Sunday, 23 September 2018

Welling United 2 v Chesham United 1

A good old fashioned F A Cup tie this. Chesham, struggling at the foot of the division below the Wings came to battle and they made a game of it.

Welling looked a division higher for much of the match and if anyone did percentage possession stats at this level, it would have been strongly in their favour. This despite resting a few players who might have got the job done earlier and more emphatically. However, the visitors fought hard and the defence played well with a resilient midfield that didn't give up despite having to watch Welling taking the game to them for long periods.

After about twenty-five minutes the match was stopped for no apparent reason. The lino on the Erith & Belvedere side of the pitch had spotted something no-one else in the ground had seen and alerted the referee who after a short exchange raced back across the pitch to inform the Welling management. Moments later a tracksuit hombre armed with a bucket walked around the pitch to the amusement of the supporters. By now, Jack Giddens in the visitors goal had jogged across to converse with the lino and with the pair of them laughing, it was clear the interruption was for something out-of-the-ordinary. The sight of of the bucket being used to carry scooped fox poo from the playing surface drew the obvious chant from the Wings fans - "you're shit and you know you are!"

The laughter ended shortly after as Chesham scored first against the run of play after half-an-hour. David Ijaha was caught in possession trying to play the ball out and Chesham's centre forward found the corner of the Welling net with a low shot. The pre-match team sheet which is posted inside the ground was unusually incorrect with a number of late changes, including the Chesham goal-scorer. Up until then it had been Welling doing all the pressing. Gavin McCallum was lively as was Jack Jebb, who once again got the man-of-the-match award. Big Danny Mills looked a threat but Welling were struggling to find him.

The Wings redoubled their efforts and responded strongly to going a goal down. A good passing move down the left let McCallum into the visitors box on the overlap and he ran into the near post before pulling the ball back for the arriving Jebb who couldn't miss. One-one and Welling nearly took the lead before the break, A surging run by Thierry Audel into the box from the left-hand side saw a fierce angled shot spooned away brilliantly by Giddens and it somehow cleared the rest of the goal frame. 

In the second-half and with Welling attacking the Danson Park end there were more chances as they went for the win and we saw very little of Chesham as an attacking force and they were restricted to potshots from distance. A stream of crosses, most from Nassim L'Ghoul threatened to undo Chesham and it was one of these, a curling driven ball to the back post that looked to have done it. Danny Mills climbed unchallenged and had time to plant a thumping downward header on target. It looked a goal all the way but Giddens threw a panicked shape on his line and somehow got enough behind it to keep it out. Congratulated by his team-mates, the relief was short-lived. 

With the clock running down a repeat back post delivery was met this time by the much smaller McCallum streaking into the box and his arriving pace meant there was nothing Giddens could do this time to stop the header. 

It was good to hear that Grant had found the net equally late at the Valley for a copycat scoreline. I remember writing awhile back that Grant simply wasn't prolific enough a finisher to make it at Charlton, so it's a pleasant surprise to see him tucking the goals away this season. Lee Bowyer has four wins from four as permanent manager and the Addicts are up to an unlikely-looking sixth in the table. 

Pete from Worthing messaged me last night to say he was missing the Valley and the winning football and is thinking about renewing his season ticket. Those still attending are certainly enjoying the football for a change and for that we owe Bowyer and Steve Gallen a debt of gratitude. Given the history under Duchatelet you have to wonder if our hopes will again be shortened at New Year if, riding-high, we find our side deprived of one or two of the better performing players as he continues to look to fund his losses. In the unlikely event we managed to win promotion, I wonder what price Duchatelet would place on us a Championship club?

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Wake up and smell the coffee Lee

Following his elevation to 'permanent' manager status on a 9 month contract, Lee Bowyer was quick to sing his employer's praises telling the South London Press that Roland has "backed' him whenever he has asked for a player. I think you will find Lee that Duchatelet has only given you less-expensive replacements for better players he has cashed-in on and that you started the season with only 16 professionals and have struggled to field a full bench.

Bowyer acknowledged that "because of the budget it's been tough" but Roland has been supportive and even went the extra mile after the recent harrowing protests at the Fleetwood game to call him on the Sunday and ask "are you okay?" I note Lee that he did this by phone, not in person having come over to provide you and his other staff with visible and moral support. That's the same caring boss who reneged on a rare 10% bonus payment to poorly paid staff and who has turned off lights at Valley and Sparrows Lane as well as having stopped bottled water for non first-team players. 

I am sure Bowyer is speaking as he finds and I respect him for that but I would have hoped he might have reflected more upon the treatment of his predecessor whom he worked with and perhaps done a little bit of light research to better understand the modus operandi of Roland Duchatelet with the multitude of other managers who have not been supported or been visibly out-of-their-depth. Karl Robinson always struck me as being too worried about his own position to openly criticise Duchatelet but he was royally embarrassed when he went to see Duchatelet pre-Christmas two years ago to beg for money to spend in the January sales and was sent home with his tail between his legs. For Robinson, it was always 'the next window.' 

Let's see how Bowyer fares because my money is very heavily on Roland continuing to sell whoever he can as he tries to cut his enormous losses and Bowyer having to make do and mend. He has done that admirably but the point will come where he will realise he is not going to get any help beyond that of an average League One side in his attempts to exit this division. I honestly believe Duchatelet doesn't give a toss about promotion and is perfectly happy running a League One loss instead of a Championship one.

Bowyer was also fooled into telling us that Roland has assured him he "won't sell to just anybody" because he cares so much about the club. Catch yourself on Lee, he will sell to so-called ISIS if the price is right. I think what he actually said was he "won't sell to anybody, because no-one's yet been stupid enough to offer him twice what the club's worth." 

Lee could also learn something if he reads  Duchatelet's latest rant on the club website. It's directed at the EFL who want to speak to him about the state of things at CAFC but it's a barely coherent request that the EFL look into the supporters protests and reflect on those before he is called to account. No doubt this was another of his famous tantrums when he ordered the media team to put his dictat up unedited. The last one caused his then new Comms Manager, the honourable Mel Baroni, to resign but Tom Rubbashaw is made of thicker skin and less integrity and will no doubt put it down to the experience of working with the billionaire Belgian miser-genius.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Finally, some good use - Lee Bowyer permanent

On the back of what seems like a never-ending catalogue of backward steps, penny-pinching and general lack of any ambition, Roland Duchatelet was finally forced into appointing Lee Bowyer on a 'permanent' basis today. In practice that means 9 months but it's still good news, especially when recent experience suggested the Belgian miser might have decided not to make any further commitment to Bowyer.

I am pleased for Bowyer. He has kept out of the politics and been remarkably circumspect with what he's said publicly, both towards Duchatelet and with supporters. He is the only chance we have this season of over-performing. If he had only been offered an extension on a temporary basis I suspect he would have pulled stumps and that would almost certainly seen the wheels fall off.

The news also adds a little more weight to the growing suspicion that the Aussies have either given-up or are prepared to wait it out and see if Duchatelet gets more desperate to sell. Given where we are in the season, it looks highly unlikely there will be any further realistic hope of a takeover deal concluding before January and given the impasse, that may realistically mean next Summer.

Duchatelet will commiserate five years of ownership in January and will reflect on a club halved in all measurable senses since he took over and now firmly established in League 2, a division below where he acquired us. The damage is obvious but the long-termism of it cannot yet be adequately measured and revenues can only realistically fall so much further, certainly less than they have thus far because there's not that far left to fall. The breakage of supporter bonds, family commitments and even the habit of attending is largely invisible at the moment but it may represent a significant hurdle in the future for whoever picks up the pieces. 

I find myself not only boycotting Charlton but actually increasingly enjoying watching non-league football much more than I ever imagined possible  Ironically, I continue to enjoy the match-day experience far better than EFL football. Even more Duchatelet-laden irony given that the match-day experience was his initial game-plan, given he was always clear he wasn't interested in buying his way to success. Welling United manage this very simply without naff marketing gimmicks or Eurotrash music and dancing. They know their supporters wouldn't fall for it. A good sports bar with beer at £3 a pint, plastic glasses available to take into the ground and staff and stewards who behave like grown-ups and who treat the fans with respect. I don't really know how much ambition Mark Goldberg has for the club - he doesn't over-promise, but he has made significant changes this season to management and playing personnel and the Wings are sitting in fourth place with a feel-good factor around the first-team. That's all I really need - someone who appears to be trying and who is always there to watch his team, home and away and to grin or bear it with the club's supporters.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Welling United 3 v Oxford City 2

Whilst Charlton needed a late winner at Southend today, Welling did the same here in a great game which was a fine advertisement for the competitiveness of the National League South.

After a 5-0 demolition of Concorde last week over on Canvey Island, I was hoping to see the Wings rack up a convincing home win here. However, Oxford came to make a game of it and they were in it until the death when Anthony Acheampong latched onto a clever knockdown to thump the winner past Craig King.

The match had started brightly for Welling with them attacking the Park View Road end and they might have taken the lead after man-of-the-match Brendan Kiernan saw a header deflected off a defender and onto the post. Two minutes later Oxford took the lead through Kabongo Tshimanga who nipped in to capitalise on a lack of concentration in the Welling defence. 

Welling were undeterred and came looking for the equaliser. Kieran was sparking everything down the left with close support from Jack Jebb and there was some really good football at times as Goldberg and Mills sought to get a goal-scoring opportunity. Gavin McCallum, another heavily left-footed winger, playing on the right, was also busy re-supplying the front two but it was Kieran who levelled five minutes before half-time. Jebb played his way down the left hand side of the Oxford box and with players blocking his progress, we suddenly heard a cry of "jebby' from Kieran who arrived at the edge of the box. Jebb picked him out and Kieran struck first time. His shot was low and slow but it advanced through a host of players momentarily stationary in the box and it crept into the far corner before King could get across to it. Kieran has managed to replace Joe Healy who was last season's stand-out player and he's done it within a month of the season starting. 

After the break, Oxford responded best and for twenty minutes they took the game to Welling drawing two smart blocking saves from Dan Wilks. Welling came back after that and had a sustained spell of pressure before David Ijaha finally made the breakthrough with a glancing header from short range after a dash across the box to meet what I think was a McCallum cross.

I thought that might be it but Oxford were then awarded a penalty for a challenge that was clearly two yards outside the box. The referee ran immediately towards the tackle with his arm pointed and then, inexplicably, turned and awarded a pen. Justice was done as Patterson skied his effort off the bar and out into the road. Oxford weren't done though and on 82 minutes they equalised after a quick counter attack found Patterson with space to divert a cross in at Wilks' near post. 

With the clock counting down, it was Welling's turn for the last laugh as Acheampong gleefully smacked in the winner.

Welling up to fourth and there looks like a lot more to come from this new side.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Welling United 0 v Billericay Town 3

Big spending 'Ricky blew into town last night and took the points although the score-line flattered them and the Wings will feel aggrieved not to have taken something from the match.

There was no Paul Konchesky in the visitors starting line-up, nor Jamie O'Hara, but they did boast Adam Coombes, signed from the Wings during the close season and I spotted Louis Wells between the sticks, lured from Concorde since I last saw him in at action at Park View Road.

It was a fine Summer's evening and the atmosphere was enhanced by 150 or so 'Ricky fans whose chant of "we'll support you evermore" was met with derision from the home fans and taunts that they were all new arrivals hitched-up to the big spending of owner Glenn Tamplin.

So, to the game them and the Wings started well, as they invariably do at home. Jack Jebb put an early free-kick two feet over the bar before finding his range with a second one that hit the underside of the bar with Wells beaten and Danny Mills could only head the bouncing ball up and over. Wells made a sharp save from Goldberg after a fine piece of touch football from the impressive Brendan Kiernan had played him in. Wells touched the hot-shot onto the bar and was called into action shortly after to tip over a speculative effort from midfield.

With Welling looking to open the scoring, Billericay won a penalty and Adam Coombes scored again on his return to PVR. Thierry Audel was the Wings culprit after clothes-lining a Billericay player who had beaten him for pace. That was the half-time score and after the break with Welling kicking towards Park View Road, I was hopeful they would get back into the match.

Early pressure was again applied with Kiernan, the pocket battleship Kissock and equally diminutive Goldberg all combining well and giving Billericay a hard time. However, from another break, a Billericay forward got a free header and it was two-nil.

After that, Welling huffed and puffed but threatened less and with substitutions being made they lost concentration and heart. A third goal was harsh and it killed the game.

Early days for Welling given the wholesale squad changes and it will take time for them to settle down. The 4-1-3-2 formation struggled a bit, primarily because Ijaha in front of the back four looked off the pace. Danny Mills, playing the big man to Goldberg's foil, also had a poor game.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Charlton Athletic 2 v Shrewsbury Town 1

Good to start at home with three points. Good to force the issue with a late winner. Good to beat play-off nemesis Shrewsbury Town.

As predicted, we did sign a keeper from Aston Villa on loan yesterday, but it was Jed Steer not Sarkic as widely rumoured earlier join the week. I am pleased to say that Dillon Phillips started today as I think the lad deserves his chance.

 The first-half was dull and I heard nothing after the start of the game as I did a few jobs in my back garden, a stone's throw from the ground. I was listening to the Fulham v Palace game and the occasional update on the Charlton game wasn't enlightening beyond 0-0 and no scoring chances. I was keen to see how ma any subs we were fielding given that is the new barometer for how badly abused the first team is under Roland Duchatelet. We managed to field one more than last week but it was Albie Morgan, a kid I assumed was along for the ride.

How wrong was I then, as Lee Bowyer threw him into the fray at half-time. It says something about how poor a match Mike Marshall was having - he really has been a disappointing signing - that Bowyer turned to a debutant so early on. However, Morgan's introduction swung the match. Fellow-youngster George Lapslie crossed for Lyle Taylor to head us in front and despite the setback of a Shrews equaliser, Karlan Grant grabbed a header of his own to take the points. I heard all three goals very clearly and the decibel count also told me the sequence of scoring.

Lee Bowyer deserves the plaudits for the tactical switch and for getting a battling second-half performance from his small squad of players. If you are going into a backs-to-the-wall fight, Lee Bowyer is just the sort of man you would want to be leading the team and that looks just where we are at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Wings cruised to a 4-1 win at Chippenham Town today ahead of Tuesday evening's home match against high-flying Billericay. 

Friday, 10 August 2018

Status quo on deadline day - is the takeover finally off?

I hoped Lee Bowyer wouldn't be left 'polishing a turd' yesterday but that's exactly what happened. With no reinforcements arriving, he was left trying to make it a positive day by telling us that none of our remaining 16 first-teamers had left and that we should be signing a loanee this morning subject to a medical. That will be a desperately needed second keeper ahead of the home game against Shrewsbury on Saturday - Villa understudy Matija Sarkic.

Blackburn's refusal to meet Duchatelet's price on Bauer means he stays until January but he is clearly unsettled and could still be loaned out to save on wages. However, with Pearce out for 4-6 weeks, and the loan win now closing at the end of the month, it looks like he will have to resign himself to another five months in Addicks colours. Ajose didn't go either but it's very clear he isn't wanted in SE7 and a loan deal is most likely, even if that's abroad after the end of August.

Bowyer did speak of 'two more' loanees, one of whom he appears to be close to but they are holding out for a Championship club. That sounds very much like Leeds' unwanted Irish midfielder Eunan O'Kane who Bowyer clearly sees as a short-term replacement for the injured Forster-Caskey. I would assume the other has to be a central defender to bolster options at the back following Summer outgoings.

So, we have started the season with a significantly reduced squad from the one that ended it and undeniably weaker. Injuries have added to that situation and it will be another test of Bowyer's management skills to see if he can get the bare bones to play-up above the sum of their collective parts.

I am also left wondering if the Aussie's takeover ship has sailed? Still no word and with the transfer window closed, their ability to influence things on the playing front is shut until 2019. They would be starting with five months of ongoing operating losses and most likely to see this season written-off in terms of any chances of promotion before it opens again. Timing is everything when you have been scrabbling to get sufficient money together to fund a takeover and a plan long enough to change the fortunes of the club. I wonder if Bowyer's position being confirmed as permanent rather than temporary in the short-term might come with an announcement that the deal is finally off?

Finally, CARD were at it once again yesterday, embarrassing the Belgian Billionaire by sending branded bottles of water to the training ground for the young players who have been forced to drink from the tap following a miserly decision to restrict bottled water to the first-team. The club's Spin Machine (Tom Rubbashaw) was forced to respond and after a brainstorming session he came up with a defence on grounds of the environmental damage of plastic water bottles which was incredibly weak and left us all laughing and asking about the first-teamers still getting bottled water and all of the plastic bottles and cups used at The Valley on match days. I loved the line that they had decided to provide "fresh water' for the players instead of that unfresh bottled stuff. Massive own-goal and school-boy error from the Duchatelet Apologist.