Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gone For A Burton

Charlton Athletic 1 Southampton 1

All good things come to an en eventually, and so it was no great surprise when the 100% win record in the league disappeared at The Valley yesterday. In a frantic game in front of the biggest home gate of the season, Southampton took the lead about five minutes before half time, while Deon Burton turned in the equaliser (left) about five minutes after the break.

Much debate before the game had centred on returning ex-manager Alan Pardew; a few boos rang out as he entered the arena prior to kick-off, and he refused to look anywhere near the west stand as he made his way to the away dug-out. During the game, Pardew took some local stick as he stood, but nothing of a vicious nature, and certainly no more than Mourinho, Wenger, or Ferguson has done previously.

Initially, unchanged Charlton struggled to come to terms with the visitors aggressive tactics; all Charlton’s creative players were man-marked tightly, and Therry Racon in particular received some rough treatment from Hammond. League One Player of the Month Lloyd Sam worked hard to find some space, and ably supported down the right hand side by Fraser Richardson, the pair did cause some discomfort to the Saints back line, but without any clear-cut chances being created. The nearest either team came to scoring in the early periods was when Southampton worked a crossing opportunity on the right and the ball came over to the back post, where the unmarked Mills made enough contact to get the ball on target. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot made a good save, but the ball looped up and appeared to be heading slowly for the net before Elliot’s momentum and good luck combined to allow him to unconventionally volley the ball away from off the line.

Another right wing cross, this time to the near post, broke the deadlock, as Lalana flicked home past an unprotected Elliot. A blow to Addicks hopes of maintaining their 100% record this may have been, but after getting to the break without conceding again, it would be interesting to see how manager Phil Parkinson would react to his former boss’s negative and destructive tactics.

The answer was to counter such negativity with a much more positive, attacking, display, with a much improved tempo getting almost immediate results.

Elliot took the ball in hand to break up a Southampton attack, and immediately bowled the ball long to Jonjo Shelvey haring down the left wing. It was a throw that Freddie Flintoff would have been proud of and Shelvey controlled at pace, took his marker to the bye-line, and then delivered a teasing cross that had Davis, the visiting ‘keeper, struggling to gather. As Davis failed to hold, the ball dropped behind him and the fast arriving Deon Burton bundled the ball over the line and in. From defence to attack in the blink of an eye, and a goal created by the vision of Elliot and the skill and impudence of young Shelvey.

Level again, Charlton then stood up to their visitors, and refused to be bullied, matching strong challenge with equally strong tackles. This led to bookings for Racon, Kelly Youga, and Richardson, and they were eventually followed into the book by Hammond and Thomas.

Charlton continued with the new high tempo game, and as the pressure rose, the Addicks did get the ball into the net on two more occasions; sadly, both goals were rightly chalked out for offside – Shelvey and Burton cutting short their celebrations on seeing the raised linesman’s flag.

After dominating the second half in much the same was that Southampton had controlled the first period, you thought that the Addicks might raise a grandstand finish, but sadly, nerves seemed to come to the fore in the last ten minutes, and communication between Scotsman Christian Dally and his Spanish fellow centre back Miguel Llera seemed to disintegrate; first both went for the same high ball which initiated a Southampton raid which luckily came to nothing, and then Llera failed to understand how much time he had when arriving at a long punt forward and rather than controlling and clearing with the time he had, Llera merely hoofed the ball high into the stand.

Llera was also a key player in the near breakdown of Charlton’s multi-ball rotation system, as first he humped a clearance onto the roof of the east stand, and then a wayward Charlton shot (I’m not sure who from?) ended up on top of the Jimmy Seed stand. As my friend said, if that had happened at Millwall, the game would have had to have been stopped while someone went out to get the balls!

After four minutes injury time, the game concluded with honours even; a fair result in the end and one which keeps both teams at the opposite ends of the table. The officials had decent games I thought, although it should be noted that Burton in particular was caught offside way too many times and made their job easy.

Pardew walked back to the dressing rooms, and briefly clapped the North Stand patrons; whether this was as a thank you for not giving him a hard time only he will know. It didn’t go down too well with some fans who saw it though, but at least it broke the ice and future visits by our ex-manager may not attract so much attention.

The point keeps Charlton on top of the table, and now that the 100% record start to the season is over, the onus is to keep the unbeaten record, and stay in front of all the other teams trailing behind. That will not be easy, and another good test of the Addicks resolve will come at Carrow Road next Saturday; the league table never tells the true story until at least ten games have been played, so by the end of this month we will have a very good idea how good a chance we have of promotion this season. Should we go into that game with seven wins, a draw and a couple of losses, then I’m sure in pre-season we would have been happy; now though, the expectation is very high, and Charlton would not want to start losing too many games in close proximity. The key is to bounce back, and a result next week would really show how strong we are this season, and keep the fans happy.

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Don't agree with you on the officials who I thought had shocking games. How 3 charlton players ended up in the book before the x2 southampton players is a mystery to me.

The referee failed to do anything about the persistant fouling of Souhampton 2/14 in particular.

There was a clear penalty and the second offside goal should have stood.

With a different referree we would have walked away with 3 points.
I agree with VFF...the officials had a shocker. The second "offside" goal wasn't, and should have stood, and how several of the Southampton players hadn't ended in the book by the end of the first half, only one person can tell us...because going on the game I was watching they went out to disrupt the game by fouling tactics. I agree we did give them their goal, and didn't play our best, but on the officials....I can't agree with you.
I only said they were decent...not good! I agree that (having now seen it on TV) the 2nd offside goal was valid, and also that Hammond could have been booked for persistent fouling earlier (he was eventually). But I couldn't complain re Racon's or Richardson's or Youga's bookings, and they had a fair shout for a pen late on too as we did when Sam was felled. They did fail to spot the worst offender in the flare-up, but overall were consistent IMO. The three certainly weren't as bad as some combo's we had last year...

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