Monday, April 16, 2007


Everton 2 Charlton Athletic 1

Although my preview blog said that I didn’t think Charlton had much chance of getting a result at Goodison Park yesterday, two things gave me hope prior to the game.

The first was when I read, on Saturday, that the referee was to be Mark Halsey. Mr Halsey is a well-known Bolton Wanderers fan, and does seem to favour teams that are nowhere near Bolton in the league, and therefore a threat to their league placing. In past years, Charlton have struggled when Halsey has been in charge in the past, as we were usually competing with them for places (and therefore money) in the middle of the league. Now that Bolton are flying high and have dreams of a Champions League place, and being pursued by Everton (and not Charlton), I hoped that we would at last benefit positively from the refereeing decision in this game. Alas no…

The other positive hope for me was during my marathon journey home yesterday. During the first bus-leg of my car, train, bus, train, train, train, and bus trip back to South London, on a gorgeous day, I saw a sign that pointed to Charlton Way. As this was about ten minutes before kick off, I immediately had hope that our methods would prove valiant! Alas no…

As I was in transit, with little hope of listening to the game on the radio on Cup Semi-final day, I made the decision to stay out of the media network all day, and hope to see the highlights of the game on Match of the Day 2 without knowing the score or anything about the game. Successfully I made it to 10.30 without hearing anything, even refusing to look at text messages in case they spilled any beans (they did…), and settled down to watch as Andy Chiles gave the programme intro. I saw a picture of Alan Pardew bemoaning a missed chance (by the look of it) as Chiles spoke of life near the bottom and the necessity of getting results. Then the semi highlights were shown followed by the Wigan vs. Spurs 3-3 draw. At least that meant a win for the Addicks could put them up to the heady heights of 15th or 16th!

And so to the main match (in my opinion): news that Thatcher, Hughes, and Faye all returned to the team in place of expected injured duo Hreidarsson and Marcus Bent, plus Jerome Thomas, who had also been struggling with a knock.

The highlights were quite brief, but not as bad as the 30-second cameo’s we seemed to get last season!

Not much seemed to happen in the first half – El Karkouri deflected a shot on to the post with Carson beaten, and then it was into the second half. A couple of Everton chances came and went, subdued by stout Charlton defending. Holland replaced Faye; Beattie came off for McFadden. Bent fluffed an effort wide. Zheng missed a great chance to score from a corner when unmarked at the far post, completely mis-timing his shot from six yards. Everton had a couple of chances but couldn’t score.

With ten minutes left, an Everton attack wasn’t cleared properly and when the ball came back into the box, Carson had to make a great save. Sadly for Carson and Charlton, the ball rebounded to Lescott, who prodded home unmarked. Could Charlton bounce back? More highlights…so hope. Hasselbaink and Bougherra came on for Hughes and Thatcher.

Darren Bent wriggled through the penalty and shot across Howard and into the back of the net. Yes! 89th minute we are told. Was that it?

Now when I watched the Watford away game on TV a couple of months back while on honeymoon, I really wanted another clip on the goal highlights so that we had a chance of equalising (having been 2-1 down). After Luke Young scored in that game, I knew – because it didn’t say final score on the scoreline caption – that there must be another goal. You can usually tell by who has the ball or is attacking which team is likely to score next. A couple of months back, the next clip showed that Charlton had a free-kick, so I was quietly confident that we would get a goal and a point from that game, and so it transpired.

Last night though, it was Everton who were on the attack after Dazza’s equaliser; no final score mention on the scoreline caption must mean something was going to happen…

Sure enough, another aerial attack into the Charlton box, and it’s only cleared to the edge of the penalty area. McFadden shapes to shoot, but Bougherra has raced out to block him. McFadden dinks the ball over the Algerian and larrups a left foot volley into the bottom corner of the net; Carson had no chance. Alas…

The players sank to their collective knees; the effort showed in getting an equaliser, but then losing it well into injury time was cruel on them.

New York Addict has blogged this season about how a win and a defeat are better (points wise) than two draws: Therefore, shouldn’t managers be more adventurous in seeking those extra two points when the game is level late into the second half. The argument is sound until you see the despair on the players when they lose what they have worked so hard to gain from a game, albeit only one point.

We can all point to games won in injury time (Blackburn at home being the best positive example this season), and late winners are great when you are victorious. But they do hurt like hell when you lose. We’ve had a few games where late goals have influenced where the points went in this mad-season and we have had the better of these late goals – Wigan, Watford, Villa, and Blackburn all went for us, and then Sheffield United and Fulham (plus Everton yesterday) went against us.

It’s still a bit early to do what ifs, but if you took away Graham Poll’s late, late error in the Fulham home game, and Charlton had won that game 2-1, we would have 34 points, and would sit level with Sheffield United, Wigan, and Fulham. We would still be third from bottom, but I think maybe a lot happier and confident than we are now about avoiding relegation.

Saturday now becomes yet another in the long series of make or break games we have played in the back end of this season. Sheffield United, two points ahead of us, will come looking for a point, buoyed by their own thrashing of West Ham (who are surely doomed now…); we must win. What Pards needs to do is lift the heads of the team and make them believe all over again – no easy feat.

We don’t have big Hermann anymore this season; we haven’t got big Benty either. What we need to replace them is big hearts being worn on big sleeves; shirts with big chests; big support; and lots of big, big luck.

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We have been net beneficiaries of late goals this season. Although we lost three points in total at home to Fulham and yesterday, we have gained seven from very late goals at home to Blackburn, Wigan and Villa, and away to Watford.
I think we're pretty much all square on late goals this season, in real terms. You can say we have gained seven points from four (Blackburn, Wigan, Villa, Watford) and lost four from three (Sheff Utd, Fulham, Everton). But you also have to take into account the points gained/lost by the other team(s), especially the late goals for Sheff Utd and Fulham (only against Wigan has a late goal for us resulted in a point being taken away from a team which might replace us in the bottom three). If we end up one point below both of these two ....
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