Saturday, December 02, 2006

Chuffing awful

It's a long time since I've heard the word 'chuffing' used. I used to hear it a lot in my first year at university, which was when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, when I shared a room with 'Chuffing' Keith from Barnsley whose idea of a good night out was to dismantle and reassemble his racing bike. Well I heard the word 'chuffing' after the game at Bramall Lane today and I decided that 'chuffing awful' was a good way to describe Charlton's performance. Having gone 1-0 ahead against the run of the play, they surrendered a lead to lose 2-1 to fellow relegation candidates Sheffield United.

Not that this was a great surprise as this blog had forecast a 2-1 defeat. When you heard the household names of the Blades read out the beginning of the match, you knew that Charlton had better individual players. But you knew they would not play so well as a team. And so it proved. Possession was given away cheaply, passes failed to connect and the defence seemed able to move the ball only a few yards forward and then to an opposition player. Above all, it was the lack of a decent midfield (Andy Reid aside) that let Charlton down in their 4-5-1 formation.

In truth both teams were poor, but cocky Yorkshiremen with their horrible hard accent are dominating the airwaves tonight proclaiming that the Blades are now secure in the Premiership. In my view United are still likely to go down with Watford and Charlton, but that is little consolation.

What is the answer? Charlton fans are already on the airwaves calling for the replacement of Les Reed by a 'proper' manager, although quite who this paragon who will come to Charlton as a saviour is not clear, although one hears the name of George Graham who hardly has a squeaky clean image.

I know what I am going to do. I have spent enough valuable time and money supporting Charlton. So I'm not coming to the Blackburn home game, I'm not going to Spurs and I'm not coming to Liverpool. Gruff, gobby Paul May will cover Blackburn for me.

Match report

We took trainee match reporter Ivy to Long Itchington and to collect match analyst Monty Martin who was staying there, but a fight broke out after Ivy claimed that she was ready to cover the match, despite her lack of knowledge of the offside rule. Actually, it wouldn't have mattered as there was only offside decision all match as I recall, against Darren Bent.

We dropped the car off at the park and ride, the 'ride' in this case being provided by the tram system, an excellent way of getting to the ground and leaving quickly, and also allowing us to text 'I'm on the tram'. Bramall Lane was first laid out as a cricket ground in 1855 and the newly emerging game of football was first played there in December 1862 when Hallam met Sheffield (the world's oldest club formed in 1857). Certainly Bramall Lane has the feel of a traditional football ground rather than a stadium.

Within a minute of the game starting Carson had to make the first of a series of excellent saves after an opening created by Quinn. A United free kick not far from the corner flag posed danger but Hreidarsson was able to intervene with a header and the ball went wide. What was evident in this opening phase was Charlton's lack of possession with Luke Young called on for good defensive work by the corner flag. With Carson out of position, the far from cutting Baldes managed to put an effort wide.

The first couple of Charlton attacks petered out, the first as a result of a poor ball by Holland. But then Andy Reid burst through with one of his trademark runs and put Charlton ahead, although it wasn't at first clear who had scored. With danger threatening, Luke Young put the ball behind. A second corner led to an effort that had to be tipped round the post by Carson.

A Reid run led to a ball across the face of the goal, but there was no one there to connect. Carson had to tip the ball over again, but the resultant Blades corner was cleared. Faye was spoken to by referee Dowd. The Blades were just wide again and then Luke Young dealt with a threatening one-on-one situation with a great block. A clearance by Hreidarsson was poor and Young was booked for a vigorous tackle. Traore provided good defensive work.

Rommedahl turned provider for Ambrose after a run, but his effort was saved. In the three minutes of time added on, United had yet another effort that was just wide. We were 1-0 ahead, but it is a long time since I have enjoyed watching Charlton less in a game we were winning.

Half time: Blades 0, Addicks 1

Carson made an early save and then was called on for another great save, the United corner ending in a Charlton free kick. Darren Bent won Charlton a corner, but despite the crowd's enthusiasm for Reid it was unproductive.

Reid and Bent combined well to win Charlton a corner, but Hreidarsson just failed to connect with the ball. Charlton are always vulnerable these days at defending set pieces, while their own are awful. So it proved with local hero Chris Morgan converting from a corner to make it 1-1.

Marcus Bent replaced Rommedahl and, after two United substitutions, Ambrose was replaced by Kishishev who perhaps should have been on earlier. The game looked as if it was drifting to a draw, or at least the Addicks seem prepared to accept one. The noisy home crowd was becoming restive, but then up popped Keith Gillespie to make it 2-1.

After that, it was game over with a half chance in injury time sent spinning over the bar by Matt Holland who justifiably looked distraight. Faye was withdrawn in injury time and replaced by Lloyd Sam.

We returned to Warwickshire to tell Ivy that she was not going to be a Premiership reporter as she thought but a Championship reporter for many years to come (provided the drop to League 1 was avoided).

Match analysis

Match analyst Monty Martin awarded the Silver Bone to Andy Reid (8) for what was a commanding performance, it's a shame that he has to play with players less good or committed than him. The result could have been much worse but for a number of excellent saves byScott Carson (7). Young (5) had his moments, but sometimes one feels that his heart is no longer in it. Traore (6) looked like a player of Premiership standard. Hreidarsson (6) was as committed as ever, but sometimes seems to lack the necessary pace. At one point he had a barney with Carson. El Karkouri (6) managed to kick the ball away in a high and aimless fashion. Holland (4) is no doubt a really nice guy, but he is not a Premiership footballer. When I first did these notes I left out Ambrose (4) because he is such a total waste of space. No doubt he is a nice lad and I hear he has just got engaged, but he doesn't have much idea how to play Premiership football. Faye (5) is too inclined to give away free kicks. Rommedahl (5) never quite fulfills his promise and increasingly I doubt if he ever will. Darren Bent (6) made his contribution but was not at his best, lending support to reports that he is carring an injury. Marcus Bent made little difference when he came on and Kishishev even less. I am not one of those who sees Lloyd Sam as the miracle player who will save us in Roy of the Rovers style, but he deserves more than a two minute cameo.

Hiss of the Match This was awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to Neil Warnock for being a gobby Cornish smallholder.

Crowd rating: A popular new chant was 'Reid Robbo' to reflect the former's status as a new Valley hero. It also appeared that one of the United players had suffered marital problems as he was subjected to a chant of 'Stand up if you've slept with his wife.' 6/10.


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