Thursday, December 28, 2006

Late equaliser stuns Addickted

I do not think that I have ever been as stunned by a goal as I was by Fulham's 94th minute equaliser at The Valley last night. It was created after the East Stand lino had waved for a free kick for a non-existent offence. I had been uneasy about the elderly, vertically challenged lino ever since I had watched him warming up. Graham Poll had by this time overdosed on methane and awarded the free kick, leading to a quick Fulham goal which admittedly could have been better defended. If we are two points short of safety at the end of the season, we can blame the Thing from Tring. Poll has since apologised for his decision, but that is scant consolation.

It had been a more spirited, determined performance by the Addicks under new manager Alan Pardew than we had seen for a long time. There were still deficiencies. Possession was still given away too cheaply and there were too many hopeful balls forward which were collected by Niemi in the Fulham goal. The more vigorous approach also led to more free kicks being conceded, one of which led to the first Fulham goal. But it offered a glimmer of hope for the future, even if that future lies in the Championship.

Before the start of the match, we heard that decent bloke Les Reed had sent us a good luck message for the game. Alan Pardew received a rapturous reception from the Addickted with chants of 'Alan Pardew's Red Army' from the Covered End. The teams changed ends which I always see as a bad omen.

An early Fulham corner was played back in and drew a save from Carson. A Fulham free kick in a dangerous position led to a Fulham corner. What I thought was a rather dubious free kick created an opportunity for McBride to put the Cottagers 1-0 ahead after 13 minutes.

A dangerous header left Carson furious with his defence. But then Charlton showed that they could fight back. Amid some confusion in the Fulham defence in a crowded penalty area, Ambrose drilled a shot along the ground to make it 1-1.

A Fulham corner was cleared and then Charlton won their first corner, but Ambrose took it poorly and it went into the side netting. Marcus Bent broke free and put a shot across the goal that was not that wide of the far post. A move started with an El Karkouri free kick created an opportunity for Thomas but he was just wide.

Darren Bent scored, but the flag was already up. Carson was called on to make a good save. Marcus Bent put in a fierce shot from distance which Niemi had to get down to to save. A defensive mix up by Fulham allowed Darren Bent to break free and slot the ball into the net past the stranded Niemi who uttered unfathomable curses in Finnish.

Jerome Thomas was clattered in time added on and had to be replaced by Rommedahl after the break.

Half time: Addicks 2, Cottagers 1

Half time saw the lucky winner of an apartment in Spain announced. The Llanera chairman had the good grace to admit that it wasn't actually built yet.

Rommedahl created an early opportunity for Ambrose, but he headed the ball just wide. The Addicks broke from a Fulham corner and created one of their own, but once again it was poorly taken. Another area where more work is needed. A Fulham free kick on the edge of the box came off the wall. Charm merchant Helguson, who might have been given a card if Poll had not declared a Christmas moratorium, was withdrawn and replaced by Collins John.

Carson had to make a great save from a fierce shot which he would have had little time to see. After yet another weak ball by Ambrose, he was replaced by Hughes. However, the corner which he took shortly afterwards was no better than those of Ambrose. Bullard was withdrawn in favour of Claus Jensen and then Marcus Bent was replaced by Hasselbaink.

There was no real pattern to the game in the closing phase, but the Charlton players looked increasingly nervous and as confidence ebbed away from them they were forced back more. Four minutes of time added on were found from somewhere. Fulham won a corner but their effort went over. But then we had the incident of the free kick allowing Queudrue to equalise.

After chants of 'You're going down with the Watford', it all kicked off at the station afterwards. I found myself on the train with a group of American supporters of the Addicks. At Waterloo East, the Fulham hordes got off chanting 'We are the famous Fulham FC'. I had to contemplate a long journey home reflecting on a victory that had been unjustly seized from our grasp.

Match analysis

Novice match analyst Ivy awarded the Silver Bone to Alan Pardew for inspiring the team to achieve a much better performance in a few days. Carson made one great reaction save and could not be blamed for the two goals. El Karkouri sent a number of his trademark long balls forward both from free kicks and open play and some of there at least created potentially threatening situations. Hreidarsson provided a series of emphatic headers in defence, although sometimes they went straight to a Fulham player. Sankofa is no Luke Young and sometimes his lack of experience shows. He needs to work on this throw ins. Traore is nowhere near as bad as some people like to claim and was generally competent enough, although sometimes his marking left something to be desired. Kishishev was as enthusiastic and energetic as ever, but sometimes made errors. Ambrose scored a goal, but in general played too many poor balls for my liking. Thomas was vigorous down the wing in the first half. Holland was a model of energetic competence. Marcus Bent is not a favourite with the Valley crowd, but I thought that he had one of his best games for some time. We actually saw him running with some determination. Darren Bent was looking more like his old self. Rommedahl was the inevitable disappointmnent when he came on, streaking down the wing, but then failing to deliver a decent final ball. Hughes was an improvement on Ambrose whom he replaced, but that's not saying much. Hasselbaink seemed as if he was posing for a living statue of a footballer when he came on.

Hiss of the Match A very loud hiss was directed by Juneau the Soccer Cat at Graham Poll and his hapless midget lino.

Crowd rating: Really got behind the team in the first half, faded a little early in the second, but came back again. 8/10.


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