Saturday 3 November 2007

Southampton 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Overdue some good fortune and a decent referring performance, Charlton got neither today at St. Mary's as they had to play for 55 minutes with ten men. However, they put in a battling performance and thoroughly deserved their late Iwelumo winner.

Charlton started with a quick-supporting 4-5-1 formation. Luke Varney was dropped in favour of a five man midfield with Sam, Semedo, Reid, Zheng Zhi and Thomas supporting the lone Iwelumo. The back four was the same that finished against QPR with Mills, Sodje, Fortune and Basey protecting Nicky Weaver.

The Addicks began brightly enough forcing a couple of corners and duly missed their best opportunity of the half when Sam Sodje's header from Reid's corner hit the bar after six minutes. Weaver saved smartly from Stern John before Jose Semedo was booked for a foul on Idiakez. The game was open and attacking. Andy Reid was prompting for Charlton and John, Wright-Philips and Viafara were combining well upfront for the Saints. Phil Ifil was booked for a foul on Thomas and Lloyd Sam followed him minutes later. On 35 minutes, Referree Hill decided to book Semedo again for an unnecessary tackle on Viafara. It was a harsh decision bearing in mind he was already on a yellow but the red card was flashed quickly enough and Charlton's chances of a win looked to have disappeared.

Unsurprisingly, Southampton finished the half strongly with Viafara shooting over after good work from John and Wright-Philips. John then missed a gilt-edge chance firing wide from 8 yards. In between, a Zheng Zhi break found Lloyd Sam but the youngster failed to hit the target by blasting over.

Charlton started the second half playing deeper and being urged on by the 2200 Addicks behind the goal. They were still looking to break whenever they could but were vulnerable to the counter-attack when they did so. Christian Dailly went off for treatment, giving Charlton parity and the open game of the first 35 minutes returned with both sides pressing. Zheng Zhi missed a sitter from seven yards out after Sodje knocked on a Mills throw in. Wright-Philips skated through the Charlton defence and only a last ditch block by Jon Fortune prevented Southampton from taking the lead. Dailly eventually returned after about 12 minutes but Charlton continued to take the game to Southampton. Andy Reid collected a pass from a Thomas run on the left after 70 minutes and his shot flew inches wide.

Zheng Zhi was booked for back-heeling the ball away after the referree had blown for a free-kick - another careless card. Moutaouakil was the first Charlton substitute as Charlton continued to match the Saints. On 80 minutes the home fans were becoming restless as Charlton continued to dominate. Grant Basey hit the side netting when he latched onto a corner and the Charlton faithful thought they had done it. Substitute Varney had a header tipped over the bar but Charlton weren't to be denied and Varney found Iwelumo six yards and his header beat Kelvin Davies.

This was a fine team performance. The back-four kept the first clean sheet against Southampton this season. Sam and Basey had very solid performances. Mills and Fortune stood up too and we can expect an unchanged defence at City on Tuesday. Reid and Zheng Zhi carried the game to Southampton when Charlton broke but we didn't get as much from Thomas or Sam as we might have expected. Iwelumo played his lone striker role well enough but it needed the injection of his strike partner to win the game.

The losing run has been stopped and Charlton can now travel to Bristol City with confidence on Tuesday. We're up to 4th and a win against City on Tuesday will put us within two points of them.

Up the Addicks!

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