Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Charlton Athletic 2 Derby County 2

The result may be hard to take, but there were a huge amount of positives to come out of the entertaining game at The Valley last night.
First, the passion and effort shown by the players matched that of the crowd - both could not be faulted!

Next, the Manager - Phil Parkinson - showed he is not afraid to really freshen up the team, and if senior pro’s are not performing, then they will be dropped in favour of fresh faces.

Then there is the fact that the point gained has taken Charlton off the foot of the league, which is something that few fans would have been predicting a week or so back…

Individually, most players had good games last night -

Elliott was comfortable in goal (it’s the first time I have seen him play), confidently calling for crosses, and booming a big kick down field at every opportunity; his overall distribution was much better than Weaver’s. He didn't have much chance with the penalty (although he has a good record..) or the late, late equaliser, and was only called on to make one real save which he did with aplomb.
Martin Crainie probably had his best game in a Charlton shirt, winning tackles and headers frequently. His distribution is still a problem sometimes, but last night it was at least improved, and he did offer an attacking alternative on occasions (though not enough!).
The central defence of Mark Hudson and Jonathan Fortune was solid, and relatively untroubled in open play all night. Sadly, it was Hudson’s deflection on a throw in that took the ball onto Jose Semedo’s arm for the equalising penalty, but he prevented plenty of other chances. Suffice to say that the "danger" of Luke Varney running them into the ground and banging in goals never materialised.
Grant Basey took over the left back duties, and he had a fairly easy night; nearly all Derby’s attacking came down the left wing toward Crainie. Basey delivered his free-kicks and corners well, and they do create danger. Again, the only black spot was that it was his deflected header which fell for Ellington to score the deep-into-injury time second equaliser, though you cannot really blame him for that.

In midfield, Semedo was a bit quiet early on, before getting more involved and making tackles; our Portugeuser swung over the cross that Andy Gray controlled and scored from after 34 minutes (top pic). Nicky Bailey meanwhile certainly seems to have learnt from his poor form and was determined not to be caught in possession in this match. That did mean that on nearly every occasion he got the ball he simply launched the ball forward over the Derby defence for Gray, Martyn Waghorn and Hameur Bouazza to chase, but at least it was positive.

On the right, Lloyd Sam was back near his best; lots of step-overs and jinky runs, Sam nearly scored the first goal capitalising on a fluffed clearance before lashing the ball against the post with the keeper well beaten. That does sum up Lloyd sadly, so much potential but not enough end product. Where Lloyd did excel was in holding the ball, and his set up play near the corner flag, when no other Charlton player came anywhere near to helping him for several seconds, allowed Semedo to cross from his layback for Gray to score the opener, and in the second half, Sam’s run, cut back, and cross was thumped home by Waghorn to give Charlton the lead again (above).

Bouazza again had a mixed game, showing plenty of effort and lots of skill, but as with Sam, his finishing needs to be a lot more clinical. While a free kick early in the second half - after he was pulled back by a defender on the edge of the area - was only just off target (too high), seconds later he blasted over after being sent free with just the keeper to beat. Profligate to say the least, and when Charlton need the return most!

In attack, both Gray and Waghorn had decent games. Waghorn ran into good areas regularly, even though he was obviously troubled by a dead-leg (or similar) all evening. Hopefully he will have recovered by Saturday. He took his goal well, even though it deflected past the keeper (off Connolly’s arm?), and on another day, could have had more. Gray meanwhile ran his heart out once more. When he has confidence - which his typically well taken goal will have given him - he is a much better player. He held the ball better than he has done for many a month, possibly learning how to do so from Deon Burton? The referee did Gray no favours all night either...

The two subs that were used, Burton for a tiring Waghorn and Keith Gillespie tactically for Sam did OK, with Gillespie putting in a few late crosses.

Sadly, the last goal of the game came very deep into injury time (according to Sky, it hit the net after four minutes and five seconds of added time, with the board indicating a minimum of four minutes...), and it really was the kick in the teeth that Phil Parkinson described. Three points would have made a huge difference pre-Xmas, but at least the one point gained means we are not bottom anymore. Perhaps if Parky had used his last sub in injury time then the referee’s whistle may have gone sooner, but we will never know.

Just a few words on the crowd figure announced which was almost 21,000; I was shocked when I checked the figure given for the Coventry game, as there must have been at least 7,000 no-shows, and last night was not disimilar. The visiting Forest fan spread over four seats in front of me looked bemused and aghast, checking out the many rows of other unfilled red plastic, until I told him that it was tickets sold or given away that were counted. I suppose the fact is that it looks good to have the second highest Championship crowd of the weekend, but the reality of that is a lot less were in attendance once more, and it is quite farcical to give out these figures.

Moving on, the team that Parky now has looks like the one that he will need to favour in the next few weeks, either side of Xmas. With McEveley out injured, and Primus due to go back to Pompey any day, Waghorn doesn’t now have to worry about the five loan player rule, especially as he is staying an extra month. Basey is favoured in front of Youga it seems, while Matt Holland, Nicky Weaver and Svetislav Todorov are senior players who are now just fringe team members. The eleven who played with heart and passion last night must be given the opportunity to continue the better form shown, and that’s what I expect to see on Saturday barring unfortunate injuries.

This may just be the corner we have been looking to turn, or it could be a long bend that we still cannot see the end of; whatever it is, we will get round it soon.

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Seems Andy D'urso does not like Andy Gray - who was being mugged all night but got the calls against him.
The dead leg was a deliberate off the ball foul by their thug Powell to slow Waghorn down and the referee clearly saw it and all he did was 'have a word', when he should have at least got a yellow and the one he eventually got would have sent him off.

Seeing some positive signs from the team, though!
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