Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Between the Lines

Charlton Athletic 2 Reading 1

I finally got to see my beloved boys in a game this season, and was rewarded with a battling victory on my birthday. It’s funny that while everyone was remarking on how many new players we had in the squad this season, by my reckoning some seven made their full debuts last night. Ben Hamer came into the goalkeepers slot, while Yado Mambo finally started a match at centre half, with Cedric Evina at left back. Danny Green played wide right, and Ruben Bover wide left, with Bradley Pritchard and Andy Hughes in centre midfield. Add to these the first full game for Jason Euell since he rejoined Charlton and it was an astonishing eleven to kick off with.

Suffice to say, the start was incredible, and with 200 seconds, I thought both teams could have scored three times each! Paul Benson was put through by Green’s long throw (which said something about Reading’s pre-match knowledge about him…) but blasted over, then Reading saw two very dangerous crosses turned away for corners, before Euell and Green both broke free but saw their shots blocked. Reading then saw a header cleared off the line, so it was pretty amazing that the scores remained deadlocked.

Charlton bossed midfield, with Pritchard and Bover full of running and Hughes all bustle and involvement but with two opposition wingers to manage, Simon Francis and Evina had their hands full and Francis did get beaten all too easily on occasions.

The first goal finally came when Benson nipped in on a loose ball, and poked toward goal, only for the ‘keeper to half save it and then see the ball trickle slowly over the line.

Well worth the lead, Charlton played some delightful stuff, with everyone seemingly keen on pushing for a first eleven starting place this Saturday.

Benson went off very early in the second half, with what looked like a dislocated finger, and Scott Wagstaff came on to play a striker support role. Green was hugely influential and came close to scoring, as did Wagstaff himself, and the two linked well down the right.

It was from that side that the second goal came, as Waggy and Green linked with Francis who put in a great cross for Euell to nod home amid much delight. It was Jason’s first goal since his return to the Addicks a couple of weeks ago.

More goals threatened, but would not come, and being Charlton, it was Reading who took advantage and reduced the arrears. Gary Doherty, whose lack of pace had been overcome as the game progressed, went off with a slight ankle problem, but his replacement - Michael Morrison – did not have time to settle before a corner was swung over and the ball was stabbed home high into the net off (I think) Hughes. This Charlton team do seem to have set-play issues, and further pressure came as the corner count increased. Church missed with one close range header when he should have scored, and Hamer had to be alert several times to keep his goal intact.

Bover ran himself into the ground and went off with five minutes left, and Chris Solly, his replacement allowed some easing of the pressure through cool play. The referee took some stick as he made some strange decisions and Chris Powell had to return to the dug out in order to save himself from punishment as he swore at the fourth official (for which he immediately apologised it has to be said) as the game climaxed. Charlton hung on, and now meet Preston next Tuesday.

I was very impressed with the overall fitness of the team, especially Pritchard and Bover who I did not think would have that strength yet. Mambo won many good headers against a very strong forward line, and Green played many delightful balls until he faded in the last ten minutes or so (when he seemed to be trying for the killer ball rather than just retaining possession). As for Euell, well, it just didn’t seem as if he’d ever been away!


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