Tuesday, January 26, 2010

O-Dear!

Charlton Athletic 0 Leyton Orient 1

It’s difficult to know where to start with this one: Did Charlton simply have an off day or did Orient do a job on the Addicks? Whatever the answer, the supposed curse of the TV cameras struck again and Charlton were beaten at home for the first time since March 2009, over ten months ago.

With an unchanged team coming into the match, I hoped that the Addicks tactics would have been further worked on and that Jonjo Shelvey and the rest of the team would know how they planned to set up. I do find it a little bit amazing that we seem to currently be very easy to nullify, and if Plan A (i.e. Shelvey playing wide left) doesn't see us score then we switch to Plan B after 20 minutes (i.e. Shelvey playing behind the front two) to see if that works any better. I’m not blaming Shelvey for the loss (though he hardly had a great game…), just that he is the obvious example of the (only) change of tactics we have in games.

I suppose we shouldn’t complain too loudly; getting things in perspective, this was only Charlton’s third defeat of the season, and the first since November, but the worrying thing is that it was all so predictable. It is fine and dandy to be winning games based on spirit and commitment (as we did at Wycombe and against Hartlepool), but eventually your luck runs out, and that’s what happened last night.

The opening minutes looked as if Charlton might be OK though; Orient looked nervous and kept giving the ball away, but throughout the match, their defence allowed Charlton forwards to run into offside positions and the slowness of getting the ball forward (especially from midfield) meant the flag was raised way too often for liking. Dave Mooney, making runs down the channels, was the victim in most of these decisions, but in less than half was the problem his and not the passers fault for being too slow getting the ball forward. Slowly, both teams settled, but the home crowd became restless and nervous. It was a pretty dour first half, with few obvious chances to either side. Nicky Bailey had a claim for a penalty turned down, when he appeared to have been held back when trying to get on a loose ball, but that was the only real action of note right up to half-time. Then, just as the additional time board was being shown, Deon Burton burst clear down the left hand channel, beat the covering defender, but dithered in deciding whether to round the ‘keeper or shoot. With other players in better shooting positions, Burton could have passed the ball too, but in the end, his weak effort was cleared and the danger (and Charlton’s best chance of scoring in the half) was passed.

I really hoped that Phil Parkinson might have given the team one almighty rollocking at the break, but that doesn’t seem to be his style; Lloyd Sam was ineffective much of the time, failing to get to the byeline or even get any sort of cross into the box, while Shelvey and Bailey were rarely making any headroads or supporting their forwards in any way shape or form. Too many times the strikers found themselves doing all the work, and receiving no support, with either Burton or Mooney the only player getting into the box when a cross was expected. Orient were marking tightly, but the lack of movement (a perennial Charlton problem…) was playing into their hands big-time.

The second half started much more brightly, with the Addicks almost taking the lead before most spectators had returned to their seats; Sam finally got around the back and pulled the ball back to Shelvey who’s good shot was tipped over by the goalkeeper for a corner. But then, the side retreated and Orient took the lead at much the same time that Hartlepool scored last week (3 minutes into the second half). Some steady play down the right wing allowed a player space to cross to the far post and, with the ball looping over Frazer Richardson, ex-Addick McGleish stooped to head home past Rob Elliot. While the thousand or so Orient fans celebrated as if they had won the cup, the Charlton players were left scratching their collective heads.

Sure, Charlton had a few more chances – Burton headed straight at the goalie; Shelvey shot high and wide; Mooney headed over and then saw his shot squirm past the far post after an excellent move involving Sam once more, but it just wasn't enough. With an hour gone, Parky introduced Scott Wagstaff for Jose Semedo; it was an obvious move (allowing Shelvey to drop back into midfield in an effort to bring more creativity and giving the Addicks more width and pace) but a few in the crowd around me couldn’t understand it and thought Parky had made the wrong move. Sadly, Waggy’s heroics last week couldn’t be repeated (even though he tried very hard)and when he did have a shooting chance the ball ended up nearer the corner flag than the goal.

Orient were looking more and more confident as the game went on, and had a chance to wrap up the match midway through the half after a good passing move, but Mason’s shot hit the inside of the post and was scrambled clear.

In a last ditch effort, Parky brought on Chris Dickson and Leon McKenzie (for Burton and Mooney) but in all honesty, they fared even worse than the incumbent pair, with Dickson in particular looking un-interested and too often being found standing offside at key moments.

It wasn’t even a rousing last few minutes, though Miguel Llera did move up to lead the attack; he even won a few headers but there just didn’t seem to be any purpose and most balls into the danger area were easily cleared by the outstanding Mkandawire and Chorley.

The frustration felt during the whole game finally came to an end after four minutes overtime, and was compounded by bookings for Llera, Elliot, and Grant Basey. Few on the Addicks teamsheet will have felt that they had a decent game, with possibly only Elliot, Basey, Christian Dailly, and maybe Semedo reaching average standards, and with Bailey, Burton, Sam, Llera, Shelvey and Mooney having games they will want to forget. Richardson did well for a while, but did look at fault to me for the only goal.

As for the visitors, they came with a plan, stuck at it, and saw their preparation result in three valuable points.

So where do Charlton go now? As we all know, it is not a case that Parky can change the team around much simply because we do not have the players in order to do so. It may well be that this game is the excuse needed for him to try to raid the loan market, but in order to do that he may need to offload someone first. Sam Sodje will be back in the team on Saturday (especially as Llera’s display showed once more that he is a mistake just waiting to happen at times), but where would we want (or need) any other changes? To me, it is obvious that the problem position is the left side of midfield (as it has been for over 12 months). If we are not prepared to play Wagstaff there (giving us balance), then I can see no other option than to push Bailey back out wide, and bring in Therry Racon, who has had a rest and should relish the chance to go once more. I’m sure Bailey will not want this move to happen, and it will result in a loss of drive from midfield, but barring a left midfielder being brought to the club this week, it is the only way forward as Shelvey isn’t doing enough, and McKenzie and Wagstaff do not seem to have Parky’s support to play there.

It is not all doom and gloom; we are still third in the league table, and we are still close on the tails of the two teams above us (who play tonight). There are still twenty games to go this season, but fans are getting edgy and looking at our tough (on paper) run-in. What we all need to do, including the players, is get back to being confident, playing with the right tactics and personnel, and winning, starting on Saturday.

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Comments:
Sam had a game to forget???
I beg to differ. Shelvey had a game to forget and mooney had a nightmare!
 
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