Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bad Day for Big Chris

Colchester United 2 Charlton Athletic 2
A point apiece, from a very eventful afternoon at Layer Road, was just about a fair result, and moves Charlton up to fifth place in the Championship.
Standing in the middle of Terrace 4, a Home Fan only area, surrounded by North Essex youth (plus some of the older guard too) was certainly entertaining, and on a positive note, in no way threatening, to this Addicks fan. Unable to get more than one away end ticket, my friend who lives locally (a Chelsea fan) bought two tickets from Colchester, and we stood amongst the locals to watch the game. I've been in amongst the home fans on several occasions before (notably at Millwall and West Ham), where you soon learn that you smile and clap in all the right places (only), just in case anyone is watching the crowd rather than the game, so this held few terrors for me. The local songs were fun to hear, as was the perception of Charlton as a team from the locals who really have no idea about Premiership football - a totally different world away it seems.
It was the first time I had stood, willingly, at a game for many years, and I was quite astonished at how different the game looks from this angle when compared to the positive luxury of a Valley West Stand Lower seat. Not only did those taller than me get their big heads in the way of the action on numerous occasions, but pylons holding up the stand made seeing the whole of one goal (at the away end) quite difficult! I suppose this is balanced by fans who stand at inopportune moments at Valley games, but at least you have the option then of rising to your own feet yourself if need be.
The game soon settled, with the home team falling into a long ball game, and Charlton trying to pass and move, and play their way forward, a complete contrast in styles. Early chances went to Ambrose, a free kick that was comfortably over the bar, and a Thomas charge from the half-way line that ended with a poor, weak, shot. Semedo and Zheng Zhi were controlling midfield, and the defence looked sound. As Charlton passed and passed, they finally broke through after Ambrose and Todorov combined well, and a cross to Iwelumo should have put them one up. Sadly, big Chris marked his return to Layer Road with a good shot that hit a defender planted on the goal-line, and the ball deflected to safety. It should have been a goal, and Chris took some stick from the home crowd after that miss.
It was some surprise then that the home team took the lead after half an hour. The ball broke for Sheringham forty yards out, and his delightful chip through to ex-Spurs youngster Yeates was thumped past Weaver and into the far corner of the net.
Just over five minutes later, the up-till-then anonymous Kevin Lisbie rose to head home a corner. This goal from the ex-Charlton forward had been widely predicted by the blogging community, and previous sesasons videos of Chelsea away (the last minute Jorge Costa debut game goal) will remind overseas Addicks of what it was like. Two nil down and not for the first time this season, a fightback was required.
With Charlton obviously rattled, the home fans knew how important keeping the two-goal lead was until half-time; luckily for the Addicks, Iwelumo threaded a ball through to Todorov, and he did the rest, stroking home to beat the keeper at the near post. A 2-1 half-time score gave Charlton hope, but only if Pardew could shore up the defence.
His decision was to replace Jerome Thomas (who obviously left some of his energy behind during an eight hour stint in a Bournemouth police cell in midweek) with Andy Reid, who had been rested after flying around Europe with Ireland all last week.
Reid, who took over the captain's armband from Chrissy Powell when he came on, immediately started to run the game, and Colchester could do nothing as the little Oirish fella tried to pick out passes through the heart of their defence.
Lisbie did draw a great save from Weaver, as some penalty area pinball fell nicely for him, but then, finally, one of Reid's passes ripped through the U's defence to Iwelumo. As big Chris turned to run in on goal he was clipped by the last defender, and after the linesmans flag signalled the foul, it was inevitable that Connolly would be sent off.
Thereafter, it was all Charlton pressure; Reid had a free kick saved, and there was plenty of last ditch defending. Big Chris's bad day then got worse, when he limped off injured, to be replaced by the now fit again Luke Varney. Varney's debut soon showed what an asset he will be, as he challenged and won a ball in the air, followed it up bravely, and stood back and admired Zheng Zhi's swivel shot (top) that scorched into the back of the net bringing Charlton level. With twenty minutes left, there seemed only one winner.
Todorov was the next to be injured, and he too limped off - Lloyd Sam coming on to the wing with ZiZi pushing forward alongside Varney. And then Jon Fortune also took a knock, and was a passenger for the last fifteen minutes or so (moving from the back to midfield, and eventually up front, with first Semedo, then Zhi going backwards). This evened the game up in terms of active numbers and both teams settled for a draw, especially as the referee came under increasing pressure - from both teams and the crowd - which saw him make a series of fairly bizarre decisions.
Bearing in mind some of the (awful) defensive play from McCarthy, the nature of Danny Mills winding up everyone who was there (some of his challenges could have been deemed by a better referee as way OTT), and Andy Reid losing his rag a little with the ref too, it was a releif when the final whistle went.
I left Layer Road thinking that a point was a fair result, and that with all the refereeing shenanigans, at least we don't have any suspensions to worry about in the near future.
Worryingly though, with Iwelumo, Todorov, and Fortune all receiving knocks during the game, they may not be fit for Tuesday nights game agaunst Norwich. After standing for three hours on the terrace, and being sore and tired myself, I'm not sure I will be recovered enough either, so I'll be taking a seat in the stand this Tuesday if that's alright!

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Nice report Pedro, not sure if fortunes absence would be something to mourn on Tuesday
I thought Fortune and McCarthy were both awful The really sad news is that McCarthy isn't injured as well. We are really wasting our time hoping for promotion with this defence. There are enough teams of average standard in this league who will take full advantage of our inability to defend.
Quite agree with anonymous. Pards has nobody to blame but himself for the fact that we have no decent centre backs (with apologies to Sodje).
I cannot believe it but there were honestly times yesterday when I wished we had El Karkouri back.
We have what we have, and Bougherra and Sodje will now be pushing for a starting place on Tuesday. Pards is not scared to make changes, but let's hope the enforced ones come at the right's a long season, and all the squad will be required at various times.
To be fair to Pards, I think Diawara leaving was a real blow. He would have been quality in this division and helped massively either McCarthy, Fortune or Bougherra.
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