Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Moving in the Right Direction

It is very true that a lot can happen in mere minutes during a football match, so in the month since I last blogged, it is no surprise that we have seen plenty of action both on and off the pitch. Amazingly, most of it is good news too!

My previous prose was written in the lead up to the Peterborough away game, where I confidently predicted that we might see one side get a bit of a pasting. I am glad I was correct in this summation, but thankfully horrendously wrong in my prediction and that it was Charlton who emerged victorious. The home team that day played the first 45 minutes as if in a collective daze, and even though an injury to Joe Anyinsah had to be dealt with, Charlton capitalized on every single mistake to snatch an astonishing 4-0 half-time lead. Even though many fans listening in via the radio or CAFC Player remained wary of that score being a winning one, Charlton held on firmly and scored once more to run out 5-1 winners in the shock result of the day. It seemed like everyone came to the party, with two goals from Johnnie Jackson (left), the first one a penalty, two more from Lee Martin (who had arrived as substitute for Anyinsah after just 20 minutes or so), and one from Paul Benson, plus plenty of assists from others in the team or solid defensive displays.

If ever one result ignited the season from a fans perspective, then it was this one.

It should be noted that Peterborough did play awfully in defence, but their dangerous attack still needed controlling, and the guys at the back did their collective job very well.

That match was quickly followed by a home FA Cup replay against Barnet, and the weekend enduced euphoria quickly evaporated on a cold night (if that is possible?). Only Kyel Reid’s solo goal lit up the evening, and a paltry crowd started to drift off long before the final whistle. Luckily, they didn’t miss any goals, mainly due to Rob Elliot’s heroics in the second half, where he made a good number of excellent saves that basically ensured the victory and progression to the 2nd round. It was nice that Rob had a good game, as many of the recent plaudits have gone to the outfield players. When called upon, Robbie has been pretty consistent this season, even if many would not consider him to have been at his best prior to this match.

At least it meant progression, and the following night we found that it was to be a game against Luton in the next round, after they won their own replay. That was a game for the future though…

Back in league action, and the only league team from Somerset came to SE7. Yeovil played well, and often embarrassed the Charlton team who seemed to think that goals would come without much effort. In some ways, the players were right, and goals by Jackson (again!) and Therry Racon twice gave the Addicks the lead, after Elliot had been beaten by a surprising shot from 25 yards that went in off the post. After half time, things got worse when Yeovil equalised again, and when Christian Dailly was sent off a few minutes later, and with twenty minutes still left in the match, fans hopes for any points were diminishing. Luckily, Yeovil’s least favourite substitute – Akpo Sodje – came on to the pitch and worked his socks off to create the chance for a win. From my seat, it did look like he timed his run well and would have reached Gary Doherty’s header into the box, though what he would have done had he reached it I’m not sure! We will never know though, as a Yeovil defender pulled him back by the shirt, just enough, and Sodje fell theatrically to the ground. Penalty, red card, and a goal, in that order, and three more points in the bag. Jackson had never scored twice in a game before the Peterborough match, and now he had done so two weeks running!

Dailly’s sending off was harsh in my opinion. Sure, he led with his arm, but at no point did he swing it or "aim" it at the player. Later, it transpired that it was in fact his head that made contact with the opposition player, but the TV angles could not confirm this. An appeal was considered, but bearing in mind the short thrift with which such claims are treated these days, it just didn’t seem worth wasting five grand (the appeal cost) with no visual evidence to back up the statements made by both players regarding what touched who. As it was Dailly’s second red card of the season, he now had to sit out the next four games.

The first of these was the Bristol Rovers home game, played on another cold Tuesday night. Jon Fortune had seen plenty of game time in the previous two matches, and he started here alongside the ever consistent Doherty. It was another very average performance from the Addicks, but whereas the home side saw plenty of luck against Yeovil, here the well had run almost dry. A quiet first half saw the away teams on loan goalkeeper make one very good save from Benson, and while never really threatened, you knew that Charlton’s make-shift defence would probably not hold out for the whole game. Sure enough, midway through the second 45 minutes, a corner was headed out, and a crisp shot followed the smooth squaring of the ball. Rifled through the packed penalty box, Elliot stood little chance as the ball nestled in the corner. Charlton did up their game, forcing a couple of excellent saves, and when Reid’s shot from a far post cross veered away from goal, it was touched home by a jubilant Benson. Akpo couldn’t weave his magic on this game, much as he tried, blighted by the 'keeper again, and the scores finished level. At least Charlton saw other results go with them, as they had done over previous league weekends, and now the team sat in second place behind early season leaders Brighton.

The Luton match was another played in near freezing temperatures. With relatively few home fans in attendance (in the 8600 strong crowd) and a full away end, it was a surreal atmosphere not seen for some years at The Valley. And consequently, maybe, Charlton played like they did in the old days. Luton stroked the ball around and had most of the play, but Charlton’s cutting edge was sharp, especially with Anyinsah now back from injury. It was Joe who headed in Reid’s cross early on to give the home side the lead, but a weakly given penalty brought the teams level well before half time; Elliot actually saved the spot kick but was powerless to prevent the rebound being headed home. Even then, Jackson, on such a rich vein of goal-scoring now, headed home his own goal to allow Charlton to retake the lead at the break. The pattern was similar in the second half, with the away team bossing the match mainly, but not until Drury hit a sublime "pass" over Elliot from 25 yards did they draw level. The draw was a fair result, and ensured both teams watched the balls being picked out of the bag by wide-boy rock-stars intently the next day. Late in the draw, Charlton’s number 57 brought the right variety of fixture with an away tie at rip-roaring, goal-scoring, Champions League outsiders Tottenham Hotspurs. Even if the replay is won (and with Semedo back, plus with Wagstaff and Doherty fit, we should have a much stronger team available...), we should not dream of progressing, but at least the revenue (with live TV coverage via ESPN)) and exposure from the game will be nice.

That made it ten games since the last defeat (and also makes my holiday seem like a long time ago!), and a fine come-back by the team and the management.

Into December, and all we have really seen is snow, and more snow. The cold weather turned colder, and my plans to go to Rochdale (via a drinking session in Huddersfield) were cancelled as was the game. This was quite lucky really as I was in fact stuck in Germany for most of the week, where tales of German efficiency proved to be very wide of the mark (no pun intended!). None of the trains I caught ran on time, and my flight was cancelled without notice with many passengers at the gate. My trip to the airport had been enlivened by travelling with many yellow and black clad Borussia Dortmund fans, en route to their Europa League game that evening. Not for years have I seen so many bottles of beer being consumed on a train on the way to a footie match! I’m glad they won as it was very, very cold that night…

Possibly the only piece of good news I had while abroad was that, finally, we have movement on the takeover front. I wrote in my last blog that "…one day, Murray will have to sell up, and we all have to hope that the guy who follows him will have a heart and wallet at least as big." Well, we do not yet know who the person or people holding the notes and waving them in Richard Murray’s direction are, except that the bid is led (or more-correctly, fronted) by Peter Varney (left). Always a Charlton man, Varney failed when trying to push through a previous take-over about 16 months back. What none of us know is who is involved, and the Charlton Life board is full of rumours about Middle-Eastern, American, Irish, local, and in-house buy-outs. It does seem that Seb Sainsbury is not involved, which might upset all those fans who now have him as their Facebook friend. The take-over due diligence is now in full swing, and the paperwork is due to be completed prior to Xmas, provided nothing untoward crawls out of the woodwork. Nothing is done until it’s done though, so we had better keep our fingers crossed because if this bid fails, I doubt we’ll get anything else! Ever! Whether Varney will re-assume his CEO role, or even if Murray will remain on the board are still unknowns, but I have a hope that both elements come to fruition. As has been mentioned elsewhere, Richard Murray should be thanked for all his efforts over the last twenty-odd years; without him, this Charlton, our Charlton, would not have been the same.


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