Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Page Three Girls

Charlton Athletic 4 Stockport County 3

It’s never dull being a Charlton fan! In an astonishing match, Charlton advanced to the third round of the League Cup despite some atrocious defending which allowed Stockport to fight back and score three second-half goals.

Alan Pardew picked an experimental looking team, with Darren Randolph finally given a chance in goal, Jose Semedo at right back, and with Amdy Faye and Therry Racon both getting games in midfield. Lloyd Sam played on the right wing, with Zheng Zhi operating wide left. Up front, Izale McLeod played in front of Svetislav Todorov.

The game started with Charlton well on top, and imposing almost incessant pressure on a County team that played with only one forward. It did just seem a matter of time before Charlton scored, and after 35 minutes, Todorov took a pass from Semedo in the inside right position, checked past his marker and thumped the ball into the top corner from twenty yards. Five minutes later, the busy Izzy McLeod broke down the left side of the penalty area only to be bundled over. A penalty was awarded and Izale grabbed the ball; nobody else was taking this kick! Sadly, his effort was not as high as his confidence, and keeper Logan made a good save. The referee then ordered the kick re-taken; whether this was for encroachment, or the keeper had come off his line, or the ref gave another penalty (as McLeod was felled again in the follow-up) I don’t know. This time, Zheng Zhi had hold of the ball and walked purposefully forward. Calmly, he chose the other side (above) and the goal gave Charlton a two-nil lead, much to the County players chagrin.

It was then that the blue shirted team had their best spell, as the Addicks settled back into holiday weekend mode, but the half time whistle went and a comfortable victory for the home side looked assured. Two second half subs by the away team signalled a change in tactics, and a 4-4-2 formation for Charlton to face.

Ten minutes into the second half, the game changed: Semedo gave the ball away needlessly, and as the defence chose to stand still, a reverse pass saw two County forwards clear with just Randolph in front of them – Proudlock stabbing home. Shortly after, more poor defending allowed County a close range shot which Randolph superbly saved one handed at the expense of a corner. All the Irishmans good work came to nothing though, as the second ball into the area was lashed home by Elding, and the sides were level.

This Charlton team will certainly have a healthy goals for and goals against total come next May!

Minutes passed with Charlton stirred by their defensive incompetence, but it was Stockport who scored again to amazingly take the lead. Blizzard drove home from just inside the area after some pinball action that Roger Daltrey would have been proud of.

Pardew had to react, and off came Therry Racon, who had shown good skill and some nice touches, if a little short of full fitness during his first outing, and the out of sorts Izale McLeod, who may have been sulking after missing his first half penalty. On to the field came weekend hero Chris Iwelumo to bolster the front line, and Darren Ambrose; Zheng Zhi also pushed further forward at this point.

Tactically, Stockport slipped back to their starting position, and it was all Charlton for the last fifteen minutes. Lloyd Sam made yet another good run, this time more centrally, and he was fouled near the edge of the area. He was the only player near the ball, so you knew he would shoot, and what a goal it was as he curled the free kick into the top corner from 25 yards. Iwelumo then hit the bar and the ball was volleyed into the net but the whistle had already gone for a foul. Then Todorov curled a great effort onto the bar once more from well out wide on the left. Even Jon Fortune wanted a piece of the action, charging forward to fire on target from 40 yards – his effort easily saved.

In this pulsating tie, there had to be another twist or the game would go to extra time. Sure enough, Sam’s last minute corner was met by a thumping McCarthy header at the far post, and Charlton were in front going into injury time. Breakaways gave the home time more opportunity in the three added minutes, but finally the whistle went, and the Addicks had made it to page three of this years League Cup.

My man of the match went to Lloyd Sam (left), just, in front of Todorov. Toddy had the skill and experience, but the home-grown starlet was key in pushing the side forward at every chance, and it was great to see him score his first senior goal. Racon also played well, as did the classy ZiZi. McCarthy and the anonymous Faye had poor games, and both look short of what is required at this level, let alone anything higher.

My exit from the stadium was brightened by the sight of one of Charlton’s higher profile players, who did not play last night, being sat in his black baby Bentley (yes, it's true!) alongside the Stockport supporters’ coaches, and not being allowed to pass by the police as they had closed the top of Floyd Road while fans left the ground. Let’s just say that he wasn’t very happy, and had that look on his face that he has when he scores a goal (i.e. he wasn’t smiling!). I’m sure he’ll be back in the team on Saturday as long as he hasn’t been clubbing too much this week…

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