Saturday, March 08, 2008

End of the Line

Charlton Athletic 1 Preston North End 2

I don’t know how many adjectives can be used to describe the average football match, but any used in respect of Charlton’s performance in this match will all be negative.

Let’s look at the players individually (because that’s how they played, as single entity and not as a team…) –

Nicky Weaver – He did OK, and didn’t have much chance with either goal conceded. He made one excellent second half save after the defence went AWOL once more. Kicking was not good, but no worse than some others.

Greg Halford – A shadow of the player he is supposed to be and who made his debut at The Valley just a month ago; his distribution was once more appalling, and he often passed straight to the opposition. Not good enough for a place in the side on current form.

Kelly Youga – The breath of fresh air he brought to the team in January has gone bad. Youga whacks the ball skywards far too often, and failed to take responsibility on numerous occasions today. He has possibly played his last game of the season in the first team, as fit-again Ben Thatcher will be preferred from now I think.

Paddy McCarthy – Scored a scrambled equaliser fifteen minutes from time (top pic), but was too often caught the wrong side of his attacker, and was left to chase down the ball from a poor position. Failed to take responsibility when in possession and often left others to play the ball forwards. Didn’t get close enough to Brown when he scored the winner after 78 minutes, even though it was a carbon-copy of a chance that McCarthy had blocked a minute earlier.

Sam Sodje – Sodje was lying prone on the ground when Preston scored their first goal after 14 minutes, so cannot take any blame for that. He won plenty of ball in the air but some of his positioning was very questionable, and his distribution was not good enough.

Matt Holland – Once again a player who ran himself ragged and tried his best, but with so many others around him playing badly, he had far too much to clear up and didn’t have the best of games in a congested midfield. Came close to scoring near the end with a volley that was saved.

Zheng Zhi – This man needs a rest! He tries his best and has plenty of skill, but he just looks knackered. Often caught in possession, his passing was off-form, and a late chance to equalise was wasted by poor control when well placed.

Lloyd Sam – The only player to get any credit from the game, and that was because he went off injured after just twelve minutes. I suppose we could blame him as Preston scored immediately he went off!?! It was a strange decision to start him in place of both Jerome Thomas (who was dropped) and Scott Sinclair, but I’m sure Pards had his reasons…

Darren Ambrose – Pretty anonymous during open play, Darren seems only interested in taking free-kicks and corners these days. His set play product has improved, but sadly it seems that he has not told his team-mates where he is going to direct the ball, as they were never anywhere near on the end of anything he played in…

Leroy Lita – If Leroy (left) had a problem with his Manager at Reading, he may now have one with his team-mates at The Valley. Lita got zero service that he could use, and the players around him simply didn’t seem to now how or where he wanted the ball. Finally worked an opening for himself late in the second half and his shot was deflected for a corner.

Luke Varney – Another strange game for the former Crewe man; he ran lots of channels, and actually got free to put a shot in early on (though it would probably have gone for a throw in if it hadn’t been blocked…), but Varney was then substituted at half-time by Pardew. Why? Who knows? Pards obviously thought he had made a mistake in picking him in the first place.

Scott Sinclair – Came on as sub for Sam after 13 minutes, but was completely useless all game. I really thought he might be a good player, and I couldn’t understand why Pards wasn’t starting him after he came in on loan from Chelsea, but the simple fact is that at 18 he has a lot of learning and improving to do if he is to be a Premiership player in future seasons, rather than just another might-have-been. Crossing was poor, he was all right foot, didn’t pick up his man when defending, took up poor positions when free; send him back Pards!

Andy Gray – Half time sub Gray did what Gray does best; he held the ball when it was played up to him, and flicked it on when he couldn’t hold it. Sadly, there was nobody to play around him, and much of his product went to waste. Still hasn’t scored since 1st December when he hit two goals at The Valley (against Charlton!). How he can be voted the second best player in the Championship is beyond me…

Chris Iwelumo – Played the last eight minutes when Pards last desperate throw of the dice saw him take off Halford. Actually won a free kick – his first of 2008 – which was a surprise, but this was quickly passed all the way back to Weaver to punt forward.

Alan Pardew – Serious questions are now being asked of our manager: why are we still searching for a team shape in March? Why does his starting eleven regularly get compromised at half-time? Time to earn your salary Al…

The crowd – Bolstered by the ranks of two visiting US-based Charlton bloggers (who must have been as disgusted with the fare on show as the rest of the 24,000 plus Charlton fans), a bright start was followed by deserved moans and early boos at half-time. Bearing in mind the play didn’t improve, it was hard to ask the crowd to get more upbeat, though they did try on a few occasions. I cracked up when the two blokes behind me queried why anyone starts to whinge when watching Charlton, as “it wasn’t necessary”, especially when they are two of the biggest moaners I have ever sat near at football matches! It also doesn’t help when the subs are boo-ed when they get up after ten minutes to warm up! By full time, only around ten thousand Addicks fans were still in the ground, and they were the silly ones!

So here we are, slipping back into sixth place in the league, and tenuously hanging on to a play-off place. I know it is a gut reaction, but I really hope we don’t make the play-offs as we would have absolutely no chance of progressing and the disappointment may be better handled in March and April than in May.

Expect major personnel shake-ups in the next game at Burnley on Tuesday.

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An excellent analysis Pedro -the only thing of excellence I've seen since 3pm today.

I'd disagree about Sinclair - he made a good run and a good pass, which places him head and shoulders above the rest.

I'm really, really trying to be patient with AP. But its not the losing that hurts so much as the totally abject performance.

Pembury Addick
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