Sunday, March 01, 2009

...Without a Paddle!

Swansea City 1 Charlton Athletic 1

A point gained from a hard fought match, but things are looking bleak for the Addicks as other teams near the foot of the division all won. The gap to apparent safety is now ten points, and nothing less than six of these are required in the next two home games. In a funny sort of way, the next two matches may now be more difficult than the following two; Doncaster and Watford are winning regularly, while the promotion contenders at Reading and Birmingham (the games after that...) are not exactly setting the world alight presently. That’s for the future though…

Charlton started with just a single change to the starting eleven – Jonjo Shelvey replacing Tresor Kandol, who was absent through a family issue. In some ways, this may have been a preferred starting team anyway, as Shelvey’s tenacity and work rate inproved the tactics at a tough away game.

Shelvey had the first shot of the match, firing just wide from distance, and it’s good to see that now he has committed himself to the club by signing that first professional contract, he has lost none of his flair and desire.

Swansea were not perturbed though, and their passing game caused plenty of problems for the Addicks rearguard thoughout the game. Rob Elliott had to make one very good save early on, and he was protected as well as could be by Darren Ward and Mark Hudson.

Swansea took the lead near the end of the half, when four forward passes – from the keeper to defender, to midfielder, to forward, to the scorer – ripped straight through Charlton and the middle of the park. Dyer – on loan from Southampton – finished coolly past Elliott; it was a clinical and excellent goal.

Half time prospects were not good for Charlton, especially as three players were booked in the first half by the fussy referee, but they started the second half well, with Shelvey again shooting with power and this time drawing a good save.

The game now was pretty open, and Charlton rode their luck and strived for the equaliser, which finally came from Nicky Bailey. A cross was semi-cleared and came to Bailey 25 yards out, and his shot may well have severely troubled the keeper even if it hadn’t taken a deflection, leaving him stranded. Minutes later, Bailey hit the bar with an excellent free kick; he also took a severe blow to the knee, but finished the game well.

The final minutes saw each team look to take all three points, with Swansea creating openings and Charlton counter-attacking. Darren Ambrose (on as sub for Shelvey) had the Addicks best chance when he broke through, but his shot was well saved. The last minute of added time saw a Swansea forward sky the ball over the bar, and the points were shared.

Normally, I’d be happy with this draw, but other results have curtailed any enjoyment. The games against Doncaster on Tuesday, and Watford on Saturday have now taken on enormous proportions and are definite must win games. With Graeme Murty possibly injured (he went off with an ankle knock toward the end of the game), at least one change may be required to the starting team; more if Bailey’s twisted knee worsens over the next couple of days.

The positives are that Shelvey once again showed his undoubted class, and he does seem to be posing more of a goal threat than any of the forwards at present. The issue is finding a front man who is comfortable playing on his own, and capable of holding the ball up so that the midfield can pour forward; Chris Dickson did a reasonable job, working hard in Wales, but will he be able to do so three times in a week?

The ten point gap to safety now looks enormous, and with only a dozen games left, the writing is written largely on the Valley walls – only wins from now not draws will do. It could be an exciting time where scores are close in the last twenty minutes of matches over the next few weeks…

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Sadly no great return for yesterday's efforts. However, keep the faith ! Anyone understand why Spurs best penalty taker wasn't in the top 3 ? Never saw him miss for us ! Well done're a genius !
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