Sunday, November 11, 2007

Wham, Bam, thank you Sam!

Charlton Athletic 3 Cardiff City 0

Three more points for Charlton in a good win over an average Cardiff team, and a good week incorporating three wins and three clean sheets.

Two goals in first half injury time - from Sam Sodje and Chris Iwelumo - set up the victory, and a third from Zheng Zhi ten minutes from time made sure the points were homeward bound.

As expected, Jose Semedo came back into the side after suspension in place of Therry Racon, and Alan Pardew opted to try the 4-5-1 line up at home.

The first chance fell to Iwelumo very early on, but he just failed to convert a Reid cross. As the game settled, Cardiff created a number of opportunities but failed to get much on target. Hasselbaink drew a save out of Weaver following a free kick routine, and other chances went wide, mainly after some horrific defending from the Addicks. On several occasions, routine clearances were either missed, or failed to clear the penalty area, and Charlton could have easily been behind at this stage. In addition, one penalty shout was turned down by the otherwise excellent referee, where if the teams had been reversed, all mayhem would have ensued so blatant did it look.

Alan Pardew changed the formation midway through the half, switching ZiZi up front to play almost alongside Iwelumo. This opened the game up more and gave Andy Reid more time and space to work his magic. Mills and Basey got forward at every opportunity, but most shots seemed to go high and or wide. ZiZi did have the ball in the net following a great move down the left, but the goal was disallowed for pushing by big Chris.

Shortly after the additonal time board went up at the end of the first 45 minutes, Charlton scored; a free kick by Reid was aimed at the near post for Semedo, but he just missed it and it ricocheted across the six yard box to Sam Sodje who crashed home the loose ball - his first goal for Charlton. Almost immediately, a long Mills clearance was pursued by ZiZi and with defenders and goalkeeeper almost together on the edge of the penalty area, the ball came back to Iwelumo to drive home from outside the box.

At two nil up, Charlton went in much the happier team, although I did feel a little sorry for the away side (but not too much!), as they could have been in front with luck on their side.

Iwelumo then missed a right foot volley after being set up by Reid very early in the second half, and Charlton settled back into a counter attack formation, and soaked up the pressure. Hasselbaink headed wide, but little else troubled Weaver.

It was really a case of if Charlton's defence would hold, or we would would see a return to the silly season that categorised the August games, and then if the Addicks wanted to build on the win and score more goals. Ambrose came on for the hard working Lloyd Sam, and soon after a free kick on the left proved the undoing of Cardiff once more.

From my one-off seat in the upper north (I swapped with a friend so he could bring his boy; picture taken well before kick off), it was a great opportunity to see if the free kick ploy whinged about by opposition managers really was used, and if it worked; and the answer is yes! Basically, the player you see who stands in a blatant offside position prior to the free kick being taken (in this case, Jerome Thomas) has a very important job to do - he blocks off the marker of the intended target.
As Reiddy whipped the ball in, Thomas retreated and gave the nearest nudge to the defender (travelling in the opposite direction) just in front of ZiZi, allowing the ball to get to him to head home. It could be very difficult for a referee to give a foul, as the contact was minimal, but it certainly prevented the defender from getting clear run, and allowed Charlton to score the third. Thomas timed his retreat perfectly, and at no stage was looking at the ball, just the defender he needed to "take out".
One up for Pards on this, as I'd never noticed it before I had a great view ten minutes from the end yesterday!
ZiZi does seem to love scoring at this end of the Valley, and he celebrated enthusiastically - his black eye obviously didn't stop him seeing the ball and heading it in!
McLeod and Varney came on for cameo roles as the clock ticked down, and Thomas could have scored a fourth too, in the last few minutes, following great solo run, but he was nudged aside just as he chose to shoot.
Overall, the whole team played well - Weaver was commanding; Mills and Basey were solid; Sodje excellent at winning headers; Reid imperious; Thomas and Sam skillful and elusive; and Iwelumo and Zheng full of running.
The win takes Charlton back up to second place, eight points behind Watford. The management now have a couple of weeks to clear up the injuries and get the whole squad fit, and hopefully this international break will not result in three consecutive losses as the last one did. The team head to Deepdale in two weeks to take on Preston, and the fit-again Matt Holland and Chris Powell will further strengthen the squad, as the hard push before Xmas begins in earnest.
I'll be at Deepdale, as it is one ground I have not seen Charlton play at before - it will be number 83 on my list of league teams I've seen the Addicks play away. Hopefully, we'll get another win and clean sheet.

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