Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beating the Ex

Charlton Athletic 2 Exeter City 1

Three more points for a welcome win, and for a short time, we thought Charlton had moved back tot the top of the league table. Leeds very late winner at ten-man MK Dons put paid to that, but the top two will definitely clash next weekend at Elland Road.

Charlton had to make the first change to their starting line up for the home game against Exeter – Jose Semedo out with an injury and being replaced by Matt Spring. The management have kept quiet about the extent of Semedo’s groin problem, so we can only hope he is back for the next couple of important games. Spring’s place on the bench was filled by Grant Basey.

The Addicks started the game confidently, and well, and early crosses from Lloyd Sam and Nicky Bailey rained into the visitors box. Early chances came to Deon Burton and Bailey, who both headed over, and then the best chance came from a delightful move which saw Therry Racon chip to the far post, where the onrushing Bailey powered in a goal-bound header. Unfortunately, Burton was in the way, and his effort to deflect the ball past the Exeter ‘keeper knocked the ball up and over the bar from just a couple of yards out. It really wasn’t to be Burton’s day; suffering from a broken nose, and trying to score his 100th league goal, he got little change all game from a tight Exeter defence who man-marked him very closely.

Exeter settled into their own game, and with both teams trying to pass the ball along the ground, it was a decent match from the football perspective. Some of Charlton’s play out of defence was poor though, and Miguel Llera didn’t have much luck with his forward passes, and especially his long balls in behind the right back for Sam to chase. With players tightly marked, and the longer ball option failing, the away team saw plenty of possession, with winger Noone looking quite dangerous on a number of occasions. Fraser Richardson, who was up against Noone, had a tough afternoon, and he would have been happy to see the on-loan wide man substituted midway through the second half.

Charlton had to wait until the 41st minute for their first corner of the game, and they scored from it. Jonjo Shelvey took the ball short to Sam at the near post, and he beat his man to the bye-line and crossed low for my one-to-watch Bailey to flick home from close range. The goal was along time coming, and did reflect Charlton’s superior skill and fitness in the first half.

After half-time, Exeter came more into the match, and had several periods of prolonged possession, and good play, putting the Addicks defence under pressure. This pressure didn’t really convert to chances though, and Charlton did look dangerous on the break when they did get the ball. The out-of-sorts Burton made way for Izale McLeod, and at least that injected some pace into Charlton’s attacks. Shelvey also came off to be replaced by Scott Wagstaff, and Bailey moved to a more central position. Exeter’s two best players, forwards Stansfield and Noone had also been substituted by the last few minutes, and Charlton made the game safe three minutes from the end of normal time. Shelvey and Sam had worked an opening near the bye-line, but Shelvey’s cross was not the best and should have been dealt with by the ‘keeper; he spilled the cross though, and McLeod was on hand to smash home Charlton’s second goal, and his first at The Valley in over two years of trying. With McLeod being the victim of some abuse over his scoring record, maybe this goal will lift the weight off his back and he can start hitting the back of the net regularly.

A comfortable win is never the Charlton way though, and a innocuous long shot from an Exeter player was similarly spilled by Rob Elliot as normal time ran out. Elliot made up for his initial error by brilliantly blocking the rebound and saving his own blushes at the same time. As is the way with Elliot it seems, a great save is then followed by a mishap, though he cannot really be blamed this time as Charlton conceded from the resultant corner – substitute Cozic flicking his header home after another header put the ball into the six-yard box. Charlton played keep ball during the three minutes of added time, so a repeat of last week’s late equaliser was never on the cards.

Exeter played pretty well, and some of the best football seen from a visiting side at the Valley this season; a mention should also go to the referee, who I thought had an excellent game, playing advantage at every opportunity, and only booking McLeod for his shirt-off celebration (as he has too) and an Exeter player who pushed Elliot too vociferously after the goal.

There were no real stand-outs in the Charlton side; Spring showed he is an able midfield deputy, while Sam continued his good form. Bailey looked back into the mix of things, which is good as he has been short on inspiration over recent weeks, while Christian Dailly coasted through much of the match. Kelly Youga did well, and Therry Racon was involved throughout, and may just have shaded the man-of-the-match award.

The club will be happy to have had a relatively comfortable game, and looked to pick up no injuries ahead of a defining week in the season. With away games at Colchester and leaders Leeds coming up next, a full squad will be required, and the unbeaten Addicks will be hoping to pull themselves back up above the Yorkshire team at the end of the next seven days.

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