Saturday, 30 March 2013

Charlton Athletic 3 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Twenty minutes into this match and I made the statement about "leaving if they get a third." It was cold, dull, lack-lustre and all the football was coming from the visitors. David N'Gog had been played in on three minutes but slammed his shot at Hamer. Marvin Sordell had followed up a minute later with a fine shuffle and strike to open the scoring and Medo had picked off a second from distance with a disguised shot which beat Hamer tamely from twenty yards. It was looking like a car-crash.

Chris Powell had shaken things up yet again with Hamer back in goal and Dorian Dervite partnering Morrison in central defence. Andy Hughes was a surprise central midfield starter alongside Johnnie Jackson with Pritchard and Harriott on the flanks. Fuller and Kermorgant were picked in the striking berths.

The sloth of our start was quite astonishing given our dreadful home form and the dire need of some commitment and fight in front of our home fans. The response after the opener was a slow trudge back to the half-way line. Bolton continued to press the game and it was no real surprise when the scored again but no-one saw the shot coming, especially Ben Hamer who must have been embarrassed even if he roared out of goal shouting the odds as if it was someone else's fault. Even after that the recovery was pretty slow. 

Finally we did commit men in support of the front two and Johnnie Jackson combined with a rampaging Michael Morrison and he drove a cross-shot beyond Lonergan to give us a sniff. Crucially after that as we applied the pressure, Sam Ricketts was booked for a fairly innocuous foul and I wondered if he might regret that later on. Fuller had been struggling to make any impact but he wriggled free and managed to keep a defender at bay as he closed in and fired across the face of goal. If we had anyone keeping pace we could have equalised before the break.

After half-time and kicking towards the Covered End, we upped the ante and Pritchard was suddenly finding more space and, encouraged by Solly, we were working the right hand side. Wanderers were content to defend but the match swung on the hour. Fuller chased a bouncing throughball and as Ricketts and another defender closed the gap, he timed his leap to perfection and took a tumble that I am sorry to say earned Ricketts a red card. Ricketts didn't touch him as the replay will show but, in the ref's defence, he was in-line with both players and could have been forgiven for thinking it was a bookable challenge. 

As Ricketts departed, Jackson and Kermorgant stood over the dead ball. I was sure Jackson would take the crack but instead it was Big Yann whose drive beat Lonergan and bounced back into play off the post. With panic in the Whites defence, the ball cannoned across the goal to Dorian Dervite who drove home at the far post with some delight. Two-two then, game on. 

Suddenly the home fans were making a noise and the sun appeared. It seemed like a very long time since we had been two down and practically out. We had Rovers on the back foot and smelled blood. Rhoys Wiggins was pushing on now as well and Ricardo Fuller went down in the box again a minute later. I will need to see this one again. The defender was closer this time than Ricketts had been and there may have been contact but it still looked like Fuller had a three course dinner. Yann Kermorgant slammed the penalty home low and left and we were home and hosed as they say in the US of A.

Bolton reshuffled with the unfortunate Sordell having to make way as Danny Butterfield returned to the Valley. Craig Davies was also introduced for Lee as Dougie Freedman gambled on an equaliser. We responded by giving the gallant Hughes a rest and Mark Gower made an unfit looking entrance. 

There was still time for Craig Davies to manage to get himself two needless bookings amid a flurry of late yellow cards as the ref lost the plot. Not even we could blow it against nine men. Yann Kermorgant soared at the far post to meet another Pritchard floater and only an acrobatic reflex save from Lonergan prevented him from planting a thunderous header in the Wanderers net for the fourth. Danny Haynes got on to warm his hamstrings before the finish as did Lawrie Wilson.

The crowd left a happy Valley for only the second Saturday of the season and amongst the talking points were the fact that Callum Harriott (the BBC refuse to accept he's not a Harriotts) was the man of the match. He obviously has a lot to learn but he has pace, strength and no little determination. It was good to see Johnnie Jackson score again and to see Andy Hughes enjoying himself in the middle. Best of all, I saw a team I support win a game - a strange but good feeling.

Tenth home defeat of the season?

I was struck down on Thursday by what hospitals refer to as "V + D." A virulent bug that my wife and youngest have also had. The sickness has aggravated an ongoing back problem and I am struggling to stand up at the moment as my sciatic nerve on the right-hand side is throbbing 24 x 7. So, no day out for me yesterday at Welling or Blackheath Rugby Club. I am resolved to finally seeing the doctor about my back.

I know Welling won 3-0 to maintain their charge for the Conference but Blackheath's score has not yet made it onto the internet. I didn at least have the pleasure of watching the Palace v Birmingham City game on the box. Heart-warming stuff which helped put the "good" back into Friday. Pity Leicester couldn't double-up against Millwall but they are very much a secondary concern at the moment.

I am hoping I will feel up for the limp around to the Valley this afternoon for the encounter with Bolton Wanderers. We may see a debut or two as Mark Gower and Flourent Rouamba have joined the club this week. Gower is favourite to start but I suspect Rouamba may still be awaiting paperwork following his move from Eastern Moldova. Hopefully that will arrive before the close season.

We may just be playing Wanderers a week too early. They still have ambitions of catching sixth place, which, given our home form, would appear to be all the motivation required to see us off. I'm not going to bang on again about the need to attack and win games from a position of strength again. Instead, I will hope for a committed display and some entertainment. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Club or Wings?

Bit of a dilemma looming for Good Friday. Do I go to Park View Road to watch Welling looking to increase their healthy lead at the top of the Blue Square South, or do I walk up to the Rectory Field to watch Blackheath take on Macclesfield?

Welling are currently 9 points clear and a win in Friday's 3pm kick-off against fourth-placed Chelmsford City would see them take a big stride closer to promotion with only six games remaining. 

Blackheath meanwhile, sit in seventh but have shown plenty of spirit this season and might not be far away from mustering a challenge if they can improve the overall quality of their playing squad. 

Decisions, decisions....

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A good news story

Amidst the gloom, it was encouraging, if not a little surprising, to see the Charlton Community Trust winning Community Club of the Year in the Football League for the second time since 2009.

The club launched The Royal Greenwich Youth Service in unison with Greenwich Council last year and it's work was what won the accolade. Matt Parish's team of 80 full-time staff and 100 pooled coaches manage to get to an impressive 10,000 youngsters a week in our extended community. The good work that they do is clearly recognised but it's the promotion of the football club that is the potentially big win for us. `no doubt it's an easy route for those complimentary match tickets on the occasions when we want to impress prospective buyers.

The Community Trust operates as a separate business effectively with it's own P&L. It would be interesting to understand more about the ongoing financial input from the football club. I am assuming it has declined as the Trust has grown and now stands on it's own two feet. All good PR for Charlton Athletic at a time when we need as much as we can get.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Scotland 1 v Wales 2

Tomorrow, I am going to do a count-back because I can't remember the last time I saw Scotland win at anything. I think it's been at least fourteen consecutive rugby and football matches without one but maybe longer. When you add the Addicks current plight, I am looking for hefty sympathy.

I set out yesterday in the new car much against my wife's advice and having picked up a mate in Cambridge, we fought our way up the M6 and into Scotland. The widespread snow caused havoc on the southbound carriageway and we passed three bad accidents before seeing a car in front of us pirouette right to left and leave the motorway. Having made our way into Glasgow we really didn't think we would get back today with more snow expected.

Glasgow was jumping last night in anticipation of Gordon Strachan's first game in charge and an expected victory over Wales. Personally, I was nowhere near as confident and still can't forget the yawning gulf in class between Scotland and Belgium that I witnessed last year. 

The snow began to fall heavily before kick-off and it got nearly as cold as Edinburgh a couple of weeks back when the Welsh beat us at egg-chasing. Gareth Bale dominated the early scene as he and his red-shirted colleagues pinged the ball around and ran Scotland ragged for 25 minutes. Steve Fletcher was carried off after a couple of minutes and I was bemused to see Miller replace him instead of Rhodes. This was Gordon's first match and he went with the old guard Miller as his automatic second choice? Kenny's been a fine servant and has punched above his weight but yesterday should have been the time for new blood.

Scotland came back into the match and Kenny Miller got two headers, the second of which he should have scored with but both went high. Grant Hanly then stooped to head home from a corner kick and suddenly Scotland were afloat. Richard Snodgrass struck the inside of a post  before the break or we might have wrapped it up. 

Gareth Bale succumbed to a tummy bug at half-time and spirits were lifted when he failed to appear. All of a sudden in the second-half I had an overwhelming sense of deja-vu. Gordon's troops were looking to hold their one-nil advantage and I felt uneasy. Sure enough fate turned against us and a double calamity landed on 70 minutes. Snodgrass failed to block a driven Gunter cross at the edge of the box and the French ref decided Snodgrass had fouled and raced in to book him for a second time and flourish a red. This was a very harsh decision as Gunter's crossing momentum took him over Snodgrass' attempt to block. Players from both  had sides their say in the ensuing minute and then, from nowhere, there was a roar from the visiting contingent of Welsh followers from the opposite end of Hampden. They had heard that a penalty had been given. Not only did none of the players suspect it, but none of the fans of either side did either. Wales duly followed up and within a minute the stunned Hampden crowd saw Robson-Kanu head home a winner from close range. Talk about sickening.

I made the long drive home today. The roads were empty and I was hugely impressed by the number of gritter lorries operating to keep the motorways free of snow and ice. Scotland's footballing future looks about as rosy as the country's economic future under an independent SNP government. We are headed for Pot 6 and a future of trying to luck out against the other world minnows before being dropped into impossible qualifying groups for future tournaments. 

Perhaps the SNP will be my saviour after all? I have already decided that I will not take a Scottish passport in exchange for my British one if this choice is foisted on me by selfish opportunist politicians who might be successful in emotionally blackmailing gullible nationalists north of the border. The vote is next year and there's every chance my losing streak will continue until then.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Fear and loathing

The latest derby humiliation was always going to be hard to take but the organisational calamity from Part-Time Protheroe's beleaguered shrinking management team looks like it might have holed the ship below the waterline. The howls of protest from our fans has been the loudest and most numerous in living memory. The response from the Board has been as minimal so far as we have come to expect. 

The promotion gloss has well and truly worn off and we face a nervy month as we seek to avoid a potentially fatal return to League One. I have already said that this season matches the end of the 70's as the worst in my watching memory but it might just surpass that and take the biscuit. Let's consider a few key things...

1) The emotional bond with our owners no longer exists. They are not Charlton fans. Their plan to make a big return on a small investment has had the funding pulled from under it and they are now desperately trying to sell the club on for more than it's worth. They have an arrogant approach to their Customer base and don't see the need to communicate below the bare minimum. The post-match segregation calamity on Saturday being the latest. 

2) We are skint. Without the funding in the club, Spanish Tone and the Lawyer are on the hook for the running costs and it's hard to see them continuing to cough up when the lucrative sale gets further and further away. Administration remains a real threat and worse could be a fire sale to the sort of thieves or conmen who have ruined so many other desperate clubs. The sort of scenario Richard Murray fought long and hard to avoid.

3) We are still largely a League One team. Whilst Jiminez and Slater have worked within their budget for this year and enabled Chris Powell to bring in loan replacements for outgoing players, our contracted squad still looks very similar to last year. That looks just about good enough for the Championship but its not going to get us very far.

4) Season ticket value this year has been incredibly poor. Four wins (only one on a Saturday) from 19 Valley matches so far is bottom-of-the-table stuff and won't have queues forming to renew.

5) Chris Powell is not yet the finished article. Whilst I still have confidence in the manager, he hasn't been able to arrest our home form and there are emerging questions about his tactical nous and his motivational abilities. He has plainly failed to use his substitutes properly on far too many occasions and we appear to have no Plan B in matches.

6) The Club's management team appears leader-less. There is a distinct lack of spark at home games around the ground. We look like we are running on auto-pilot and it lacks conviction. Experienced old guarders have been outed and either not replaced or replaced by so-far anonymous faces. Martin Protheroe's appointment is baffling. A company boss who works one day a week and lives miles away? Jiminez and Slater don't appear to be seen at many games unless they are entertaining prospective buyers and neither are hands-on. 

7) Season-ticket sales look compromised. Price rises (not unforeseen or unrealistic in the marketplace) come at a tough time for the economy and on the back of the pain of this season. We seem to get this right against the odds each year and our capacity to take punishment and come back for more has been impressive but the noises suggest we will lose a good few thousand to pay-per-match at best and others completely. 
So what to do? Clearly a new buyer should receive a lot of goodwill but that could be a way off yet and it's anyone's guess how much money they would bring to invest. Jiminez and Slater will be tested financially and are unlikely to trade us up to a challenging Championship side without deeper pockets. The only other realistic option is a change of manager but that would be expensive and risky, given that Chris Powell is still getting impressive results away from home and clearly hasn't lost the dressing room. All I know is that I won't be shelling out over a grand before the end of the season and, like last year, I will want to see something from the owners if I am not to break 36 years as a season ticket holder. To be really honest, I dont need to see millions spent but I would like some transparency and some communication. I will be there in August but I might be buying my tickets the week before the game.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

France 23 v Scotland 16

In the lounge at Gare du Nord awaiting the rattler home. Reflecting on my third Scottish defeat of the 6 Nations. Apparently, we finished third although hard for me to comprehend.

Last night we made the fatal error of deciding that the bars and tents around the Stadt de France were too busy as the punters pressed in to avoid the rain and opted to "have a drink in the ground." We found our seats first. Front row in the corner behind the try line. They were wet and the swirling rain promised no respite. So to the bar then to warm up. Oh dear, no alcohol. It was drier than the Millwall game. My polite request to be let out of the ground was met with a gruff "non."

So to the game then and in horrible conditions, Scotland did what we can invariably do first-half and we defended valiantly whilst sniping a couple of penalties to lead at the break. Predictably, things changed second-half. The French came out charging and Bastereau and their huge (as in fat) number 17 punched holes in the Scottish line. It was left to little dancers to skate in for central touch-downs and a penalty response as Scotland trailed 23-9 with five minutes to go. We were soaking and cold and ready to leave when Scotland finally found a gap and tore through. It looked like Maitland on the burst and as his pursuers closed in, he found Tim Visser gliding alongside with plenty in the tank. Visser took the pass and careered through the posts to leave us tantalising close and once more thinking what might have been.

Another double-defeat then and I am only pleased I chose to be in Paris. It might be increasingly dirty, littered with homeless and beggars, but still better company than those brain-dead peasants. I understand that the Club managed another PR catastrophe by having our fans treated like second-class citizens so that our visitors had an unimpeded day. Lairy Millwall fans in colours in our hospitality and our fans being route-marched up Charlton Lane. We really have shot ourselves in the foot on top of an appalling home season. Expect gates to nosedive next season. We may still be in the Championship but our club is shrinking back towards our all-time low.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Hear me now oh Lord

I make a plea this morning to God's representation in persona upon the firmament. Pope Francis has emerged as a righteous defender of the poor and the meek. A man among us seeking to help those who suffer the most. A devout Catholic but a man who opens his mind to all religions and even non-believers. Pope Francis, hear my prayer.

Our people have suffered much hardship throughout our lives. The longer we have lived the greater the suffering. Random acts of kindness have surprised and sustained us but have served, ultimately, only to heighten the next inevitable dagger-thrust and fall from grace. We do not seek special favour, nor do we claim to be unique in our living torment. Instead we ask that the pendulum of fortune stuck fast be freed to sway a little.

Even now, at the moment of your accession, we are made to agonise as our neighbours are once again given access to the Gates of Heaven (albeit for a brief garden party). Show us your munificence Pope Francis and grant us some respite on Saturday.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Millwall under pressure

Millwall's replay at Ewood Park tomorrow evening promises to be a strength-sapping contest, if not a morale-sapping one before they roll into the Valley for what should be another tight local affair. Our home form would suggest they have as much chance of winning as we do and history would support that view too but they are low on league confidence and we don't usually play them three days after a big F A Cup tie, which they are now favourites to lose. The three points we picked up at Huddersfield mean it's not a "must-win" game for us and that may also lift us.

The Lions then face Leicester away next Friday in an 'ouch' match (I assume televised) before a few crucial fixtures against Birmingham, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Palace. They are a better side than most of those but something appears to have gone wrong at the Den. They are missing James Henry badly and he is out until next season. Chris Wood'd influence was obvious after he departed to Leicester and they also lost the Arsenal youngster who was on loan. Suddenly they look desperately short of goals (cue three against us) and that could prove pivotal. Kenny Jackett is a good manager who talks sense and he has managed situations like this at Millwall previously but if there is a bigger problem it may be terminal.

I won't cry if the Lions go down but I would much rather Palace stay down. The loss of Zaha should be pivotal wherever they are playing next season and if that lunk Murray were to move on, they would look distinctly more ordinary.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Scotland 18 v Wales 28

On a bitterly cold Edinburgh day, Scotland failed to spark yesterday and slumped fairly predictably to defeat against a Welsh side who asked all the questions. The fussy South African referee spoilt it for me by stopping play at every opportunity and awarding a ridiculous 19 penalties which dictated the scoring pattern. 

Greg Laidlaw's trusty boot edged Scotland in front at half-time but Wales deserved the lead and they took it quickly after the re-start. Scotland missed Ritchie Gray who was stretchered off after about 20 minutes with a twisted knee. Scotland won plenty of ball up front and disrupted the Welsh lineout but there was no transition to the backs who rarely got going. 

Stuart Hogg saw plenty of the ball but it was invariably from his own 20 metre line in clearing up capacity rather than breaking the Welsh line. Scotland will limp into the Stade de France next week seeking to hand the French Le Spoon Wooden and create our best finish since 2006. Meanwhile, Wales will seek a moral victory of stopping England's Grand Slam and finishing level pegging at the top of the table. 

The brightest spot of the day, of course, was the news from Huddersfield where Chris Powell's boys pulled another rabbit from the hat by winning from a fourth minute debut goal from the boy Harriott. That will do his confidence a power of good and it was also good to see we kept a clean sheet. David Button is taking his chance. I'm sure we all looked at our home record again this morning with the Addicks in 12th and found ourselves thinking, "if only....."

Friday, 8 March 2013

Decisive 6 Nations weekend

Game 4 this weekend in the 6 Nations and England will extend their points difference at the top of the table to set-up a Grand Slam encounter down in Cardiff. Italy suddenly look like a broken side after their opening victory over the French and resistance on Sunday at Twickenham will be short-lived.

Meanwhile, north of the border in Britain's most civilised city, Scotland will take on Wales in what promises to be a feisty encounter with the winners looking to hang on to England's coat-tails. The Welsh know that they have the opportunity to level with England on points at the finish but they will rely upon hitting Scotland for six (tries) and praying that the Italians will be more stubborn on Sunday than is possible. Scotland, of course, have the same ambitions as the Welsh but cannot influence the result in that last match in Wales.

Scotland, meanwhile, will go looking for a rare third consecutive victory and I will be there to urge them on. An evening at Jamie's to soak up the beer and an early flight home on Sunday for Mother's Day. This evening we will entertain three Millwall visitors and will drown our collective sorrows over an Indian. I will be glued to my mobile after the Murrayfield action to see how Powell's redoubtables are getting on in Yorkshire's heartland.

Whatever you are doing, make the most of it.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Peterborough United 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Needless to say, a much better Charlton performance at London Road this evening as we took a point with a battling 2-2 draw. Chris Solly returned to defence following illness which meant Lawrie Wilson could be deployed down the right flank. Leon Cort was rested for Matt Taylor and Calum Harriott got a first start alongside Jackson and Pritchard. Haynes and Fuller retained their striking berths.

After going a goal down in the first-half slightly against the run of play, we struck twice soon after the break through Jackson and Haynes to take the lead but Peterborough fought back and grabbed an equaliser through Bostwick after 71 minutes as David Button let a bouncing shot beat him. There were chances for both sides before the final whistle but Chris Powell will be satisfied with the performance as much as the point.

It's from here on that the results of the sides around us become as important as our own and generally good news this evening. Millwall lost at home again and drop beneath us on goal difference. The bad news is that it was Wolves who beat them and who move out of the bottom three and within five points of us. Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday both lost away from home and Birmingham and Blackpool shared the points at St Andrews. Saturday's opponents Huddersfield rallied with two goals in the last five minutes to beat Middlesbrough 2-1.

We have a six point cushion over Barnsley in the last of the relegation places but more importantly, there are six sides sandwiched between us. I reckon we need three more wins to be sure of Championship football although two will probably do it. Huddersfield have the worst goal difference in the division, so we should be positive again and take the game to them on Saturday. A win there would put us in fine fettle for the grudge match against the Lions who may well be feeling the heat by then. They have a game in hand and will pick up another after their F A Cup game on Sunday but they will likely find themselves a couple of places closer to the sticky stuff by then.

If we had managed to hang on to the victory this evening, we would have been up to 12th. Funny old division this year.

Will we, won't we?

Be involved in a relegation battle, that is. We remained in a relatively lofty 15th position in the Championship after Saturday's dismal defeat to Burnley, but the gap below us was cut by a number of sides who now sit close on our shoulder, including this evening's opponents Peterborough and Saturday's Huddersfield.

Our away form would suggest we will pick up the three points needed to keep an even keel but I am concerned that we may be suffering from a sudden loss of confidence. Posh and the Terriers are both below us and very much involved in their own relegation battles. Neither match promises to be pretty and a double defeat could see us officially enter the swirl-pool. With Millwall to come at the Valley a week on Saturday, it could be a very testing afternoon when I am next at the Valley for the Bolton match on 30th March.

We may have shown relegation form at home all season but our battling away forays have earned us another crack in this division and I believe we will pick up the required points to avoid the drop. The squad we have would walk league One again next season but it's become patently clear that we need sufficient strengthening to seriously challenge in the Championship.

I am relieved to be spending the next two weekends seeing out the finish to the 6 Nations and I won't miss the Millwall game at all. My Lions-loving mate returned from his Cypriot home last night for  a week to see an ailing relative and to fit in two Lions matches. He popped in last night to pick up my car (he is a very good mate) but acknowledged that Millwall's home form has ruined their season. C'est la vie Ray - we are five points worse off at home than them and we don't have a very winnable F A Cup 6th Round tie coming this weekend. Millwall in another semi-final? It never rains but it pours.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Burnley 1

Another stuttering, disjointed home showing and another defeat, our eighth at the Valley this season.

Chris Powell has obviously been pulling his hair out all week looking for a winning combination. He made five changes and went with what looked like an attacking 4-4-2 with Obika starting on the right and Haynes and Fuller providing the strike roles. Ben Hamer was dropped for David Button, who, one spill part, did nothing wrong. Wilson came in for a presumably injured Chris Solly and Dale Stephens was given a well deserved rest. The changes made little difference and we are beginning to look very firmly like a side short on sufficient quality to prosper at this level.

I thought we started with far more positivity than in recent weeks at home and looked threatening without really breaking through a resilient Burnley back-line. Ricardo Fuller simply doesn't have the pace to play 90 minutes at this level and whilst he has the experience, he needs players around him who can create space and we simply don't have them. Danny Haynes gives it everything but he's not really got enough to make up for Fullers shortcomings and the pair toiled all afternoon.

I'm not sure if Obika has played out wide previously but we saw so little of him I am inclined to think not. Jackson and Pritchard looked busy but without any end product and Dervite cluttered the midfield.

Burnley didn't really look any better than us but in Charlie Austin they have a player capable of winning a match with a touch of quality above anything else we saw all afternoon. He mustered that after 30 minutes when he rifled home from 25 yards giving Button no chance.

We upped the ante after the break and Powell even threw onGreen and Harriott early but we lacked the cutting edge to overcome an increasingly committed Burnley defence. On the hour Lawrie Wilson skipped down the right and his early swirling cross was met beautifully by Haynes eight yards. His perfectly directed downward header was tipped around the post from a superb diving save from Lee Grant. Haynes came close again after 77 minutes but his fierce cross-shot missed the far post and Michael Morrison couldn't convert. We couldn't make anything of the five added minutes as the stadium emptied and home form is now a major problem.

Chris Powell will be feeling the heat but he has limited options and he is continuing to try them. We haven't really invested in the side this season and the club clearly hasn't got the funds to take us to the next level. It's hard to know how we get out of this without selling a couple of the better players and getting lucky with replacements.

I will leave my last comment for the attendance today. It was visibly down on recent weeks and we were debating whether or not it was the lowest gate of the season. Burnley brought about 800 and there were bigger gaps in the West and North than usual. Around us in the East it looked less busy than of late although there were plenty of groups of obvious newcomers being directed to their seats well after kick-off, whom I assume were there courtesy of complimentary tickets. We laughed out aloud when the attendance was given of 20,000 and some. Maybe we are close to a deal to sell the club on after all?