Sunday, December 18, 2005

Camara snaps Charlton's woeful defence

Wigan Athletic 3
Charlton Athletic 0

Three nil, and it could have been so much worse. Charlton were awful at times, and gifted three goals to Henri Camara - Young, Kiely, Hreidersson and Perry all committed profesional hari-kari (or should that be Henri-Kari?) by making clear and obvious mistakes.

The team lined up as per the previous weeks starting eleven; Bent and Bartlett being declared fit to take their places on the pitch and bench respectively.

Eight minutes on the JJB stadium clock and Camara had already had a header flash wide of Deano's goal. Throw in to Wigan on the left wing - all the players are marked tightly. Nobody to throw to, they run, trying to get a yard. The Charlton defence collectively stayed tight, until Luke Young decides to stop and watch the throw. His man, Lee McCulloch, has acres of space in the penalty box to watch the ball come to him and size up the volley. Unluckily for him, it crashed down from the cross bar after beating Keily. Luck was not on Charlton's side though, as it fell for Camara to control, and fire home through Chris Powell's legs on the line. No fault attached to Powell, who was one of the few players who didn't have a poor game.

Charlton looked very vunerable after this - any confidence they had dissipated immediately. Darren Bent came close to equalising with a couple of efforts midway through the half, but Charlton were hanging on again nearer half time, the crowd hoping to maintain just the one goal deficit. Matters had not been helped by Jerome Thomas going AWOL a couple of times, for which Powell gave him a tongue lashing, and mentally he completely lost it late in the half.

The second half opened with Bartlett on for Thomas, and a switch to 4-4-2. Shouts for a penalty were turned down, though I doubt there would have been many Wigan complaints had Bent been given the verdict when upended by goalkeeeper Pollitt. As so often, a "chance" at one end leads to a goal at the other - Comical defending by Kiely (the main culprit in my opinion) and Hreidersson let Camara steal in for his second. Not long afterwards, Camara made a name for himself by adding his third - Wigan's first Premiership hat-trick - when the whole defence went on strike for about five seconds. This event led to a "fight" in the Charlton end between two visiting supporters, and at least one fan being escorted out; not the sort of thing you want to see, but at least they were passionate about Charlton, which is more than could be said for most of this team.

The game drifted on (the fans started to sing to keep warm mainly) to the obvious conclusion, and I left a couple of minutes from the end in order to get back to the station quickly.

Wigan are not a great team at all; they played with heart and conviction, with pace but lacked flair. It's sad to say they completely outplayed Charlton, but undeniably they did.

The newly laid pitch obviously did not help Charlton, and probably not Wigan either. It was soft, uneven, and the grass looked very short.

Individually, Young (left) and Keily had terrible games. Perry and Hreidersson worked hard, but made mistakes too often. Murphy tried to pass the ball but the pitch didn't help him, and he drifted out of the game all too easily. Kishishev worked, but needed too long to control the ball on this pitch (as he does on others too...). Smertin ran and worked hard but to no avail. Thomas gave up, and Ambrose also disappeared from view as the game wore on. Bent ran all day and was unlucky not to score - he deserved better from his team-mates. As for the subs? Bartlett was anonymous, Hughes did nothing but give the ball away, and Spector actually looked committed for the twenty minutes he was on as Curbs switched to three at the back (with Young and Powell as wing-backs).

My first trip to the JJB had not been pleasant. It left me in a foul mood for the rest of the night. I expect Curbs, who lectured the players long and hard on the pitch afterwards apparently, was also in no reasonable frame of mind afterwards.

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