Sunday, February 15, 2009

Je T'aime

Charlton Athletic 2 Plymouth Argyle 0

A well deserved, thoroughly comprehensive, second consecutive home win for Charlton, against a very poor Plymouth team who are in real danger of being dragged into the relegation dogfight. The goals came from midfielders Therry Racon – my one-to-watch (left, with Mark Kinsella after scoring) – and Nicky Bailey in each half, and the Valentine's Day love poured out to them both from fans in the crowd.

Charlton started with just two changes, to defence, where Mark Hudson and Kelly Youga expectedly returned in place of Matt Holland and Grant Basey, and Bailey lined up on the left side of midfield.

The initial skirmishes saw Plymouth waste a decent early chance and saw plenty of long high balls played forward without much accuracy from both teams. It took time for both sides to settle, but then midway through the half, the Addicks started to look dangerous. Chris Dickson had a couple of shots, and Tresor Kandol also fluffed a chance. The first goal came after 32 minutes when Tom Soares took on one defender, but seemed to have taken the ball too far when it clipped the second defenders instep to win a corner on the right; this was disputed and the linesman did take time to confirm the correct decision. While arguments went on, Soares took the corner short to Matt Spring but his low cross was blocked out to the edge of the area. Racon went to shoot right footed, but dummied, bringing the ball onto his left side where he had more time. The Frenchman used it to brilliant effect and curled a lovely shot into the top far corner with the 'keeper left flailing. It was great to see a new goal celebration at The Valley, led by Racon near the corner flag, though some of the teams dancing left a little to be desired!

Immediately though, Plymouth almost equalised with a free kick from the edge of the area which hit the bar. As it came out and was crossed in again, Rob Elliott had to make a very good save to flick the ball off an attackers head at the far post conceding a corner.

Charlton continued to look the better of two average teams, and hung on quite easily until half time.

The start of the second half was frantic, with Charlton having three penalty appeals for handball in the first three minutes of this period. The third (and by no means the loudest shout…) was given by pernickety referee Kettle, and supporters rose to see the rarity of Charlton going two goal in front. Bailey shot well, but straight, and ‘keeper Larrieu saved with an outstretched arm, and the ball was scrambled clear.

The concern was that this miss might let Plymouth back into the match, but Charlton forged forwards, and several attacks only failed due to poor finishing. Bailey himself could have made immediate amends but shot well over, and Spring volleyed high too. Dickson, who improved immensely as the game wore on, broke superbly down the right, cut inside, but when he should really have laid the ball back, he chose to shoot from a narrow angle and the ‘keeper punched clear. Kandol had a similar shot from the other side that was also well saved.

Bailey then made his mark with a well taken goal from a Racon pass inside the full back. Bailey controlled with his body which took the ball wide of the ‘keeper and stroked into an empty net for 2-0. The crowd were now happy, and with 20 minutes left, it was a question of whether Charlton could hold onto their lead, clean sheet, and nerve, or improve their goal difference against this disinterested side.

Plymouth Substitute Steve MacLean had a slight altercation with Kelly Youga, when he failed to move away when Youga tried to take a throw in; words were exchanged, and McLean then got plenty of thanks for his input from those fans sitting near the dug-out in the west stand. Youga had taken about five foul-throws before he was pulled up by the inept linesman/referee, so maybe MacLean was just reminding him to keep his back leg down?

More chances came and went, and with ten minutes left, Phil Parkinson called off the chase and replaced the booked Dickson (left) with Deon Burton, thereby shutting up shop. Burton and Soares still managed to get booked in injury time, but the three points were won.

I thought that the defence looked fairly comfortable throughout, only really looking like conceding when Kandol’s awful back pass gave Fallon a late opening, but he chose to fall over and claim a penalty rather than shoot. Darren Ward and Hudson looked comfortable in each others company, as you would expect, and it was good to see Ward explaining deep into the second half some defensive duty points in a mild-mannered way to Bailey when others may have been more confrontational.

The midfield seemed comfortable without being exceptional; with so much high ball being played by both defences, there was a danger in the first half especially that crooked neck might be an injury concern this week for some of the team. Racon tried to get the ball down and play, but any continued passing coherence was rare.

Up front, Kandol and Dickson’s partnership improved as the game wore on, and Dickson’s pace and skill exposed a poor Argyle side time after time.

For once, the other results seem to have fallen for the club, and Charlton now find themselves only three points from being off the bottom of the league. This win does not mean that the team should think that climbing out of the relegation zone will be easy; it will not, and every winnable game from now in, just like this one, must be won.

Next week, the side travel to Barnsley, who like Plymouth are also in poor form, and sit just one place above the bottom three. This is yet another opportunity to close the gap on the rest of the division, and a chance that must also be taken. The confidence exuded by the experienced team on show was welcome, and provided they play in similar fashion, could see the Addicks climb up a place next weekend. Let’s hope so!

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