Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blown Away

Charlton Athletic 5
Milton Keynes Dons 1

Was it the weather, the referee favouring Charlton, or just an excellent home performance that blew MK Dons out of The Valley yesterday? Well, probably a bit of all three. Certainly Charlton handled the weather better than the visitors, going in at half-time in front having played against the viciously strong gusting wind. And yes, the ref did seem to miss a blatant handball by Christian Dailly in the penalty area that could have brought the Dons level before half-time, though I didn’t see too much else wrong with his performance on the day (but others may disagree?). And yes, Charlton did play with a confidence - especially in a second half period - that could have brought more than the three goals in eleven minutes and led to a complete rout in the visitors first visit to SE7 (No, I don’t class them as the ex-Wimbledon team we played in the eighties and nineties). Ultimately though, this result is more important than how we gained it, and it should provide the surge required to make a promotion push valid over the coming months.

It could have been all so different though, as Wilbrahims capitalised on Lloyd Sam’s lack of challenge resulting in Frazer Richardson’s poor header to volley past Carl Ikeme after less than ten minutes. The Dons almost made it two a couple of minutes later, when a cross found its way to the same player, but this time his crisp shot was blocked on the line (somehow) by Kelly Youga. If there was to be a turning point, it came here, as Charlton broke, won a free-kick, and Deon Burton nodded down for Dave Mooney to fire home his first goal in Addick’s colours.

The equaliser revived Charlton, and very soon we took the lead; Mooney was inactive as Sam burst down the right beating the offside trap, and his measured cross just eluded the arriving Burton but spun up to be headed home by the fast arriving Nicky Bailey (seen celebrating, top pic). The skipper, playing centrally with Therry Racon out on the left in this match, looked a new player, and certainly put his effort into the game, and plenty of tackles too.

Wilbrahims headed wide when well placed to score, then saw Ikeme make the save of the match to turn away his shot after Dailly had lost his man. With both teams attacking, and the visitors playing the ball along the ground much of the time, it was excellent fare. Bailey then almost scored from about 45 yards with a free-kick that was over-hit but dipped late in the wind and crashed back from the bar.

At half-time, Charlton had done well to be in front, and the Dons just complained to the referee. I didn’t think he had had a bad half, booking Davis for a crude challenge on the breaking Sam and Sam himself for a naive tackle a few minutes later, but on viewing the Dailly hand-ball incident on TV in Bartram's, you could see why they whinged so much.

With the wind at their backs Charlton looked a much better team, with Mooney and Burton being supported by Bailey, Sam, and Racon as they put pressure on the deep lying Dons defence. Darren Powell, once a Charlton triallist was slow, and Charlton capitalised on his lack of pace to get behind him, and soon the lead was extended. Burton set up Sam on the corner of the penalty box and Sam jinked past one defender before shooting right footed across goal and into the corner of the net (above pic). 3-1 soon became four, as Sam Sodje met a corner with another powerful unchallenged header (left), then moments later Sam headed back substitute Grant Basey’s cross-field ball into the path of Burton who side-foot volleyed past the stranded ‘keeper (bottom pic).

Charlton were looking like scoring on every attack at that point, but for valid reasons, Burton and Mooney then made way for Leon McKenzie and new loan signing and Sam’s brother Akpo Sodje (who has joined from Sheffield Wednesday). Basey had come on earlier in the half when Richardson had what looked like a recurrence of his thigh injury.

The last fifteen minutes didn’t have the same goal threat though McKenzie and the taller Sodje both looked lively up front. It was left to McKenzie to be the victim of the last Dons mugging, when he and Powell were booked after a ground-floor scuffle. They say that teams often mimic their manager in style, and the visitors certainly kicked anything that moved in the vein of Paul Ince; hence the four bookings they received.

It would be easy to forget some of Charlton’s failings in this game after such a resounding victory, but churlish to harp on about them. I found it sad that two of the three Addicks respondents to the League Football programme on BBC last night made negative comments after such a win! With winnable games to come over the next few weeks, the confidence should have returned. Richardson’s injury will be a concern, but with Omozusi available and with Youga also comfortable on the right with Basey an adequate reserve on the left, Manager Phil Parkinson has options. Bailey’s return to central midfield, some 9 months since he last played in that position, was very good, and Racon provided balance on the left if not the cutting edge of Sam on the opposite flank. The substitutes bench also looked strong (with Darren Randolph, Miguel Llera, Jonjo Shelvey, and Matt Spring not used), and many of those players will get their chance as the season progresses.

The wind blew strong at The Valley but did not contribute to any of the goals; if Charlton attack teams like they did here, we could be seeing plenty more scores to rival this over the next few months.

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Excellent balanced report. Great to see Parkinson make some good changes. Nice to see some attacking goal threat.

Richardson brought balance and Sam definitely plays better when he partners Richardson on the right. Hope the injury is not too serious

The BBC comments were a bit off - why not choose to read a comment along the lines 'well done charlton for the result & showing some great spirit after a difficult week'. 'Well done to Phil Parkinson for making the changes in the middle of the park'

Maybe more typical BBC than negative fans.

Got to say though. Come on you reds!!!

For me that first goal was critical Pedro.After a few bad performances, to concede so early could have been disastrous. When Mooney struck back so soon it showed we could still compete. When that goal went in I went bonkers!

After a fairly dodgy game on Wednesday Ikeme showed he could make the difficult crosses in appalling weather conditions.

For me Youga was again MOM. Even at right back he carries enormous attacking potential. Sam Sodje made some towering defensive headers when that wind had carried the ball over many other heads.

My son and others we went with had Bailey and Semedo as MOM - all in all I think that shows how many players had a good one.

Pembury Addick
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