Sunday, October 25, 2009

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Gillingham 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Let’s face it, this was a pretty poor performance from Charlton, as listless as the Russian submarine currently tilting on the River Medway at Rochester, and the result must been seen as a point won rather than two points dropped. It was the complete opposite to the previous weeks game, where every player could be said to have had a good game; this week, only Kelly Youga, Rob Elliot and Jose Semedo could honestly say that they had decent outings. It wasn’t all the players fault though, as atrocious weather conditions – with first half wind and rain, followed by bright second half sun, with more wind – and an awful bumpy pitch made any sort of cohesive play difficult for both sides. Couple this with an awful referee, who simply failed to get to grips with the professional level at which this game was played; Jon Moss should go back to drumming with Culture Club and put his whistle down forthwith!

Phil Parkinson certainly picked his best team to start this game, with Semedo returning to the starting line up, and with Izale McLeod retained up front in a positive move. McLeod looked to have won an early penalty when his check inside saw his legs taken from him, but Moss waved play on astonishingly. The bizarre decisions continued soon after when first Deon Burton was scythed down from behind, with no free kick given, and then Nicky Bailey was the victim of another crude challenge. Again, the referee, way behind play, failed to whistle until he was reminded of the rules of not kicking people by a flag waving linesman. Of course, such leg-threatening challenges go unchallenged, yet when Burton complained about the non-protection he had, he gets booked for his viewpoint…

Although Lloyd Sam saw little of the ball durng the early stages, with any prolonged possession there was going to the home side, he did send a sublime forward pass into the path of McLeod, who once more checked inside, before this time curlng a left foot shot high and wide. Gillingham threatened when first a shot that skimmed off the surface brought a sharp save from Elliot and then Elliot had to be alert once more when a dangerous free kick bounced in front of him without anyone getting a touch and he had to knock it away late (top pic).

At least the foul weather hadn't dampened the spirit of the visiting fans, and the mood was enlivened when a number of spectators in home areas were ejected; whether they were home or away fans is unknown, but whoever they were, they put up a big struggle and a woman was injured as they tumbled over two or three rows in an effort to prevent stewards taking them out.

Bailey wasted two free-kicks for decent positions, hitting the balls way, way, way too long on both occasions, and Frazer Richardson did similarly when he broke forward.

At half-time, with no other major goal attempts, the weather changed, and the rain stopped and the sun came out. Gillingham had the better of early second half exchanges, with the now capped Elliot making more important saves, while Bailey curled a free-kick straight at ex-Addick Simon Royce in the home goal.

Richardson left the action after an hour, and it may be that the minor knocks that he has been carrying for most of the season have finally caught up with him. Youga switched to right back, with Grant Basey coming on to fill in on the left. Basey surged forward at every opportunity, but his crossing wasn’t the best, and good attacking positions were wasted. Elliot then made a very good save to deny Gillingham, diving to his left to push a good snap shopt around the post.

Both Sam Sodje and Christian Dailly were booked for there first innocuous fouls as the bizarre refereeing display continued.

Dave Mooney replaced the unlucky McLoed, who had run his heart out without getting any help or protection, and within minutes he was scynically brought down by Gladiator Wolf-lookalike Gowling’s none-shall-pass attitude. From the remnants of the free kick, Racon swung a leg while prostrate on the ground, and amazingly Charlton took the lead when left back Nutter capped an eventful afternoon by slicing into his own net. Already booked, he must have wished for a stronger referee at that moment, as with one, he would have been red carded for his persistent fouling much earlier and not been on the pitch to score for Charlton.

Sadly, even though there was under ten minutes left to play, Charlton’s lead didn’t last very long, and Jackson got on the end of a ball worked across the penalty area and suddenly found himself in a yard of space before burying the ball past the advancing Elliot.

There was still time for the referee to give the home team a free kick on the edge of the Charlton box, thankfully blocked by the wall, and the clock ticked down with honours even.

Crazily, home team midfielder Bentley was given the man of the match award, and I suppose the fact that he kicked anything that came near him had some bearing on this, whether it was ball or opposition player; it’s fair to say that as the ref never went near him he didn’t get kicked, though I’m sure he would if he had!

It was a shame that Charlton couldn’t have played any better, as that may have been enough to secure a win that would have seen them return to the top of the league (as Leeds lost their unbeaten record). As it is, Charlton remain second, but have company in the form of MK Dons, and Colchester, with the four clubs now clear of the chasing pack at the top.

Charlton must now recapture their away form and look to win at Carlisle next weekend; failure to take three points from such games will soon see other teams overtake them, while a winning run of any kind over coming weeks could see the Addicks break away at the top.

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The ref also missed two handballs and a very prolonged push of a Charlton player (Racon?) into the crowd and a way off the ball. The trouble is the ref's failure to penalise the heavy early challenges enabled Jills to take control of the game, and I thought they were worth three points. I just couldn't see us scoring.

If it were me I'd have subbed Deon, who must be suffering from the groin strain. Macleod has a habit of dropping some clangers, but he makes things happen -and he doesn't dive every time, honest! Mooney looks sharp and fast.

Pembury Addick
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