Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lightning Strikes Twice in Same Place Shock Horror!

Charlton Athletic 2 Cardiff City 2

It is just so frustrating when exactly the same thing happens twice, especially when you would hope to learn from previous experiences…Such, Charlton threw away another two-goal home game lead, conceding the equaliser in injury time once more. Hence the boo’s as the team left the pitch. It’s not that we played badly, but the frustration of fans certainly boiled over at that point, especially as you could see that it would happen from the sidelines, and yet the management failed to do anything to prevent it.

Going into the game with the same team that started on Saturday, Charlton started the game under quite intense pressure from Cardiff. As suggested, they were the team that needed the result, and who apparently wanted to win more. Always first to the ball, Cardiff closed down the Addicks midfield, and simply gave Zheng Zhi, Therry Racon, and Jonjo Shelvey no time on the ball. The wide players also found it hard to get involved, and Cardiff had plenty of possession in that opening twenty minutes. Then Charlton, bouyed in the knowledge that they had defended the high balls up to ex-Addick Jay Bothroyd well, and dealt with the second balls bouncing around too, started to find more space. Racon started to get his pass off; ZiZi had time to look up; Shelvey made runs and was given the ball; and Lloyd Sam finally got some service and weaved his way down the line a few times.

This better play actually paid off, too! Sam’s long cross getting to the far post where Shelvey (left, celebrating) stole in and poked home just after the half hour mark. It was Charlton’s first real effort on goal, and made Rob Elliott’s two first half saves – one from a Chopra break and good shot before Charlton scored, and another from Ledley which he turned onto the bar to keep Charlton in front – all the more important.

At half-time, you knew that Cardiff would up their game, and it was always going to be a case of if Charlton could hang on. To their credit, Charlton continued to play quite well as the second half progressed; the visitors continued to bombard the Charlton box with high balls, hoping to seize on any knock-downs. Any Addicks attacks became less frequent, as Shelvey dropped deeper in an effort to find the ball, and Deon Burton became over-powered by the Cardiff centre backs. Bothroyd did get the ball in the net, but the linesman correctly flagged for a high boot, which had deflected the ball past Elliott initially.

Tresor Kandol, now well again after illness ruled him out on Saturday, came on for the tiring Burton to see if he could hold the ball any better. He did OK, but generally struggled to hold the ball long enough for team-mates to arrive, such was the depths to which Charlton had retreated.

With ten minutes remaining, Charlton did get some relief, and a rare corner was won on the left. Shelvey, who by now was playing on the right with ZiZi pushed farther forward after Matt Spring had come on for Sam, swung the ball over, and the weak clearance fell between two Cardiff players for Nicky Bailey to smash home on the half volley (top pic, and left).

Two nil, and under ten minutes left – surely Charlton could hang on now? Almost immediately, Burke broke free from midfield and hit a rasping drive into the corner of Eliott’s net to bring the scores closer. Now it was nail-biting time. Cardiff threw everything forward, sacrificing a centre back, and lumping it up as quickly as they could. They were helped by the concession of many free kicks as desperate red shirted players sought to stop the surging forward runs of the visitors – ZiZi, Danny Butterfield, and Bailey all received cautions – which merely increased the pressure on the home defence.

It did seem that the team had no idea how to relief the pressure that would eventually tell; should a second forward be introduced so that Charlton’s attacks bore more threat and took more time, or should Parky bring on another defence minded player, and hope to ride out the siege?

Matt Holland came on, and that was the end of any attacking Charlton might do for the day; it was now backs to the wall and hope to survive.

Three minutes of injury time were indicated, and deep into that added period, another corner was conceded, and this one was flicked on to the back post. Whereas Charlton had dealt with second ball fairly well most of the match, this time, Hungarian centre half Gyepes was allowed to control and turn – less than eight yards from goal! – and fire into the corner past Elliott. It was heart wrenching.

With a minute still to go, Cardiff settled for a point, surprisingly, and another centre back came on to balance the team once more. Then came the final whistle, and the boo’s.
Just a thought on the Cardiff support (about 1600 or so), or vocal lack of - why do some visiting teams so abjectly fail to sing for their own team and only try to rile the home fans? The Blues supporters did not once sing for Cardiff, but only told Addicks fans what they already know - we are gong down; we aren't very good; and our stadium is too big for us... The only light relief from this was when a call for the cleaner went out twice and this was followed by "Where's the cleaner gone" and "You're getting sacked in the morning"...Sad.

Charlton actually played quite well for periods in this game, and the midfield certainly made their mark and showed yet another side with Premiership ambitions how ordinary they could be made to look. If only some pressure could have been relieved then maybe the Addicks defence could have survived? This is an area that has hurt Charlton all season (Burnley, Derby, Blackpool, and now Cardiff to name but four…) and the number of points squandered in the last few minutes of matches is scandalous. The coaching staff must look at themselves to blame for this continuing problem, even though six games without defeat is pretty good.

Two more matches to go, and still Charlton’s search for a winning style goes on.

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