Saturday, December 31, 2005

Charlton win end of year showdown

Charlton Athletic 2 West Ham United 0

Charlton battled their way to a victory at The Valley today against a reasonable West Ham team, and ensured that 2005 at least finished on a happy note. Front pair, Shaun Bartlett (see pic) and Darren Bent scored in a two-nil win, to leave the Valley faithfull far happier than the East End Hammers fans.

Alan Curbishley had to make two changes from the team that lost gallantly to Arsenal on Boxing Day - Chris Powell coming in to the defence in place of Sorondo, and Dennis Rommedahl replacing the suspended Murphy. Both inclusions resulted in changes to positions - Hermann Hreidersson moved back to centre back to accomodate Powell, and Radistan Kishishev moved inside for the flying Danish winger.

West Ham had a number of injuries, but Shaun Newton and Paul Konchesky both returned to former home turf, and received warm handclaps from the home fans before the game. West Ham lined up 4-4-2, and looked much as Charlton did a few seasons back. Ex-Addick Alan Pardew has obviously learnt from Curbishley, and has a committed team that works hard, and tries to make up for a lack of flair with passion and fitness. It was a real throwback to see Shaun Newton playing wide right, and then later moving to right full back as West Ham chased the game, much as he had done many times previously at The Valley in the red shirt of Charlton.

West Ham started the brighter (as most teams do when playing Charlton these days) and almost scored within the first minute. It took Charlton over ten minutes to have an attack and then the game settled into an end-to-end battle with chances falling to both sides. It was West Ham who created the better ones though, and looked the more likely to score. Reo-Coker was controlling midfield, and Marlon Harewood (see pic, with Kish) up front eager and dangerous - Charlton's first goal then came as something of a surprise. Darren Bent was first to a clearance out wide right, and turned his man. He made ground then hit an early cross to the far post, past the retreating West Ham central defence, and found Shaun Bartlett who clipped the ball high into the net off the underside of the bar.

Charlton then had another two chances immediately afterwards, but first Rommedahl's shot was turned past the post by Roy Carroll, then Bartlett missed his volley-kick when well placed. On both occasions, referee Graham Poll got the resultant decision wrong, giving a goal kick after Carroll's save, and a corner from Bartlett's volley. Bartlett and Holland then had further efforts blocked when well placed to score later in the half.

West Ham had the last good chance of the half, when Shaun Newton brought a good block from Thomas Myrhe.

Charlton started the second half much better, although the game was still fairly even. Rommedahl's deflected shot hit the post and bounced safely away, and Myrhe was off his line swiflty to collect through balls aimed at Harewood.

Darren Bent scored Charlton's second goal midway through the half, rising majestically above a static Paul Konchesky to head a Chris Powell cross into the corner of the net.

Hammer heads dropped visibly after this goal, and it was then merely a case of seeing if Charlton could hang on to a two goal lead. Changes to tactics tightened up the midfield with Rommedahl brought tighter inside, and Lisbie replacing Bartlett, and Charlton's defence looked fairly solid.

Hreidersson had a header from a corner well saved; Lisbie turned and shot just wide from close range, and Bent had a shot blocked by Ferdinand's head.

The last real scare for Charlton was when their defence failed to react to a clearing header knowing that two Hammers forwards were in offside positions, and that allowed Isreaeli sub Benayoun a free run on goal. His shot did not trouble Myrhe though, and went harmlessly wide.

This was not a great game, but at least the passion and effort seems to have returned to the Charlton team. This is best summed up by Matt Holland (see pic) - not the most skillfull, nor the most competitive, but he ran, harried, contested and blocked all during the game today, and was my man of the match for his sheer effort. Rommedahl, Powell, Hreidersson, Young, and Myrhe also had good games.

Charlton finished the 2005 year with just five home league wins - a poor return. Let's hope 2006 provides more home cheer than this.

The next fixure, barring a repeat of the midweek postponement is at Goodison Park against Everton on Monday. No new injuries seemed to be picked up today, which is good news, and a similar team will no doubt play against the Toffees, though Danny Murphy is available once more after his ban. Hopefully, we can continue the resurgence, and start 2006 as we finished 2005, with a win and three more points.

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