Saturday, April 21, 2007

'You don't sound like a happy man'

These were the comments of The Observer sub after I filed my fan's report this evening. It's not over until it's over, but Charlton's failure to beat Sheffield United has severely diminished their chances of Premiership survival. They will have to play a lot better than they did today if they are going to take three points off Blackburn or Spurs.

One Charlton fan on 606 was blaming referee Wiley for the outcome. He made some questionable decisions and gave out a blizzard of yellow cards, more to Charlton than the Blades. But it's not the referee's fault if a team can't score goals or defend properly or has a midfield that goes awol.

Up until Talal El Karkouri scored an excellent, admittedly deflected, goal from distance, we had not been playing that well, albeit not helped by Sheffield's physical approach. Instead of defending resolutely, we then started to panic, and instead of slowing the game down, allowed it to be played at a frenetic pace until the Blades equalised.

After that we really lost our shape and never looked like scoring the second goal that we so badly needed. The substitutions detracted from rather than added to our play, although I can understand why Alan Pardew felt the need to make them.

Still as Steve from Sidcup said after the game, 'It will be an opportunuty to rebuild.'

Match report

Referee Wiley awarded an early yellow card for handball to Blades charm merchant Luton Shelton. He started as he intended to go on, having evidently decided that this was the way to run a key match.

Charlton started brightly with three corners in succession. The first was punched out by Blades keeper Kenny, but then Rommedahl put in a good cross from the second to create the third, but the succession of moves ended with a Zheng Zhi header that was way over.

The impressive Rommedahl put in an excellent cross, but with the goal at his mercy, Ambrose's header went wide. Zheng Zhi dispossessed the Blades impressibely in midfield. Rommedahl won a Charlton corner but Darren Bent was possibly distracted by a defender and his shot went just wide.

Thomas won Charlton a free kick in a promising position, but it led to nothing more than a Charlton corner. As we know, Charlton corners are usually unproductive. Song received a yellow card for a foul on charm merchant Gillespie.

United won a free kick not far from the 'D' for a foul on Gillspie, but it came off the wall. Carson made a save at the expense of a corner and their effort on goal went past the post.

Zheng Zhi was pushed over on the East Stand side not far from goal, but instead of awarding a free kick, referee Wiley indicated that he thought that he had dived. The linesman looked a bit guilty, but, as is usually the case, so-called assistant referees are reluctant to question the decisions of 'celebrity' referees.

With United applying some pressure, Thomas cleared the ball out of danger. With three minutes of time added on, Montgomery received a yellow card for a foul. Sometimes I wonder if we should adopt the rugby system of ten minutes in the sin bin.

Half time: Addicks 0, Blades 0

Charlton's play still seemed disjointed after play resumed, with the news that both Fulham and West Ham were ahead at half time. The game became increasingly scrappy and it seemed as if we might be heading for another goalless draw when Talal El Karkouri seized the opportunity on 59 minutes and put in a shot from distance. It was deflected into Kenny's net. The keeper, likened in the programme to a steward who had just taken his bib off, clearly has a short fuse and advanced up the pitch berating his defenders. It's a shame we couldn't put him under more pressure.

This was when I think Charlton lost the plot as Pards freely admitted in his post match interview on Match of the Day. Instead of calming the game down, they committed a series of fouls. Some Charlton fans have focussed on the yellow cards that resulted, but the real problem was the midfield seemed to disappear.

Zheng Zhi, Diawara and El Karkouri all received yellow cards, but it was Ambrose's failure to pass the Rommedahl that led the Blades to counter attack. With Thatcher out of position, Stead had the goal at his mercy and there was nothing that Carson could do to stop what was a quality strike.

The succession of substitutions served principally to disrupt our pattern of play. Diawara's disappearance in particular weakened our defence, but it may be that he was carrying an injury or taking a knock. Rommedahl did surge forward and win a corner but Zheng Zhi missed the target.

Hreidarsson managed to get in an unnecessary argument with Wiley, getting himself booked and wasting further time. The Addicks were unable to make any real use of the five minutes of time added on, althouh Kenny was finally booked for his time wasting, having been warned in the first half. The keeper advanced on Wiley and looked ready to throttle him, but a fellow Blade held him back.

As the final whistle blew, Warnock rushed over to shake Wiley warmly by the hand and later described him as 'an excellent referee', praise indeed from the Cornish smallholder. However, we shouldn't use Wiley's performance as an alibi. BC Addick Ken Jennings asked in an overnight message, is the team quite good enough?

Pards has got them to play better than the hapless Dowie, now weaving his magic at Coventry (not) or the even worse Les Reed. However, over the season, I think they have been not quite good enough to survive in the Premiership. One can argue about whose fault that is.

A miraculous escape may yet occur, but a failure to beat a team as poor as Sheffield United at home is not encouraging. This is a massive blow after everything that everyone in the club has worked for over the past ten years. Pundits are predicting that Watford will come straight back up, and I am sure we will be in the mix as well if we go down. But I hope we are not going to become a yo-yo team. The mid-table mediocrity we experienced up to last season doesn't seem as bad in retrospect, even if it involved a somewhat boring and cautious style of play.

Elsewhere, Leamington beat the Romans 1-0 at Rocester to take the Polymac Services Midland Alliance points record with 102 points. They go into Tuesday's league cup semi-final 2nd leg against the Adders with a 3-1 lead, so hopes are now focused on the final at the Bescot Stadium and a league and cup double.

Match analysis

With Ivy the Terrible forsaking her daily swim in the River Avon for further match reporter training at Hooch the Pooch's canalside home, Monty Martin was recruited from his Blewbury, Oxon home. The excitable spaniel is usually lucky for Charlton, which is why he is used sparingly, but not on this occasion. With no player really outstanding on the day, Monty decided to award the last Silver Bone of the season to The Addickted for staying with the club and team during a very difficult year. Despite what the Blades fan reporter says in The Observer today, they are real football supporters, otherwise they would be supporting a more fashionable London club. Being a Charlton supporter does involve developing endurance and a capacity to suffer. As I have to be in Helinski at the time of the Spurs game, Paul May will report whether there are 'trois points' or fewer at that match.

Scott Carson did not have that much to do, which says something about the quality of the opposition, but made one brilliant save. Diawara was generally sound and had to be effective when we were piling forward players in attack, but there were enough uncertainties about his performance for him to be withdrawn, something he did not seem too happy about. El Karkouri scored what could have been a vital goal and he was not to blame for the equaliser. The fault there was in part that of Thatcher and the Bloke Beside Me thought that he did not have a good game in general, although he did make some good interceptions. Luke Young was not quite up to his usual standard, seeming to lack confidence. In general Song had a poor game compared with his usaual standard.
Ambrose failed to take a chance to score and was responsible for the chain of events that led to the equaliser. He has been a disappointment. Thomas manages to look petulant and uninterested even when he scores, but today he did seem to be uninterested and had a poor game. I am not a great Rommedahl fan as my sport is football not sprinting, but I thought that he had an excellent first half and would have got the Silver Bone if he had been able to keep it up over the game as a whole. Zheng Zhi has created high expectations, but I did not think this was up to the standard of his best performances. If his half bicycle kick had gone in, would it have counted?There is only so much Darren Bent if he is left to wander on his own up front and is expected to be the grateful recipient of long balls hoofed up the centre of the pitch. Why can't we play to the strengths and play the ball on the ground up the wings? The Bloke Beside Me described Hasselbaink
as a 'lump'. In his day he was a player I admired and I think that he has tried to his best for Charlton, but his best is no longer good enough for the Premiership.
Bougherra has shed his Owl feathers, but still got roundly booed by the Blades. I thought that he was unimpressive. Hreidarsson never lacks commitment, but he looked less than fully match fit.

Juneau the Soccer Cat expresses thanks for the message of support she received during the week. Hailing from the state of Maine, she has an American father and is named after the capital of Alaska. She gave the Hiss of the Match to referee Alan Wiley. When the crowd started to chant 'You don't know what you're doing', the smug official simply smiled.

Crowd rating I thought that the crowd was rather edgy and often quiet. The clappers are great fun for kids, but don't do much for the atmosphere. The Abba tribute band were not right for the occasion. What was inspired was having Charlton hero 'Killer' Hales on the pitch to say a few words before the game.


Blogger Ken Jennings said...

Some pretty football in the opening few minutes, until the Sheffield thugs got up to the pace of the game. What delightful specimens Morgan and Montgomery are.

I was frustrated by Referee Wiley's method of yellow carding a Charlton player, whilst giving a Sheffield miscreant a little word and a pat on the bottom.

But no excuses.

Questions will no doubt be raised about the selected formation and perhaps the timing of the substitutions, Ben Thatcher's 'mistake', the continuance of unproductive corner kicks, how many starters were not 100% fit ( was Thomas ?) and so on.

All that aside, The question I have is, "Is this team really good enough"?

10:40 PM  

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