Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Journey

Tuesday's match has been reported in just about every way possible, but the game was so astonishing that I had to put down a few words about it myself.

It's rare that I embark on the long trip to The Valley for a night game.  It's rarer still that I have to return home to the West Country immediately afterwards.  This was the position I found myself in on Tuesday.  The evening was organised by a fellow Addick and long time friend of mine, and originally I was meant to be commandeering his spare room for the night.  The best laid plans sometimes go awry and a local appointment that could not be re-arranged meant a three hour plus journey home after the match could not be avoided.

Two minutes into the game I was already questioning my sanity for making the journey.  Cardiff grabbed their first goal with little resistance.  Thus ensued one of the worst 30 minutes of football that I can remember in some time.  Whilst I acknowledge the patched up nature team, the 11 men in the Charlton colours looked like virtual strangers.  No surprise then when Cardiff added their second.  At this point, the thought of the trip back down the M4 was starting to look like a grim prospect.

I am generally an optimist, so I tried to put the lonely sojourn to the back of my mind and thought that if we could snatch a goal back before half-time, we might have a small chance of getting something out of the game.  As if on cue, Johnnie Jackson, would must have been inspired by the amazing support coming from the covered end, belted home his first of the game and I exploded with a mixture of joy and relief and jumped up to celebrate the goal.  A mixture of the home support and being buoyed by their first goal saw the Addicks starting to play football, which culminated in Jackson's second on the stroke of half time.

As the teams walked into the tunnel at half-time, I looked around at fans in my vicinity and the looks of bemusement were on almost every single face, mine included.  My smile was understandably huge, but I wasn't quite sure how we managed to pull ourselves back into a game we looked completely out of. Not only did Cardiff race into a deserved 2-0 lead, but they missed enough chances to put the game out of reach.  At 2-2, I had completely forgotten about the future liaison with my car.

I was expecting an improvement in the second half, though nobody could have predicted such a superb display of attacking football that saw us net three times in 11 minutes.  I've been banging the drum about using a more attacking strategy in our home matches, and the team certainly did not disappoint.  I kept looking wide-mouthed at the scoreboard which, for 25 minutes, was showing 5-2, and was almost having to pinch myself before I could believe it.  With the Covered End urging the team on through a chorus of 'we want six', each attack we had felt like the fans might get their wish, but in the end it was not to be.

Games involving our team are rarely straight-forward, and when the fourth official held up the board and indicated six additional minutes would have to be played, I have to say, I couldn't prevent myself from taking in a big gulp of air.  A number of both sets of fans had already left the stadium when Cardiff scored their third and fourth goal, and that feeling of 'here we go again' was definitely hanging in the air.

Thankfully, we hung on and grabbed the vital three points and I was able to walk back to my car with a spring in my step.  After a quick stop for a very large latté, I made my way home on a mixture of caffeine and euphoria coursing through my body.  Even after arriving home I found it hard to sleep with the entire evenings events playing themselves out over and over as I laid my head on the pillow.  I can't help feeling that I was so close to one of the worst journeys ever, but thanks to the resolve of the players, it was actually quite a pleasure.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Can we have a re-think please?

We were taught a real lesson today.  Middlesbrough came to The Valley with an impressive record.  In fact they had won five of their last seven games.  It was easy to see why.  Mowbray's side played with a confidence and style that us Addicks could only dream of right now.  But more importantly they had an aura of positivity about them.

It's becoming clear that if we want to kick on in this league, we are going to have to seriously reconsider our approach.  Whilst I understand caution, I'm certain that our current strategy is doing us more harm than good.  I don't think damage limitation exercises are going to keep us in this division.

Looking up the table it seems obvious to me that 'having a go' at teams is where the benefits lie.  Those teams that are bold enough to take the risks are flourishing, whilst those that have a more negative approach are finding life that much more difficult.  This is especially evident when looking at our home form and results.

I think the reason our home form is so terrible is because we are not being adventurous enough.  I've always felt that a home team should have the impetus, should take advantage of the conditions and drive the game. Unfortunately we just do not do that.  Too often we are chasing the game instead of dictating it.

Away from home our form is significantly better.  This does not surprise me however.  The standard strategy for an away team is to soak  up the pressure, keep the home side out for as long as possible, and hope to nick a goal at the earliest opportunity.  The way Powell sets out his side does that very well, but it's not a tactic that I can see working well as the home side.  There has to be a more positive approach.

Currently it is only our away form keeping us out of the bottom three.  In fact, if there was a league table which was based on home form only, we would be in the bottom two, four points adrift of the safety zone.  On the flip-side, if we were to look at a table based on away form only, we would be in the top ten.  In my opinion this clearly highlights a huge issue.

We have reached a point in the season where we have to start making some bold decisions.  Would it be such a huge gamble to instruct the team to take our home games by the scruff of the neck and really go for it?  I think not.  Two points from a possible eighteen at home proves that a complete re-think is necessary.  It remains to be seen whether change is forthcoming, but what is there to lose?

Cardiff's away form isn't special, in fact they have lost three of their last four on the road.  Now is the perfect time for us to make changes.  Let the team off the leash a bit so they can show us what they've got.  Let's start laying siege to opposition's goals BEFORE we go one behind.  I want to stop saving our best performances for when we are a goal down (today was an exception to that rule obviously).

This Charlton side does have the necessary qualities to stay in the division, I just don't think they are being utilised properly right now.