Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Point of Order

Charlton Athletic 0
Reading 0

No goals, but at least two points have now been gained over the Easter period, and that is enough to keep Charlton out of the bottom three, at least until Saturday (when West Ham meet Sheffield United).

Last nights tough match saw Charlton come closest to scoring when, as early as the fifth minute, Talal El Karkouri headed Darren Ambrose’s right wing free-kick against the underside of the bar (above). Sadly for us Addicks fans, then ball bounced down on the line and was cleared with no Russian linesmen in sight.

It was all so competitive, and quite open too, which is quite strange when from memory relegation fights tend to lead to dour, negative play. Not this season!

The bright opening soon gave way though, and Charlton were not helped when Hermann Hreidarsson went off injured (why does he always run off when he is hurt?!?), to be replaced by Thatcher, soon to be followed by Marcus Bent, who does seem to be lasting less than a half at home matches recently! Matt Holland came on in midfield with Zheng Zhi moving up front as a replacement for big Benty. Alexandre Song also got himself booked for a wild kick at Sidwell that led to a small flare up, and with that Reading became fired up, and Charlton slightly embarrassed.

Graham Poll, who gifted Fulham a very late equaliser on his last refereeing stint at the Valley, seemed to be trying to balance things up at first, but soon he had both sets of noisy supporters howling for his head with a series of poor decisions. The linesmen, who both seemed to be over-awed by the man with the whistle, certainly did not help the teams, or maybe Poll just tells them to only give throw-ins and offsides? Or perhaps they were in fact Russian, and this was the real reason why they could not communicate with the man from Tring?

Carson made a good save late in the half to deny tricky Korean Ki-Hyeon, and half-time came with Charlton hanging on a little.

Charlton’s oriental obviously had a good talking too at the break from Alan Pardew (left) via his translator, as Chinaman Zheng Zhi seemed transformed in the second half. He at last started to latch on to passes and headers from Darren Bent and shooting chances came along every now and then. Song was tricky but suffers from the Arsenal disease of trying to walk the ball into the net when shooting is a better option. Jerome Thomas was at his frustrating best; easily having the beating of the full back, but seemingly incapable of getting in a decent cross. He did run out of steam a little toward the end too. Darren Bent looked better this week too, but even he didn’t connect well when he did get a shot at goal.

All this while, the defence was hanging in there, and almost everything that was thrown at them was rebuffed. Diawara was cool and blocked many efforts with some part or another of his anatomy; Thatcher was a little off the pace, but did not lack effort; Young is back near his best, and could have scored in the first half (with a near replica of the goal he got at Watford) had the ball been on his stronger side; and El Karkouri battled away even when Lita was smashing him in the face. When they were beaten, Carson looked assured, even though three times he did have to dive full length as shots whistled wide of his left hand post.

With Song still having a major tussle with Sidwell in the middle of the park, Pardew withdrew him in case Poll decided to get a red card out. This gave us fans a chance to see the enigma that is Kevin Lisbie for twenty minutes; I would have said play for twenty minutes, but that might be lying! SKL (Super Kevin Lisbie) could have been a great foil for Dazza, but KL (the mere Kevin Lisbie) chose to hang out wide on the left and not become involved at all, merely chasing the odd ball down to the corner flag when he could be bothered. Maybe Rommedahl, even with his own issues and insecurities, would have been a better option at that stage? That number 12 shirt on all the season ticket literature could really be up for grabs next season after all...

A late header by Zheng brought hope, but a good save, and the whistle went without a goal. It was clearly a frustrating evening, evident by the contretemps in the West stand as fans started to leave and a steward decided to be big, brave…and confrontational.

Other results went quite well, but the bottom of the Premiership would have looked rosier for the reds if they could have scored tonight. As things stand, the team still need at least one win, and possibly two, to stay up, plus another point from somewhere. With games away in the north-west at Everton, Blackburn, and Liverpool, plus a home fixture versus Spurs, this may be tough. The Sheffield United home game is looming ever-larger as a absolutely must-win game.

But then, this is Charlton, and we are used to doing things the hard way.

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