Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Charlton Athletic 1 Hull City 1
Norwich City 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Having been away for Chirstmas, I missed posting anything about the Hull home game on Saturday. I'm not sure I could have written anything sensible about the game immediatley afterwards; suffice to say it was a very poor game.

The "highlights" were, firstly, Madjid Bougherra's equaliser, which was a long way from my seat and scored from a crowded penalty area where I have no idea what happened except that Magic was announced as the person who stabbed the ball high into the net; and secondly, Danny Mills sending off.

Today, Charlton picked up their second draw of the week, away at Norwich, and again saw a defender sent off - this time Sam Sodje. Charlton's goal was scored by Zheng Zhi (above), but the ten men couldn't hang on and honours ended even. I was travelling home in the car at the time of the match, and luckily Radio five kept me abreast with developments, and the point was welcome if not fully deserved.

Bearing in mind the current injury crisis, plus the suspensions, a couple of points from these two games is no bad thing, and it does keep Charlton in fifth place in the league, and hopefully safe from relegation by the end of January.

The other good points to come out are ZiZi playing through his calf injury, which threatened to keep him out of both matches; The Magic Mans (left) first goal for the club on Saturday, and his reasonable (it seems) performance at right back today; Nicky Weaver making important saves at last, which have won points in both games; McCarthy coming back into the team and looking a better player than he did in August; and skipper Matt Holland leading in exemplary fashion.

The bad points are obviously having to play around 90 minutes in the two games with only ten men on the pitch; not a good thing when half the team are carrying injuries, and the rest look quite simply tired! Pardew needs to ensure that discipline starts in the changing room, and not just when the ref bandies cards about! Chris Iwelumo has valiantly limped through most of both games though he came off at half time today. Hopefully, he can make another appearance at Leicester on Saturday. The bad continues with the other injuries; Ambrose was missing today physically, and he might as well have been on Saturday too for all the work he put in; Varney was ill on Saturday but played 90 minutes today, mainly out wide right; Sam missed the second half on Saturday but came back as a sub today; Racon was a sub too, having recovered enough to be named. We still need others to come back - Basey, Moutaouakil, Reid, Thatcher, and Gibbs - if we are to mount any sort of challenge at the top of the league.

Also without much good in them must be the refereeing performances; nobody is questioning the two sending off, but overall, the level of the men in black is fairly poor, and bordering on farcical at times. One wonders what the refs in the two lower leagues are like?

And then we get to the plain ugly...

I haven't yet seen Sodje's two footed lunge from today which led to his red card (left), but it did seem like a pretty dumb thing to do. Thankfully, Jon Fortune is available again after his suspension at the weekend, so it shouldn't hurt the team too much. I remember reading something by a prominent player who said that they used to get sent off on purpose around this time of year so that they didn't have to worry about being away from family at Christmas; with Fortune and Mills not having to travel today, I hope Pards made sure they were required to do double doses of training!

By far the ugliest thing though, was Danny Mills "performance" against Hull on Saturday. Dis-Misses Mills should be ashamed of himself, but although he says sorry on his website, that really doesn't come close to appeasment.

Mills played for Hull last year on loan, and there is obviously "history" with some of the players. Maybe they didn't like him, or maybe he doesn't like them. Whatever. On Saturday, he became involved with Caleb Folan early on, shouting out in agony well before any elbow came near him. Bryan Hughes outrageous kick just before half time wasn't deserved, but Mills milked it by staying down as if shot, then lashing out when a Hull player tried to "help" him to his feet. Eventually, another second half altercation led to his booking, and then he finally got himself sent off. I didn't see anyting wrong with the Hull players challenge on Mills which left him in a crumpled heap, and when it was obvious the ref didn't either, Mills was soon on his feet and walking in the referee's direction. I don't know what he said, but the referee had been lenient with him all afternoon, until Mills over-stepped the mark. Red card; carry on walking Mrs Mills!

Mills had "announced" before the game on his own website, that he throught that this would be his last home game in a Charlton shirt. Apparently the money men couldn't agree anything, so he would not be staying after his loan ended on 31st December. I doubt Manchester City wanted much in the way of a transfer fee (maybe £500,000?), so it seems it was down to signing on fee and wages. With the club in no way guaranteed to go back up to the Premiership, his current salary of, I guess, around £20 - 25,000 a week was not feasible, even though I'm sure he was offered decent terms (maybe £15k?).

Sadly, the everlasting memory of Mills in a Charlton shirt will be that of a man who was a decent player, but one who got sent off when he stopped winding up the opposition players and crowd, and started on the officials. In a few choice words, he undid all the good that he had brought in over the last twenty games or so. How can Alan Pardew go back with a better offer now? See ya Danny Boy! I guess the next time he plays at The Valley, we will be the ones boo-ing him...

Half way through the four game Christmas league programme, and we are unbeaten. A result on Saturday plus a win against bottom club Colchester next week will look good, and when we think of the apparent problems we have (which, reading the message boards are - a poor defence, lots of injuries, and no decent strikers...), maybe it's not so bad after all.

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