Saturday, September 19, 2009

Charlton Fail to Holt Norwich

Norwich City 2 Charlton Athletic 2

I suppose I should have known when my wife got out the Delia Smith cookery book this morning; having her cover photo face adorn the kitchen side all afternoon was to be a bad omen!

Charlton were unchanged for the eighth game this season, a remarkable fact, while Norwich had injury worries.

Deon Burton (seen celebrating, left) scored the first goal on 19 minutes with a low diving header high into net from Jonjo Shelvey’s corner; it was Burton’s 5th strike of the season, and his best so far.

Both teams attacked at will, and there were some hairy moments from both sides defensively. Burton continued to show very good hold up play and was always dangerous, while Holt had a good chance to equalise for the home team.

Five minutes before half time, a great break out started with Jose Semedo feeding Nicky Bailey on the left by the half way line. Bailey then quickly switched the ball out to the right where Lloyd Sam controlled well. Sam took the ball on to the bye-line and at the second attempt got his cross in superbly where Shelvey headed home from close range (left).

One-time Charlton target Wes Hoolohan then lashed home a minute before half time to bring Norwich back into the match, with Bailey lucky not to be booked as the half ended. The home crowd booed off the referee, though Norwich had committed more fouls in the half, and had received a yellow card of their own.

Early in the second half Jose Semedo did receive a booking, which appeased the home crowd a little, and the game remained entertaining, with both teams attacking at will. Miguel Llera then became the second Charlton player to see yellow, his fourth of the season – one more, and he will have to serve a suspension.

Norwich put plenty of pressure of the Addicks defence, with Hoolohan a constant thorn. Charlton struggled to get out of their own half and when they did they seemed to present the ball back to the home side way too easily. The Charlton goal was living a charmed life, as Norwich missed chance after chance.

Kelly Youga and Shelvey had shots after a quick break, but from the corner Norwich broke and forced a corner of their own. Sam made way for Scott Wagstaff, and Shelvey came off for Izale McLeod with twenty minutes left in an attempt to regain control of the game.

Charlton got the benefit of several tight offside decisions as the game quietened down with fifteen minutes left, but it was still all one way traffic. It was a real test of Charlton’s resolve as Norwich swarmed forward, and one which they have not been subject to previously apart, maybe, for the last few minutes in the first game against Wycombe.

Rob Elliot made a brilliant save to deny Smith after Hoolohan set up yet another chance with ten minutes left. Then McLeod broke free and had a chance to make the game safe for Charlton but put his shot wide.

McLeod was booked in the four minutes injury time, and then Elliot made a bad mistake, missing his punch from a looped cross and presented Norwich with the latest of equalisers – Grant Holt benefiting.

With just a minute left, only one team would have a chance to win the game and that would be the home team, who missed a final chance as time ran out.

Although disappointing to be knocked off the top of the table by the late equaliser, this was, in the end, a point won rather than two dropped. The uncertainty in the defence brought about by the heavy pressure put on the team was a severe test, and I doubt Charlton would have survived with a point in many other recent seasons given the intensity of the Norwich attacks. Christian Dailly deserves praise for the way he put his body in the firing line to stop several attacks.

The result does show that Charlton are a team to be reckoned with, and well capable of going to the best of the other League One clubs and winning points. Norwich will be looking to climb the table as the season progresses, and on this form will be firm favourites to win a play off place at least.

The league table is now stretched, with seven teams breaking clear; I do think it likely that the teams in the mix at the end of the season will be those in the top six now, plus Norwich and maybe one other club to contest the final play off places. Before the season started, many Charlton fans would be happy to know that they will have a chance of promotion come next May.

Away from Carrow Road, there were goals for ex-Addicks Darren Bent, Kevin Lisbie (2), Darren Ambrose, Charlie MacDonald, and also two for on-loan at Bristol Rovers Chris Dickson.

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Jerome Thomas also scored today for WBA with Scott Carson also playing well for them.

Sorry to be the bearer of more annoying news.
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