Saturday, 3 January 2009

Charlton Athletic 1 v Norwich City 1

Today I met up with nine friends, most of whom travelled with me all over the country during the 80's and 90's following Charlton Athletic. We enjoyed some hospitality courtesy of the Celebration Suite (a touch ironic at the moment) which is high up in the West Stand. By my reckoning, only three of us are still "regulars" and I think I am the last season ticket holder, which is a sign of the times.

One of the benefits of a pre-match hospitality is that you get the team sheet handed to you 20 minutes or so before kick-off. It was, therefore, a massive slap in the face to see that Phil Parkinson was attempting to break the mould and win this match by playing 4-5-1 with Deon Burton upfront. I said yesterday that in order to win this game we needed to attack throughout and ensure we got a cushion from which to secure the game. What on Earth was he thinking of? I could live with Matty Holland playing centre-half and a five-man midfield, but Burton on his own upfront?

Well, to be fair, he got a sparkling first half, largely courtesy of Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey drove everything from midfield and played like the missing forward for much of the half and arrived in space to rifle home Bouazza's drilled cross after 20 minutes. Bouazza should have wrapped it up before half-time when he roared into the box but chose to fire narrowly wide of the far post with players sliding in.  Burton headed onto the bar and Bailey slid in to miss another great chance before the break. 

One-nil at half-time and Norwich looked as poor as I thought they might. Their impressive 3,000 following knew they were up against it and loudly sang "Roeder, Roeder, sort it out" before half-time. Two Norwich changes at half-time made a difference. Wes Hoolihan and John Otsemobor started the second half and Norwich began to at least look competitive without creating anything. The half wore on and we created nothing. Shelvey, Sam and Bouazza began to tire and Norwich began to get more possession. Five minutes after we needed fresh legs, Norwich scored an ordinary goal through Arturo Lupoli which owed everything to complacency. Their only effort on goal and they had the draw.

At 1-1 the game was crying out for Charlton to go 4-4-2 to try and win the game. Instead, Phil Parkinson decided to swop Youga for Burton. Youga went to left back and Basey pushed up but how this was going to help us win the game, I don' know. Svetislav Todorov was on the bench and if he didn't warrant an appearance today, then his career at Charlton is over (I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's being flogged in the January sales, hence the cameos).  McLeod is out of his depth in the Championship but even he might have fancied his chances today against this side. Dickson did get on with ten minutes to go (for a tiring Shelvey) but it never looked enough to get close to a winner.

So, we have a replay we don't need and one we probably can't win. Parkinson has now overseen 9 of the 17 winless games and we face a revitalised Nottingham Forest at the Valley next Saturday. It's very hard to see how we can win that and without it relegation moves two steps nearer. 

You have to ask yourself why Jonjo Shelvey was only making his second start since the opening day of the season? We have been crying out for more quality and he's been in the stiffs. Maybe he's being put in the shop window? If so, it worked. 

Matty Holland played a starring role alongside Jon Fortune but we shouldn't forget that Norwich were dire and presented very little threat throughout. Moutouakil and Basey were solid as were the midfield in front of them - there was just next to nothing up-front. Why-oh-why couldn't Parkinson see it?

He may have been kept on because he was the cheapest option but I am confident we would have won this game under a new manager. A win would have released an enormous amount of pressure and may have set us up for next week. Instead we face Nottingham Forest in a "must-win" game and they arrive with new manager-bounce after beating Man City 3-1 away. Murray, you can't say you weren't told.

The pathetic crowd today of 12, 615 (see photos) owed everything to 3,000 travelling Canaries, or things might have looked even worse. For those of you under 30, this is what it used to be like before you were born. This current run doesn't look like ending anytime soon and I reiterate that we will be the first side relegated this year.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog! i sit lower west had a season ticket since i was 3 now 18 will never stop going my dad had a season ticket since the 60's same with him never stop going, we had a massive group around us that have gradually faded away to only 6 or 7 of us ! thought it was a bit shocking of parky to play one up front might as well give mcleod and dickson a go or toddy! and as well we played with just bouazza up front when he brought burton off sometimes you wonder what they see that we dont!! still gotta support the club now cos thats all that matters to get out of this crap were in!

Anonymous said...

Very hard to disagree with this and depressing it is too. I thought that today's game really brought home the paucity of the squad. Since Pardew's appointment in December '06, 30+ players have been signed by Charlton, a club able to spend more on transfers and on wages than most of the competition in the Championship, at least initially, and it beggars belief that there is so little quality in the side; quite an achievement.

The only player with touch and time today was a 16 year old starting only his second game of the season; three full backs got a game today, but none of them appear to be rated by the management; despite only one absence in central defence, Matt Holland had to play there; it is doubtful that there is a weaker central midfielder in the Championship than Jose Semedo and Nicky Bailey isn't exactly the finished article; finally, the manager has so little confidence in his strikers that he played 4-5-1 in a home Cup Tie against poor opposition and then moved the diminuitive Bouazza to lone striker when Burton tired. I am at a complete loss to understand how the Club got into this state. After the fiasco of squad management during the last two years, the Board must be naive or natural optimists (or both) to think that the January window will make a difference.

I have two additional, random observations that serve to illustrate what is fast becoming a bizarre story. First, yet again today Yassin Moutaouakil looked a raw, but talented player. A great athlete who needs to learn the game, but already a player that, at least in home games, provides a real threat when he gets forward. He has now been at the Club for over a season and a half. Why hasn't he played more? Why was Martin Cranie signed on loan and Gregg Halford before him? We were never going to sign either, the Club's record during their respective spells was poor and, as we all knew would be the case, Moutaouakil is now once again the only right back at the Club. He just lacks the experience Charlton chose to give instead to Martin Cranie. And paid for!! Explanations on a postcard please! Second, the Club's management clearly don't believe that Chris Dickson is good enough for the Championship (for what is it worth, from what little I've seen of him, I would tend to agree). Why, pray, did he come on today? McCleod, who is ahead of Dickson in the pecking order and also starved of experience, was on the bench as was the experienced and classy Todorov. Extraordinary. Sadly, there are many similar examples of what can only be described as very muddled thinking.

To end on a positive note, Jonjo Shelvey oozed class today. Who cares if he is only 16, he could be outstanding next season in Division Three and a joy to watch. The key will be to hold on to him and a small number of other key players, say Sam, Fortune (may be asking a bit much), Wright, McCleod and, perhaps, Burton and then build a promotion challenge around them. Think I'm being pessimistic? Perhaps, but Forest have hit form (three successive away wins) at just the wrong time and if they extend that run next week the Addicks will be gone unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

For heaven's sake stop being such a misery
It was still good fun today. It might take a while ( a couple of seasons ) but it will be fun again .
I was there in the 3001 crowd , Halifax at home in the 70's and I was there at Selhurst in the 979 attendance against Bradford in the full members cup.
The Board have no money left and so its going to be lower leagues for a while. I personally think we wil go straight through the next division too with this team
However, it goes in cycles , you just have to be patient !

Dave Peeps said...

I was there too and will be in future, but I don't have to pretend to enjoy it. We have barely put a management foot wrong in ten years and now we are making big, obvious mistakes on a weekly basis from the Board to the Manager.