Sunday, 10 November 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Leeds United 4

An eventful but ultimately disappointing game at the Valley yesterday. It had nearly everything except a just outcome but it has cemented something more fundamental for me.

At 2pm the White Swan was a-buzz with news that kick-off had been delayed until 3.30pm. In fact, the message I got was that there was to be an inspection at 3,30pm which didn't make a lot of sense because that implied the pitch was currently unplayable. It had been raining on and off for 24 hours but nothing like the abandoned Doncaster match. With the real ale in the White Swan running out (there had been no staff a few weeks ago) we moved into "the newly refurbished Bugle." I had been told that the Bugle had been transformed and was unrecognisable from it's old self. It looked exactly the same although they now have a large pull-down screen which was showing the England v Argentina Autumn friendly. At least the regulars in there confirmed a 3.30pm kick-off and the place emptied at quarter-past.

My step-brother and his wife made a rare appearance and it was good to see their daughter being lead on to the turf as one of the mascots by her favourite player, Michael Morrison. They don't really get football but thoroughly enjoyed the game and he was hugely impressed at the finish with what he had seen and thought we should have won. That we didn't was down to a squirt of a referee (Keith Stroud), our inability to remain on level terms, some poor decision-making by Ben Hamer and inspired solo performances by Scottish forward Ross McCormack and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny .

Yann Kermogant was only fit enough for the bench so Chris Powell went again with a similar line-up to that of the past few weeks with Jackson in behind Church upfront and only one change with Callum Harriott being preferred to Bradley Pritchard. In theory that meant two wingers providing ammunition for a  lone striker whose forte is not his aerial ability.

On a pudding of a pitch, Charlton started brightly enough and looked up for it but Leeds were worryingly combative in midfield and Michael Brown and Rodolph Austin stood out early on. We fashioned an early chance which Harriott blazed over (our shooting really is poor) but it was cynical Leeds who opened the scoring when Ross McCormack got between Wilson and Morrison and ran on to a fine ball from Dexter Blackstock to beat Hamer in front of the Leeds fans. 

It took us until the stroke of half-time to equalise but you felt it was coming and  the wonder of the venomous volley from Cameron Stewart was too good for Paddy Kenny. It needed to be good to beat Kenny because the thorn-in-our-side had already pulled off a superb reflex save to deny Simon Church who had steered a driven Stewart cross goal-ward from close range header. As if to present himself as a microcosm of the Leeds United Football Club, Kenny had already been booked after only half an hour for time-wasting, something the rest of his team-mates were also keen to do after taking the lead as they fell down and held limbs one after another to break any Charlton momentum up. Ref Stroud had also played his part by turning down a half-decent penalty appeal after Stephens went tumbling in the box and then what looked like a stone-bonker to me when Church was prevented from running on to his own touch ten yards from goal. 

One-one at half-time and there was a confident feeling around the ground that we would up the ante in the second-half and see them off. That lasted barely two minutes after the oranges, when Stroud awarded Leeds a penalty for what looked like a 50-50 shoulder challenge in the box. For a moment I thought Stroud had decided to award the penalty in light of the two he had failed to give earlier and only then realised it was for the wrong team. McCormack stepped up and fired high into the middle of the goal to re-awake the former Champions of Europe (1960's Fairs Cup but don't let that prevent you from shouting it from the rooftops for forty years).

Leeds began time-wasting again, a very obvious and deliberate tactic that infuriated the home support. We stuck to the task but there was again no pattern to our play and it was all effort and haste not control and patience. On 67 minutes, Kermogant was introduced for Harriott in what looked like a good move. However, we slowed after that and you were left with the distinct impression that Kermy is still carrying a knock. Irrespective, we equalised again three minutes later. Simon Church's persistence carried him into the box and past two challenges before he picked out Johnnie Jackson in the six yard area and we were level again. A sense of justice once again swirled around the ground and again you felt we would go on and win the match. Unfortunately, we hadn't featured on Hamer or Ross McCormack. Within three minutes again Leeds were in front. A deep cross dropped at the back post. Hamer had watched it across his six yard area and followed the trajectory to Dervite and McCormack beyond the back post. To be fair to Wilson he was very close but the ball fell a yard beyond McCormack and stuck out his boot and directed the ball back and up into the stranded Hamer's net. Sorry Ben but you are costing us as many points as you win us at the moment.

There was still the best part of 20 minutes left but we looked beaten and Kermogant saw little of the ball after that. Kenny was tested when a long shot was deflected after his dive and the extra height the shot gained looked for a moment like it might beat him but he found an extra stretch and pushed it over the bar. That was pretty much it until we conceded an iffy free-kick on the edge of the box on 90 minutes. From my seat our wall looked two men short and Hamer looked very small in the goal. When I saw McCormack step up to strike it, I said "four" in my head and watched it follow the line I had mapped out. 

Ultimately, no shame in losing to the Champions of Europe but this was a game against moderate opposition we should have beaten at home and it leads me back to the point at the start of this post. Our home form simply isn't good enough and Chris Powell has to find a way of changing it. We were rarely as impressive as we should have been when winning League One and last year was very poor at the Valley, especially before Christmas. We are repeating that form with only one win, three draws and now three defeats although it feels like four having been three-down to Doncaster so early on in the abandoned match.

We seem unable to take home games by the scruff of the neck and exert sustained pressure. I think our midfield is too weak and to compensate we retain possession in the back four and launch our attacks from there instead of the centre of the park. That invariably means longer balls or much more build-up play down the wings which gives the opposition more chances to defend. If we were holding possession in midfield more often, we would be looking to provide angles for over-lapping wingers or to thread through-balls for strikers to run onto. If you can do that then your opponents have to drop deep and defend and it means you can exert pressure and dominate games. It gets your own fans going too and that can inspire the home team as we have seen on a couple of notably exceptions in the last two seasons. It also means that the opposition have to play on the break which should be meat and drink to a back four like ours. 

Not an easy problem to resolve when you don't have the personnel but it would be worthwhile trying a different centre-mid at home or we have to use our loans better.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dont think you really understand the whole Champions of Europe thing....

Anonymous said...

Leeds battered you southern small London based cockney twaats club

Dave said...

Jog on you one-eye norvern monkey.

Dave said...

Nope. Dream on Leeds.

Anonymous said...

Such a biased take on the game charlton had more of the ball but were extremely poor with it and never really looked like winning the game the penalty was a bit soft but if a defender is nieve enough to ask the ref to make a decision it sometimes goes againat you however the "iffy" freekick was a definate foul overall a poor home result and by the deafening sound of silence from the charlton fans I think most would agree

Anonymous said...

The chant ain't anything to do with the Fair's cup victories..it is sung with total IRONY about the 1976 European Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich in Paris...

Dave said...

Sorry but that's how I saw it. The penalty was soft and what about ours? Don't judge the muted home fans for agreement that you deserved it. We've been pish at home for two years and it's having an effect on the home fans. The overwhelming view of the Charlton fans present is that with another ref you would have done well to get a point.

Dave said...

Oh. You are still singing it 47 years later - you think the irony would have worn off. Perhaps it's just that most of you are so deluded you believe it.

Anonymous said...

Nope, no-ones "deluded" enough to believe Leeds won it.. but if winds up opposition fans.. all the better :)

Anonymous said...

Your "stone wall" penalty as you put it I suggest you watch it again it's never seen a penalty and well done to the ref for a great decision on that one. Our penalty although a bit soft your player has taken Pughs leg, I've seen them given and I've seen them not given so yeah 50/50. I can't believe you think the last free kick was iffy even the other Charlton blog I've seen do a match report said that was a free kick and his report was just as bias as yours

ThamesmeadIrons said...

RE: The "Cckney Twats" comment. Charlton are not Cockneys. they`re Londoners. you should get your facts right befor you mouth off. TOBY!!!

Pete said...

I thought your summary was spot on and exactly how I saw it. Mind you, I do sit next to you I suppose.
You neglected to mention the northern fuckwits inability to maintain a minutes SILENCE in memory of those who gave their lives protecting ours. Still I suppose when you are champions of Europe you make up your own rules.

leedslad said...

Ah, you mean when we applauded and some of yours joined in, not exactly disrespectful but carry on mouthing off you bitter little shandy drinker.

Dave said...

Yes, think they were confused and thought it was in memory of someone not the fact that you were applauding 20m dead. Do you applaud remembrance day at Elland Road or do you respect the minutes silence?

Simon said...

Obviously as a Charlton fan I'm biased but this was an accurate summary of the game. It was very good finishing from Mcormack but the time wasting/disrupting tactics by the Leeds players was pathetic. The applause by the Leeds fans during the Remembrance day minute of silence was totally moronic; yes, a few CAFC fans joined in sheeplike fashion but they had the sense to stop once it became clear that the majority were paying their due respects.