Saturday, April 30, 2005

McCafferty injured

Charlton loan player Neil McCafferty was substituted in the 10th minute of today's clash between Rushden and Diamonds and Cambridge United. Mc Cafferty's period at Nene Park was coming to an end in any case, but Rushden fanzine Rushing and Ranting had called for his retention next season by the Irthlingborough side.

McCafferty went down injured and Rushden player-manager Barry Hunter had no hesitation in bringing on Craig Dove in his place. It's possible that the Irishman may have been carrying an injury already. Although he had been engaging in his usual precision passing play, one effort spiralled into the air and he apologised to his fellow players. There was no doubting the Addick's frustration as he came off the pitch, the normally equable midfielder hurling a drink bottle to the ground.

McCafferty has slotted in well to the League 2 side, playing with confidence and authority. He has not scored, however, and has hesitated in front of goal when he has had a chance. He can also be hustled off the ball by more physical players, although there is no doubt that the spell at Rushden has helped him to build his strength.

For the record Cambridge won 1-0 with a 28th minute penalty taken by Tesfaye Bramble, but the result was irrelevant as Cambridge are already relegated and Rushden are safe. Referee M Thorpe finally came to terms with his own uselessness when he substituted himself on 78 minutes.

Ten Years Ago: season ends in anti-climax

12,614 came to The Valley to see Charlton's last home game of the season, thus confirming an average gate of over 10,000 (10,216)for the season, but the match was an anti-climax ending in a 1-1 draw against Port Vale. However, Richard Murray got a good response when he addressed the crowd at half time.

My notes record that it was a dull and cold day. I wrote, 'Charlton had a lot of possession and some good scoring opportunities but failed to convert them. Rather typical of our season, failing to beat teams we should have defeated. With a little more consistency, effort and luck we could be up there next season.'

A run of 161 consecutive appearances for Port Fail keeper Paul Musselwhite was ended by the professional debut of Arjan van Heusden. The Burslem club went ahead on 33 minutes, but Steve Brown equalised for the Addicks just before the break. Charlton ended the season just two places ahead of Vale, but the histories of the two clubs have subsequently diverged.

The programme recorded that Richard Rufus had won Supporters Club player of the year and had also been awarded Young Player of the Year by the managers. Rufus had also been called up into the England Under 21 squad. David Whyte came second in the Player of the Year voting with Sweaty Balmer third.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Charlton lack fire power up front

Charlton's lack of fire power up front was painfully obvious in their 1-0 defeat by bottom club Norwich at Carrow Road. Dennis Rommedahl had managed to create some potentially promising situations for Charlton down the wings, even if his crosses were often not as good as his approach work. However, even when the ball did get into the area there was often no one positioned to finish the job off. Indeed, the person who came the nearest to scoring was midfielder Danny Murphy who hit the post from a free kick.

Charlton's defence had coped well for much of the game, aided by two bad misses by the Canaries. With an away point in sight, Charlton gave way to late winning goal specialists Norwich on 88 minutes. Former Addick Matthias Svensson was warmly applauded by the Addickted when he had come on a sub towards the close of the game and some were gracious enough to applaud him when he scored the winning goal. At the end of the game he and Deano embraced warmly.

Unfortunately, the loss cannot be treated as part three of the plan to relegate Palace, as the Croydon team beat Liverpool 1-0 at home.

We had a good run over to Norwich and parked up in County Hall. We found ourselves walking down a bosky lane. The bucolic atmosphere was emphasised at the end of the game when I saw a mud spattered 4-by-4 driving away. Soon the splendid Norwich Cathedral was in view and it was difficult to believe that this was the home of a Premiership club.

The pitch was given a real soaking beforehand (and at half time), a practice which in my opinion should be regulated. Understandably, Norwich had a canary as a mascot, but there also appeared to be a garishly coloured cat. So why didn't the cat try and eat the canary? Among those in the full crowd was a well-known former fanzine editor wearing a 'Deportivo di Wanka' shirt, depicting a club in Peru rather than any reference to Charlton's recent performance. Another former fanzine editor was also seen in the crowd with Welling mayor Councillor Rick Everitt adding a touch of civic dignity to the proceedings.

Charlton kicked off but managed immediately to lose possession to a Norwich throw in over near the corner flag. Quite what manoeuvre was being attempted here is beyond easy explanation. The Addicks did win some early corners, but they caused few problems for the appropriately named Green who is one of the stronger players in the Norwich side.

Murphy put in a good pass to JJ, but it was unproductive. Norwich showed they could be dangerous with a well worked move, but Deano made a good save. On five minutes Charlton had a chance to go ahead. JJ was released with an excellent pass by the much maligned Kishishev, but the Flying Finn was unable to control the ball and Green gathered it easily.

Bizarrely, the Addicketd broke into a chorus of 'the finest team the world has ever seen' which in my view should only be sung by world class clubs and certainly not in relation to Charlton's recent performance.

Fortune conceded a corner to Norwich and Bentley put in a good ball along the goal line, leading to a second corner which was fortunately cleared. After Rommedahl had taken the game to the other end, Deano had to come out to clear the ball from a Norwich attack. After Kishishev had got the Addicks out of some trouble, JJ broke through but Green was able to make a diving save.

Fortune took the course of safety first with McKenzie bearing down on goal and conceded a corner which was unproductive for the home side. El Karkouri was warned by the referee for an unnecessary foul.

A good move was started by Luke Young who had settled well into the left back position. JJ provided an excellent cross, but Murphy's wild shot went way over. Helveg fouled JJ to stop an attack by him and received a yellow card. A Charlton corner was overhit but Luke Young retrieved the situation well and won a second corner for Charlton.

The Addickted burst into a chorus of 'You're just a small team in Ipswich', followed by 'Premier League, you're having a laugh', although that could equally apply to Charlton on the basis of recent performances. El Karkouri received the yellow card that had been coming for some time.

Deano had to punch the ball out at the expense of a Norwich throw in. Kishishev was called on for good defensive work. Hughes managed to completely mess up a promising Charlton build up. Another Norwich shot went over Deano's bar, but it was closer than an earlier effort. By this time, just after the half hour, Norwich were having a far greater impact on the game.

Norwich started to pile on the pressure in an attempt to get in front by half time and won a corner on 42 minutes. Then Rommedahl and Kishishev combined well to win the Addicks a corner, but it was cleared.

With the whistle seconds away, McKenzie released Ashton who evaded Kishishev and only had Deano to beat. But the so-called sharp shooter put his shot wide. Some Charlton fans have suggested that we should have signed him, but this miss hardly impressed.

Half time: Canaries 0, Addicks 0

Rommedahl sped down the wing shortly after the break but his good approach work came to nothing when he failed to pass. Rommedahl then won the Addicks a corner, followed by a second. It was partially cleared, but El Karkouri, who had required treatment a short while before, was on hand to deliver a sizzling shot which required a good save from Green.

Kishishev turned provider for JJ, but his decent effort was saved. Norwich continued to have free kicks awarded against them for fouls on JJ whom they clearly saw as a danger man for some reason. On 60 minutes JJ had another shot on goal, but it was wide.

Curbs had had enough of the hapless Hughes and decided to bring on the lacklustre Euell. I would have brought on Lisbie who managed to score a late goal against the other East Anglian agricultural club. I think that he might have actually troubled Norwich's far from perfect defence. Nigel Worthington withdrew Jonson and brought on Huckerby, one of Norwich's best players. He had only been on the bench because of recent injury and illness problems and his arrival did not bode well for Charlton.

Rommedahl put in a dangerous curving ball which drew a good save from Green. With acres of space given to them in midfield, Matty Holland presumably having gone to ask for directions to Ipswich, the Canaries were able to launch another attack. Deano was then rightly penalised for a back pass. The situation look dangerous, but Deano, surrounded by red shirts, was up to it and made the save.

Norwich continued to pile on the pressure from corners and one long range shot from Safri whistled just over Deano's bar. Rommedahl continually found himself streaking ahead of a Charlton midfield lumbering along behind him, but he managed to find Euell and his downward header put Green under considerable pressure. Indeed, the keeper did well to save it.

A Charlton corner was wasted and the far side lino flagged for a dubious Norwich free kick. Then on 80 minutes Svensson was brought on to be warmly greeted by the Addickted. Deano had to make a good save from a cross. On 81 minutes JJ was pulled off in favour of Thomas to see if the youngster could weave more magic than the fading warhorse. Svensson connected with an overhead kick from Ashton, but Deano was able to save comfortably.

Thomas won Charlton a free kick. It was taken well, deflected off Ashton and the out-of-position Green was fortunate to see it bounce off the post. If it had gone in, the match would have been very different and the current chorus of moaning from Charlton fans would have been subdued.

On 88 minutes the inevitable happened. A long throw from Drury was intercepted by Ashton and nodded on by McKenzie and Svensson was able to out the ball past Kiely.
The chant of 'Easy' went up from the Norwich fans, but in fact it wasn't. I still think that Norwich are a relatively poor side, particularly defensively, reflected in the 4-0 thrashing they got at The Valley. But they wanted it more whereas Charlton's players knew that the season was already effectively over. All credit to Norwich and to the Charlton fans who kept their spirits up for a tailgate party in the car park after the game.

Rumour has it that season ticket renewals are below expectations which is not entirely surprising. I have renewed mine, but I am starting to regret it, but more because of the fans than the team (although I still have concerns about complacency in the executive management of the club).

I know that many fans are getting irritated with the 'excessive expectations' argument. There is a good post to this effect on Riscardo's excellent if somewhat ageist blog. It is also a view that has been put forcefully on a private list from which I have now had to withdraw. Nevertheless, there is an approximate relationship between a club's resources and its position in the league system. Some clubs over perform, some under perform.

Simply judged by resources, Charlton should be a Championship side. And, of course, if lots of fans fail to renew their season tickets, there will be less money to fund the much needed revitalisation of the squad. Charlton simply lack quality in depth and when we are without three key players (Bartlett, the Herminator, Konchesky) it shows. We don't need a bigger squad, but we do need more consistent quality in our first sixteen. And that means spending some money.

Match analysis With no player really outstanding, the award of the Silver Bone faced match analyst Hooch the Pooch with a difficult choice. Indeed, he did ring the Association of Canine Match Analysts to ask if the prize could be awarded to the excellent but little known referee M Atkinson. He was told that match officials were a feline responsibility and could only be awarded hisses. The observant canine had noticed a Bulgarian family in the crowd earlier, one of them wearing a Kishishev shirt and he invited them to help present the trophy to their fellow countryman. His game was not error free, but it was full of commitment. He made some good defensive interceptions and provided some good attacking balls which were not made the best use of by the likes of JJ.

The result was hardly the fault of Deano. He made some good saves and Matt Svensson said later that he had saved well from his initial strike. Fortune played with a calmness and authority that he sometimes lacks. El Karkouri also played well, but got himself needlessly booked and one always fears that he may get sent off. Luke Young had to play in the unfamiliar position of left back, but did well. Holland was booed every time he got the ball by the Canaries, but as he didn't get it very often, they didn't have to exert themselves very much. Murphy had a bit of an up and down game as is so often the case. His corners in particular were often overhit or easily saved by Green. Hughes was anonymous for much of the game and when he did get the ball what he did with it was often lacking in the required quality. I am getting a little tired of saying 'Rommedahl used his pace to good effect'. Having brought the ball forward, he needs to do something with it. JJ got dispossessed too easily, but did put in a couple of good crosses from the wings. But he is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Admirers of Jeffers have argued that he should be given a run to show what he could do. Well, he is being given the run and it isn't very much. Euell contributed very little when he came on, apart from one good attempt to score, which these days is usually the case. Of course, if his header had gone in, he would have been the hero of the hour. Thomas
won a potentially important free kick, but had little time to do much else.

Hiss of the Match Instead of the Bloke Behind Me, I had two moaners behind me who spent the whole match slagging off virtually every Charlton player plus Curbs. Someone said recently that the worst thing about supporting Charlton is other Charlton fans and I am looking forward to a few months' break from the moaning and the negativity. But, of course, it will all be back next season.

Crowd rating The Addickted were in good form. It's always a good sign when 'Goodbye Horse' is sung. 'There's only one Graham Stuart' nonplussed the Canaries. 'You're going down with the Palace' was a favourite but the result undermined its use. 8/10.

Let's be 'aving yer

Last night I went with some of my younger colleagues to see Van the Man on tour. The mercurial singer left the stage after an hour and a half. So for £29, £3 more than my Norwich ticket, I was able to enjoy an impressive performance, and I only had a two minute walk from my office to see it. Today I face a drive of approaching three hours for a very uncertain performance at Carrow Road.

Norwich are fighting for their lives and I would like them to stay up. Certainly I would prefer Palace to be relegated, but I have little sympathy either for the Baggies and their annoying fans. Perhaps I will feel the same way about the Canaries after today. The Fink Tank (Warwick Universiy's Decision Technology Group) say that there is a 49% chance of a home win and they have been uncannily accurate in their earlier predictions about Charlton.

The gritty draw at Villa has been greeted with indifference by most Charlton fans and with contempt by lazy journalists who were able to use their 'bore draw' story. However, I saw a number of encouraging signs in the performance, not least the solidity of the defence and the use of Rommedahl down the wings. One worry today is that Herman Hreidarsson may not be available and Luke Young might not be at his best in a left back role.

If you want to re-live Delia's rant earlier in the season use the link below (and click on 'Take it with more water love':


See you in Norfolk!

Friday, April 22, 2005

Ten Years Ago: Mad Hatters

Charlton faced Luton at The Valley on 22nd April 1995. My notes recall, 'Charlton were terrible in the first half, but the dismissal of Brown for a second bookable offence [on 31 minutes] seemed to enliven them. In the second half, they played much better and Whyte scored', the match ending in a 1-0 victory for the Addicks. Goalkeeper Mike Ammann kept a clean sheet (as well as promoting an American frozen fruit bar called Sunsations in the programme). I recalled, 'Luton supporters less than pleased on the way back.'

Curbs said after the game, 'We were dreadful up to the sending-off, I couldn't explain why, perhaps it's because it's the end of the season.' Nothing new there, then.

The referee was shopping mall manager Paul Alcock who later stopped Andy Hunt scoring a likely goal at Liverpool by not playing the advantage. Lacking authority with players, Alcock retired prematurely from the game.

Reading the programme spotlight on junior red Kate Hull one realises that she would now be a young woman of 25. Does she still follow the Addicks and did she realise her ambition to be a nursery school teacher? Or perhaps she now follows AFC Wimbledon as she expressed an interest in the Dons.

The programme featured 'unsung hero' Alan Pardew, shortly to depart from the club, who had appropriately played for Crystal Palace after starting his working life as a glazier. The report noted, 'it is clear that Alan is a potential coach or manager, and those that know him reckon he is excellent management material.' I wonder what the Irons think about that today?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Charlton keep clean sheet

The media angle on this match is that it was a bore draw between two teams in the mid-table league. It certainly wasn't the most exciting match I have ever been to. But Charlton kept a clean sheet for the first time since the win against Spurs. It was also the first time that we have taken anything away from a game at Villa since that famous match in our Premiership relegation season. With El Karkouri back, Charlton's defence looked much stronger. Moreover, good use was made of Rommedahl to attack down the wings.

Before the match, moaners had been claiming that Charlton would not get another point all season or that we would be beaten 3-0 by Villa. This was a solid performance of the 'grinding out a result' variety. Driving back, I heard a Norwich fan claiming on the phone in that it would be an easy three points against 'out of form' Charlton on Saturday. I think that Delia may have to eat humble pie.

The great fear when Charlton play these days is the concession of an early goal and Deano did have to make two saves in the first minute. But then Charlton started to apply some pressure and the Addickted raised a shout against Villa for a handball in the box. JJ went on a good run down the wing but his cross was unproductive. Deano may have been taking lessons from Andersen as he was making some good accurate long throws down the wing to Rommedahl.

Last minute substitute referee Barry Knight, who had an good game, awarded Villa free kick in a dangerous position at an angle to the Charlton goal. But the effort came off the Charlton wall of four and was cleared.

Villa had one of their most dangerous attacks when Hitzlsperger, shortly to leave Villa for his native heath, put in a long range shot that tested Deano and forced him to concede a corner. Deano was able to punch the ball out from the corner.

Kish and Rommedahl combined in a good move. An accurate long-range angled bill was provided to JJ, but the opportunity was wasted. After a Villa break led to another save from Deano, Rommedahl and Jeffers combined in a good move, but JJ contrived to put the ball off the bar. Carthorse Cole put in an angled shot and was way off target to the delight of the Addickted.

As the half hour approached, Villa, who continued to look dangerous on the break, put a ball across the front of Charlton's goal. Shortly afterwards the Carthorse won a corner which was cleared. Murphy won the Addicks a free kick, but El Karkouri's effort went well wide. Villa were given another free kick in front of goal, but it came off the Charlton wall.

Rommedahl put in another good run, but Jeffers failed to make use of the oppoortunity and put the ball wide. Villa had a corner on 43 minutes but were unable to take advantage to score a goal just before the break.

Half time: Villa 0, Addicks 0

The second half started quietly, but on 52 minutes Rommedahl won the Addicks a corner. Unfortunately, it was over hit, allowing Villa to make a break which ended with a shot just wide of Deano's post. Another Charlton corner was unproductive.

A moment of great danger was averted when a corner won by the Carthorse led to Murphy having to head the ball off the line. The next Charlton corner was an improvement of what had gone before with the ball flashing across the Villa goal, but I think it was JJ who headed wide. Rommedahl turned provider for JJ who won a corner which was cleared.

A mistake by Murphy allowed Villa to launch another attack with Angel putting the ball just wide. More danger was averted by good work by Matt Holland. Charlton were, however, playing a fluent passing game keeping the ball on the floor rather than hoofing it as they do at The Valley.

The Carthorse won another free kick. Deano punched the ball out and the subsequent Villa effort went over. Anonymous charm merchant Lee Hendrie was replaced by the mercurial Vassell. On 75 minutes, Curbs rang the changes with the possibly fading Rommedahl being replaced by Euell.

Good work by Hughes won Charlton a corner and led to a period of real pressure on the Villa goal but the ball was eventually cleared. Having fouled Kishishev, the Carthorse collapsed dramatically full length on the ground. O'Leary had clearly had enough of his antics and replaced him by Luke Moore.

During an attack followed a Charlton corner, the Herminator was injured and continued to limp after receiving treatment. He went down again and had to be replaced by Perry. He took some time to get off, so let us hope that he is fit for Saturday.

As their fans streamed out, Villa tried for a late goal. A Charlton corner was cleared. Then in the four minutes added on, Villa won a late corner but Deano punched the ball out and it was cleared. On this occasion the chorus of boos came from the home supporters.

Match analysis

At the end of the game Deano was warmly applauded by the Addickted. He also gave a signal to the Warwickshire contingent which was the cue for Hooch the Pooch to make his way to the dressing room to present the keeper with the Silver Bone for a strong performance.
Following his long absence El Karkouri still hasn't got his shooting boots back, but his performance in defence showed how much we have missed him. Fortune did what he had to do well. If there were errors, I didn't detect them. Kishishev slotted authoritatively into the right back role, taking his throw ins well. He was a menacing presence on the wing and contributed to a number of good moves. Hreidarsson also had a better game than has sometimes been the case recently and his injury is a real concern. Holland was much more involved in a much more effective way than he has been for some time. Murphy saved Charlton's bacon with his header off the line, but he created a dangerous situation on one occasion by giving away possession in midfield. Hughes is a target for the moaners, but I thought that he had a more than competent game both in attack and defence. Rommedahl was on sparkling form and I was sorry to see him withdrawn. The name of JJ was greeted with boos by some of the Addickted and I have to say that I think that he was the least effective member of the side. Jeffers is probably the best striker we have available at the moment, but he wasted one golden chance to score. I still can't accept the argument that Curbs has misunderstood what he has seen at the training ground by favouring Bartlett when he is available. Euell did very little after he came on for his usual cameo. Perry performed well in the short but crucial period after he came on.

Hiss of the Match

Juneau the Soccer Cat has a Carthorse Cole scratching post and had no hesitation in giving the Hiss of the Match to the striker who somehow manages to be simultaneously inept and arrogant. In the programme he bravely declared that he wouldn't 'mind abuse from the visiting Charlton boo-boys this evening', complaining that 'I did get a bit of stick at The Valley.' Another Charlton favourite featured in the programme was JLloyd Samuel who apparently collects after shave as a hobby. He could pour the whole lot over himself and he would still stink as far as the Addickted are concerned.

Crowd rating It was a poor turnout, a combination of the nature of the fixture and excessively low morale among the Addickted. Carlton Cole was given every chance to show that he could live up to his claim 'I can handle it', one chant being 'You only sweat when you're roasting.' 6/10.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Support your local team

Tomorrow night I will go to see Charlton play the team favoured by many of my neighbours, Aston Villa. Such are the tensions between Leamington and Coventry that my guess would be that more Spa residents support the Birmingham team which is, in any case, a genuinely West Midlands regional team (unlike Birmingham City whose support has a narrower geographical base). When I first came to live in Leamington in the early 1970s, a line of coaches was to be found in the Parade ready to transport supporters to Villa Park whenever there was a home match.

I must say that the local Villa give good parties. And I have some sympathy for a team that is punching below its weight, according to most Villa supporters because of the policies of 'deadly' Doug Ellis. Indeed, now and then I have been invited to comment on the situation at Villa on regional radio. But there my sympathy for Villa fans ends.

Away matches at Villa have not ended well for us in the Premiership, apart from during our first season in the top division. With Steve Brown making a superb save in goal after after Petterson had been sent off on 80 minutes, Danny Mills made it 4-3 to the Addicks on 89 minutes. Watching in the early morning Pacific time from a sports bar in Seattle where I was working at the time I felt that we might still remain in the Premiership, but it all went sour on the final Saturday.

Given our recent away record at Villa (the Independent on Sunday picked up the story at one match when Bob the Dog gave the Silver Bone to spectator Shaun Newton) and Charlton's recent form, another defeat might seem to be the inevitable conclusion. It would be a particularly bitter pill to swallow if Carthorse Cole scored the winning goal. However, each match starts 0-0 and with the Charlton following reduced to the faithful Addickted, Charlton may yet surprise us.

El Karkouri will be back in defence and our seasonal slide started when he was sent off. Fortune and Young remain doubtful, but Kishishev could come in at right back (indeed Holland can also play there). Some refreshing of the midfield would be in order with questions being asked about whether Matt Holland is 100 per cent fit.

Charlton have taken an average of just nine points from the 30 available every season since 1998/99. That even includes 1999/2000 when we won the Football League Championship, eventually stumbling across the line with a 1-1 draw at Blackburn.

I don't accept the idea that the players switch off once safety is reached. There is a rough relationship between a club's resources and its position in competitive football (the guys at the Football Governance Research Centre could show you some good regression equations on this). Some teams over perform through good management, e.g., Crewe. Others punch below their weight because of mismanagement, e.g., Leeds.

Charlton are actually a team that have out performed their resource base. There are just two ways forward. The prudent, patient approach of the current board which can seem frustratingly slow at times, particularly now when we have reached a plateau. Or the 'quick fix' of a wealthy external buyer, a scenario that many fans would not like, but is not as remote a possibility as some people believe.

For now we have to hope that the team will find that extra something to up their performance at Villa. Even a draw would be a step forward!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The season comes to a close

As I was about to set out for The Valley on Saturday morning, I received an E mail from the president of Leamington Football Club urging me as a vice-president to come to Harbury Lane for that afternoon's vital match. The Brakes demolished Alveston 7-0 to win the Midlands Combination Premiership title and secure Travel Factory Midland Alliance football and a FA Cup place for next season. Charlton lost 1-2 to Bolton, meaning that their season will end in mid-table obscurity.

Was I in the wrong place? No, and not just because Alveston is a team almost literally made up of boys. Although the result against Bolton gave new ammunition to the moaners, I thought that Charlton played much more effectively than they had against Portsmouth. Indeed, if a controversial early penalty had not put the Whites 1-0 ahead, the result might have been very different.

As it was, the injustice of the penalty stimulated Charlton to level the scores before the half hour. But the match went a bit flat after that and Bolton were allowed to go ahead in the second half through a soft goal scored by El Hadj Diouf just after he had come as substitute. A storming conclusion to the match by the Addicks failed to bring an equaliser.

My Centenary shirt not having brought me much luck at The Valley this season, I decided to wear a River Plate shirt given to me by an Argentinian friend. Of course, such things have no connection with the result, but football fans are notorious for such superstitions. Arriving early at the pub, having driven down, unconfirmed rumours suggested that the club wanted to re-locate the street party from its historically redolent site to the West Stand car park. It was alleged that one motivation was to give the club more control over the event.

Charlton seemed to be showing more appetite in the spring sunshine than they had for several weeks. An early blow happened when Jonathan Fortune was injured after an accidental collision with Matt Holland. He was helped off looking groggy and it was subsequently revealed that he had suffered a broken nose. However, just as in the old days when Ufton played with the more serious injury of a regularly dislocated shoulder, Fortune soldiered on. This was just as well, as with the up to then ever present Luke Young injured, the defensive side of the Charlton bench was somewhat threadbare with Barry Fuller named as a substitute.

Barely five minutes had passed when referee Wiley awarded a penalty to the visitors. At first I thought he had blown up for a free kick in our favour. I didn't see the incident, but it appears that the ball struck the Herminator's arm low down. Whether it is ball to hand or hand to ball is a matter for the referee's judgement. However, incidents such as these do reinforce the call for some use of video technology in the game. To those who object that the game would be slowed up, my answer (as already advocated on Casino Avenue courtesy of Inspector Sands) would be to allow managers one appeal for or against a penalty per game, this wild card to be known as a 'Strachan'. In any event, Jay-Jay Okocha efficiently drove the ball past Deano to make it 0-1.

Jaaskelainen's name in Finnish means 'the one who catches falling trees with his bare hands' and I have always rated him as one of the better keepers in the Premiership and an important element in Bolton's success. However, he did not seem to be on top form and managed to spill the ball. In the resulting confusion, Danny Murphy managed to get hold of the ball and put in a powerful shot which was only just over the bar.

Charlton were awarded a free kick, but instead of having an attempt on goal, Murphy tried to connect with Charlton players in the area, leading to an offside decision. Bolton were given a free kick against Fortune, but Rommedahl impressively took the ball off them the moment it was played. Bolton were then awarded a second free kick which seemed to have little justification and Deano punched the ball out. With Wanderers awarded another free kick, the chant broke out 'If you hate the ref, stand up.' This may have had some effect because the Sunday Times argues that a number of dubious decisions subsequently went the way of the Addicks.

Rommedahl won Charlton a corner but it was unproductive. The Herminator managed to miss the ball, but fortunately this incident was not repeated throughout the game as it has been in recent matches. A free kick was awarded against Perry and he gave the East Stand linesman a mouthful that led to a yellow card. The Herminator cleared the ball from the Bolton free kick.

Charlton won a couple of corners, the second thanks to Rommedahl again and then Murphy drew a save from the keeper. Charlton kept up the pressure and, hassled by Jeffers, Jasskelainen handled outside the area. No card was awarded because of a lack of intent. From the resultant free kick, Jeffers equalised.

As Chris Perry was called on for good defensive work, the chant went up 'You've only got twelve men' (or 'thirteen', shouted one wag). Okocha fouled Hughes to an extent that earned him a telling off from referee Wiley who seemed to find aspects of the match amusing. Wanderers continued to showed a capacity to look dangerous with a shot that went just over the bar. Thomas put in an excellent cross right in front of the Bolton goal, but no one was able to connect. He then won Charlton a corner, but the Herminator was unable to take advantage of the opportunity.

Half time: Addicks 1, Whites 1

Rommedahl provided some early pressure and this led to an opportunity for Konchesky from distance, but unfortunately he dragged his shot wide. A Wanderers free kick went just over. The Bloke Behind Me was screaming that we should get our umbrellas out and I wondered what he was talking about until I saw that spitting champion Diouf was about to come on.

Nevertheless, he is a good footballer and it says something about the strength of Bolton's squad that he was available on the bench. In no time at all, Bolton had set up a move that allowed hin to score. Stelios 'my name is too big for my shirt' put in a cross, Speed nodded the ball into the area and Diouf connected with a header that looped past Deano. Although it was a well worked move, a decent defence should have stopped it at some stage. Although Charlton then fought hard to find the equaliser, they were always in danger of conceding a third goal as they forged forward.

Thomas went on a good run, but he was obstructed by Ben Haim who received a yellow card. The free kick bounced off the Bolton wall. Rommedahl made a good run, but it was unproductive. Thomas was taken off in favour of JJ who almost immediately managed to give the ball away. Rommedahl displayed his pace again, but a Hughes error meant that the move broke down. Bolton still looked threatening with Deano making a good save with his hands. A Wanderers shot went just wide of Deano's post.

Charlton won a corner, but the shot went over. Rommedahl then played the ball to Holland who run the corner. The Herminator's effort was on target but was saved on the line with relative ease by the keeper. Then it was Wanderers turn to win a corner but Deano saved from the corner.

Candela was withdrawn by Bolton and Ricardo Gardner came on. A run from JJ won Charlton a throw in but the subsequent effort from Murphy went over. Curbs then played hs final cards, briniging on Euell and Kishishev in place of Hughes and Konchesky. Four minutes of time added on gave Charlton a last chance during which time they won more two corners. However, in effect they had been chasing the game since the early penalty. When Charlton concede the first goal, they rarely recover.

Charlton played better than they did against the Massives or Pompey, but they weren't good enough to hold Wanderers to a draw. When you look at the Wanderers team, they seem to make more use of foreign players from a variety of locations. Charlton's formula is English + Irish + South African + Nordic countries (the one exception being El Karkouri who we have sorely missed). When Curbs does eventually leave, which I hope will be not yet, I would like Charlton to have a foreign manager. But I know that Charlton is too conservative a club to make the step which many Premiership clubs recognise as necessary in an era of globalised football.

Match analysis

Match analyst Hooch the Pooch had no hesitation in awarding the Silver Bone to Dennis Rommedahl. This was the best performance yet by him in a Charlton shirt and he may yet come to be known as a great Dane. Deano made a couple of good saves and was not at fault for the goal. Perry had a cracking game and my opinion of him goes up for mouthing off at the incompetent East Stand linesman. Hreidarsson had a better game than he has had for many weeks and probably had more shots on goal than anyone. Konchesky did his best in an unfamiliar position and I was surprised to see him taken off. Thomas displayed moments of sublime skill, but this was not one of his better games. He hugged the touchline too much. Holland was anonymous for much of the game, but contributed more in the last quarter of an hour.
Hughes did not contribute that much and often detracted from potentially good moves. Murphy generally had a good game, but still drifts out now and then. Jeffers was up for it, showed some real skill and took his goal well. The Bloke Beside Me has little time for JJ and his performance suggests that he is right. His head went down too easily. Kishishev is a player that divides fans but he showed real spirit and determination when he came on. Euell contributed very little during his short spell on the pitch.

Hiss of the Match This has been given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the East Stand linesman who was so bad that even a special visit to Specsavers would not remedy his problems. He appeared to be suffering from a cold, but he also suffered from a lack of understanding of the rules of the game or at least their fair application.

Crowd rating The crowd was generally subdued, although roused to anger by some of the decisions by the officials. 5/10.H

Friday, April 15, 2005

Ten Years Ago: did he not like that?

Graham Taylor's Wolves attracted a crowd of 10,002 to The Valley on 15th April 1995. My notes recall, 'Charlton started playing well against Wolves from the start and went one nil up with a David Whyte goal. Walsh hit the post soon afterwards, but Wolves rallied and equalised near to half time after Rufus had conceded an unnecessary corner.'

'Wolves threatened again after the break, but Charlton took a clear lead with goals from Walsh and Mortimer. But Wolves got one back and there were many difficult moments until the final whistle blew. Definitely the most entertaining match I have seen all season.'

On the station afterwards a Wolves fan was heard to say 'we must make sure the law isn't around' before hitting a lad of fifteen.

Player of the Year tickets were on sale in the ground at £5 for an event which was being held 'just around the corner from the Town Hall' at the prestige venue of the University of Greenwich student bar in Bathway.

In the Mercury Rick Everitt revealed that 'Club captain Alan McLeary is the first senior player to be shown the door at Charlton as the Addicks look to trim their wage bill.' The Rickster noted, 'The ex-Millwall man lost his place after the thrashing at Bolton in January and never looked like regaining it.'

Tomorrow's formation?

After his defence was cut to ribbons at Pompey, Curbs is unlikely to stick with 4-4-2 and may revert to 4-5-1 against a physical Bolton side. With Bartlett out injured, the nearest thing we had to a vaguely reliable goal scorer, the question then arises, who will be the target man up front? The most likely, if not inspiring, answer is Kevin Lisbie with JJ giving him service down the wings, a role he can perform quite well.

There will continue to be calls for Jeffers to start with opinion divided about his performance at Pompey between those who thought he lacked good service and hence couldn't display his skills and those who thought it was evidence of his lack of skill in the first place. He was certainly more committed than he has been in some matches, but success in the Premiership requires more than commitment.

Bolton will regard it as an easy three points and will go for an early goal, conceded too often at The Valley this season. If that happens, it will be difficult for Charlton to get back into it. Hence it is important to keep defensively tight in the opening phase of the game, but with El Karkouri still out that will not be easy. In many respects his dismissal derailed our season.

Having had his nose straightened early in the week, Kishishev remains doubtful, although he would be a good player for a scrap of this kind. It will be interesting to see what the Fink Tank says tomorrow, but I guess that they will give their biggest percentage to a Trotters win, followed by a draw. It has rarely been easy being a Charlton fan.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Curbs gives evidence in kit case

Alan Curbishely has given evidence at an employment tribunal investigating the sacking of training ground kitman Bob Oteng who is claiming unfair dismissal. The Charlton supremo only gave evidence at the tribunal after a witness order required him to attend. Missing Charlton shirts are currently the subject of a police investigation, but there is no evidence that Mr Oteng was involved.

The full story is at:

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gloomsters out in force

The recent run of bad results by the Addicks, creating their third end-of-season slump in succession, has brought all the many gloomsters out at The Valley. One has forecast that Charlton will not win another point this season. Having a season ticket, and having bought my tickets for Villa and Norwich (but not for Chelsea's celebrations) I think that if I really thought this was the case I would be really demoralised. Seeing your team lose week after week isn't fun. I might as well watch Leamington who have only lost two matches and drawn three all season and should clinch the Midland Combination Premiership title on Saturday.

Negativity is a feature of English football, and indeed the English character. Every club has its moaners who compensate for the frustrations of their own lives by slagging off their own team. However, Sporting Life did suggest some time ago that Charlton has more than its fair share.

I was at a conference last week where I was socialising with many football fans who were amazed that there was any criticism of Curbs at The Valley and would love to have him as their own manager. From an outside perspective, a club the size of Charlton is doing very well to be a mid-table Premiership side. For example, one person I was talking to was a lifelong fan of Brentford who would be delighted to be where we are.

Of course, there are grounds for disappointment. A couple of our signings this season, perhaps even three, do not seem to have worked out. It is frustrating when a club reaches a plateau and there is nothing more to aspire for. I also think that the club's communication with the fans is less good than it used to be, self-congratulatory messages in the programme notwithstanding. As The Times
pointed out yesterday, there is a danger of Charlton getting into a comfort zone which could be dangerous. Complacency can creep up on an organisation without people being aware of it.

The Times pointed out that you can't motivate a team on the basis of a vague idea that it would be nice to win a Uefa cup place. I remain doubtful whether the club is quite ready for Europe. Either we would be knocked out in the first round by Total Network Solutions or we would beat them and struggle past KR Reykjavik (Olafur Johansson's team) and Hearts, before being knocked out by an obscure team from Moldova. Meanwhile our Premiership campaign would have nosedived.

What particularly worries me is the risk of the end-of-season slump becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy with defeatism in the crowd transmitting itself to the team. The fact that we lost against West Brom and Portsmouth does not necessarily mean we will lose to Bolton. Charlton tend to rise to the occasion against better teams, a phenomenon I have also observed with Leamington in the lower reaches of the non-league.

I'm old enough to remember when the legendary Jimmy Seed was replaced by Trotter who took us nowhere (the word round the ground at the time was they couldn't stand each other). Fortunately, Richard Murray wouldn't make the same mistake.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Plan to relegate Palace, Part 2

As part of a cunning plan to relegate Crystal Palace, Charlton are losing matches to other relegation threatened clubs. Well, that's one possible explanation of the club's 4-2 defeat at Portsmouth on Saturday to match the earlier loss to the Baggies. Defensive errors saw the Addicks 2-0 down, but they pulled it back to 2-2 at half time with goals from Fortune and Murphy, the latter from a sweetly struck curving free kick. However, Pompey came out of the traps the more determined team in the second half and eventually made it 3-2, Charlton having only one chance in the half in the shape of a Herminator header that went wide. Charlton threw JJ on in place of Chris Perry in a 4-3-3 formation in a desperate attempt to get back into the game, but simply ended up conceding another goal.

Charlton have now shipped four goals six times this season and questions must be asked about our defence. There is no doubt that we are missing the suspended El Karkouri. Having a concussed Kishishev taken off early in the match was also a blow, as was the retirement through injury of Bartlett in the second half. The defensive problems, however, had as much as anything to do with the inability of the midfield to control the game. Portsmouth were getting nervous in the second half, but we were unable to take advantage of their anxiety.

Driving back and listening to 606 what Alan Green rightly described as a 'nutter' came on to demand that Curbs be sacked. Expectations at The Valley are spinning out of control. Although my original forecast of a 12th place finish this season may yet come true, there are still good reasons to believe that a top half finish is possible. And for a team that is 17th in the attendance tables that is a good outcome. Indeed, perhaps one lesson to come from the match for moaners is that Jeffers and 4-4-2 is not a magic solution to our current problems.

The day itself was quite a special one as we had been invited to a pre-match party by B**an C**e. It took us less than two hours to get from Leamington to Portsmouth, much less time than it takes to get to The Valley. When we arrived big Brian was doing a radio show with another well-known Addick who lives near Sparrows Lane.

There was much pre-match speculation about how having acquired their own 'Reg', in this case Reg Perrin, would benefit Portsmouth. There is something apt about the fact that Portsmouth have got rid of their sailor mascot and replaced him with a frog. Perrin is to be assisted by former Spurs 'director of football' David Pleat and it would appear that they share some extra curricular interests. Perrin said that he had never heard of Charlton, but the last laugh was on him as he evidently inspired Pompey to play above their recent level. Against the Massives we had also suffered from players trying to impress a new manager.

We had the unusual experience of walking to the ground in a convoy of Charlton and Pompey fans through largely Victorian streets with a mixture of modern housing. This brought back memories of the traditional days when local people walked to their club, something that happens quite a lot on the densely populated Portsea Island.

It was evident when we got to the ground that there was a strong wind blowing towards, something which favoured Portsmouth in the first half. It was actually quite hard to control the ball and play a precision passing game.

In the Premiership the team that scores the first goal usually goes on to win. LuaLua, who I have always rated as a player since he scored against us at Newcastle, played a good ball to Stone on the wing. The veteran had time and space to pick out Yakubu in the area. Untroubled by Charlton defenders, he had no problem in putting a bullet header past Deano to make it 1-0.

A potentially good cross by the Herminator was deflected by the wind. There was some good football from Kishishev and some good defensive work by Perry. Then Charlton won a corner which was due to a Pompey error, not the only time in the match that this was going to happen. Pompey are defensively weak and Charlton failed to exploit this sufficiently.

Murphy received a yellow card from methane breather Graham Poll for dissent. Shaun Bartlett won the ball well and his powerful shot was only just wide. Kishishev was hit in the face with a boot and Poll stopped play immediately. The Bulgarian had to be taken off with what we later learnt was a broken nose and Thomas took his place. Konchesky was moved to the centre which is not his best position.

Deano ran out of his goal dangerously, but managed to clear. Charm merchant Stone ran into the living volcano that is the Herminator and won a free kick in a dangerous position. With the free kick taken by Berger, Stone put the ball into the net in front of the Addickted on 20 minutes to make it 2-0.

Charlton decided that they might try and take advantage of the poor Pompey defence. Two minutes after the Pompey goal a Murphy free kick was intercepted by Fortune who leapt to put the ball in the back of the net. Game on again.

Charlton failed, however, to take advantage of all their set pieces. A free kick from Konchesky was poor. Thomas was fouled and brought down, but nothing was given and Portsmouth were able to break to the other end and win a corner. However, Deano caught the ball comfortably.

The game seemed to go a little flat with Murphy demonstrating his ability to give away possession. Young won the Addicks a free kick but it was poorly taken by Murphy who had been taunted by the Pompey fans with chants of 'Who nicked my stereo?'
Highly original. The Herminator received a yellow card but apparently we are beyond the period of the season when they are totted up.

Thomas won a free kick in a dangerous position. I said to my wife as the wall lined up, 'he's got to curve it to the right' which is exactly what Murphy did to score an excellent goal and make it 2-2 just before the break. There was still time for Pompey to win a corner and during the subsequent goalmouth action Bartlett picked up an injury. We have subsequently heard that it is cartilage trouble and he is likely to be out for the rest of the season.

Half time: Pompey 2, Addicks 2

Pompey fans seemed a little crestfallen at the Addicks fight back, but this did not affect the team who applied considerable pressure at the start of the second half. There was good defensive work by Fortune, but Pompey won a corner and the ball flashed across the front of Deano's goal. Pompey were able to sneak in again behind the Charlton defence to win a second corner. The dependable Luke Young brought the ball out.

Portsmouth had a chance but sent the ball way over the bar which says something about another aspect of their shortcomings. There was a moment of danger when Yakubu hit the post and Deano was on the floor, but the ball was eventually cleared.

Another Portsmouth error gifted Charlton a corner and the Herminator connected with the ball to give them one of the few clear chances of the half, but his header went wide. Bartlett went down again and had to be withdrawn with Lisbie coming on in his place. Deano made a great save to keep the Addicks in the match.

Jeffers was brought down as he advanced on goal and the Addicks were awarded a free kick. However, former Rushden and Diamonds keeper Ashdown made a good save from the quickly taken free kick.

The last of three Pompey substitutions brought former Addick Linvoy Primus on to the pitch. Good work by Luke Young won Charlton a corner, but the chance was wasted. Then LuaLua put on an excellent cross and Kamara headed in from a very tight angle. It is rare for opposition fans to concede that the other team might have played well, rather than their team played badly, but this was a very good goal.

The Herminator won a corner but the ball was grabbed out of the air by Ashdown. JJ was brought on in place of Perry to try and get an equaliser, but it simply exposed Charlton more in defence. In time added on, LuaLua's pace made it 4-2. Charlton had a free kick in front of goal in the closing seconds, but Murphy's effort soared over the bar, missing an opportunity to make the score more respectable.

It was a disappointing day, but Charlton were up against a team for whom the result mattered more. Staying in the Premiership is a stronger motivation than the chance of being beaten by a team from Moldova. For me the key objective is to keep Charlton in the Premiership, not easy given their resource base. Anyone who wants to support a London team who win trophies should support Arsenal or Chelsea.

Match analysis

Choosing the recipient of the Silver Bone was a tough call for local dog made good Homer the Cherry Hound. In the end the verdict went in favour of Luke Young who fought hard, made himself available in good attacking positions and burst through more than once to put in useful crosses. (Homer also says can Angela from Dorset send him the promised bone).
At this point I haven't seen any video of the match, but I thought that Deano could have positioned himself better for the first two Pompey goals. Sometimes he hesitates too much about deciding when to come off his line and when he does come out takes some risks. Again one would need to see some video of the goals to decide whether Perry was at fault. He wasn't as much in evidence as Fortune who covered well apart from scoring a goal.
Hreidarsson seemed to have recovered from his recent blip, although he is still not as impressive as earlier in the season. Kishishev seemed to be playing well enough until his forced departure. Konchesky was less impressive than in recent matches. The goal scored by Murphy was excellent, but he loses possession of the ball too easily in midfield. Holland was invisible for much of the match. Rumours have been circulating about his knees and to judge from recent performances there may be grounds for concern. Jeffers had some decent touches, but was never a dominant figure in the game. Bartlett took a knock before half time, but was never that much in evidence even before then. Thomas still has a lot to learn. In particular, he gets hustled off the ball too easily. Lisbie tried to get involved when he came on and did forge forward once or twice, but did not make a major difference. JJ was limited to a cameo appearance.

Hiss of the Match This has been given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the dilapidated ground and in particular the away accommodation. Rebel Des from Worthing was even seen to stand for much of the match so cramped were the seats.

Crowd rating Although plenty of people seemed to be buying yellow shirts in the shop last week, the promised sea of yellow was not in evidence. Pompey fans are well known for their wall of noise, but Charlton fans seemed to be more enthusiastic about exchanging taunts with the home supporters at half time than getting behind their own players. 4/10.

Curbs not a Kafka reader

But Spurs boss Martin Jol is according to the May issue of football magazine Four Four Two. The fave bedtime read of the Haringey team's coach is apparently Metamorphosis by the notoriously difficult writer. Perhaps he sees it as a symbol of what is happening to the White Hart Lane Massives.

Even more surprising is the choice of Saints charm merchant David Prutton. He claims to be reading The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. He claims, 'Hopefully, it will make me a more thoughtful, giving type of person.' Perhaps when he says that the book made him think differently 'about the people around me', he didn't mean referees.

For Curbs the book of choice is Mario Puzo's The Godfather. He recalls, 'I couldn't put it down. I'd read it late into the night then pick it up in the morning. I finished it in a couple of days.'

Interesting to speculate what the players might read. Richard Rufus was into some quite heavy theological tomes, while Sir Clive Mendoca's favourite book was a collection of racing tips. There was a guy he did his thinking with his feet. I wish we had a goal poacher like him today.

Pompey preview

I haven't been able to post for the last couple of days because of problems with Blogger (a subject on which Inspector Sands has waxed eloquent). Probably just as well as I would have been too busy to post anyway. When you've been interviewed by The Grocer magazine about the implications of the election for the retail trade you know you've arrived.

Like Inspector Sands I have no real thoughts about today's game. Last year's game is still in my mind when di Canio came on and inspired us to victory. I remember him pumping up the Charlton crowd as he ran to take a corner.

I've got one of Curbs' old yellow shirts out, it says 'Curbishley' across the back. We'll overlook the fact that it's got Nationwide badges on the sleeve.

I'm not doing Ten Years Ago this week because we got beaten by the Spanners 3-1 at the New Den.

See you at Fratton!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Addicks Grab Last Minute Point

Charlton managed to equalise against Manchester City through a Chris Perry goal in time added on at The Valley on Saturday. 1-2 down at half time, I had said to Steve from Sidcup that their failure to create chances in the last thirty minutes suggested that nothing was going to happen in the last three. Many fans had already left the ground and, in the style of a David Lodge novel, would have heard the cheer of the Addickted from outside.

It was a lucky escape for Charlton, however. For much of the match they had been outplayed by a Manchester City team that found it all too easy to dispossess Charlton and were more accurate in their passing. If it hadn't been for some great saves by Deano in the first half, the Addicks could have been further behind at the interval.

The hapless Mark Fish, who should never have started, was pulled off at half time in favour of Jon Fortune. As Steve from Sidcup commented, 'I never thought I would be glad to see Fortune on the pitch.' At the same time the lacklustre JJ was replaced by Jeffers to the delight of much of the crowd. Combined with a switch to 4-4-2, the arrival of these players helped Charlton's performance to improve, admittedly from a low base, in the second half.

Fowler and Murphy exchanged friendly words about times past before the kick off, perhaps not a good omen given Murphy's subsequent performance. Things started as they were going to go on with City winning a corner in the first minute after Thomas gave the ball away, although the youngster redeemed himself by clearing from the corner.

Musampa then connected with a cross from Reyna forcing Deano to tip the ball over. With the corner, Dunne put a header in on goal with the ball apparently going in off the head of Hreidarsson and the left leg of Murphy. The scoreboard credited Dunne with the fourth minute goal, but perhaps this will be one for the Dubious Goals Committee.

Then on ten minutes Konchesky released Thomas who put in an excellent cross that outfoxed James who must have been wondering if he could set up his easel in the goal and get his paints out. Distin failed to clear the danger and Bartlett was able to take advantage of the situation and make it 1-1.

Luke Young was called on for some good defensive work. Deano then saved off the line from Fowler, the ball having taken a deflection off Perry. The Herminator then managed to get himself out of a tight situation which he had created for himself. Macken then found himself one-on-one with Deano stopped an otherwise inevitable goal by halting the ball with his legs, showing immaculate timing. Fish then exposed Deano who had to save again from Macken at the expense of a City corner. A good Murphy interception released Bartlett but the offside flag was raised against the Springbok.

The pace of the match then slowed when Charlton should have been increasing the tempo. City exposed Charlton down the wing again and won a corner, followed by a second. Deano had to make a save from a shot from distance. Thomas won a rare Charlton corner, but unlike two of those taken by City, it was wasted.

The Addicks were giving the ball away too easily. Bartlett had to use a scissors kick to clear out of defence, his position giving some indication of the pressure the Addicks were under. Then seven minutes from time Fowler connected with a cross from Barton and put the ball past Murphy on the line who looked as if he was taking up modelling for an art class, so frozen was his pose. 2-1 to the Massives.

A Charlton free kick won by Thomas was punched out and James dealt in a similar way with a Charlton corner.

Half-time: Addicks 1, Massives 2

The substitutions enlivened Charlton and Bartlett made his own charge on the City goal, but was crowded out by the three Massives surrounding him. A City free kick from Fowler went way over. There was a worrying moment when Konchesky went down injured and required treatment. An error by the Herminator gave City a corner which fortunately was unproductive.

Murphy put a shot straight at James which did produce a Charlton corner. James then had to make a diving save from Bartlett. City were given a free kick in front of the D and Luke Young was shown the only yellow card of the day. The free kick came off the wall and was eventually cleared. There was a penalty call when Jeffers was brought down, but nothing was given. Thomas was released by good play by Jeffers, but his effort went over at close range.

Good work by Young and Jeffers won Charlton a corner which was followed by a second. A good cross by Thomas was met by Holland, but his header came off the crossbar. Musampa continued to be dangerous for the visitors and missed at least two chances.

Then in injury time a Luke Young cross was flicked on by Jeffers to an unmarked Perry who made no mistake in putting it past James who may be a better critic of Lowry than he is a keeper. Much relief was felt by the Addickted.

Coming back on the train, I saw a Massive who proudly bore the legend 'Spiv' on his back. At least they didn't do the double over us.

Match analysis

Once again Hooch the Pooch was able to award the Silver Bone to Paul Konchesky. In a lacklustre midfield, Konchesky shone as an example of energy, commitment and skill, making some important interventions in defence as well. Deano was hardly to blame for the creaking defence in front of him that led to two City goals from set pieces. He also made some vital saves which showed excellent anticipation. Fish is no doubt a reasonably good poet, has a good appreciation of red wine and may one day make his mark in South African politics. A Premiership footballer he is not. He is too slow, drifts out of position too easily, and fouls too readily. Perry was his usual calm and collected self in defence before delivering the Charlton equaliser. Hreidarsson who is usually a tower of strength seemed to have been drained by his international exertions and eventually had to be substituted. Young was once again one of the stronger Charlton players in both attack and defence.
seemed to have slipped backwards, having one of his poorer games in the Charlton shirt, giving the ball away too far often through unforced errors. Holland had a generally poor game. Steve from Sidcup thought that Thomas also had a poor game, but I thought he contributed at times and not at others. JJ was apparently Man of the Match for Finland. I would like to see him play for his country because he must save his best efforts for them. He hardly got to the ball in the first half before he was pulled off. Bartlett scored and was also, as ever, active in defence.
Jeffers played some neat and skilled football, but I still remain unconvinced that he is the saviour that many of the crowd think he is. Fortune played competently which was a great improvement on Fish.
Lisbie was energetic and committed when he came on, but made no great impact on the game.

Hiss of the Match Many of the Addickted would no doubt select referee Styles and we certainly got few 50-50 decisions from him. On the whole, however, I think he kept the game moving and was reasonably fair. Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the Blokes Behind Me. This was not the legendary BBM, although he agreed with them, but two blokes in the row behind that who were slagging off Curbishley even after the game had finished.

Crowd rating The effect of the spring sunshine, the early kick off and the lack of sparkle from Charlton in the first half made the crowd subdued. However, the Covered End deserves credit for a chant at David James: 'England's Number Four', followed by all the numbers down to seven. 6/10.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Ten Years Ago: bore draw at The Valley

Charlton faced Stoke City on 1st April 1995 and the game ended 0-0. My notes recall, 'Stoke defended resolutely. Charlton had a couple of good chances, but failed to score.' Referee Graham Barber booked Robbo and Sweaty Balmer for dissent on 26 minutes.

Something of a pall was cast over the warm spring day by the news that Lee Bowyer and Dean Chandler had failed a random drug test. However, five players were offered extended contracts, including Rufus, Steve Brown, Jamie Stuart and Paul Sturgess. Anyone remember the fifth? Alan Pardew's fate remained uncertain, but he appeared in the programme illustrating his failure to apply Grecian 2000 thoroughly.

Also in the programme was a desperate appeal from Chris Tugwell who feared that his money making scratchcard scheme was being undermined by the National Lottery. 'It is essential that you buy our lottery scratchcard. It is important because it could be vital to our existance [sic].' Strange to think that our fate ten years ago rested on a scratchcard with a snowman, Father Christmas and reindeer on the front (as per illustration), but perhaps it was a new way of marking Easter.

Just to add to the sophistication of the occasion, the match was sponsored by Trax Cafe Bar, Bexley.