Monday, April 17, 2006

From the ridiculous to the sublime...

Charlton Athletic 2 Portsmouth 1

For 78 minutes, almost every Charlton fan who was at The Valley today would have said it was the worst performance of the season. Bearing in mind some of the pigs-swill that has been served up over the last few months, that was saying something. One nil down, no apparent hope, all subs used and just twelve minutes left...

Then it all changed. With Hermann Hreidersson a spectator receiving treatment by the corner flag, Darren Bent turned and broke free down the inside right channel, cut inside the centre back, and squared the ball across the six yard box for Bryan Hughes to oh-so-simply sidefoot Charlton level. The whole momentum of the game changed in that single moment of magic from Charlton's top scorer.

Alan Curbishley had started the game by recalling Chris Powell and Jerome Thomas and leaving out Chris Perry and Jason Euell. But things didn't quite go to plan personnel-wise...

Soon, Marcus Bent had pulled up when chasing one of those oh-so-frequent punts down towards the corner flag that our defence seem to specialise in. In his place came Jay Bothroyd. Not long after that, Jonathan Spector made a hash of a clearance, and as he retrieved the situation to concede a corner kick, he fell awkwardly and was carried off after dislocating his shoulder. In his place came Osei Sankofa, almost three years after his last outing in the first team.

Portsmouth took the lead after half an hour; D'Allessandro working space on the right wing before curling a sublime shot into the far corner. Myrhe had no chance of getting anywhere near it as it arced high into the net. Our Tommy has now seen three great long-range shots whizz past him this year (Viduka, Parker, and this one...).

The team were playing awfully, with no coherence, a lack of imagination, painfully dull, and inept too. At half time, the booing must have influenced Curbs, and Darren Ambrose warmed up on the pitch and came on at the start of the second half in place of the extremely poor Jerome Thomas. Quite frankly, six or seven of the players would have been substituted if that had been allowed! Ambie immediately set about linking with best mate Darren Bent, but poor service helped little.

Myrhe saved well from Todorov as Pompey seemed to be cruising to the three points, then, finally, Charlton clicked, and scored.

Harry wasn't happy at all... With the scores level, the injured Hreidersson became an extra centre forward, due to his lack of running power that would have been a problem in defence, but this actually worked to Charlton's advantage. Ex-Charlton youngster Linvoy Primus, who had won almost everything in the air previously, suddenly found big Hermann a handful. Bent's pace out wider was too much for Pamerot, and even the lethargic Bothroyd started to up-the-anti and show willing.

With five minutes left, Hreidersson flicked on for Darren Bent to burst into the penalty area and smash a shot past Dean Kiely. The Valley erupted, and for the first time in the afternoon more noise came from the three home sides than the Jimmy Seed stand housing the Pompey travelling support. Ambrose then burst clear after another Bent flick but just failed to raise the ball sufficiently to get it far enough over Kiely, who scampered back to save. Charlton survived the last few minutes, although not without scares, and another three points were safely tucked in the bag - Redknapp well and truly mugged! Charlton moved up to eleventh in the table as a result.

It is tough to call a man-of-the-match on this performance... Sorondo was good, as was Powell, and sub Sankofa. The midfield struggled all afternoon to cope with D'Allesasandro, O'Neill, and Davis, so none of them win the vote. So I guess that, over the last twenty minutes and because it had such influence over the result, Dazza wins hands down. He did get booked after removing his shirt in the wild winning goal celebration along the west stand touchline, and I hope that caution doesn't come back to haunt Charlton in the Fair Play League standings.

I doubt if Curbs will think much of his players performance today - it is unlikely that Spector will play for Charlton again this term (he can't play in the season finale at Old Trafford anyway...), and there must also be doubts about Marcus Bent and Hermann Hreidersson for Saturday. Those that step up to the plate will need to be at their best with tough, physical games coming up at Bolton and at home versus Blackburn. The fact is that the whole team need to be playing better if they are to get any more points this season.

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