Sunday, 11 August 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Middlesbrough 1

CAFC Player failed to work on Lanzarote WiFi yesterday which meant I had to be contented with match updates from the more reliable Redmidland & Company on Charlton Life. Early on during the match, someone asked where everyone was linked in from and the response was fairly impressive although due, no doubt in part,  to the peak holiday season. Apart from the ex-pats like Stu of Kunming, China there were a plethora of others in likely holiday destinations of Spain and Turkey but also regulars, I suspect from the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa. Some habits die hard.

Anyway, I didn't gain a great impression of the match and having caught up now with all of the news and views (having awoken tired from a 3am return to SE7), it seems the performance was actually worse than described on Charlton Life.

Zip from two opening fixtures isn't pretty and already the hawks are up. We all know football fans are notoriously fickle but ours most be close to top of the league when it comes to it. The trough of despair at not signing anyone for most of the close season was quickly replaced with a flourish after the ordinary signings, in my book, of Simon Church and Marvin Sordell. We then muffed the first match by being outfought by new-boys Bournemouth and suddenly a dip to be erased out with a 4-0 wiping of the Valley decks of League 2 opposition in the League Reserves Cup. Oh, and then the surprising news that 10,000 had renewed their season tickets.

So to yesterday then and the manics were on a pre-match high. Boro are at rock bottom and Tony Mowbray headed for a long holiday. Match there for the taking and wild speculation about how many goals we were going to score. Sorry, but it isn't quite that simple. This is the competitive Championship league where differences between all of the sides are smaller than any other professional league in this country. Boro still have a quality squad and resources - they splashed a £1m on Adomah this week as if to prove a point. They also thrashed us at the Valley less than a year ago, so yesterday was never going to be straightforward. After all, it wasn't Tuesday evening's side who were playing, simply the closest looking side Chris Powell could muster to that which faced AFCB, allowing for Johnnie Jackson's return as Captain.

So, what to make of yesterday? Well by the sounds of it we played poorly pretty much across the side save from Calum Harriott's (apostrophe for the BBC) solo effort. On that basis alone you are not looking at anything more than a draw in this league. As it was we got tipped by the only goal late on. What seems to have deflated the balloon so quickly was, I think, the lack of spark or evident composure across the side. This is more worrying at the macro level but too early to say after only two games. You can start to jump to conclusions about what else isn't right at the club and I am in the camp that says there's more than is healthy, but the fact is the team showed plenty of spirit and quality in the pre-season games with the obvious exception of the Valley performance.

On reflection therefore, I think we need to be much more patient, painful though it is. I am actually more concerned about our Valley form than anything else. We recovered towards the end of last season having apparently found the confidence or having been directed to be far more adventurous and attacking in our style of play which saw us winning games and building momentum. What I can't yet forget is the appalling first half season home form typified by the first team showings so far against ICT and Middlesbrough.

Fellow blogger, Valley Talk, drew four interesting conclusions from yesterday; 1) Stephens must start, 2) 6 days is insufficient for new players to gel, 3) Danny Green has had it and 4) SCP is guilty of reactive tactics too often. 

2) I don't think there are many who would disagree with number two but that's a fact of life when living on a shoestring. 

3) I found myself moved this week to urge we gave Green another chance in the out and out right winger's role. My rationale was driven by Pritchard's absence but also because it's becoming abundantly clear that Pritchard is not a winger and it's not best use of him when he is played. Unfortunately, Green goes and has another stinker. He also persists with wasting corners by trying to score directly. Are our attacking options that poor that he needs to try for a Hollywood goal every time just because he has managed it in the past? Danny Green's Charlton career is headed in the same way as Scott Wagstaffs.

1) Our midfield continues to be the headache. I am not sure Stephens is the answer. He has had more chances than Danny Green and whilst he made have made a difference when he came on yesterday it changed nothing and we lost the match. I still think we need a young Nicky Bailey or Andy Reid type player but we are unlikely to get one. We are going to have to find the best pairing we can and try to get some consistency because changing the faces and the formation every week isn't the answer.

4) I am 100% behind Chris Powell as the manager but he isn't the finished article and has lots to learn from experience. He is naturally conservative - he was an international-quality defender. He played most of his best football under conservative Curbs and our relative success throughout that time was built on an ultra-cautious platform, so we shouldn't be surprised that our game plan is always not to concede first. I think it's why we had so many flat opening first halves at home last season. It is also why away from home we have prospered on the break. What we need to do is find a style of play at home that works - it isn't sitting back and tiring out the opposition Rumble-in-the-Jungle style. That brings me on to the point Valley Talk made, and that is that Powell is too often reactive. He invariably only acts when forced to, when we concede the lead. He needs to more decisive with the playing staff. When someone's having a mare they have to come off, even if it's at half-time. If you don't do that, there is no acceptable standard of performance for the team. If they don't show it in successive matches with no obvious explanation ie up against far better players, then he should look at utilising more of his squad. Also, if it isn't working, change something. If you are 0-0 at home and looking unlikely to score, we need to be doing something and not hoping we can eke out a point. 

Now that I have that off my chest, I am going to try and forget about Charlton for a few days....


Geoff said...

When you see the highlights (?lowlights) you'll be glad to have missed it, Dave. 46 mins before a strike on goal - over the bar. Boro passed to one another 80% of the time at the right weight. We maybe managed 20% by comparison.

Their goal was a horror/farce, and Boro fans could be forgiven for asking if that was the only way a team of such superiority in the match could score.

Agree with Valley Talk about Green, who didn't contribute to our few attacks and missed a golden chance by being horribly slow to react when the ball found him in space six yards out. He was awful but the others were all below par, particularly Morrison and Wiggy.Gower looked out of his depth and there was no midfield in truth. Church looked better in his ten minutes than Sordell. The continental visitors who were there in numbers must have wondered how he has racked up 14 u-21 caps.

I'm sure you'll catch up with the Voice and the major article on the sale prospectus, which makes Slater's statement in the prog that "I have not told anyone that the club is for sale" breathtaking. It's the sort of statement one expects from politician's PR people. He may not have done so personally, but he can't not know that a 21 page prospectus has circ'd in the City.

ChicagoAddick said...

Midfield remains a problem and if Powell can eek out another transfer I would be tempted to forget Fuller and Obika's wages and try to sign a loan midfield playmaker youngster from the Prem.

Dave said...

Geoff - good to hear from you. I am catching up on the VOTV story. frankly, it wouldn't surprise me greatly if Slater didn't know what's going on. I think he's a puppet anyway. In spite of all the scaremongering, at the end of the day, you can't polish a turd, so the current owners are going to have to wake up to the fact that they aren't going to make a killing out of us. I would be concerned if a real move away from the Valley became a real possibility but these clowns can't even sell their stake let alone negotiate a deal of that complexity with all that would be involved.

Dave said...

Joe - if I am honest, I can't see either of them forging careers in SE7 and will be very surprised of either are still here come the Summer.

Dave said...

CA - wouldn't disagree although Obika has stellar potential I don't see in Sordell or Church unfortunately. Maybe time for a more radical approach to midfield but I can't see SCP doing that unless we become truly desperate.