Sunday, March 18, 2007

ZZ Double Trouble for Geordies

Charlton Athletic 2
Newcastle United 0

Wow; what a result! With the wind pushing them back, it looked in the early stages as if Charlton would get nothing but heartache from this match, but Alan Pardew's team of battlers kept going, and in the second half put on their own pressure that resulted in three crucial points.

Surprisingly, Darren and Marcus Bent were both fit enough to start for Charlton, as did Zheng Zhi for the first time. Hermann Hreidarsson and Souleymane Diawara both returned to the defence too, as Ambrose, Sankofa, and the out-on-loan Fortune missed out.

Big Benty didn't last too long before pulling up lame though, but after a few frantic "discussions" with Pardew, he lasted until half-time. The first half hour was all Newcastle - wave after wave of attacks were repelled by the outstanding Luke Young, along with good play from El Karkouri, Daiwara, and Hreidarsson. In midfield, Charlton just could not cope with Parker and Emre, while Dyer, Milner and Martins made good runs pulling the defence all over the place. Several last ditch tackles prevented shots on target, but having seen Charlton so many times over the years, it was good to get to half time on level terms.

Sadly Alexandre Song didn't make it to half time, becoing yet another apparent pulled hamstring victim, and being replaced by ex-Geordie favourite Amdy Faye (now with just one A in his forename due to a mis-print on his passport!).

With the wind in the second half, Charlton came roaring back, but not before Martins missed the chance of the match screwing wide after controlling an Emre shot on his chest. How he missed the target from just six yards is anyones guess, but that proved the turning point.

A free kick was won on the edge of the box and, as El Karkouri had blasted a similar chance wide in the first half, captain Darren Bent took charge and curled a great shot against the bar. ZZ was first to react and headed (oh so slowly it seemed) the rebound back into the net for his first Premiership goal. Zhi hadn't actually been having a very good game up till then, and he was often out muscled and forced off the ball playing wide right in the first half. He did look much more comfortable in the advanced position he took up after half time, with Rommedahl coming on and playing wide after Marcus Bent went off at the half.

Dazza then had a glancing header well saved, and Charlton really took control. Newcastle had great individual players, but once they went behind, they really didn't seem to have much heart. Damien Duff playing left back (why?) seemed like he had enjoyed his St Patricks night and didn't seem to want to break sweat (in case any alcohol came out maybe?); Keiron Dyer left early for more treatment; Parker lost his cool, as did Solano as Thomas kept tricking him and earning fouls. It was the complete opposite of the first half.

With just a few minutes to go, Darren Bent went off to a great reception, and Super Kevin Lisbie came on as substitute. Very soon, Lisbie was played in and slipped the ball through to ZZ, who was bundled over by Solano. Why Dermot Gallagher didn't send the already booked Peruvian off is anybody's guess, but he did give the penalty. Who would take it now Dazza was back in the changing room?

El Karkouri stepped forward but was beaten to the ball by Jerome Thomas, who coolly sent Given the wrong way (left).

Scott Carson had to make his only save of the game in injury time, and then the points where Charlton's.

Overall, the defence had been solid if unspectacular, though some over-playing did send palpitations through some spectators; the midfield had worked extremely hard, and had settled after half time, enough to win the game overall; up front, the forwards had to wait until after half time for any decent service, but then caused major problems for the Geordie defence.

The win takes Charlton to just four points behind Sheffield United, and two-points closer to safety than they were on Friday.

The belief is there, but it is now another two week gap before the next game (home to Wigan) when, hopefully, Dazza's knee will be OK, and we can carry on the resurgence that has almost everyone believing Charlton can survive and win their relegation battle this season.

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