Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spring-Time Comes Early!

Charlton Athletic 1 Croydon 0

Well, the monkey has finally jumped off Addicks backs. It may not have been pretty, it may not have been conclusive, but we won, and for the first time in 19 league games.

In all honesty, the game itself was too tight for much goal mouth action; too close for sweeping moves and good passing; and way too petty for young referee Atwell (he of the goal that wasn’t at Watford!).

The only goal came from Matt Spring in the fourteenth minute: Lloyd Sam was found out on the left wing, and for about the third time in the match, he sent over a decent cross. This one cut out the keeper and Andy Gray and Deon Burton both converged on the far post along with their markers. A defensive header went upwards and the ball took an eternity to drop around the penalty spot, where amazingly nobody else was. In charged Spring, steadied himself and then lashed the volley straight into the back of the net (left). The Valley erupted like it does in these games, and the players celebrated.

Any rebound and/or worry about a failure to hold onto the lead soon dissipated, as Charlton more than held their own in the half. The midfield battle was being won, with Gray dropping back to help at every opportunity, and Burton won and kept plenty of possession, even when Atwell failed to see him being fouled. Mark Hudson, who was fit to play (but only just!) won nearly everything in the air, and when he didn’t, Jonathan Fortune, Graeme Murty and Kelly Youga swept up any resulting danger. Nicky Bailey battled alongside Sprint, and Tom Soares, playing against his former team, even made some good runs down the wing without much support.

Half-time came and went, and though the visitors made changes early in the half, Charlton still hung on. Rob Elliott in goal hadn’t really made a save. Then Fortune hurt his ankle with half an hour still to go and he had to go off; to his credit, even though he could hardly stand, he wanted to carry on, but Matt Holland deputised. This was just after the oppo had brought on another ex-Ipswich lump in attack, so there were fears about an aerial bombardment, which was justified. Holland revels in such moments though, and his leaping for headers was excellent in the rest of the match, only marred by one poor clearance from the right back position which put the team straight back under pressure. Urged on by the crowd, the team hung in, and with Chris Dickson on for the tiring Gray, and Basey on for Sam on the left, it was all hands to the pumps.

Elliott made his first real save with his legs at the near post, but the best late chance came after Spring had broken with a three versus three attack; ever the professional, he chose not to lose possession in going for goal, and instead took the ball to the corner flag where the linesman annoyingly gave a foul against him for shirt pulling. When a similar situation arose a minute or so later, Dickson ambled toward the corner flag in similar fashion. However, maverick Chris then burst between two players and into the area unchallenged. Should he shoot or cross for a poorly placed Burton? Chris crossed (sorry!) and the ball was deflected clear; it was a good chance.

Five minutes injury time was signalled, but Charlton carried on seeing it through, wasting time when they could (Elliott and Youga were booked for time-wasting…and I think Youga now gets a suspension?). Then the final whistle went amid wild celebrations off the pitch. I didn’t see the on-field antics, but I gather that Elliott(left), Kinsella, and Holland were to the fore.

One swallow doesn’t make it spring, and one Spring win doesn’t mean safety for Charlton, but it is a start. I finally looked at the league table last night for the first time in at least two months -I didn’t see the point when we weren’t picking up any points… It still looks desperate, especially as other teams near the bottom also had good results last night, but…well, why can’t we go 18 games unbeaten when we have just gone 18 games without a win? OK. I don’t believe that either, but maybe eight wins and four draws will be enough to save us? It is not impossible!

With the news that Fortune may be out all season, and with Murty and Hudson carrying injuries that could still keep them out at the weekend, a decent new defender is now a higher priority than ever; hopefully the promised imminent signing will fit that particular bill?

This result was a start; there is still a long, long way to go, but at least Parkinson has his first win, the experienced team played pretty much as we have been asking them to, and the monkey has departed. Bring it on!


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