Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ambrose Wins a Point

Watford 1 Charlton Athletic 1

A point won, but as Alan Pardew conceded afterwards, it was a game that Charlton could easily have taken all three points from.

Apart from the first fifteen minutes or so, when a first minute header flashed just wide and Francis shot over from close range, Watford were outplayed, controlled, and made to look distinctly second best by a resurgent Charlton team.

The Addicks, on the other hand, had several good chances to score, but sadly almost all were off target - Lloyd Sam twice went very close; Darren Ambrose shot wide once in the first half and had a good shot saved in the second; and Zheng Zhi could have won it at the death when a short free kick was played across to him but he stroked wide from eight yards.

Charlton's equalising goal, a good shot on target in appalling conditions but one which should have been saved, was messed up by the Watford goalie and Darren Ambrose celebrated (above). In the fifteen minutes that remained, either team could have won it, but it was not to be.

Pards started the game by dropping Izale McLeod and Jerome Thomas, both of whom may be on the move in this transfer window, and bringing back into the starting line up Chris Iwelumo, and welcoming new signing Andy Gray with a place on the bench.

The game was a complete contrast in styles, with Watford hoofing the ball forward to man-mountain Henderson, and looking to feed off any scraps. Charlton played the ball to feet and tried to pass the ball across the saturated outfield. After the home teams initial success, the Addicks settled, and started to play some good stuff. The full backs got forward at every opportunity, with Yassin Moutaouakil making at least three surging runs down the right flank. Sadly his crossing was not good in this game, and nothing came of the opportunities. Matt Holland and Zheng Zhi played holding roles in midfield, but linked well when given the chance. Ambrose was key, and Sam seemed to be playing a bit more inside than he usually does, and his first half opportunity came from a flick on in the inside left position, somewhere he isn't normally found. That flashed just wide.

Just before half-time, Davenport collapsed after being landed on my his teammate Henderson, and was stetchered off. It was obviously a quite serious neck injury so chants of "let him die" were not very sensible when attributed to visiting supporters. Nobody wants to see bad injuries in sport, and Davenport did get good appause from most Charlton fans as he left the field.

Early in the second half, Watford took the lead when the ball broke to Ellington and "the Duke" slotted home past Weaver.

Charlton thundered back, and kept trying to score as the rain swept in, but nothing seemed to be falling their way (apart from that rain). Gray (left) came on for his debut in place of Iwelumo, and all of a sudden, we had a centre forward who was mobile, could hold the ball, and play his fellow forwards in. Gray doesn't have the same physical presence as Big Chris, but he could be a very good signing all the same.

In my preview of the Charlton vs Burnley game, I said this of our new signing - "Andy Gray has been around for a few years now, and continues to be a 12 to 15-goal a season Championship player. He’ll never make it in the Premiership, but he needs to be respected in this league." If he can continue to score as he did for Burneley, then we have a genuine threat up front to go with our undoubted midfield talent and we could get close to the top of the division.

Another key player could be Chris Dickson, and he came on toward the end too, and looked lively. He had another great chance to score, when through with just Lee to beat, but delayed and fluffed the effort of rounding him.

Altogether though, an excellent game, a good effort, and some fine support from travelling fans. According to a friend who watched on TV, we make more noise on our travels than we do at home games.

We now have ten days before the next fixture - a massive home game versus massive Stoke! - and this is a time for Pards to do some serious training and team-work, plus play the transfer window game and see if we can improve the squad in order to get higher up the league.

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