Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Exciting Times

Charlton Athletic 1 Leeds United 0

An exciting week personally for me has made me a little tardy in getting a match report from Saturday up here, but Charlton’s display can hardly be called tardy at all. A thoroughly professional performance and, in a close game, one which fully deserved all three points, courtesy of Akpo Sodje’s late header (left).

The result leaves all possibilities still open with regard automatic promotion, and I calculate odds of between 12 and 15-1 for Charlton to claim that second coveted promotion spot.

The players are all producing excellent form at exactly the right time of the season, and against Leeds, every single player performed with honour and then some, from Darren Randolph in goal through to substitute Dave Mooney.

Randolph had to make two very good saves – one early on after a short back-pass from Sam Sodje and another in injury time to ensure the points from a point-blank header by Beckford. Whereas it was considered that Rob Elliot was making points winning saves early in the season, the same can now happily be said for Randolph.

The settled defence looked pretty comfortable, save from a couple of misplaced passes that led to chances for Leeds. Frazer Richardson excelled against his former side, contradicting the Yorkshire view that Gradel or Watt’s pace might unsettle him; Gary Borrowdale used all his experience to good effect, and yet again came quite close to scoring his first ever senior goal; Sam Sodje did well in the air, and nullified the threat of Becchio (albeit illegally at times); while Christian Dailly once more put in a faultless display using all his vast experience.

The midfield was at times over-run, especially in the frenetic first half, but Jose Semedo stood firm, and Therry Racon tried his best. Racon does seem to be going around in circles though much of the time, and the side looked much better and more solid when Nicky Bailey was moved centrally for the last half–hour. Out wide, Bailey put in his stint, but he was often playing too negatively and unable to make his forward forays from out on the wing. Lloyd Sam had another top draw game against his home town club, and always looked capable of creating something for the forwards and arriving midfield.

The front pair of Deon Burton and Nicky Forster have age and experience on their side, but not too much pace any more. Burton took a lot of punishment that often went unseen by the referee, but Forster kept running and supporting, and dealt with any scraps that came his way. The pair did link up well once late in the first half, when Burton’s shot was well saved.

The coup de grace though came from manager Phil Parkinson, one not known for making too many game changing moves from the bench. In an inspired move, Parky brought all three subs on at once in a very positive move, with half an hour remaining, and all three made a big impact on the game. Akpo Sodje wouldn’t allow himself to be bullied by the Leeds defenders in the way that Burton had, while Mooney added fresh impetus and held the ball linking play well, and Kyel Reid became an instant threat with his pace and directness from the left wing.

The goal, when it came in the 86th minute, was a little scrappy, with Akpo Sodje challenging for a ball, then getting on the end of a headed cross back into the danger area by Lloyd Sam. Sodje’s firm header may have been saved but a slight deflection of a defender took it high into the net and the biggest Valley crowd of the season erupted.

There was still time for Reid to curl a free kick against the inside of a post, and for a Reid led breakaway to mess up when it looked easier to score, before the finale of Randolph’s reaction save.

A very happy Valley crowd left the stadium knowing that the team are capable of beating top sides in this league (where there has been doubt previously), and that should the play-off route be required, some confidence does exist.

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