Wednesday, January 20, 2010

‘Staff Party!

Charlton Athletic 2 Hartlepool United 1

Well, my wish for a comfortable last five minutes fell on deaf ears once more, as Charlton hung on to a one goal lead going into injury time. The fact that there were no major concerns towards the end of the game was better, as it was at Wycombe on Saturday, but oh for a comfortable victory.

In a tame game, Charlton took the lead after half an hour when Dave Mooney (left, celebrating) rose to head home Grant Basey’s delightful chipped cross. Hartlepool got a deserved equaliser very early in the second half after Miguel Llera brought down a forward and Behan scored from the resulting penalty, before substitute Scott Wagstaff rifled home the winner with fifteen minutes left.

Charlton started the match brightly enough, even though the away team looked a lot more comfortable on the ball than one which had been thumped in their previous match. With Frazer Richardson restored to the right back role, Phil Parkinson lined up the rest of the team in a fluid 4-4-2 to diamond formation, allowing Jonjo Shelvey to float between his roles out on the left, or in behind the front two. Sadly, this was not one of Shelvey’s better games, as everything he tried to bring off seemed to fail. He did over-use the long ball too often (as did Llera and Basey), and must get back to playing a simple pass when it will retain possession and move Charlton forwards rather than trying to hit that perfect 40 yard pass every time.

Mooney was very mobile up front, but struggled to get much service via Deon Burton, while captain Nicky Bailey had a subdued first 45 minutes. The Addicks defence looked reasonably solid, though a couple of shots did require smart saves by Rob Elliot. The goal did eventually come and it was a well worked move; Basey broke free down the left, and his pinpoint cross was gleefully headed home by Mooney - it was just about what Charlton deserved. For some reason, after the goal, the referee spoke with Mark Kinsella and Kins trudged back to the dugout admonished for whatever he had done wrong. The Hartlepool management were in despair to see their team fall behind after doing so well, and the foul-mouthed Colin West took out his anguish on the referee, who overall had a reasonable game.

Charlton just could not capitalise on their lead, and though Lloyd Sam jinked his way into the penalty area and fired in a shot (which was blocked), it was one of the few times that the away team defence looked in any real danger. The game itself was just meandering along, without any real pressure on either team, and with Charlton trying too hard and giving away possession too easily when in good positions.

As the second half began, you hoped that the Addicks would rest control and go on to win the game comfortably, but any hope of this was ripped up after about three minutes of the half when Llera clumsily tripped a Hartlepool forward as he skipped across the penalty area, and the referee rightly gave the spot kick award. Behan hit the ball hard and straight, and though Elliot got a substantial foot to the ball, he could not stop it bouncing up into the roof of the net for the equaliser.

There were a few brief moments when you worried that Charlton might throw all the hard work of the first half away, but slowly they came to grips with the match once more. Sam, to be fair, became much more direct, and at last started to attack his full back. Richardson gave him good support, though this was not always used to best effect. Bailey and Jose Semedo pushed forwards into the vacant midfield space as ‘Pools retreated to the edge of their penalty area to defend, while Shelvey was trying to make the impossible happen with magic balls rather than just play the line with Basey.

It was no surprise when Parky shook things up, bring on substitutes Leon McKenzie for Shelvey and Chris Dickson for Mooney. McKenzie, taking over Shelvey’s left side role did well, and caused plenty of problems where none had been before. Eventually, with twenty minutes left, Parky played his final role of the dice and threw on Scott Wagstaff in place of Sam. Lloyd had, to be fair, one of his most erratic games, often looking a lot more dangerous than his play actually was, and sadly he seems to have lost the ability to get the ball into dangerous areas of the box where his forwards can attack. It will not have passed many people’s eye that the first time Wagstaff got the ball, 30 yards out, he took one touch and stroked home a lovely shot that took the top off many daisies as it rolled its way into the far corner of the net. It seemed a sublime moment, and maybe it showed Sam that he too can have the odd shot from distance rather than always trying to get behind the defence and failing. Wagstaff celebrated with his team-mates (above) as did the crowd on a cold night and Dickson was booked for lumping the ball into the crowd to waste time; it was a goal out of seemingly nothing and it was so surprising (and refreshing!) to see a Charlton player shoot from distance.

Charlton then had a period of control, as they did on Saturday, and rarely did they look like they might relinquish the lead a second time, despite Hartlepool throwing on more attackers for the last few minutes.

Charlton fans thought for a while that they had seen their team score another goal, after Chris Dickson headed home following a good move involving Burton and McKenzie. Sadly, the referee deemed there to have been a push and Dickson’s celebrations were cut short, but not before a fan decided that the time was right to show off his Xmas present of a swimsuit of the Borat mode. Cut down after spending too much time avoiding stewards by the ‘Pools centre half, he was unceremoniously removed from the pitch and surrounds backwards, his modesty in full view on what I'm sure he will tell you was a very cold evening.

The game ended without further drama, and it’s three more points in the bag for the Addicks in their quest for promotion. The display was still not of a standard that gives fans confidence that the team have enough to fulfil the greater wish, but three points is three points, and with two further home games to come, things should get better. Still in third place but level now with Norwich and just three points behind Leeds, the end of season is starting to look a little closer.

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I think the problem we had last night as always is linked to our left midfield position. Shelvey didn't look comfortable there and it meant Bailey was always looking to cover Basey, I watched Bailey and he covered a lot of ground last and even though covering the left was one of the few players trying to drive us forward.
It was a lovely back heel from Shelvey that let Basey run on his way but with Shelvey present we seem to misfire.
I've seen some moans about Sam but last night every time he got the ball harltepool were well disciplined in putting at least two players on him, I'm sure on one occassion he had 4 swarming around him, so even when not playing too well his reptutation drags other players away. It was no suprise when our first goal came from the left.
Hope PP can find the right place to
play Shelvey, which does seem to be in the middle, perhaps later in a game.

Excellent post as always.

Not sure green mankini boy needed to be taken down/out in the fashion he was, he didn't look violent just needed someone to grab hold of him and escort him off. But was funny.
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