Monday, August 24, 2009

Weekend to Remember

Charlton Athletic 2 Walsall 0

For a birthday weekend, it couldn’t have gone much better – England triumphantly winning The Ashes, lots of great food, plenty of champagne, quality time with close friends, some silly fun in the countryside, fantastic weather, and Charlton bringing home another three points and going top of the league in the process. You could say I'm a happy bunny at the moment, but sadly, the experience at The Valley on Saturday was possibly the low point...

Now I’m not being over-expectant in this tier three season, and I did think that Charlton played as best they could, and fully deserved their fourth league win of the season, but in truth, the game itself was flat, lacked much skill, and was quite frankly a little boring.

Phil Parkinson, as expected, picked an unchanged team, and with early efforts from Fraser Richardson, Lloyd Sam, and Nicky Bailey going close, the signs were good. When Miguel Llera bundled the ball home somehow (above) midway through the half, perception that the game may open up into a contest were quickly dispelled as Walsall played such a dour, defensive match. The visitors really didn’t seem to be there for anything other than a loss by as few goals as they could manage.

After half-time, the game continued as before, with Charlton missing half-chance after half-chance. Scott Wagstaff came on midway through the half to replace the mis-firing Lloyd Sam and, almost immediately, Kelly Youga came forward in the games most positive move, fed Deon Burton who easily laid in Wagstaff for a clean run in on goal. The youngster did extremely well to place his shot inside the far post for his first league goal, and that was game over pretty much. Or should have been!

Typically, Charlton then almost gave Walsall a hope of getting back into a game they had no right to be close in. First an away goal was disallowed, rightly, for offside, but that failed to wake the Addicks from their collective slumber, and Parkin then hit the post with a looping header that thankfully bounced back into Rob Elliot’s arms.

Walsall offered little after that, and Charlton, looking a little tired after midweek exploits, coasted home to victory. A word on the referee who I thought had an excellent match, letting the game flow wherever possible, and for keeping a smile on his face all ninety minutes. If only his young assistant had been as good...

The win does take Charlton to the top of the league for the first time this season, and expectation levels will rise no doubt. This is a crucial week for the club’s prospects however, as higher level clubs look to poach some of the clubs undoubted stars; Andy Gray left Charlton on Friday as his long protracted move to Barnsley finally went through, and this week may well see further departures, including Chris Dickson, who didn’t make the bench even after Gray’s transfer. The club and management acknowledge that some movement is necessary, but the key point will be to balance those leaving with new captures that fill some of the obvious voids in the squad. A key time therefore, but happy for now.

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