Monday, February 08, 2010

Not Quite County-ed Out

Swindon Town 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton’s third 1-1 draw on the bounce, and a very dramatic one too, as captain Nicky Bailey salvaged a point with an equalizer deep into injury time at the end of the game. This may have been a decent result against in-form Swindon, but the goal may simply act to cover up the short-comings of the team and squad yet again. Those short-comings are the lack of a natural goal-scorer and the reliance on spirit to win us through.

Manager Phil Parkinson rung the changes again, with Grant Basey and Jonjo Shelvey back in the team in place of Chris Solly and Deon Burton. I have no problem with either switch, as Solly is young and does not have the experience of Basey, while Burton has not scored from open-play for over two months. I know that he brings a lot to the table in flicks and hold-up play, but Burton's position recently has been made tenuous by the lack of goals and even goal-threat; this side looked to set Charlton up in a 4-5-1 formation on paper. Lloyd Sam was not even on bench.

My notes from the game, garnered from the Swindon commentary via CAFC Player, do not make for happy reading. Swindon dominated the first half-hour of the game, as Charlton completely failed to find any sort of rhythm or possession. Swindon hit the bar (Greer) from a corner early on, and then a home player missed an open goal when the ball hit his own player on the line and bounced free. Charlton were poor generally in this time, and though Swindon were playing well, you would hope that a team with promotion aspirations would do better. Frazer Richardson was being given run around by the winger (JP McGovern) and the midfield over-run; with only Akpo Sodje up front, the ball was usually simply coming straight back at Charlton when it was cleared upfield. Swindon had lots of corners during this time, which Charlton somehow survived, but the pressure kept mounting.

It was at least 35 minutes into the game until Charlton started to play with any conviction, and after a good run and pull back by Kyel Reid, Shelvey hit the bar with great shot on the run, but sadly the ball bounced out (a long way). Reid then shot from distance, on target for a change, but it was saved by the home ‘keeper. Scott Wagstaff, who had had a very quiet game up till now, shot wide, and then, just before half time Swindon also shot just wide. Charlton had their first corner kick of game deep into first half injury time.

Swindon had a terrifying 60% of possession in first half which shows just how much they dominated up to that point, while Charlton seemed to have to resort to strong arm tactics in order to stay in the game.

Parky could obviously see that his game plan was not working at half-time, so he sent on Jose Semedo (for Wagstaff) with Shelvey moving to the right. This should have shored up the centre of the pitch a little, but his plans were quickly dashed when a clash of heads (with Greer) early in second half left Therry Racon needing his head stitched; there may have been some concussion too, as he was quickly replaced by Solly, with Basey moving ahead of the full-back.

This loss of a player was better than Charlton's other recent record of losing goals at the start of the second period. Swindon reacted to Charlton’s physical presence by getting stuck in themselves, and first Basey was injured in a tackle, then a high tackle by Greer caught the head of Akpo Sodje. The referee was being lenient to both sides, when others we have seen this season may have started flashing cards.

Charlton still struggled for any continuity, and kept losing possession too easily. A home corner after 65 minutes led to the ball being chipped into the penalty area, and after it was flicked on at the near post, Amankwaah knocked it into the back of the net to put Swindon one up. It was no more than Swindon deserved, and quite surprising that it had taken that long to see the first goal.

Burton then came on for Basey as Parky attempted to get back into the match, and this did have an effect, although if it was Swindon taking their foot off the gas or Charlton upping their game it was hard to tell.

Bailey had a shot saved after good run forward by Christian Dailly with twenty minutes left, but it was Reid who was most prominent in any Charlton moves of note during the second half. The home team seemed to sit back and think that the game was won, and Burton and Reid saw shots go wide, then Shelvey shot high and wide with five minutes left.

As the 90 minute mark passed, five minutes of added time were shown, and Charlton continued to press. A free kick to Charlton was headed wide by Bailey, then one of the best moves of the game saw the late equaliser - Sam Sodje powered a header down the line and Akpo Sodje quickly turned the ball inside to Burton inside the penalty box. Burton moved the ball on to the arriving Bailey who scored firmly in the bottom corner from 12 yards. It was dramatic, but thoroughly undeserved over the course of the game. More late pressure from Swindon failed to see another goal, and it was a great relief for the final whistle to sound.

Before this match, I would have been happy to have settled for a point, so to get a draw is good; the bad news is simply that we are having to tinker with the team at each game in a desperate effort to find a formula that works. While you can understand this early in a season, it doesn’t look good in February. The amount of possession that Swindon had was enormous - even more in the second period than in the first half! The only positive I can hope for is that we have reached the bottom of the barrel and that the late goal by Bailey now gives the team some confidence, and they can take it forwards on a good run through to seasons end.

There are plenty of question marks still for Parky and the team to answer, but at least we don’t have to worry about the teams spirit.

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Good report Pedro, and from our own gloomy outlook it doesn't look good at the moment, but then the Wiltshire Gazette did say that "Charlton utilised their substitutes to good effect as the game dragged on, and were worthy of a point". We would add that if Parky started with the right team we won't need to play around with subs but then maybe the opposition still see us as a team that shouldn't be in the League we are in and afford us more status and worth than we have.
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