Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chasing the Tails

Charlton Athletic 1 Wigan Athletic 0
85 Minutes's still nil nil. The score board flashes up the scores from other Premiership games. Sheffield United have fallen behind at Bolton. A roar goes around The Valley, the crescendo building as fans and players realise that one big effort could put them right onto the coat tails of the team they are chasing. A free kick is played in to the area; red shirts fall to the ground. The referee points to the penalty spot. Dazza strokes the ball into the corner of the net and the game and three vital points are won.
This was a tough game. The strong blustery wind didn't help either team, and Wigan came to make a game of it - no lieing down here. Neither side really carved out a decent chance, and both keepers had just to keep concentrating and get their shorts dirty by other means than diving around. But it was Charlton who emerged victorious, and this could have been due to the fantastic support they received during most of the game.
The clappers, that Peter Varney told the bloggers meeting would be given out, seemed to work well - it was hilarious seeing young kids whacking their clappers onto their dads head as hard as they could - and so did the opera singer again. Sometimes we are so very civilised down at The Valley! Several times during the second half the crowd raised the noise levels in an attempt to lift Charlton from a pretty mediocre display. In my book, these two extra points could definitely be due to the fans!
Pardew had started with Rommedahl and Thomas as the wide players, with Zhi playing in support of Darren Bent. Sadly, the one down side of the crowd was two fans sat near me abusing our Danish wide man consistently during the first half. We all know by now that this is not the way to help the players, and certainly not our Dennis!
With the wind playing havoc with timing of headers, neither side carved out anything worthwhile in the first forty five minutes. Wigan had more of the ball, and plenty of corners, but didn't have much of a cutting edge. Charlton came into the game slowly, and El Karkouri put one free kick well wide and high of the goal. Outmuscled in midfield, Pardew changed things at half time by bringing on Marcus Bent and moving Zhi into the right midfield slot. This helped, but Wigan had the best chance when the ball was poked against the foot of the post after the whole Charlton back line went to sleep and left responsibility to each other. Luckily, the ball bounced the right side and out for a goal kick. Words were exchanged (which is a good sign!), and mentally the players did seem to be of one mind.
With fifteen minutes to go it seemed obvious that just one goal would win the match, and Pardew brought on Ambrose for Holland in an ambitious gamble. Zhi moved positions once more, now playing centrally in midfield. Wigan huffed and puffed, but didn't seem to want to claim anything more than a single point (which would have kept Charlton "comfortably" six points behind them).
The penalty was won, and immediately Pardew switched tactics again, taking off the still fresh Ambrose (great ten minutes Darren!) and bringing on the more defensive Amdy Faye in the centre. Again, Zhi moved wide...
The last four minute, plus three more of injury time were nail-biting and tense. Wigan threw players forward, and humped balls into the box. Second balls were hoofed away by the desperate red shirts. The final whistle blew, and then the scoreboard gave the Bolton match score. Cheers all round!
The results give Charlton a fantastic chance of saving themselves for relegation - a win on Good Friday will move them out of the bottom three for the first time in about six months (or is it all season?). Other late goals prevented it from being a fabulous weekend of results; West Ham are battling to survive, and Manchester City, whom Charlton meet on Friday, have also put back-to-back wins together to pull themselves a little clear of the drop zone. Fulham are also thankful of a late goal that makes them less likely to be drawn into the mixer.
Having looked at the fixtures that everyone has left to play, I do think Charlton can do it. I'm not sure that we will be able to get another ten points, but it is entirely feasible that 36 points may be enough to save the club (though 38 would be a little more safe come last game...).
This was a match that could have gone badly wrong - the team didn't play well (it was tough trying to think of a man-of-the-match...) but still came away with a win. Other weeks, this season, we will not be so lucky, but we must still try, still have belief, still put in the hard miles.
I think we can do it; the players think we can do it; you all think we can do it - so let's just do it!
Onwards and upwards!

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man of the match ? easy , that crazy mother f***** from China. ZZ was outstanding and so consistent AND CONFIDENT when the rest of us (apart from Thomas in places) were showing signs of nerves etc.

Has anyone else noticed the number of Chinese fans now at the Valley ? Imagine if we survive and ZZ stays loyal it should prove a good money winner for CAFC.
He did OK, and is very confident. I've now seen him twice, and he can be knocked off the ball (too) easily, but has excellent skill, and alwasy tries to make a good pass (and not always the hardest one).

I didn't see much nerves (though it wouldn't surprise me if there were some) but felt the wind caused problems and both defences found it hard to cope with high balls...

Certainly we have new (or more) interest from China (see the programme), and the club do apparently have an agreement for ZZ to sign whatever division we are in next year, if Pardew wants him (which we must presume he would...)? Hopefully, you are right in that Premiership football and the Chinese captain equals big wonga for the club concerned!
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