Wednesday, April 07, 2010

And Then There Were Five…

Charlton Athletic 1 Carlisle United 0

A couple of weeks ago, when Charlton played up in Yorkshire, a Huddersfield Town supporting friend of mine was so appalled at how both teams had played on that day that he was convinced that neither team would make the play offs, let alone be in with a chance of promotion. He said that both sides were poor; no tactics, no cutting edge, no thrust – no chance! Two weeks later, and the contrary is likely, as Colchester have slipped, while the Terriers and Charlton have won a couple of games.

Charlton’s latest game was another where the result mattered a lot more than the performance, and it may well be like that until the end of the season now. On another day, without much pressure, it is entirely possible that Carlisle would have been blown away and lost by far more than just the solitary goal that eventually separated the sides. As it was, just Sam Sodje’s towering header after visiting ‘keeper Collins missed a corner was the difference between another inept showing and a valuable victory.

Phil Parkinson decided to switch his formation for this game, playing Jonjo Shelvey in the hole behind lone striker Nicky Forster. The defence and midfield were the same as had started in Saturday’s game, and while looking quite solid in the first half, there was no continuity to the game and the referee wasn’t helping by being very fussy. Shelvey struggled to get involved, and big hoofs out of defence were met by equally big hoofs in return as Forster couldn’t hold the ball and had no support to call on. When the ball did go to feet, the bobbly pitch didn’t help (come on Paddy, you would have hated to have played on that surface!), and Lloyd Sam and Kyel Reid often found their final ball over hit.

The goal (left), when it came, was from a series of decent corners delivered by the opposite sides full-back – Frazer Richardson for left wing corners, and Gary Borrowdale for right wing efforts. Prior to Sodje’s goal, fellow centre back Christian Dailly had almost added to his goal tally (currently standing at one) but his header was scrambled away from the line. Darren Randolph, at the other end, had almost nothing to do in the first forty-five, even though Carlisle did have some good possession.

The second half was much more open, and the visitors did come out in search of an equalizer. Randolph had to sprint from his line and with Sodje somehow the pair got one ball away from danger as curlybonce Jason Price bore down on goal. And then all of a sudden, chances started to come for the home team. For some reason, most of these seemed to fall to Shelvey, but through a combination of bad play and bad luck, each effort seemed to be blocked on or near the line. A couple of times, he took balls off better placed forwards feet annoyingly, and it was no real surprise when he was eventually replaced by Dave Mooney.

Both sides did get the ball in the net, but both were chalked off for offside; one of Price’s last kicks was to fall over the ball a couple of yards out and deflect it in, while Akpo Sodje – on for Forster – also had a shot go in but Richardson was interfering and that was disallowed too. The younger Sodje was desperate it seemed to match his older brothers goal, and he looked a real handful while on the pitch. With Nicky Bailey replacing Reid, there were plenty of bodies in the box, but numerous crosses had either too little or too much weight on them, and nobody could get a clean header at goal. There were no real alarms toward the end for a change, and a win is a win.

The real concern could still be that Charlton are not yet playing well. It’s great that Darren Randolph has kept a pair of clean sheets, and the form of Sam Sodje and Jose Semedo does look to be back near their best. The worry for Semedo is that if he is booked on Saturday then he faces a suspension (if he isn’t, then that suspension will not happen at all). With Bailey and Sam both now apparently back to full fitness, and with sufficient reserves on the bench, the squad is pretty strong now and has cover wherever needed.

Will this level of play be enough? The other teams are so close that two points cover the positions from second to fifth – one slip, and you are out of automatic contention, even though a play-off place does now look assured.

I hope that the team are on the up; the defence is now looking better, the midfield is combative and hard-working, and the options up front are many though still not abundant with goals. Parky just needs to pick the right tam for each of the next five games; if he does that, then we can have no complaints wherever we finish (though I’m sure we will!).

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The comments made by your Huddersfield mate are interesting Pedro. I felt the same way after the Gills and MK Dons games.

But I recall a few years ago, Hull and Stoke coming to the Valley and getting results with no coherence or plan (other than to intimidate) and being promoted to the Prem a few weeks later.

In the same season West Brom came and played football - and then got relegated the following season.

Pembury Addick
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