Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Home Sweet Home

I had a wonderful day at The Valley yesterday.  I was hoping for my last visit of the year to yield us the three points and I wasn't disappointed.  I really don't get to The Valley enough, and as much as I enjoy the away games I go to, there is nothing better than being at home.  I think the weather helped things a fair bit, it's normally a great atmosphere when the sun is shining, and although the attendance was definitely down on other matches I've been to this year, the fans were in good good spirits as our recent performances have been decent, despite the wrong results.

From kick off we looked good.  Gone are the days of Parkinsons long ball tactics and we can now actually enjoy some decent passing football once again.  It's taken a while to get there, but we are now starting to show that we have adapted to this type of game and our performances have improved dramatically of late, even if the results haven't.  With the extra funds being made available in the summer we should be able to bring in enough quality to ensure we can get ourselves out of this league.

We might miss a couple of our loanees however.  Eccleston has contributed a fair bit since his arrival, despite not playing as much as many of our supporters would like.  It seems to me that if he had played a bit more, we would have picked up a few more positive results.  I'm not sure why Powell hasn't given him more of a chance, I have pondered whether he was a Jiminez signing and Powell has been using him sparingly in protest, but the truth is, only the Manager knows.  I've always thought Eccleston worked hard, links up play very well and creates some good opportunities even if his finishing isn't that consistent.

Dean Parrett has done well since his arrival also.  Despite a few games out with a knock, when he has been fit he has played, and for someone so young, he has a cool head on his shoulders and is always looking for a forward pass.  His goal on Saturday also shows that he has composure in front of goal.  I can definitely see him becoming a regular at White Hart Lane in the near future.

Federico Bessone, though he might not have been as high quality as the Liverpool and Spurs players, he has been fairly solid at the back.  He is prone to being caught out of position, but he does travel forward well with the ball and his passing and crossing is pretty decent too.  Personally I would rather see Kelly Youga in the left-back position and I hope he makes a full recovery and takes his place back, but Bessone has definitely been a worthy understudy.

With Parrett and Eccleston's positive impact on the team, the Manager is going to find it hard to replace them.  It's possible that Powell will be able to tie up one of the players on another loan deal for next season, although there will be plenty of clubs interested. But I can't see Eccleston wanting to return as he just hasn't been used as much as he should have, despite putting in the performances when he did get a chance.

Just a quick word about John Sullivan.  He has only had a few games but has impressed me greatly.  I'm not sure what the deal is at Millwall, but I would love us to see if there is a way of prising him away.  I like Rob Elliot, but I do think that Sullivan looks much more comfortable on crosses and his shot stopping is clearly very good.

A tricky away fixture at Walsall beckons on Saturday.  Walsall need to win to keep their League One hopes alive.  I'm extremely hopeful for an Addicks win for two reasons.  Firstly, to finish off the season in a positive way, and to help Dagenham and Redbridge to survive.  Although I've got no real love for the Daggers, I would like to see them stay up over the others that are in the mix.  Another performance like yesterday would surely be enough to secure the points.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

4 goals, 3 red cards and a point

This is a game that I would normally go to as it's only around 40 miles from home.  Being Easter however I'm actually in London for a few days rather than my West Country retreat, so it means I'll be heading to The Valley on Monday instead.  I was indending to head to the Memorial Stadium to catch the game but my missus decided we were going to London.  Hey ho.  Who am I to argue?  So, I, like many others, caught the game on CAFC Player and actually couldn't really believe the events that unfolded.

Going two goals up was a surprise in itself and I don't think anybody could quite believe it.  But in usual Charlton fashion we started to make things hard for ourselves.  Reid's sending off sounded clear cut, a dangerous tackle by all accounts, backed up by the fact that his opponent was stretchered off.  Nobody had any arguments.  But six minutes later Semedo also saw red and suddenly we only had nine men on the field.  Apparently Semedo's tackle was fairly innocuous and the ref was starting to show why he is in League One. Well, two goals up, nine men on the field and thirty minutes left to play. 

The Pirates grabbed a goal back on 66 minutes leaving things on a knife edge.  One would have thought that we had seen enough controversy in this particular match but the referee thought he would add a bit more.  Rovers grabbed the equaliser on 84 minutes though not before he blatantly handled the ball in the build up. , but the referee waved the appeals away.  I guess ultimately we were lucky to get away with the draw.  With ten men it sounded like we were making a good fist of it, but as soon as Semedo went it was one-way traffic.

The final red card of the game was picked up by Chrissie Powell, the second of his short managerial career.  It's nice to see the passion from him, but he also has to show some more professionalism.  Clearly he was incensed by some of the decisions, but how can he now go into the dressing room and talk to the other players about their red cards when he couldn't control himself either? 

Yet more points dropped needlessly.  Some of it our own doing, some due to some poor refereeing decisions.  Kyel Reid might have had one of his brighter games for us, but in my opinion all that was lost after getting himself sent off.  I'll reserve full judgement until I've seen the incident, but if it is as it sounds, I'll not be sad to see him sit out a few games, maybe even the rest of the season.

Bring on Rochdale, my last home game of the season, please give me a win...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Four to go

I spent the majority of Saturday holed up in a Spa in the beautiful Cotswold town of Cirencester.  The reason for this was to give my body a bit of a rest before I ran my 5th consecutive London Marathon on Sunday.  As a result I didn't get to hear the game via CAFC Player, and clearly could not attend the match, and to be perfectly honest with you, my mind was firmly on the run ahead of me rather than a meaningless football game.

From the reports and blogs that I've read it appears that we were unlucky again and should have at least taken a point.  It seems to be becoming a bit of a bad habit.  There have been a few games recently where we have had some excellent possession but still haven't managed to create enough chances, or convert the ones that we do have.  Hopefully a few summer signings will see the end to this.  In Bradley Wright-Phillips we have someone who will readily put the ball in the back of the net, but only if it is delivered to him in the right place.  I'm sure a bit of pre-season work will do the entire team the world of good.  We've managed to mostly rid ourselves of the kick and rush style in our game, but the downside to this is that we are not winning games.  Still plenty of work yet to be done.

In terms of the Marathon it was an exceptionally hot day.  I was hoping for a personal best and to finish inside of the 4 hour mark.  With the sun beating down on me I found it particularly hard going and only managed 4 hours 24 minutes, 13 minutes slower than last years attempt.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement, I worked harder this year than in any of the previous years.  The last six weeks have been hell on earth trying to squeeze in a fitness regime around various work assignments, Charlton and of course family life.  I'm blaming the weather, it at least makes me feel a little better about it all.  Still, there's always next year....

So only four games to go.  Next up is a team in my neck of the woods - Bristol Rovers.  It's a place I've been many times and know well due to covering the game for the local paper on numerous occasions.  This time I'll be there for pleasure rather than work issues which will be a nice change.  This is the last game this season that I'll be attending so it would be nice to end it on a high with a win.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Roll on summer

So I guess we are at that stage of the season where neither wins or draws mean a lot.  We can just keep striking off the games and looking forward to the summer break.  Powell has a chance to have a last good look at his players and make the final verdicts on who stays and who goes at the end of the season.  There will be some possibly disappointed not to get a contract renewal, there may be some of us fans disappointed that some of the players we like didn't get a contract renewal, and there might even be some players relieved to get away from the club, but it's clear that there will be some movement in the close season.

We earned a good draw on Saturday.  I don't actually care about the points any longer, but the fact that the players had good heart and dug in well for almost an hour was good to hear.  I've been advocating for some time that the players need to start giving a bit more, and clearly on Saturday the did just that.  Dailly showed that experience does not count for everything in football.  His sending off was a bit silly, but I think I might have had a similar reaction if I'd taken a kick to the head as he did.  The 10 men left on the field however gave everything and kept the scores level to walk away with our first 0-0 draw in the league this season.

So next game to chalk off will be Huddersfield at The Valley next Saturday, a game that Town will want to win as they are still vying for an automatic promotion place.  For Charlton it's all about pride.  I'm not sure that will be motivation enough to see off our opposition as they have an awful lot more to play for.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Mountains to climb

If anything, last night's result shows us how much work there is still to do with the squad if we are to have any hope of finishing in a promotion or play-off position next season.  Southampton have picked up some very good results lately and we have to raise our game to their level if we are to hope to mirror what they have achieved so far this campaign.  Last night however we didn't get anywhere near it.  Southampton dominated for the majority of the match, and if it were not for some excellent saves from Rob Elliot, who had yet another good game for us, we might have been looking at a real hammering.

I'm interested to know what "significant investment" means.  Michael Slater stated that there would be a cash injection and that money will be available to build a squad to get us out of this division, but I wonder if he really knows exactly what is required.  In my opinion we only have a handful of players that are actually capable of playing the type of football Powell is trying to get us to play, and it is a direct result of this that we have slid down the table.  Alex Dyer has commented previously that they really need a pre-season in order to get their message across properly, and I wouldn't disagree, but this team also needs a major overhaul if we are to eventually be a success with the passing game.

Parkinson might have managed to get this group of players to dig out some better results than Powell has, after all he signed them for specific roles in mind (one would hope), but the style of football we were playing under him was hardly entertaining.  We have a number of contracts up in the summer and it will be very interesting to see who stays and who goes.  Clearly we are going to have to keep some of the under-performing players but major surgery is required.  I think Powell needs at least 5-6 first team players if we are to change to the style that he wants and be effective.

We have problems in many areas.  To begin with, we are more than a little suspect at the back.  We haven't kept a clean sheet since the win against Yeovil 15 games ago, and in that time the number of defensive errors leading to opposition goals has been considerable.  In the middle of the park we are lightweight and are lacking creativity and the ability to retain and pass the ball.  In terms of our attacking play we don't seem to know how to carve out clear-cut openings and if it wasn't for the excellent signing of Bradley Wright-Phillips who can conjure up a goal from half chances, we might have slipped even further down the table.  We need to find a regular partner for Bradley, we need to get a ball-winning midfielder, we need to find players who can create something for our attacking players to feed off, and we need to find a centre-back who knows how to defend.

Personally I'm not convinced that Powell is making best use of the squad we have.  Nathan Eccleston always seems to make things happen when he comes on, but he has not been given enough starts to show his worth.  Racon has lately been pushed out to the left hand-side to make room for Dean Parrett, but he is just not suited to playing as a winger and our style is far too narrow and opposition wingers just ghost past him as if he wasn't there.  There have been lots of calls to bring in Kyel Reid, a natural left winger, but I'm not convinced that this is the answer either.  Unless Reid can prove that he can track back and help out the team with some defensive duties, then he probably will not make that much of a difference.  His overall team contribution isn't good enough for me.  He also suffers with complacency and sometimes looks as if he is coasting in games rather than digging in and giving 100%.

Powell has mountains to climb with this squad and the big question in my mind is where on earth to you find the type of players that we need to come to Charlton and play League One football?  I'm glad it's not my job to find them.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

A win!

A win, at last a win!  11 games without one and I'd almost forgotten what it feels like when we win.  I wasn't at the game, I spent the majority of it flying home from Peru and I managed to catch up on the score just before the final whistle went.

Apparently we had a decent game for the most part.  Started the first half well then tailed off and let them in, then after an inspiring teamtalk we came out and took the game to Orient.  I have to say, this has been coming.  Our performances over the last 3 to 4 games have markedly improved and we might have been a bit unfortunate not to have picked up the win a bit sooner.  I hope we can now go on to have a strong finish to the season.

Southampton away next.  A tough fixture.  Our season is all but over, but Southampton are still gunning for an automatic promotion slot.  I'm hoping we spoil their party by nicking all three points.

Cutting this one short.  Lack of sleep, poor diet, a long flight and all the excitement of Charlton winning has left me feeling a little drained.

EDIT:  Just managed to catch the highlights and all three goals were of good quality.  I thought Benson took his well considering it came in an at awkward height, Bradley still had to beat the keeper despite being gifted an opportunity.  I've seen many a Charlton player miss easier chances.  Finally, the cross from Stewart for Semedo's header was pin-point.  Very impressed.