection with most fans surprised that Evina was overlooked this evening for left-back and Solly preferred with Wilson retaining his place. Green got a deserved start after his appearance against Palace but still no apparent change in the centre of midfield. I too thought Evina would get the nod as a natural left-back but I have to say I thought Solly and Wilson coped pretty well with two very good Palace wingers on Friday and there was an obvious case for keeping them in.

The two-game optimism has been well and truly watered down but we need to keep perspective. We can't expect to win away games in the Championship and will need to get used to soaking up pressure and conceding goals. Ipswich might represent a better opportunity to add to the points total and then we have two successive home games against Blackburn and Watford.

Things might not be ticketty-boo behind the scenes at the Valley but the fans need to support the side in the meantime and play their part in keeping the morale and confidence of the players up. Let's not forget what this squad achieved last season and believe that we have the fight in us to establish ourselves quickly.

Derby after derby

Derby County this evening and it will be a test of our metal and the confidence in the camp. We have a big squad and our second choice left back, Cedric Evina will start and finally gets his chance to show us what he can do with a run in the side as Rhoy's toes heal. The midweek trip to Derby hasn't caught the imagination of the fans and certainly not after the disappointment of Friday night. I won't be there either this evening so will instead rely upon my subscription to Charlton Player. It serves it's purpose but it's something I often feel like cancelling given the poor service provided.

Hard to call this evening but we have the players capable of beating Derby if we are positive and take our chances. Our defence, even missing Rhoys Wiggins, should be capable of restricting Derby and we can certainly score if we are positive enough. The key looks like it will be midfield again. Personally, I would look to play Pritchard and Hollands or Pritchard and Jackson in the centre and use Green, Kerkar or even Fuller on the flanks from the start. 

We have played five so far and a 1-2-2 record is hardly the disaster many appear to be seeing it as. A win this evening and we have parity from the opening six and a likely mid-table position. Not bad for promotees who have faced four tough opponents and a local derby. C'mon you Reds!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Rick Everitt

It has yet to be confirmed but it looks like the "there's nothing wrong in the Boardroom" drama has claimed another victim in Charlton diehard Rick Everitt. If it's true then it's a sad day.

Rick has real integrity and is not a yes man. His outspokenness has served our club very well for over twenty-five years and he has made a huge contribution to the development of Charlton Athletic at personal cost to himself. If he has been sacked, then I think we are entitled to an explanation. He may have made a loose comment in the Summer that cast doubt on the Club's future but I believe it was subsequently qualified and, frankly, it's not a sacking offence in my book. There may be another, more justifiable reason but it would need to be pretty bloody good to convince me that it was a good move for my club.

What I do know, is that Rick Everitt will be a Charlton fan long after any of the remaining Board members have driven out of the gates for the last time. Richard Murray may no longer have the sway he once had but he must be cringing at what's been going on.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Charlton Athletic 0 v Crystal Palace 1

The Addicks failed to match the Eagles' passion last night and there can be few complaints about the result. 

Backed a raucous Jimmy Seed, Palace took the game to us from the off and we struggled to gain the momentum. The loss of Rhoys Wiggins early on didn't help although Lawrie Wilson had a fine game at right-back as Chris Solly switched to left. Morrison was probably our man of the match but Leon Cort also looked assured.

It was in the middle again where we were second best. Dale Stephens was even slower than normal and after an early booking for a frustrated tackle, he did manage to settle into the game but there was little prompting from him and Hollands. Johnnie Jackson's contribution was limited to a free-kick and Pritchard is not a wide player. 

Palace, by contract, had Zaha and Bolasie prowling on the flanks and providing a constant challenge for our full-backs. We survived a couple of scares in the first half but by and large the defence held firm. A Charlton goal against the run of play looked for a second that it might change the course of the game but an eagle-eyed linesman managed to see an offside in front of the Palace fans that I couldn't.

After the break Palace struck and it was Dikgacoi who picked up the knock-down from a corner and with an embarrassing amount of time and space inside our box and lashed home. Powell eventually made a predictable change with ex-Palace old boy Ricardo Fuller coming on as we switched to 4-3-3. It was Jackson who made way as went 4-3-3 and he can have few complaints although he made a few in throwing down the Captain's armband and booting a water bottle in the dugout as he took his seat. Alex Ferguson would have been encouraged.

The initial change didn't alter the game even if Fuller looked more of a handful for Palace than Kermorgant or BWP. The third change saw Danny Green finally gave us some much needed width and a glimpse of what might have been, although it was Pritchard who made way. All of a sudden we were creating and Palace were forced to defend in depth. Too late, unfortunately, and we missed several chances before the final whistle.

It's too early to panic and it was only Palace at the end of the day. However, we need a bigger and bolder change in midfield or we look like competing in most matches but not winning.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday 114th September 2012

I have a day's leave today which I intend taking in it's entirety.

I am taking my Niece back to Sussex Uni and moving her and all her stuff from Halls to a tiny room "in town." I committed to do this before the Palace game was switched to a Friday night and originally had visions of staying down, having a veggie meal and hanging with the kids or whatever they say now.

Instead, I am obviously desperate to be back in SE7 as early as I can. Trouble is, the letting agency won't give out any of the room keys until all six students have paid their deposits and completed their paperwork. Our appointment is 3.30pm and I can see me being in Brighton until close to 6pm. My pre-match drink looks doomed and I may be forced to park a mile away from the ground. The prospect of a jog to the stadium doesn't appeal either. All this and a great mate from Aberdeen is down for the weekend and the match.

Still, it's only Palace. It's not as if we are their rivals or that there is much at stake. They have bigger fish to fry. I didn't realise that Brighton had been in the Premier League for so long or that Millwall have ever been a bigger club than us. Having said that, maybe it's time we looked towards other London clubs as our rivals? After seven years in the top flight, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs were the big matches, with West Ham when they were up. QPR, Millwall, Palace and Fulham were irrelevant. We have recently moved on from Brentford and Orient and we should be looking to distance ourselves from the small fry in south-east London and the Nigels from above East Sussex.

Beating them again this evening would be a good start. Let's make it four in -a-row and let's remind them of what a nothing club they have become.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Justice for Hillsborough

A seismic moment yesterday in the Justice for Hillsborough campaign. The revelation that police and emergency service notes were doctored en masse to avoid criticism of their behaviour on the day and the assessment that nearly half of those who died could have been saved is a final damning indictment on the authorities and the establishment. It paves the way for criminal prosecutions of those responsible.

Like most of you of you forty-somethings, I remember watching the match live on the box and witnessing the carnage in complete astonishment and disbelief. It was blatantly obvious that the Leppings Lane terraces were packed solid and that the seats above were completely full. It was an F A Cup semi back in the day when they were close to the biggest fixtures in our football calendar, far more important than they are today.

The fact that it was Liverpool fans appeared to be less of a coincidence. They had a reputation for being "scallies," for jibbing train fares, shop-lifting and for getting into the big matches without tickets. They were renowned for "getting in" at Wembley in particular when they would do almost anything to see the game. They had also been involved in tragedy at Heysel when their fans caused a stampede and the death of Juventus fans. 

So, I for one, was ready to absorb stories that emerged from the authorities that there had been widespread heavy drinking pre-match which had contributed to the scale of the disaster. Drinking at football was far more prevalent then and I would have been half-cut had we been playing there in a semi. The lie that ticketless Liverpool fans had charged a gate and been climbing over the turnstiles also struck a chord and in spite of the desperate scenes of ordinary fans trying to save each others lives, the suspicion that the Liverpool fans were largely responsible was readily accepted. The idea that there had been a mass cover-up by the establishment seemed too convenient and, frankly, unbelievable. It was much easier to assume that was wishful thinking by "whining Scousers." The Sun famously took that line and grossly offended the entire population of Liverpool, most of whom obviously knew better.

Those like me owe the Scousers humble apology and we should be vigorous in the prosecution of those responsible for the cover-up. Perhaps the events of the last few years make this all possible now and easier for us to accept. Cheating, thieving politicians, pernicious journalists, bent policemen and other establishment cover-ups. 

The Hillsborough cover-up looks colossal. Doors of the stadium being locked so that police and ambulance staff notes could be doctored together? How could this have gone undiscovered by free-thinking journalists at the time. There were simply too many people involved and the victims knew different. The horrible impression I am left with is that someone senior in the press suppressed the truth and this, in my mind, would be worse than those with responsibility weighing heavy on their shoulders trying to straighten their stories to deflect blame. 

No doubt it will take another few years to iron this out and bring those responsible to justice but with politicians already having fallen from grace so spectacularly and the worst offenders doing time, it looks more likely than ever before. There is also the prospect that media and police may join them following the hacking scandal and now this. Never again should we tolerate Liverpool supporters being taunted for having fought this injustice.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

How not to qualify for international competitions

1. Appoint a defensively-minded ex-defender as manager
2. Ensure he has a mediocre club management record
3. Wonder at his novel 4-6-0 formation as the side fails to score
4. Support him as he refuses to work with one of the best striking prospects available to him because they were critical of the "no strikers" formation
5. Open your World Cup qualifying campaign at home with one upfront against one of the weakest sides you will face.
6. Refuse to make the glaringly obvious change that the fans are baying for until it's too late
7. Allow the manager to hang on to his position until it's mathematically impossible (spring 2013) and you can count all the supporters in the stadium in ten minutes

Sports Personality of the Year?

A few weeks ago I was absolutely convinced that Bradley Wiggins would win the BBC's annual poll as Britain's most popular sportsman after his triumph in France and his Olympic Gold. I could see nothing to challenge that. A week or so later and Mo Farrah had me on the edge of the sofa screaming at the telly as he kept the world's second best long distance runners at arms length for the whole of the last lap to secure double-Gold. Was Bradley such a shoe-in given the enormous public support for Mo?

We then had the astonishing spectacle of the Paralympics and a host of individuals whose stories and determination have captured the hearts of the nation. Maybe there were too many of them for any one of them to stand out and secure enough votes to win it?

Now we have Andy Murray following up his Olympic Gold with the first British Grand Slam men's win since before the War. Murray's Scottishness will cost him votes and I would argue that the fact there is a "personality" element to the award will also count against him, but what a performance! Methinks he will need to win Wimbledon in a much quieter sporting year!

Oh, and Zara Phillips will also be a strong contender again having appeared on TV as a member of our equestrian team.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust

Plans to set-up a Supporters Trust have finally moved on and we now look set to get one of our own. Fans are being asked to register their support for the Trust by emailing their contact details to and by attending the next scheduled Trust meeting on Tuesday 25th September (venue to be confirmed).

Supporters Trusts have done some fantastic work for other clubs, even to the point of owning and running the clubs themselves. Invariably this is through necessity and means things are done on a shoestring but it's a vehicle that has prevented some of them from going out of business. Pompey immediately spring to mind. Clearly we never want that situation at the Valley and the hope is that our Trust can provide a new focal point between the club and it's supporters. 

Scotland 0 v Serbia 0

A point was more than I expected from this match beforehand but it was a disappointment having seen how little the Serbs had to offer. A chorus of boos at the final whistle were directed at Craig Levein whose lack of ambition saw us playing with one up front and the ineffective Morrison in the hole behind. Kenny Miller ran his legs off again but we needed something more and Levein left it too late to make the changes required.

There was an astonishing clamour for Jordan Rhodes on the hour and it grew until he was introduced for the last ten minutes. He really does appear to have caught the imagination but the laughable comments about him eventually over-taking Dennis Law's scoring record for Scotland were nearly as amusing as the comparison on Radio Five last week with Ian Rush.

On the walk back into town after the match I listened to a debate about whether or not "the English" Rhodes should be wearing blue and had a smile when the conversation turned to Jonjo Shelvey. The verdict was that Jonjo should be entitled if his Granny was from Edinburgh, although I was slightly puzzled why the debate had started in the first place as Rhodes' father was a Scot.

Tuesday's home game against Macedonia now looks like a potential banana skin after they were only edged out 1-0 in Croatia. Craig Levein will have to be more attacking or he could face am early exit from his position. I have bought tickets for the five home qualifiers and am booked to Brussels next month. I only hope our interest in this competition is extended into the games next year.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Nigels confident

With less than a week to go to what Palace fans are calling "The Big Match," the mood seems to have changed completely amongst the stripeys of London's bottom.

A couple of weeks ago, Holmesdale Online made for hilarious reading as the Freedman Out campaign got underway and they were already considering League One opposition next season. A couple of signings and a home win and they have become world-beaters! I suppose we should expect nothing less from these numpties and perhaps it's only human nature when you suffer from Coulrophobia.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

International Saturday

Hampden Park for me on Saturday. Scotland kick-off their 2014 World Cup campaign against Serbia (Vidic, Zigic, Stankovic) and it's a start I am less confident about than any tournament I can remember.

Craig Levein doesn't inspire me. His infamous 4-6-0 formation against the Czechs that saw us predictably beaten 1-0 in the European qualifiers that cost us the campaign. He should have acknowledged this at some stage but he has refused to do so and has also refused to entertain Sunderland man-of-the-moment, Stephen Fletcher, for having been critical of that decision in the past. Jordan Rhodes and Ross McCormack will instead provide a Championship spearhead but Serbia will present a formidable obstacle.

Beyond Serbia, we will need to overcome Croatia and Belgium before we even think about Wales. The Croats (Klasnic, Jelavic, Eduardo) shone at the World Cup and Belgium will be inspired by Edin Hazard, Thomas Vermaelen and Maroune Fellaini. I won't be travelling up for Tuesday's match against Macedonia and didn't get tickets in the ballot for Cardiff next month, although I will be heading to Belgium following that for a match that could well point the way for our qualification two years before the tournament starts.....

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Nottingham Forest 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

It was a decent day out in good company in spite of the result. Five and a half of us made our way up to Nottingham on the 10.30 train. The talk and hopes were about how competitive we would be and whether or not we would be ambitious enough to win the game.

We were all pleased by the lack of any final day transfer activity and after a few pints by the canal in the centre of town we made our way down to the City Ground  and took our places in the sunshine ahead of kick-off. As anticipated, the 'unsettled' Stephens was left at home to contemplate nearly becoming a Villa legend and was replaced in midfield by Bradley Pritchard. Jordan Cook started on the wide left and saw a lot of early ball but was dispossessed with every touch.

Forest started like the home side they were and they were either allowed plenty of space across midfield or else they completely outplayed us because they knocked it about with relative freedom as we backed off. Andy Reid was the first-half tormentor-in-chief as he caught the ball time and again and drove us back towards our line and into our box. Forest should have taken the lead inside the opening ten minutes when Reid, instead of shooting, cut the ball back to a colleague whose deft chip hit the underside of the bar and came out off the post and line. They didn't have long to wait before Lewis McGugan netted from a poorly awarded free-kick. The fussy ref, Graham Salisbury, adjudged Chris Solly to have fouled when he looked more like the victim. McGugan fired the free-kick into the box and a host of near-post players. Hamer came hurtling out but he was concentrating on the players in front of him and not the ball. It simply passed him by and went straight in. Poor goal to concede and definately down to our keeper.

One down and we hoped for a response but there was none. We tried to get down the left flank but Cook was having no success and Kermorgant could make nothing stick that was played up to him. Forest's back four are all big and they looked to have something to spare all day. Wright-Phillips was playing too far out on the right and contributed very little.

After the break and kicking towards the 1000 Addicks behind the goal, we hoped for more and whilst more effort was made, I think it was a Morrison header from fifteen yards that recorded our first effort on goal. Jordan Cook was subbed on the hour and Danny Haynes made a welcome return to ball-chasing although our game plan didn't look to be changed to accommodate him even if we switched to 4-3-3 in search of an equaliser.

Forest looked to be going through the motions but a second goal was on the cards and it arrived from Sam Hutchinson who controlled the ball with his hand as he turned and beat Hamer with a low drive. With ten minutes to go, predictably, we switched to all-out attack by bringing on Kerkar and Fuller. The pair had an immediate impact with Kerkar flying down the left flank and creating a succession of good crosses. It was Solly, however, who supplied the cross for the Charlton consolation. Ricardo Fuller met it with a subtle header that struck the inside of the post and bounced down across the line. The scrabbling Camp in Forest's goal managed to knock it in but it I think Ricardo can justifiably claim it. Say what you like about Fuller but he is going to be exciting to watch. What price he gets the winner against Palace? He did something with every touch and Bradley Wright-Phillips will need to look over his shoulder in the coming weeks.

Our first Championship defeat then but we shouldn't be too down-heartened. We have faced four of the better sides in this division and not been embarrassed. There will be easier sides and plenty more points to come. We do need to be prepared to be more ambitious away from home because we can't expect to defend our way to draws.

I didn't get a programme yesterday and with no scoreboard, I didn't know who most of the Forest players were. The tall, rangy left winger caught my eye, along with Cox and Reid. He reminded me of Chris Waddle and was not unlike Dale Stephens at his most positive on the ball. I was surprised to find it was none other than Greg Halford converted from full-back, so undone by two former comrades yesterday.