Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Clutching at Draws

Walsall 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Like a few other bloggers, I too had to endure the CAFC Player commentary for last nights game, and drew the line at listening to Emma Jones preferring to switch to the Walsall version. As Marco, Chicago, and Dave also mention, her commentary is so appalling that it is often better to switch to the home commentator (as I did last night very early on) rather than listen to her staccato spiel. And who was her cohort last evening? Nobody I’d ever heard of either, and certainly not near the caliber of Steve Brown, Bradley Allen and even Clive Walker, all of whom regular fill that breach.

Without Emma, I was able to discern that Phil Parkinson made four changes to starting team – Chris Solly came in at left back for Grant Basey; Akpo Sodje started for Dave Mooney up front; Therry Racon (left) was asked to play in midfield in place of Jose Semedo; and Scott Wagstaff was on the right wing instead of Lloyd Sam. We all have our opinions, but to me, this wholesale change of personnel smacked of managerial desperation. It may well have been that some of the dropped players picked up knocks on Saturday (or in training) and needed a rest (though all made the substitute’s bench…), and we know that the team has been struggling to repeat the flowing football from earlier in the season with some players below par, but four changes in my opinion was certain to disrupt the flow of the team.

I cannot really comment too much on the opening half hour of the game, as that was the time it took me to sort out my preferred commentary; nothing much appeared to happen, so it was a bit of a shock when Walsall opened the scoring soon after. Deeney put in a good header from early substitute Westlake’s cross and gave Rob Elliot, thankfully fit to start in goal, no chance of saving. The match had been trundling along up to that point, with Charlton having most possession and also a whole host of corners.

Thankfully, the referee did seem to be favouring the away team (two first half Walsall bookings but none for Addicks), and a penalty was awarded in the 45th minute following another Charlton corner. The commentator called it as Racon being brought down by Vincent, though other reports think that it was Akpo Sodje who was felled. True to form, Deon Burton stroked home from 12 yards (left) and the teams went into the interval level.

Parky’s half-time team talks don’t always seem to work, but I’m sure he mentioned that too many of the crosses put into the box by either Kyel Reid or Wagstaff or the full backs, or corner kicks by Nicky Bailey, were being claimed by the ‘keeper. This just wasn’t helping Charlton’s lack of cutting edge.

Charlton’s habit of conceding an early second half goal and making any chat by Parky irrelevant nearly continued but luckily, it seems, the ref gave us some benefit when Christian Dailly appeared to bring down Byfield in the box.

A Charlton player did get a yellow card when Reid stupidly kicked a ball away, but the game then quietened down with neither side looking much like scoring.

Reid was the main thrust of Addick attacks, often running down the wing, cutting inside and shooting, but sadly his aim was often wayward and several shots drifted harmlessly wide of the goals.

Akpo Sodje got on the end of one Reid cross after an hour, but that went wide too, and as he tired, Sodje was caught offside quite a few times. It was no surprise then, that Akpo was replaced by Leon McKenzie with 20 minutes to go.

The 446 Charlton fans would have held high hopes of a victory when home forward Deeney was sent off with twelve minutes to go , though the commentators were unsure if it was for a second yellow card or a straight red for a professional foul?!? Whatever, the innocuousness of the challenge didn’t endear the referee to the home crowd any more than earlier decisions had.

Reid kept surging forwards on good runs but a couple more shots went wide, and then Sam came on as sub for Wagstaff with ten minutes to go. With Charlton playing against ten men, there was lots of late pressure, but nothing that came close to scoring. Solly was taken off for Basey with just three minutes left, and though the Addicks pushed on during the five minutes of added time, no winning goal came.

This was another very average result for Charlton, especially when we had a referee that seemed to be on our side for a change. The changes worked on an individual basis, with Racon, Solly, Akpo Sodje and Wagstaff all having reasonable games, but for the team, they didn’t seem to improve things very much.

Aspirations amongst the Addickted seem to be changing from one of chasing automatic promotion to one of securing a play-off berth, which is sad after the start to the season we had, but understandable. The two teams above us seem to have sufficient breathing space (especially with games in hand), and so the onus is on Charlton to stay ahead of the chasing pack. They too are a concern, especially with tough fixtures to come against close rivals (starting on Saturday). Whether Parky sticks with the team he played last night or makes further changes we will see, but he does need to find that way-to-win soon, otherwise all the good work prior to Xmas will have been in vain.

Charlton show somewhat matched Emma's commentary style; you often get there in the end, but always feeling short of the full package. Something's got to give....

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