Saturday, 8 December 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v Brighton & Hove Albion 2

Another point and Charlton extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. The point was more of one gained than two lost although I was pretty disappointed with our lack of ambition today. Brighton looked a shadow of the side that dismantled us a couple of years ago and, to my mind, they were there for the taking. Having said that, they played more like the home side and looked more likely to nick it at the end.

Michael Morrison returned to central defence but I was disappointed to see Leon Cort moving to the bench for Dervite. Dorian played very well at Millwall but he was over-shadowed by Cort. Lawrie Wilson returned to the right-back berth and was my man-of-the-match. Dale Stephens partnered Manny Frimpong in central midfield and we also managed to fit Jackson, Pritchard and Haynes in with Hulse alone up front. It was a bit of a mess if you ask me and Haynes, in particular, was wasted.

A game of very few chances saw Charlton take an early lead when Lawrie Wilson ghosted into the six yard box to meet a near-post corner and glanced a header past Kuszczhak. We looked comfortable enough after that but failed to push for a second and allowed Brighton to settle into the game. They play the ball around very well and support the man on the ball which is always dangerous against Charlton. Craig Mackail-Smith was lurking and before half-time he pounced. A long ball had Michael Morrison back-peddalling and he didn't get enough on the backward header. Mackail-Smith seized on the short-fall and stroked the ball beyond Hamer for the equaliser.

After the break and kicking towards the Covered End, I expected a sustained step up in gear but we didn't really get one. We simply weren't strong enough in midfield. Pritchard was too slow and Haynes was ineffectual. Frimpong flattered to deceive and Jackson didn't contribute nearly enough. In spite of that, we managed to take the lead. Our most urgent move of the half saw five players attack in unison  and the ball was eventually played in to Pritchard twelve yards out. For once he was alert and switched the ball smartly from left to right foot as he beat the on-rushing Kuszczhak.

We looked unlikely leaders at that stage and I feared an equaliser. Brighton stepped on the gas and Lua-Lua injected some pace and urgency from the bench. A free-kick 20-odd yards out was the opportunity Brighton needed and a wicked deflection beat Hamer for 2-2. Both sides huffed and puffed for a winner but 2-2 was probably as much as either side could really expect.

I can't help feeling we showed them too much respect today and that we have to be more ambitious in future matches. We were too slow with fresh legs and allowed Brighton to take the initiative with their substitutions. We will go again next week at Bolton and then at Sheffield Wednesday where our more cautious approach suits us away from home. I only hope Chris will up the ante significantly before we play Ipswich on Boxing Day.

I took a wander up to the White Swan pre-match where it was good to share a few pints with Addick fanatics, Mick Gebbitt, Mark Garvey and Steve Nelson (as well as Pete and Tony). Fitting really given the reflection on 20 years since our return to SE7.  Brighton filled their end but the home areas were again disappointing. The West looked half-full/empty and the Lower North was sparse. The 19,080 gate was hardly a surprise and put the Huddersfield gate into sharp focus. Assuming we had 15,400 there today, there were three thousand Charlton fans missing from the Huddersfield game. Personally I think we were probably only a thousand down but that would again suggest the Huddersfield gate was inflated.

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