Saturday, 25 August 2012

Charlton 0 - 0 Hull

Charlton maintained their unbeaten run in the League by earning a draw against Steve Bruce's Hull City.  On a day when the weather took a turn for the worse, both teams battled on despite torrential rain and some appalling conditions on the pitch.

Hull had the better of the chances overall and had it not been for some excellent goalkeeping by Charlton ace Ben Hamer, City may have just nicked it, though a draw seemed a fair result judging by the radio commentary.  Hamer made a string of good saves including winning a one on one against Sone Aluko who probably should have done better.

Charlton had the ball in the net after Kermorgant pounced on a rebound after a good run and shot by Bradley Wright-Phillips.  Unfortunately for the Addicks Kermorgant was adjudged to be offside and the goal was ruled out.  Replays showed that the referee's assistant got it wrong and the goal should have stood, though that might have been a bit harsh on Hull who deserved to take a point from the game.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Tigers visit The Valley

Hull City are Charlton's next opponents at The Valley on Saturday.  After narrowly losing to Blackburn in midweek, the Tigers will be looking to bounce back immediately and put a stop to the Addicks good start to the season.

The teams haven't met too much in recent years.  In fact in the last 20 years we have only faced each other on four occasions.  The good news is that Charlton were unbeaten in each of those meetings having won twice and managed two draws.

Our last meeting at The Valley ended one a piece with the Madjid Bougherra rescuing a point for the home side.  Those present might remember the game for the sending off of on loan Manchester City player (and former Addick of course) - Danny Mills.

The game was largely forgettable but Mills decided to add some drama to the affair. Already on a yellow card, and after a number of clashes with Hull players, Mills was eventually given his marching orders for whispering sweet nothings into the ref's ear after yet another incident.

This game might be a tougher test than some might think.  Hull may not be up there in terms of quality with Birmingham or Leicester, but Steve Bruce's sides are usually well organised and the game will not be a walkover.  I'm hoping that our extra recovery day will help us to keep our unbeaten run going.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Addicks edge it

Leicester City were left to rue their missed chances after an entertaining encounter at The Valley last night.  Leicester started the better side but the Addicks managed to grab a goal against the run of play when Bradley Pritchard fed his namesake, Wright-Phillips, who turned and shot low to the keepers right hand side.  The ball was perfectly placed and weighted, and Kasper Schmeichel had no chance of keeping it out.

Yann Kermorgant added a second from a Rhoys Wiggins throw-in.  The ball bounced off the head of a Leicester defender and much to the away fans annoyance, Kermo banged it into the roof of the net.  The Addicks could have had a couple more during the first half with Leon Cort going close with a header and Wright-Phillips putting a shot wide.  Leicester created little during the first period though some of their play was neat and tidy.

If Charlton fans were not already in a buoyant mood, then the appearance of Ricardo Fuller on the pitch at half time may have lifted more spirits.  It was announced that Fuller has signed for the Addicks on an initial one-year deal.  A very astute signing by Powell in my opinion.  Fuller has had his share of injury problems, including a back issue that prevented him from joining Charlton when he was a 19 year old.  But at 32, he is by no means finished, and I think he can definitely do a job for us in this division.

The second half was a totally different affair altogether.  Nigel Pearson made a double substitution with Andy King and David Nugent replacing the ineffective Matt James and Jermaine Beckford.  It didn't take too long for the visitors to pull one back with both substitutes linking up and King fired in from a Nugent centre.  The goal had been coming, and having the two goal cushion at the end of the first half was enough to ensure we didn't share the spoils.

The Foxes played some great football and created bags of chances but a mixture of good defending and poor finishing meant they would leave South London empty handed.  A draw would have probably been the fairest result but after the heartbreak of losing an injury time goal to Birmingham, we'll take the three points thanks.

To have four points after our first couple of games is a great start, particularly as we have faced two of our toughest opponents in this division.  We lived dangerously at times, Leicester are obviously a very good side at this level, and we have to take our hats off to our players who never stopped running.

Yann Kermorgant will be particularly pleased with himself knowing he grabbed the winning goal, but his celebration will only help to darken his reputation with the Foxes fans, if that's even possible.  After the ball hit the net, the Frenchman wheeled away towards the away fans with his finger to his lips to silence the boos that rang out when his name was announced.  It was a well taken goal and it shows what the player can do if left with that much space in the box.

Hopefully our players will not have to endure too many barrages like we saw in the second half last night, but what it does highlight is the importance of taking your chances when they come.  We didn't do that at Birmingham on Saturday, had we done so, we might have been sitting at the top of the table, though third at this early stage of the season is good enough for me.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hayes to Bees

Just wanted to say a quick word about Paul Hayes who moved to Brentford on a free transfer yesterday.  Paul signed for us in June last year to partner Bradley Wright-Phillips up front, and he played a vital role in getting us off to a great start last season.  Hayes took a while to get going during the pre-season and  I admit that I unfairly judged him too quickly on those performances (for which I apologised for later), but once he found his feet, he looked like an accomplished pro.

Hayes was in the starting line-up when the season kicked off, and although he was never going to be a prolific goal scorer, his partnership with Wright-Phillips obviously worked and his all round general play was excellent.  He did the simple things well.  He is was a good passer of the ball, could hold up the ball, and his link-up play was very very good.  He merited his place in the team.

Fast forward to September, and the arrival of Yann Kermorgant and we see where it started to go wrong for Hayes.  Yann made his mark during the 1-1 draw at MK Dons.  He came on as a substitute for Hayes when we were losing 1-0, and three minutes later he had levelled the game for us.  From that point on, Hayes struggled to get back into the team.  Yann improved game after game and you cannot blame Powell for leaving Hayes out, it would have been a brave manager to leave Kermorgant out, he was a big player for us last season.

It's a shame that we couldn't accommodate Paul, but I think Powell has done the right thing by letting him go on a free transfer.  It's not fair to hold him back when he does still have something to offer as a player.  I know the Brentford fans well having lived in that neck of the woods for a few years.  He will get a big welcome at Griffin Park, and I'm sure he will do well there.  I would like thank him for his efforts as a Charlton player and wish him good luck for the future.

It doesn't get any easier!

Our difficult start to the new season continues with a visit from Leicester City.  The Foxes are an established side in this division now with high hopes of promotion.  After significant investment in the Club, Leicester are on a sound financial footing with a group of players that have the potential to win the division.  Nigel Pearson, who masterminded their League One winning season, is back at the helm after a brief hiatus to Hull, and big things are expected of them this season after only managing to finish 9th at the end of last campaign.

Leicester City is  a club well known by Chris Powell after spending a couple of years there as both a player and a coach.  Powell speaks of Pearson as one of his mentors and it's clear Chris holds him in high regard.  It is because of Powell's links to Leicester that we have both Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant at the club having worked with both players when he was part of the Foxes set up.  Powell obviously spotted potential in both players and an ethic that would fit his style of play as they were instrumental in our rise to the Championship.

Leicester fans always speak highly of Morrison who made a total of 89 appearances for the club in all competitions.  The same cannot be said of Kermorgant however.  Unfortunately Yann was castigated by the fans after missing a penalty during the 2010 play-off semi-final against Cardiff.  The Frenchman attempted an audacious lob which the keeper saved with ease.  Little is made of Leicester's following penalty which was also missed and Cardiff would have gone on to the final anyway, but for some reason Yann got all the flack for it.  Still, their loss is our gain.

Charlton fans will be very familiar with Leicester's current left-back.  Paul Konchesky.  Paul played 138 matches for the Addicks during Alan Curbishley's tenure as manager.  In fact Konchesky was the youngest player to appear for us until the record was taken from him by Jonjo Shelvey a few years later.  Konchesky got frustrated with his lack of first team appearances in his favoured left-back position and was eventually moved on.  Unfortunately for Paul, there was a certain Chris Powell who was our first choice, and it was always going to be difficult to dislodge him.  I actually always preferred Konchesky as a winger anyway.

Games between our two clubs are normally tight affairs.  In fact over the past 10 years we have met on five occasions.  Four of those matches ended in draws though we did manage to beat them the last time we met at The Valley, a 2-0 victory with goals from big Chris Iwelumo and Luke Varney who now plays at Leeds United.

After a tough match against Birmingham we will need to be on our game tonight.  Leicester picked up three points against Peterborough on Saturday and will be looking to build on that.  I do think however that we have a decent chance to pick up our first win of the season.  The Valley was a fortress last season and we always raise our game against tougher opposition.  It should be a good game, and I have my fingers crossed that we just edge it by the odd goal.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

We'll take the point...

I made the short trip up to St. Andrews today with much trepidation.  I have pondered over and over whether this current team would be able to ply their trade in the Championship, or were wholesale changes needed.  Today went some way to answering that question, and although in the main, things looked positive, it wasn't all rosy.

The stand out feature of our League One winning season was our defence, and it will be something that could go on to shape our season one way or the other.  With the back line facing players of a higher quality than before, I was interested to see how Morrison and Co. fared.  Having Cort fit for the game was a good bonus.  I had anticipated seeing a replacement, but I felt very reassured when I saw him warming up.  Little did I know at this point that his contribution was going to be about more than just his defensive abilities.  We defended well today, though I think our back four will have tougher days.  Neither team had much cutting edge going forward, but the Birmingham attackers definitely had the quieter afternoon.

Our general play was good.  We passed the ball around well, got into some great positions, and fired in some decent crosses.  The movement was good, and as already stated the defence were solid enough and seemed to be working well as a unit.  Unfortunately however we were poor in front of goal.  Both Wright-Phillips and Kermogant had chances to snatch a goal, but a rush of blood prevented them from getting off the mark.  Jackson also had chances, yet couldn't keep his cool enough to find the back of the net.

When the goal did come it was courtesy of a game of head tennis in the Birmingham City area.  The ball bounced off a couple of players and Cort stole in at the post and nodded it past Butland.  It wasn't exactly pretty, but it sent the away fans wild regardless.  It had been a long wait for the goal, though nobody could deny that it was well deserved.  We had dominated proceedings for long periods, and for all Lee Clark's pre-season waffle, Birmingham didn't look prepared for the match.  They looked short of fitness, and certainly didn't look like a team that finished 4th last season.

Birmingham's equaliser came courtesy of some tired legs.  Credit to Zigic, his strike was clean, but the boys at the back were struggling by this point after giving their all for 90 minutes.  I don't want to be harsh by saying that it was poor defending, it may have been, but I definitely feel that exhaustion had a major part to play.  Zigic was a handful the minute he was brought on.  It's the first time I've seen the big Serb in the flesh.  He really is a lump, but what a great weapon to have in your arsenal, not only can he put himself about, he can find the back of the net as well.

Overall I think we deserved to win the game.  We had the majority of play, created the best chances, and honestly I think that if we can play of a similar quality for the next 45 games, we should definitely be at least comfortably mid-table come the end of the season.  I do have a slight worry about our forward line however.  I'm hoping Kermo and Bradley just had an off day today, let's hope that's all it was, we are going to need plenty of goals this season, and if they aren't coming from our front two, we might find ourselves in a bit of scrap later on.

It would have been nice to walk away with three points from today's encounter, though I'm sure we would have taken a point if offered without a ball being kicked.  It's a testament to the team that there was disappointment that we failed to take all three.  Still, although we didn't pick up the win today, more performances of this type will definitely ensure we get some positive results.  I'm still full of trepidation when thinking about the season going forward, though I do feel a lot more relaxed after today's match.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fresh Start

So an exciting new season is almost upon us.  With the thrills of the Olympic Games, it's been a superb off-season.  Funny how I look forward to the World Cup and European Championships the most, yet I always find more enjoyment from the Olympics.  With Team GB's massive achievements behind us, Charlton fans will be hoping that our own team can go that extra mile to secure our place in the Championship.

If we do manage to, it will be no mean feat.  With a lack of signings and the turmoil at board level, Charlton have it all to do.  You could say that we start with a baptism of fire.  Birmingham are a decent side at this level and have (realistic) ambitions of returning to the Premier League.  After missing out narrowly last season you can bet they will be one of the sides competing for the top spots.

Both teams will be desperate for a good start, and I'm sure that Lee Clark would have preferred to have faced a different side for the opening game.  Usually it is the case that newly promoted sides carry some momentum forward from the previous campaign.  That could be evidenced by some good results during pre-season; Fulham being a particularly noteworthy case.

I don't think the Leyton Orient game gives us much of an idea about the campaign to come.  It is probable that the majority of the team from Tuesday night will not be part of the first eleven come Saturday.   A number of key players did not feature, and I expect to see their names on that team sheet when it's read out on Saturday.