Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Or What?!?

Leyton Orient 1 Charlton Athletic 2

Another good victory at the start of this season, and almost 3,000 Charlton fans went home very happy. Second half goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Deon Burton (celebrating left) made for smiley Addicks and maintained Charlton’s winning streak that sees them sitting nicely in second place in the table.

It’s about twelve years since I’ve been to Brisbane Road (the pre-season friendly where Alexei Michaelichenko played for Charlton), and the ground has changed significantly in this time. Not quite finished, and hence the crane behind one goal, three sides have been transformed into seated terracing and housing in the corners, with quite a few families camped out on their balconies sitting on chairs watching the game. Opposite the one side that has not yet been re-developed (the east stand which housed the Charlton fans) was a funny looking building that had all you would expect of a main stand, but had flat frontage up high with windows, where many more locals stood and watched from – whether this was the back of the snooker club, I do not know? Whatever changes to the infrastructure, the pitch itself looked in magnificent condition, and I’m sure that the attendant Colin Powell was impressed.

Charlton went into the game unchanged for the third successive time in the league; as the game progressed, you did wonder if this was the right move, as Orient started the game much the brighter, and were generally quicker and more positive. The home team closed down the midfield, Charlton’s obvious strength this season, and made sure that Lloyd Sam and Jonjo Shelvey had little time to settle on the ball. Shelvey started the game with a lunging tackle and got a long talking to from the referee, before play continued. Shelvey’s argument was that he played the ball and without malice, but he does need to understand that as a potential "name", he is going to come under very close scrutiny at this level, and officials will think nothing of adding him to their list of dismissed players given the chance. It wasn’t long before Shelvey did find his way into the referee’s book, as a clash when going for a header left an O’s player writhing on the ground, clutching his face, and the resultant yellow card was not a surprise.

Charlton had the best of the early chances, with Bailey and Burton messing up a long Sam cross between them, and Shelvey, always in the thick of things, blasting over when well placed. The home team created very little, and did seem to be happy to control the game by gaining free-kicks and seeing what happened when they had a chance to knock these into danger areas. Sure enough, a move that was going nowhere out on the right wing drew the foul (after several attempts!), and the good delivery was headed in at the near post by Mkandawire. I think that Charlton simply did not have enough bodies to cope with the plethora of six-foot plus attackers, something that needs to be recognised.

The Addicks tried to bounce back, but the final ball always seemed to be wanting, and Therry Racon and Jose Semedo found little in the way of smooth play to work the ball forward. Even the defenders, Fraser Richardson, Miguel Llera and Christian Dailly had little time on the ball, and Nicky Bailey was anonymous out on the left wing. Rob Elliot made a smart save from another free-kick to keep the score down to one at half-time, and the writing was definitely on the wall if the home team could maintain their grip on the game.

With the skies now dark, and the 18 lights from each floodlight pylon taking effect, Charlton started the second period with more intent. I don’t know if Orient decided to sit on what they had, but it was now a very different game. Racon started to run the match, and he was a constant thorn in the O’s side, linking with Sam, who had obviously been told to take on his marker for pace, and Shelvey, who flitted everywhere. Semedo sat back and broke up any counter attacks, and all of a sudden it was pretty much all Charlton. A free-kick was won on the edge of the penalty area, and as everyone waited on Shelvey to take it, up stepped Llera to curl a lovely shot toward the top corner, only for it to be saved acrobatically by the home ‘keeper.
Urged on by the massive support, the away team continued to press, and calls for a switch to 4-4-2 rang out, even though this sort of tactical move had been roundly criticised by those same fans just ten days ago. This call seemed to act as the spur for the equalising goal; Sam was released down the right, and his cross found Shelvey, whose control was exemplary, and the volley onto the corner of the net from ten yards out superb. The celebration (left) in front of travelling fans was pretty good too!

Charlton pushed on, but could not add that immediate second that had been found in the two previous league games. Bailey was getting forward onto crosses now and went close, and even Semedo let fly with a shot from outside the box, though it went harmlessly wide. Racon seemed to pick up every loose ball and drive forwards, but it was the omnipresent Shelvey who was involved in everything potent. With less than ten minutes left, you wondered if both teams would settle for a point apiece? Charlton continued surging forwards, and their fitness did seem better than the home teams, whose players went down with cramp on more than one occasion.

With just six minutes left, a high ball was played over the Orient defence, and the defender made a complete hash of heading it back to his ‘keeper. Much as he had on Saturday, in nipped Deon Burton to lob the ball past the stranded custodian, and this signalled the best celebration of the night. The Jamaican waved away other players and (fake) sprinted across toward the jubilant fans, whereupon he did his Usain Bolt impression.

As home fans drifted away, Charlton let the game run out playing keep-ball, even though the referee did seem to add rather a lot of additional time. Another three points in the bag, and hearty celebrations all round.

Looking at the game as a whole, it was difficult to criticise any player, as all of them had reasonable games and did their best at all times. Some, Bailey in the first half for instance, had little impact, but the whole was better than the individual, and Charlton won through. Orient are a decent side, and if they could have maintained the midfield pressure they exerted in the first half, then the Addicks may have struggled to get back into the game.

A match which saw our two forwards score; a maintainence of our 100% start to the league season; and a real test of the strength of this league which Charlton came through with flying colours.

Charlton will not win every game this season, but will go into this weekend’s home game with Walsall expecting to be victorious again; I just hope that expectation does not turn to pressure from home supporters and we are all as patient as the travelling fans at Orient.

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dion dublin - good saki in the east (end)? :)
Yea, sorry - it was very early in the morning for me to be typing!

Now corrected...

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