Saturday, December 27, 2008

Double Baileys with Ice

Charlton Athletic 2 Queens Park Rangers 2

A real game of two halves this one - for forty five minutes, it was more interesting to watch the vapour trails made by the high altitude jets flying overbove than watch Charlton struggle to get anywhere near par with a confident Rangers team. Apart from Jose Semedo's first minute shot which went wide, the Addicks had little to offer as the hoops sat back, absorbed Charlton's weak attacks, and then broke with speed and purpose.

Such was the half time gloom that it did seem a better option to sit in a warm place than brave the now regular cold weather and another 45 minutes of rubbish football. So to be able to come away with a draw after a rousing second period was great, even if we still didn't win and even if we have fallen to the bottom of the league once more.

Although the referee had a pretty good game in my opinion – letting the game flow whenever possible and being very consistent with his decisions - it was two contentious refereeing decisions that led to both of Rangers goals.

After 19 minutes, Hameur Bouazza contested a bouncing ball on the edge of the Charlton penalty area but was deemed to have raised his foot too high, or so I thought. It was a debatable decision originally, though the referee did not give an indirect free kick (which he should have for foot up) so maybe he saw something else that we didn't? The result was that ex-Addick loan reject Lee Cook curled the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net.

Even at that early stage, Rangers seemed to think that a one-nil lead would be adequate, and though they pressed and threatened at times, they were not exactly pushing for the key second goal that would have killed the game off. Rob Elliott had to be alert on a couple of occasions but he didn't have to extend himself to keep the score close.

One hilarious moment came when the Rangers fans sang for their new Portuguese manager to give them a wave. Paulo Sousa knew that they were singing his name, but not what else he could hear, so he rather sheepishy asked his "interpreter" and then did what he was asked.

Charlton for that matter offered little, though I'm sure that they could understand the fans shouts. With defenders unwilling to take much responsibility (bar Jay McEveley who was a welcome addition to the starting line up on his return from injury - for Grant Basey - even if he was a bit rusty at times...), all we seemed to get were high punts towards Andy Gray or Martyn Waghorn that are meat and drink (seasonal fare!) for the tall Rangers defence. The booking count did favour Charlton at half time three to one, including a yellow for Connolly for stupidly kicking the ball away just before half time.

Out early in the second period, and no doubt with a flea in their collective ear for being so lacklustre, the Addicks started brightly, and quite soon got a deserved equaliser. Lloyd Sam had seen plenty of ball in the first half and though he had the beating of Connolly, he had failed to make best use of his possession - a usual failing for Lloyd. This time though, a flowing move from wing to wing - mainly along the ground for a change too! - came to Sam who created space for his cross and - heavens above - he picked out a Charlton midfielder breaking into the box, where Nicky Bailey headed home (top pic).

All of a sudden, the Charlton side were hunting in packs: Bailey and Semedo snapping at the ball and ankles; Sam tracking back and helping Crainie; McEveley surging forwards to overlap Bouazza; and Hudson and Fortune looking solid.

Sam put over plenty of crosses, and his were the more accurate than Bouazza's who seemed to over hit nearly all of his efforts. Bailey had an effort blocked, and even Semedo threatened to have two shots in a match for the first time in his Charlton career.

Then the referee made his second crucial decision against Charlton: a red throw deep in own territory was headed on but then knocked high back toward the Charlton area. Hudson jumped but Blackstock seemed to get under him and ease him out of the way. This wasn't the first time this had happened in the match, with all players getting away with it, and the ref, if unsighted, did not get any help from the linesman at this or any other time. Hudson fell to the ground, allowing the Rangers forward a clear run in on Elliott in the Addicks goal. No Charlton defender covered possibly due to expecting the whistle for the foul that never came. Blackstock curled the ball around and under Elliott to give the away team the lead once more.

This knocked some of the stuffing (sorry!) out of the fans, but not the team, who continued to fight and attempt to get something from the game. Man-of-the-match Sam carried on his good game, and soon another of his teasing crosses saw Cerny blocked by his own player, and his punch drop for Bailey to dive forward and head into the empty net from 12 yards . Bearing mind Gray's penalties, Bailey is by far the highest scorer for Charlton this season from open play.

Now it was a question of whether Charlton could hang on for the last fifteen minutes or so. Waghorn had been replaced by Burton by now, and Basey came on for the frustrating Bouazza. Rangers threw on all their forwards, and as the four minutes injury time board went up, you hoped we would not have a repeat of the Derby game heartbreak.

Semedo - who had an excellent second half - then made way for Holland, as he was pushing his luck a little having already been booked.

It was one of the subs - Helguson - who nearly did precipitate a spate of SE7 suicides. Good work along the edge of the area gave him a chance to control and shoot past Elliott. Luckily, the shot hit the post and bounced out, but after a brief scramble, it was rocketed into the top of the net off the bar. I must admit to not really knowing what happened next, as my head was buried in my hands looking down, but a brief cheer indicated that the goal was chalked off (offside?), and then after consulting with the fourth official, the referee sent Phil Parkinson to the stands (although he only went back a few rows in actual fact!) for what I do not know.

That stoppage seemed to add plenty of extra injury time, and Charlton survived a few close shaves in those added minutes, until the final whistle sounded to Addicks relief.

A definite point won, but unless we get a result in Sheffield, we will start the new year at the bottom of the league.

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