Sunday, January 21, 2007

Handy Amady!

Portsmouth 0
Charlton Athletic 1

Wow! It's been a long, long time coming, but Charlton have finally broken their away day hoodoo in the Premiership and been victorious away from SE7!

Amazingly, it was Amady Faye who scored the only goal of the game (left), against his former club - his first ever goal in English football after almost four years of trying!

This was a wholly satisfying performance from the Addicks, shorn of their best three players through injury (Darren Bent, Luke Young, and Andy Reid), and playing an away game formation of 4-5-1 that allowed counter attack from the basis of solid defence. Alan Pardew must get a lot of plaudits for coming up with the right side for this game, making four changes from the side which was beaten at home by Middlesbrough.

In came Bryan Hughes, Osei Sankofa, Faye, and Jerome Thomas, and out went Ambrose, Diawara (who was man of the match last week), Hasselbaink, and the injured Reid.

Charlton played well from the start, and dealt with the abuse hurled in the direction of Ben Thatcher quite well. Maybe this difused the pressure on other players?

Chances were created at both ends - Andy Cole missed a few opportunities to give the home side the lead that he may have taken in his younger days, and Rommedahl put over some good crosses that Charlton forwards failed to convert. From one, Marcus Bent connected well, but rather than go for goal he chose to set up Hughes who just failed to connect with the headed pass. With more confidence, Bent may have scored?

Rommedahl continued to cause problems for Portsmouth in the second half, knowing he could leave Djimi Traore dead for pace whenever he wanted. He broke clear midway through the half only to delay and allow Campbell to make a saving tackle. Again, with more confidence, we may have seen better end product from the Dane rather than another wasted effort.

With just over ten minutes left, Faye took a pass from Thomas, and played a one-two with Hughes on the edge of the area. As two Portsmouth defenders converged, Faye scopped the ball goalwards, over David James and in at the near post. His delight was obvious!

The remaining time was spent defending, making substitutions - Thomas, Bent, and Rommedahl all being replaced by more defensive minded players as Pardew looked to hang on to the win.

As the game went into injury time, a cross was headed goalwards by Cole but Carson made a great diving save. Scotty definitely gained Charlton a couple of points by making that save.

At the final whistle, the players hugged and smiled; it has been a long time since they have ground out such a result away from home.

Three points bring Charlton ever closer to West Ham (just one point ahead), and now Wigan (who play today) are just a win in front. Sheffield United - who lost at Reading - are now only five points ahead. It is unfortunate therefore that the next three games are equally tough, as any gap may widen again before the next crucial game comes along (against West Ham, in five weeks time).

Having written off Charlton's chances of surviving this season out of the bottom three last week, it would be stupid to change my mind after this one win. The result does bring a glimmer of hope, and with no game next Saturday, a chance for injured players to get back into contention. Bolton have a tough cup game next Sunday, and play Charlton just three days later on 31st; after being spanked 5-1 yesterday, they may not be in the best of form if Charlton have key players back and can put together a decent game plan for the visit to the Reebok.

After that, nobody expects anything from games against Chelsea and Manchester United, even if the Russian-owned team have defensive frailties themselves (goal-glut anyone?).

There are still fourteen games to go till the fat lady sings; that's plenty of verses to learn, hear, listen to, and sing along with before we know what sort of a summer we will have.

Wigan's tame home defeat today has completed an unexpectedly positive weekend for the Addicks.

With the bottom five cut adrift, it seems safety might just about be achieved with less than 40 points.

Those two home games with Sheff Utd and Wigan are so vital that I am nervous even thinking about them.
Wigan were very frail today. I think they and Sheff Utd could be the ones to hopefully go down. Sheff Utd had a shocking time at Reading with all the controversy. Lets hope Arsenal put Bolton through their paces in the cup game on Sunday
All the home games are crucial, but Hammers, Blades, and Latics are going to be even more nail biting. Reading and Newcastle are games we can get points from, and even Spurs may have other things on their mind when we come to play them?

Away games at Watford and Man City could prove fruitful too.

There is a long way to go yet, and all is not lost, it's merely difficult to locate!

If we gained 15-18 points from those eight games, could that be enough to save us?
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