The gap in quality between the top three clubs in the Premiership and a mid-table club like Charlton showed in the 0-4 defeat of the Addicks by Manchester United at The Valley on May Day. Charlton played reasonably well for the first half hour or so, but crumpled after Scholes put the visitors ahead on 34 minutes after an error by novice keeper Stephan Andersen. By the end of the game United were playing demonstration football with their precision passing which left the huffing and puffing Addicks stranded. No amount of extra effort or commitment would have bridged the gap. It was simply one of quality.
Curbs decided to give Andersen his first start in goal, relegating Kiely to the benches. The experiment might have seemed to be a failure, but what it really showed is what we know already: the keeper is not at the heart of Charlton's tendency to leak goals, but the defence and midfield that plays in front of him. If Andersen was going to be given his chance, it might as well have been in a game we were likely to lose anyway.
To complete the afternoon of joy for the Addickted, Jeffers had to be taken off after what looked like a rather nasty injury while substitute Chris Perry received a red card.
The banner on top of the control room and the 'renew' t-shirts worn by staff in the shop suggested that season ticket renewals are below expectations, a fact confirmed by Peter Varney in his programme notes. Varney nevertheless managed to work in a reference to the Valley Express in his notes which is apparently now well known in the United Arab Emirates. If the club stopped congratulating itself about worthwhile but essentially marginal initiatives and concentrated on the concerns of the fans, they might do better in terms of season ticket renewals.
Joining the train at High Wycombe, we met a United 'supporter' who was going to his first Premiership match. I forecast a 0-2 win for United, but I was to be sadly disappointed by the scale of the defeat. The centenary presentations at the ground and the news that Andersen was going to be given a start did serve as a temporary morale boost.
Changing ends at the beginning of the match was not a good omen and within little more than a minute a nervous looking Andersen was in trouble. Coming out for the ball, he exposed his goal, but somehow the visitors failed to score. However, Charlton spirits were boosted a few minutes later when Kishishev put a good ball through to Jeffers who was one-on-one with Carroll. However, the keeper managed to make the save.
Within minutes it was panic stations again in the Charlton defence, but somehow the ball was cleared. Rommedahl combined well with Holland. But United signalled their intentions with a fierce shot from Rooney which would have beaten Andersen if it had not gone just wide. Jeffers exposed Charlton to danger by giving the ball away.
As the ten minute mark passed, Konchesky put in a good run but there was no one there to take advantage of it. Fortune conceded a corner, but Konchesky was able to clear. Charlton won a corner and put in a shot, but the ball was cleared and a rare error by Luke Young allowed United to make a break. Fortunately it ended in a Charlton throw in. Then a Matt Holland error exposed the Addicks to another attack.
United won a corner which was headed out but then played in again. Smith was on target at point blank range but Andersen made a great save by tipping the ball over the bar, winning a standing ovation from many of the Addickted.
The combative Kishishev went in well, leading Rooney to fall over dramatically. The match was halted so that he could receive treatment, even though he was perfectly capable of walking off and was soon back on again. Scholes burst through, but Andersen was able to make the save. Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat the feat when he spilled a ball from Rooney, allowing Scholes to sneak in and put the ball in the back of the net.
Scholes put in a nasty foul on Rommedahl and the referee was immediately surrounded by United players arguing. Nothing new there then. However, Dermot Gallagher, who had a good game, was unimpressed and produced the yellow card. Andersen had to save on the line after initially losing control of the ball.
Luke Young put in a terrible cross which somehow missed all four players in the box. Rommedahl gave the ball away, exposing the hapless defence. Scholes was able to slip the ball to Fletcher who put in a cracking shot that had Andersen well beaten making the score 0-2 on 44 minutes and putting the game effectively beyond Charlton's reach before the break. However, there was still time for Dennis Murphy to punt a hopeless ball up the pitch.Half time: Addicks 0, United 2
Murphy was brought down immediately after the kick off, but by whom or how was not clear. Rooney put in a shot that came off the post. Charm merchant Keane fouled JJ and received a yellow card. JJ forged through, but the United defence reacted well and all the Addicks got was a throw in. Fortune put in some good defensive work in midfield to win the ball off United.
Murphy put in a potentially good ball to JJ, but he was unable to connect with it. Jeffers then went down by the hoardings at the Jimmy Seed end after taking part in an attack. It looked as if he might have hurt his shoulder, but in any event he had to be helped to the dressing room with Lisbie coming on in his place.
If the United fans had not spent so much time booing Ferdinand and urging him to signing a contract, they might have started a chant of 'We're going to score in a minute.' On 62 minutes an error by El Karkouri allowed Smith to bear down on Andersen and score his first goal since December, the charm merchant celebrating by taunting the crowd.
The two United players with yellow cards, Scholes and Keane, were pulled off to be replaced by Phil Neville and Kleberson. Charlton had a chance to get a consolation goal with a free kick just in front of the 'D', but Murphy sent his shot over the crossbar to shouts of 'you fat bastard' from the United supporters. Rooney was then sent clear by Keane to clip the ball over Andersen and make it 0-4 on 67 minutes.
Rommedahl was replaced by Euell and the tiring Kishishev was replaced by Perry. From then on, it was exhibition football by United. Rooney could be taken off and was replaced by Fortune on 69 minutes. JJ turned provider for Lisbie who found himself one-on-one with Carroll. However, instead of swerving to the right or left, Lisbie went on running straight at the keeper, allowing him to save.
Euell then played a totally hopeless ball showing why Charlton's most expensive purchase must be part of a summer clear out. Lisbie put a good ball across the front of United's goal, creating a half chance, but no one was able to take advantage of it.
United had a free kick in front of the 'D', but Andersen made a confident save. Lisbie won Charlton a free kick, but it was wasted. With five minutes left, Chris Perry, who clearly thought that he was egg chasing, hauled Brown down on the edge of the area and it is difficult to argue with the referee's decision to send him off. Further humiliation was spared by the United free kick coming off the Charlton wall. A final United corner produced good defensive work by Luke Young.
It was a dispiriting performance by Charlton and brought the moaners out on force on 606. Curbishley, it was said, had taken the club as far as he could and should go. Just how far do they think a club the size of Charlton can go? For the first time in my life, I found myself agreeing with Dennis Wise who said on Match of the Day
that Curbs had done well to create a stable Premiership club.
Based on resources, Charlton should be a Championship club and we have been able to punch above our weight through good management (including the board as well as Curbs). We have been hit by the successive loss of players of the quality of Parker, Rufus, di Canio (who gave us real fighting spirit) and Jensen (who despite his unwillingness to tackle added a touch of creativity to our midfield that we now lack). Unfortunately, some of this season's signings have not worked and, professional that he is, I am sure that Curbs realises that.
I can understand why many fans are not going to renew their season tickets, but this will simply constrain the summer spending budget even more when what we need is a thorough clear out. If the club is going to make a real leap forward, it is going to need a major foreign investor to come in, but such a step would be resisted by many of those who complain about our current performance.
Curbs is always a good host, but I wonder if even he will be a bit subdued when I join his table at the sponsors' evening on Tuesday. Things have been objectively worst, but spirits were much higher when we were relegated.Match analysis
It is always a difficult decision about who to award the Silver Bone
to, if at all, after defeats like this. However, Luke Young
was applauded by the Covered End as he left the field and once again he was one of the more reliable and effective players on the pitch. Andersen
did not have the best of starts to his Premiership career, but although he was at fault for the first United goal, he also made one stunning save. El Karkouri
was at fault for one of the United goals.Fortune
had one of his better games, putting in some effective contributions to the defence. Konchesky
made some good runs forward, but there was no one there for him to connect with. Kishishev
showed plenty of commitment and determination and managed to hustle more than one United star off the ball. Eventually he exhausted himself and had to be withdrawn. Holland
looks too slow and uncertain much of the time. Murphy
hardly distinguished himself. Rommedahl
started quite well, but faded as the game went on and had to be substituted. JJ
was a monument to well intentioned ineffectiveness. He simply lacks the quality required for the Premiership. Jeffers
never looked really threatening, apart from one early chance. Lisbie
did his best when he came on and tried to string some moves together, but his best isn't good enough, particularly when he comes to scoring. However, he is better than the hapless Euell
who managed to detract from an already poor Charlton performance. Perry
did very little until he got himself sent off.Hiss of the Match
This was given by Juneau the Soccer Cat
to charm merchant Alan Smith
who was always mouthing off at the East Stand lino over perfectly reasonable decisions.Crowd rating
Even before the first goal came the Addickted were subdued, except when the heroes of the past were presented before the game and at half time. But one of the problems is that Charlton has no personalities of similar stature to match them today. 3/10.