Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wednesday Week Never Happened At All

Charlton Athletic 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2

OK; let’s get this straight – it wasn’t all bad…but the ending was very lethargic and poor.

For the first half an hour or so, Charlton actually played quite well; Linvoy Primus hit the post in the eighth minute; Luke Varney scored after 25 (left); and then Varney hit the same post that Primus had a few minutes later. All Wednesday had to offer was a low free kick that Weaver scooped un-elegantly to safety. The Yorkshire club supporters were starting to get upset, as pass after pass went straight to the home team, and us local lads had smiles on our faces.

Then it all changed –

Varney went into a hard but fair fifty-fifty challenge, but came out the aggrieved party; he kicked out at the prone Wednesday player and a small fracas ensued. Varney was booked when he could so easily have been sent off by a less lenient referee - possibly evening out some of the luck we haven’t had from referee’s so far this season. Charlton are never good in fights, and it started to show...

A few minutes later, Wade Small set off on one of those runs from the half-way line that you dream about as a footballer – allowed time and space, he waltzed past static Charlton defenders until he was in the box, then hit a good cross-shot back into the far corner of the net. He isn't a Theo Walcott but he was made to look like him! The Owls supporters erupted and you could see the Addick players’ heads drop. It was the first goal Charlton had conceded in over 200 minutes play, but such are the low levels of confidence, it was enough to change the game.

Next to take advantage was Marcus Tudgay; he didn’t have to run quite so far but he too found Charlton players (Bailey, Holland, Primus, and Hudson) willing to let him run across the face of the box without too much of a challenge and then he poked home into the same corner. From being in control to having no control in just three minutes.

Early on, Primus had met the first Addicks corner (taken by Bailey) with his head and the ball looped onto the post and bounced to safety. For the goal, Varney was first to react after a free-kick was headed up in the air and his scuffed shot after it dropped beat the keeper on the line. Varney then battled his way onto a ball and shot past the keeper but saw the ball rebound from the same post already hit and Gray volleyed the high bouncing ball wastefully over.

At half time, and losing, fans knew that it would be a matter of time before tinker-man Pardew switched things around in an attempt to get back into the game. Sure enough, after another fifteen minute of toil and effort, but no great impact, off came Primus (possibly getting a bit tired anyway in his first senior start/game back after over 18 months out injured) and Gray (who tried but made little headway all afternoon) and on came Ambrose and Todorov.

Now here Pardew did create a first – I haven’t seen Matt Holland play centre back before! You would have thought that Holland would switch to right back (where he has ended up on occasions) and Crainie would switch inside, but no…

Varney had fired a snap shot just wide early in the half, and Ambrose did similarly after he came on. Bouazza fired over too. Bailey got involved, which was good as he had a poor first half, but Lloyd Sam was still very ineffective. Ambrose thumped a free kick straight at the wall. The referee blew his whistle time and again and the fittest man in the ground had to be the Wednesday physio who ran on every couple of minutes to help stricken blue shirted players every time they stubbed their toe on the ball or felt a little out of breathe.

The game degenerated into a nothing match, with the ball taken to the corner flag by the blue team to run down the clock, and there were few chances at either end. Todorov (who looked way short of match fitness still) fell deeper and deeper, Sam did get involved in the last ten minutes (but it was all too late by then), and Pards brought on Basey for Crainie allowing Youga (who had a poor game from a passing/distribution perspective) to move to another new position on the right side. Basey’s passing was just as bad as last week at Forest, and he had a loud demonstrative argument with Varney (who was the one player still running his socks off and winning headers…) after one less than perfect pass forward from the back that gave the ball straight back to Wednesday.

As four minutes injury time ticked off, Charlton finally got the ball away from a corner flag and into the opposition half. A corner was won and I thought it great that Nicky Weaver, a Wednesday-ite all his life, trundled forward to hope to score against his boyhood team. Sadly, we then saw a corner kick that simply summed up the whole problem with Charlton at this time. Bouazza’s dead ball swung behind the goal-line before it even reached the space where Weaver was waiting forlornly…quite pathetic.

Another home loss.

The best thing I suppose about the game was the crowd – not only did it beat the magical 20,000 mark (by a couple of hundred) thanks to many more Wednesday fans travelling down than I expected (about 1800 or so), but the atmosphere throughout was good and loud. Well done lads! The worst thing, apart from the result, was that the two blokes behind me were in very talkative mode throughout and felt much of what they witnessed was hilariously funny…If I was picking a man-of-the-match, it would probably have been between Varney and Holland, who both gave everything all match without much return.

The last time we had three games in a week, we came out with a win, draw and defeat; if Charlton are to achieve a similar return from this three-game week, then they will have to raise their confidence and play a hell of a lot better than they did yesterday at The Valley.

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