Sunday, September 21, 2008

Evans 'elp Us? No Chance!

Nottingham Forest 0 Charlton Athletic 0

I have to admit I didn’t plan to go to this game, but in an effort to please each other, my wife made the mad gesture of offering to drive, and I nearly bit her arm off!

OK, it did mean we had to stay overnight in a nice hotel in Stamford on the way back, and venture onto a visit to Burghley House today, but with the glorious weekend’s weather, that wasn’t too onerous.

Back to the game:

Pardew chose to make one change to the team that started the previous two games and play a more defensive starting line up with Grant Basey coming in for Andy Gray. On hearing this, I did think it would be Hameur Bouazza who slotted into the role of supporting lone front-man Luke Varney, with Basey on the left, but that wasn’t the case. Basey sat in front of the back four; OK, slightly left sided, but definitely behind the other midfielders.

Quite frankly, the opening twenty minutes or so proved that this was a terrible mistake, as Basey continually got caught out of position, or in possession, and wave after wave of Forest attack put Charlton under pressure. How Forest failed to score is a massive question they will be asking themselves. An instinctive early save from Weaver to a close range header (Earnshaw I think?) prevented the home team going in front, and with the skilful Lee Martin and Bolt-like Nathan Tyson causing all sorts of problems, it was desperate stuff.

Slowly though, after that initial onslaught, the game settled but still without much attacking from Charlton. Bouazza had a couple of weak efforts but Varney cut a lonely figure up front. Sam couldn’t make any headway; Holland was pretty anonymous, and Bailey was closed down quickly. Basey meanwhile struggled to pass to anyone in a white shirt all day. Luckily, the defence, and Weaver, played a pretty solid game. Youga got caught by a Forest arm and nearly lost his rag again, and then got booked for the obvious retaliatory foul, which left him walking a tightrope for the last hour. The last ten minutes of the half showed how poor Forest were though, as every time the Addicks did get forward, there was some pretty average defending and corners became increasingly won (though Basey’s delivery never really threatened a chance coming).

Quite amazingly then, Charlton managed to get to half-time on level terms. I think the consensus was that as Forest looked so vulnerable, we must bring on Gray (or Dickson) to give us a chance of winning all the points.

This didn’t happen though, but at least Charlton started much better, and actually put the home team under quite some pressure. Maybe the players knew if they didn’t start to perform they would be yanked off in favour of someone else, so they did actually play OK. Varney became a threat, and his pace was a constant second half worry to Forest. Bailey also got more involved, and the full backs ventured forward a little, but still not enough.

There was still time for some last-ditch defending though, and Fortune, Youga and Hudson all had to make good interventions, especially from the speedy Tyson who continued to cause worries breaking from the half-way line all afternoon. From one of these breaks, Fortune got injured, and he was replaced by Ambrose – a bold move by Pards. Basey slipped to left back, where he looked much more comfortable, and Youga switched to the middle of defence. I must admit to being worried by this, but Hudson controlled him, and he did play quite well for the last half hour.

The referee (Evans) was becoming more and more involved; I see Pardew is annoyed by the booking that a defender got when he hauled Varney down late in the first half after a slip when he may have been through on goal (as we were all at the other end, it was impossible to tell if he was the last player or how far away the other defenders were…). A handball - when Bouazza'a header hit a high arm in the area - brought nothing but crossed arms, yet when the exact same thing happened a few minutes later outside the area, a foul was given... At other times, any sort of contact brought out a card, and both sets of supporters were getting frustrated by him.

Possibly the worst piece of refereeing though came when two Forest defenders collided going for a ball leaving Lloyd Sam completely free just outside the penalty area and in on goal. How many refs would have blown up to bring play back at that stage rather than wait the maybe five or ten seconds to see what came of the attack? Most I suspect – it wasn’t even as if the player with the supposed injury was knocked out, he was just sat there holding his head…I guess that‘s what happens when a ref is doing only his second Championship game ever!

I suppose, then, that something had to happen, and when Thornhill, who had been booked, slid into Basey in front of the linesman, who waved his flag furiously, you knew the yellow and then red card would be out of the ref's pocket quicker than Nathan Tyson could run ten yards. That set the home crowd in motion, and nearly all 18,000 supporters in the ground joined in a chorus of “you don’t know what you’re doing!”

With numerical advantage, Pardew could have gone for the throat, but although Gray had replaced Varney as Charlton became increasingly dominant, it wasn’t possible to bring on Dickson as Crainie then came off injured, and Jose Semedo filled in at right back for the last ten minutes or so. Our Portugueser actually had a great last ten minutes, and made more forward runs than Crainie did all match.

Forest were still dangerous on the odd-break, but with Cole on for Earnshaw, the only chance they had was when a cross was fluffed in front of an open goal right near the end. If the home side almost won it, then so did Charlton; Varney worked the right channel, and took the ball right to the bye-line before sending over a lovely cross to the unmarked Gray at the far post. It should have been a goal, but somehow Paul Smith got across and down to make a fantastic save at the foot of the post. I know Gray didn’t get the best power into the header, but you have to say it was a great save rather than a bad miss. If only that had gone in it would have covered up a multitude of things that went wrong in the game...

Five minutes injury time failed to bring a goal, and both sets of fans drew breathe as the final whistle went; it was along way from a boring 0-0 I can confirm.

The concern is obviously the injury to Fortune and with three games coming up next week, and with Primus also out, we are genuinely short at centre back. Of more concern is the tinkering that Pardew continues to do with tactics and playing players in new positions. Basey is a good player, but he was cruelly exposed in the position he was asked to play; any chance of giving him a game in the reserves to test this sort of thing out next time Alan? And if not, why not let Semedo play the role as we all know he is quite good at it!

We still sit in ninth place in the table, which is OK, and we have now had consecutive clean sheets, but I do wonder what might have transpired if we had given the match a bit more of a go from the start.

We will never know though!

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What a great report on all fronts! Thanks very much for that, P45.

Basey played in the=at position at Ebsfleet. He kept drifting out to the left and left the middle exposed.

I assumed that we had finished with that experiment. I have no idea why he would play him there with Semedo on the bench.

I also have no idea why we didn't take the game to Forrest from the off. They are in a terrible run of form. It just staggers belief.
Cheers Pedro

excellent report

Pembury Addick
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