Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 2

First, those of you who decided to stay at home this evening (and there were plenty of you) will be pleased to know that you made the right decision. In a deceptively cold, wet and windy evening, Phil Parkinson's Charlton side failed to maintain the efforts of recent weeks and a poor quality performance got the result it largely deserved. Surely there can't be too many Addicks still in denial that this is a relegation season.

The side we put out was as expected. Danny Butterfield slipped into right-back alongside Hudson, Ward and Youga who were protecting Rob Elliot. Soares, Racon, Spring and Bailey were in midfield and we played with Shelvey just behind Chris Dickson up front. In appalling conditions, we struggled to hold possession in the first half against a Doncaster side who adapted better to the wind and who again passed and moved around us. We struggled to get a grip on the midfield and were disjointed playing the ball forward. Chris Dickson and Jonjo Shelvey looked like they had made a bet beforehand over who could get the most shots in. Both were guilty of wasting what decent attacking positions we did create by shooting far too early, from distance and poorly.

Doncaster dominated possession and the majority of the first 45 minutes was played in our half without creating too many chances, although Elliot made a crucial intervention to stop Coppinger from finishing an excellent five man move. Charlton actually hit the bar too as Dickson nodded on from a goalmouth scramble but it was as close as we came to their goal in the first half.

It took Rovers only five minutes in the second half to open the scoring and the excellent Coppinger finished another good move by collecting a one-two to curl the ball beyond Elliot's dive. Doncaster then got everyone behind the ball and frustrated Charlton as we tried to up the tempo. We were still struggling and Phil Parkinson made the right two substitions for me at the right time when he took off Soares and Spring on the hour and replaced them with Sam and Burton. Once again Soares wasn't really in the game and I am struggling to see what anyone sees in him. Lloyd Sam isn't the finished article but he does at least get involved in the match and has obvious pace. Matt Spring has made a decent contribution since he arrived but he's had a couple of quiet games of late and I think we lost the midfield battle today because he wasn't pulling his weight. It didn't help that Racon got an early booking and was watching his tackles, although he was fortunate to survive a second yellow late on for a similar tackle to the one was booked for.

With Spring off, Shelvey dropped to midfield where he is more comfortable and Burton was able to press up with Dickson. We continued to frustrate, wasting more attacks with pointless shots and there was no final ball. It was beginning to look like a 1-0 shut-out when Nicky Bailey roared in to get on the end of a dropping ball 15 yards out and managed to ping it passed Sullivan for another trademark finish. Could we finally go on and win a game having been behind? It took five minutes for the answer and it was Nicky Bailey who handed Rovers a penalty after lunging in on Ritchie Wellens in a suicidal tackle. Bailey protested his innocence but it looked stonewall to me. Brian Stock smashed the penalty home and that was pretty much that. All that was left was for the half empty Valley to empty rapidly towards the finish. There was a chorus of boos at the whistle but not enough people left to make it too loud.

With Southampton, Forest, Plymouth and Norwich all winning, the game is up and I suspect we will hear that in Phil Parkinson's language from now on. On Saturday he completes his 18th league game in charge and matches the 18 games that Alan Pardew managed earlier in the season. The sad facts are that Parkinson's return from 17 games so far is 11 points and he can't now better Pardew's meagre 16 points which got him the sack. There has been an improvement in performances under Parkinson and he seems to have the eye for a grafter but his loan signings have all been established pros, hardly any risk-taking or unearthed gems. Personally he comes across as a good bloke but, for me, he has been a failure and serious consideration has to be given to starting next season with him in charge, irrespective of the finances. It is, after all, a results driven  business.


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