Sunday, March 30, 2008

This is the End....My Beautiful Friend

Charlton Athletic 2
Wolverhampton Wanderers 3

Well that’s it; the end of another season.

Alan Pardew’s men can now relax as they have little left to play for over the last month of the term – too far off a play off berth, and with too many points in the bag to seriously have to worry about relegation. Even if that relaxation brings five wins (or five defeats!) from the remaining five games, it just will not be enough to matter either way.

A poor first half, where at least Charlton were on level terms meant all was to play for in the second half, and boy, did Charlton go for it! Wolves hardly got out of their own half for 30 minutes as the pressure was built, the crowd lifted, and the Addicks piled forward. Henessey made excellent saves from a Halford free-kick heading for the top corner, and a Lita burst and shot; other chances went begging, or just wide.

Then it all started to go pear-shaped. I wrote last week about Paddy McCarthy giving his attacker half a yard start in chases down the channels and this was again true when EBanks-Blake was left to run after a ball down the right hand side. The former Plymouth forward was first to the ball but had Paddy at his back. Not for long though, as the puffing Irishmen soon had the ball behind him and E-B was nowhere to be seen, having bedazzled him with a sublime piece of skill. The Wolves player wasn’t finished though, as he strode along the bye line and into the penalty area unchallenged before bringing the ball out a few yards and thumping it past a static Nicky Weaver on the goal line and into the middle of the net. It probably was Wolves first attack of the second half.

Although plenty of the 23,000 crowd left at that point (actually, it may have been 23,000 tickets, but no-way were most of the seats full at this match, and I suggest that only 17,000 were in the ground to watch), Charlton did keep going for the last ten minutes. It was slightly surreal because it went very quiet and the players knew that the season was now over unless they could score twice. Wolves had further chances as Charlton pushed on, but then with two of the four minutes of added time elapsed, a long ball forward was headed into the net by Leroy Lita. Our Reading loanee had received some terrible stick from a supporter a few rows behind me all game, and celebrated by ripping off his shirt and sprinting all the way bare-chested to the Charlton bench! He was booked for this of course…

It may have been a mistake, but the remaining crowd urged the team on. A Wolves foray came to nothing, then after Weaver had been pressed to clear the ball so we could have one last attack, another punt over the top by a Wolves defender left the Charlton defence retreating. This time, Weaver had plenty of time to run out and clear from the right back position, but for some reason (hair not being quite right to be on camera; thinking about cream cakes waiting for him in the dressing room; haven’t taken responsibility all season so why start now; who knows?) he chose to just scan the players moving toward him and retreat daintily backwards to his goal line. A Wolves player got there first, crossed to the far post, and Henry slid in and clipped the ball past the once-again static Weevill and into the middle of the net. It was heartbreaking for Addicks fans, and at least five players on the half way line (presumably the forwards?) looked distraught. The final whistle went very soon after the re-start, and the fans, many of whom will not be back this season, left the ground.

In the first half, Ebanks-Blake had given Wolves the lead when Halford was left to deal with two attackers on his own. He couldn’t, and E-B shot powerfully home from the edge of the area (left). Halford himself nicely equalised after half an hour or so, when he side-foot volleyed home after a cleared corner kick was played in again. E-B then hit the inside of the post, and Charlton had done well to go into the changing room on equal terms,

Ambrose did not appear for the second half (Zheng Zhi having sufficient energy to come on as sub and complete 45 minutes after his monthly Air Miles requisition this week), and Jerome Thomas limped off with twenty or so minutes to go to be replaced by Lee Cook. Luke Varney came on when Charlton fell behind near the end with Semedo sacrificed.

So where should Alan Pardew go from here? Well, we have a big squad, with good youngsters. He really should be looking to give players like Danny Uchechi, Harry Arter, Scott Wagstaff, plus the likes of Grant Basey, Kelly Youga and Paulo Monteiro a chance to show what they can do in the first team during this seasons remianing games. These players are the clubs future, along with other youngsters out on loan and doing well – Josh Wright, Aswad Thomas, Therry Racon, etc. There really isn’t much point in persisting with Ben Thatcher, Lee Cook, Jerome Thomas, Zheng Zhi, or many of the other players who will not be plying their trade at The Valley next season. He doesn't have to play them all at once, just bring them through for a start or a sub appearance. I'm sure the senior players left out won't mind swanning off to the beach or golf course a few weeks early.

We had a go this season, but a whole load of things made it a poor season – referee’s who didn’t like us; Pardew’s tinkering with the squad; the weather (!); too many French-speaking defenders; Pardew’s tinkering with the squad; injuries; the sale of Andy Reid; Pardew’s tinkering with the squad; inconsistency; Pardew’s tinkering with the squad; having more interpreters in the dressing room than players; and lastly Pardew’s tinkering with the squad.

Next year, we need to be better prepared, have distinct tactically plans, a set style of play, and a firm base on which to work from (that Pardew isn't allowed to tinker with!). I cannot see much transfer money being made available, other than that generated by player sales. It might be nice to hope that Leroy Lita and Greg Halford are part of our squad next season, but unless we can raise £5 million somewhere, I doubt that it may become a reality.
One last thing - the player of the year voting started yesterday. With internet votes counting, it may be that Zheng Zhi's millions of followers in China influence the outcome in his favour. If there was a non-internet vote though, who would we see holding up the cup?
Paddy? Nah - too many errors, even if he gave his all.
Reidy? Doing a good job for the Mackems now so don't waste your vote!
Ambie? His name is not apparently on the voting form!
That leaves just one player then - Captain Clean-Pants: Matt Holland. Go on, you know he deserves it.

I’m off for a good cry now…

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Harry Arter won't be able to make a contribution this season, or the beginning of next probably. Ruptured achilles tendon this week, just restarted training too.
Good post Marco
Where do we go from here because I cant see many players to build a new squad around.
My beer keeps getting topped up, it must be all the tears.
Sorry Pedro calling you Marco it must be the disappointment or old age.
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