Friday 30 November 2012

I'll take the draw

In my youth 1-1 was a smart correct score bet for any London derby. Local pride, stubbornness, bloody-mindedness and added vocal support often evened things out on the day. Form tended to go out of the window and any class gap between sides was invariably small enough to be overcome.

Over the last twenty years I think we have seen far less draws, particularly against the money-clubs, where passion, commitment and all of the afore-mentioned only get you so far. As far as Charlton-Millwall encounters go, history tells us a draw is a good result for us. I remember my first in 1977 when Mickey Flanagan put us one-up at half-time only for the Lions to level through local legend Terry Brisley who was to join us later that season (although he never looked the same player in red).

We managed a bore-draw at the Valley during our promotion campaign in 1981 and a 2-2 when we next played there in 1986 when Jim Melrose and George Shipley put us 2-1 in front before the break. It was 2-2 again at the Den in '89 although that was the cruellest of all for me. For once we matched them throughout the game and deserved our two goal lead when 'Willo' Williams slipped home five minutes before the end. It was too much for Millwall to bear and they tore back at us. Teddy Sherringham, who used to drink in my local at the time, scored within a minute and in squeaky bum time Millwall forced the equaliser. It was a long walk home that night.

We had that high 4-4 (?) Valley match a few seasons ago when Nicky Bailey scored a fine goal to silence the visitors momentarily but we managed to piss on our chips that day too. 

So to tomorrow then and I would take a draw now although Kenny Jackett won't be offering one. With Morrison in the side and Wiggins fit again, I would be confident of us taking something from the game. Fact is, Wiggins is still out and Morrison is suspended. Chris Powell will probably still be fretting who to put in alongside Leon Cort. Taylor or Dervite are the obvious and likely choices but neither is blessed with Morrison's pace or positioning and that's what allows Leon to concentrate on winning all the aerial battles. 

I can see Millwall scoring and probably a couple, so we will need to score a couple ourselves to get anything and without Ricardo Fuller, I am certain we will play with a lone striker which will make it much harder. I am encouraged by the togetherness of our squad and the game plan will be to slow it down and quieten the crowd although that's difficult at the Den, especially when we are the opposition. The schadenfreude of a Millwall crowd when they are beating us is stronger than any other side we ever face, even those muppets from Croydon.

I will be there in hope tomorrow but suspect it may be a long walk home once again. Maybe I will be more confident about the return fixture in March but I won't see it as I will be in Paris watching an equally historically challenged 6 Nations fixture.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v Peterborough United 0

Hungry Ted reminded me that we should have expected an uncomfortable evening against rock-bottom Posh, and he was proven correct. We were slightly fortunate to emerge with the three points and very lucky to have kept a clean sheet. For all that that we are up to 13th and are within five points of fifth placed Millwall who won again this evening at Wolves. Saturday is going to be a huge test for our side.

It was great to see Yann Kermorgant starting this evening in the striking berth alongside Ricardo Fuller although Fuller looks highly doubtful for the New Den having limped off after cracking the opening goal after 75 minutes. Manny Frimpong started again in central midfield alongside Johnny Jackson and it was Kerkar and Pritchard on the wings. Seaborne returned at left back to join Cort, Morrison and Solly in front of Hamer.

The game got off to a lively start and Yann Kermorgant was inches away from a wonder goal on his full return within the opening minutes when he seized a long ball, turned and launched a long range cross-shot which just didn't have enough height to beat Olejnik in the Peterborough goal. We were much more positive going forward in the first-half than against Huddersfield but we also looked more susceptible at the back. Gayle found space in a good position and it took a decent stop from Hamer to deny him. We weren't making enough progress on either flank and Seaborne looked uneasy at the back. With half-time approaching, Posh should have taken the lead when they got one on one with Hamer but Big Ben stood up and pulled off a great diving save to deny them.

After the break and kicking towards the Covered End, we upped our game and Solly began to get much further forward. Peterborough were struggling and we began to create chances. However, they were always happy to break and George Boyd played a stormer on the break ably supported by Lee Tomlin. I kept expecting us to go one down in order to provoke a response but Lady Luck was with us and we survived a few scares, most notably when Hamer dived low to his right to get a hand on a low shot and see it around the post. 

Then, almost from nowhere Ricardo Fuller conjured a goal. He collected a hopeful looking ball 20 yards out running across goal and launched a shot from an awkward angle to his body. It didn't look like he could have got much purchase on it but the ball accelerated away and scorched beyond Olejnik. The contortion required left Fuller in a crumpled heap and he left the field clutching his hamstring. It was probably what we had to do in order to break the deadlock. 

After that we looked much more comfortable and the second goal wasn't long in coming. An overlapping cross from Green (I think) was under-hit goal-ward by Hulse and it stopped at the foot of the post with Olejnik stranded. The French Assassin didn't wait for an invitation to pounce and finish it off. 

The crowd looked very similar to some of our earlier season midweek games where it was posted at 15-odd thousand and with a paltry Posh turn-out of 300 or so, the 17,377 official gate failed my credibility test. I am now firmly in the "they are spoofing it" camp but won't complain if new investment is ultimately forthcoming.

On to Millwall then where we will need to be far better than this and at our away-day best if we are to get anything. We will also have to do it without our inspirational skipper - Michael Morrison picked up his fifth booking of the season and will be suspended.

Three points and the gate

This evening we get to play the side currently propping up the league. Darren Ferguson's Peterborough have had a miserable start to the season. Their home and away form has been equally poor and we must view this as a three pointer.

The BBC are saying they are likely to be without new striker Saido Berahino and they come on the back of four defeats and a draw at lowly Ipswich. Tonight we must be more positive and be confident we can outscore Posh. Caution to the wind and all that. We are also looking for our fifth consecutive victory over them, so all the signs are positive. 

Chris Powell has said we "must go again" and he is right, although Saturday's draw against tenth placed Huddersfield was hardly a major set-back. A win tonight and we are unbeaten in five going to the New Den which will help against a Lions side who are unbeaten in the last dozen.

I will be listening out for the gate this evening. Interesting observations about the 20,012 gate for the Huddersfield game. There is a strong view that we may have inflated that number to impress potential investors. Steve Waggott is said to have done that in 08-09 by giving out excessive complimentary tickets for matches, fifty per cent of which are typically not used. The Huddersfield gate was certainly a big step up on what have been very consistent and slightly disappointing Championship home crowds following promotion. Where I sat in the East was certainly a lot busier than of late and probably indicative of a 20,000 attendance but the rest of the ground looked the same as it has been this season. Huddersfield brought 1000 which would not have supported a bigger gate and the weather certainly wasn't helping. 

I would expect less than 1000 Posh this evening and a 15-16,000 crowd. If they are spoofing it, anything above 17,000 will look suspicious to me. If you are going to inflate your gate, you would be inclined to post a number just over the thousand mark - the reverse psychology of the £X.99 trick. Hhhmmmmmm.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ode to Millwall

A hundred years of history,
Eleven wins from sixty-three?
Derby games, rare of late,
Very few since New Cross Gate.

Local neighbours we have been,
but those days we've long since seen.
The docks are shut and you've moved out,
It's in our Boroughs you now shout.

You've no time for us, you say,
But still sell out when'er we play.
We've both got our share of spotters,
Ours are trains and yours are Coppers.

South-east cousins we may be,
But not so different, you and me.
We work together, joke in boozers,
Far more often double losers.

So then, on to Saturday,
The New Den, what more to say?
A hundred years of history,
Eleven wins in sixty-three?

Time for us to start anew,
To go and get one over you.
Far too often we couldn't hack it
But now it's Powell and Kenny Jackett.

In '09 we took a mauling
Dailly's boys were 'kin appalling.
Expect to win? We can't pretend,
But we'll come and fill our End.

Morro's boys will have a go
We'll pray for a winning show.
A hundred years of folk-lore,
It's eleven wins from sixty-four!

Charlton Athletic 1 v Huddersfield Town 1

As we drifted away from the Valley yesterday, the talk was largely of another two home points lost, although I thought Huddersfield did enough to warrant their point. Once again we failed to beat a side who had to play with only ten men for most of the match and once again we fell pray to a late equaliser which had a touch of misfortune about it in terms of the award of the penalty.

On reflection, Huddersfield looked a better side than they did last year when they visited with Jordan Rhodes in their ranks. If you accept that they were also missing four first-teamers, they did very well to take the game to us in the first half and to stand up to what we threw at them in the second. We could have been more adventurous after taking the lead, especially considering they were a man down but with three minutes left of normal time I was convinced we would see it out. 

The penalty was a surprise to me but then again so were many of Lee Collins' other decisions on the day, starting with the sending off which was extremely harsh on Keith Southern. He clattered Michael Morrison alright but Morrison went in fully committed as well and it was only the angle of Southern's tackle that meant Morrison came off second-best. The ref may say both of Southern's feet were off the ground but he was clearly going for the ball and Morrison didn't appeal. The decision rightly angered the visiting fans but Collins then proceeded to make a number of iffy calls which all went went against Town. 

Late on I was thinking that we were seeing more of our earlier season bad luck ironed out when Collins levelled things up with the penalty for Town. Solly appeared to believe it had been given for handball in the collision with Peter Clarke as he gesticulated to his head but the replay suggests it was the fact that Clarke was cleaned out in the challenge. Good too to see Manny Frimpong get a debut, one I particularly enjoyed. Frimpong has a low centre-of-gravity, turns quickly left or right and can spot and thread a pass, something we struggle to do. Bradley Wright-Phillips might be grateful for that when he gets his next start. 

The first-half was pretty uneventful but the game livened up after the break and we scored a very polished goal on the hour after a sweeping five-man move from left to right was stroked home by Rob Hulse after Bradley Pritchard had been fed-in on the right side of the box to pick his cross.

As I have already said, we were more content to pass the ball back and forth across the midfield after that and use the defence for an out ball instead of going for the Huddersfield jugular. There was certainly a second goal in us but we encouraged Town to come out and go for it and they were spurred by a succession of late corners which eventually lead to the penalty. Even after that we managed to carve them open again but Rob Hulse could only head at Smithies in the centre of goal and despite there being plenty on the header, Smithies somehow managed to beat it out.

As long as we beat Peterborough on Tuesday evening, this result won't look so bad. Fail on Tuesday and the conclusion drawn will inevitably be that we are genuinely struggling at home.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Huddersfield Town

Simon Grayson brings his promoted Huddersfield side to the Valley this afternoon and gives the Addicks a chance of a fourth successive Championship league win for the first time in five years. Victory would move Charlton to within a point of Town and nicely into the top half of the table.

First we must see them off and I am very hopeful. Grayson is struggling with injuries. Sean Scannell and Jermaine Beckford are both likely to miss out as does James Vaughan and Jimmy Spencer. I am sure their squad is strong enough for us to face a competitive team but we have Dale Stephens back, Ricardo Fuller ready and Manny Frimpong poised. As long as we don't suffer any misfortune in terms of sending offs or penalties etc, I am backing us to have too much for the Terriers and to be bouyant for Tuesday's encounter with struggling Peterborough. It will be interesting to see who Chris Powell starts with up front. Haynes n Hulse have been doing the business in recent weeks and may hold on to their starting spots with Ricardo Fuller used as an impact sub on his 350th professional appearance. I was assured yesterday that Frimpong will start, although I would be surprised given the Stole Solebakken excuse that he's not fit enough to play.

It's my wife's birthday today and after the game we are heading down to Rochester for a meal and overnight with her sister. That will taste a fraction better if we can also celebrate with three more points.

We should sell out for the New Den today. I bought an extra ticket yesterday and there weren't many left of the additional 600 provided. That would mean 3600 of us there next week to urge the side on and pray for a rare derby victory on foreign soil.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Ping-Pong Frimpong

Well, well, well, Tony Jiminez has only done it again and found the cash to further support Chris Powell's ambitions this season by bringing in Arsenal squad player and young hopeful, Emmanuel Frimpong.

Jiminez may be struggling in his PR battle with the clubs most ardent supporters  (it must be said that he's not making any direct effort in the fight to curry favour) but his actions continue to speak louder than words. Frimpong is only here until January but there must be hope for more if he impresses and is not required in the short-term by the Arse. Spanish Tone is obviously finding the cash from somewhere because Arsenal had options and Frimpong sounded keen to go back to Wolves, whose fans are furious that we have pinched him from under their noses. 

The official line from Molineux is that Frimpong is "only 75-80 fit." That sounds like an excuse to me as a professional can improve that level of fitness in a couple of weeks and the obvious thing to do is limit their game time initially. Stale Solebakken has also said he "didn't want to upset" existing midfielder Dave Davis, so perhaps fitness isn't the reason, although the Wanderers fans seem mightily peeved and are doing an admirable impression of Massive fans.

Frimpong himself, it must be said, has very limited first team experience having made only six appearances in Arsenal red and five loan showings in Old Gold before being crocked last season. On the injury front, I was told yesterday by a old Gooner mate formerly of SE18 that we can expect to see Frimpong get sent off given his ferocious tackling and midfield competitiveness. I like the sound of this, just what we have been missing and the comparisons with Alex Song when we lured him the Valley as a Premiership club ourselves is tempting.

Those lusting to see the young Arsenal hopeful may have to wait until next month as Frimpong beds in, improves his fitness and competes with the existing squad members.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Burnley 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Just as I had hoped in the week, the Addicks made the long trip to Turf Moor today and are returning south with three points following a smash and grab raid. Danny Haynes headed the winner in the second-half after a fine Charlton move which Solly started and Rob Hulse teed-up (Sky reported it as Ricardo Fuller, but I'll go with the BBC London commentator).

The match story started early in the first half, however, when Charlton hit the bar in a goalmouth scramble and Kieran Trippier was sent off for a handball which the locals strongly disagreed with. After a long delay, Johnnie Jackson missed his second penalty in succession and we all had that "up against 10 men" concern. Burnley certainly took the game to us for the remainder of the first-half and Ben Hamer pulled off a couple of first-class saves to keep the scores level after forty-five. It sounded like we got the breaks from the referee as Rob Hulse went unpunished for a heavy challenge and several other big decisions went in our favour. We have had more than our fair share of bad luck so far this season, so things have been due to even up. Second-half we heard far less from the hosts as Charlton used the extra man and when Haynes finished after 70 minutes we were home and dry.

It was our third successive Championship victory and we look to be finding our feet. This win was achieved in spite of another disruption to midfield. Dale Stephens was a late change due to illness and Eggert Jonsson got a start. With two home games up next against weaker opposition (I include Hudders in that bracket), we have every chance to consolidate our first half-season and possible push on and take position for an exciting 2013.


Tuesday 13 November 2012

Maybe, just maybe...

A long and awkward journey north to Burnley in prospect for the faithful. I have been to Turf Moor a couple of times in the 80's when it wasn't much fun but when I thought nothing of taking a day or two off work and travelling by coach or minibus for five or six hours each way for a night game. 

I gave up coach travel when they had their speed governed to that of the horse and were banned from the outside lane of the motorway. It also doesn't appear possible by train there and back in a day, which puts it off my list. Unless of course, we were flying higher than we are. No surprise then to learn that we are likely to be down to the bare bones in terms of support on Saturday - 300 to 400 diehards.

Burnley are only three points above us and they lost at lowly Ipswich last week. However, their home form has been impressive winning five, drawing two and losing only once to Huddersfield. Their home wins have been over Bolton, Peterborough, Blackpool, Wolves and Leeds which isn't the most daunting list given respective starts to the season. If you add that Millwall and The Massives both got draws there, I am beginning to believe.

They have also been beaten six times away from home conceding 20 goals in the process. Our old foe, Charlie Austin, appears to be he main threat but if Super Michael Morrison and Point-to-Prove Leon Cort can marshall our defence again and stay tight with the former Brickie, I reckon we have an evens chance of giving Sean Dyche his second successive bloody nose. Our odds with the Bookie will be better than that.

If we can get a result at Turf Moor, we can expect to move properly into mid-table and we could be on the verge of a virtuous circle. I fancy us to collect points at home to Peterborough and Huddersfield which would cushion us against the weight of history under the arches of the London to Kent railway line. Here's hoping.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Bristol City 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

As predicted, we beat hapless Bristol City this afternoon to make it two wins in-a-row and haul ourselves up to 16th. I was watching Scotland square up to the All Blacks but had the sound off so I could listen to the commentary from Ashton Gate.

To be honest, it sounded to me like a case of when, not if we would score, so when Stephens rattled both posts and Haynes pounced it felt like we were home and dry. We were invited to meet friends at the O2 for a meal in between their tennis event and much as I didn't want to miss the commentary or the rugby, they had travelled down from Cambridge so I sacrificed the second-half of our game.

It sounds like we were very good value for the victory and I was pleased to learn that Michael Morrison thrust the dagger to put us in control for the last 40 minutes.

We now face a tough trip to a Burnley side who are very good at home before two very winnable games at the Valley where we will entertain Huddersfield and Peterborough. Ricardo Fuller returned before the final whistle today as a sub and with other injuries clearing up, we might just find ourselves winning more games before New Year than we lose. 

There is every chance we can fight our way into the top ten and then it's all to play for in 2013. The first back-to-back wins in the Championship for five years has put the doom-mongers back in their boxes. I only wish there was genuinely more encouraging news from behind the scenes. Still, I reminded myself that we returned to the top flight in 1985 after an absence of 28 years with absolute chaos at the club and playing at Sellout Park. Anything is possible as we proved on Tuesday evening.

Charlton forever!

Saturday 10 November 2012

Blackheath 15 v Rosslyn Park 20

A free Saturday and an opportunity to see Blackheath take on top-of-the-table Rosslyn Park in the rugby National League One. There was a decent crowd of c 1,000 and the weather was kind.

Club made a good start and opened the scoring with a try from Dave Allen (sp) but they missed an easy conversion. After that Rosslyn Park got into gear and showed their quality through superior kicking from hand, a faster tempo as well as an excellent full-back display from Edward Lewis-Pratt. Blackheath's main advantage was upfront where they rolled their maul really well and drove time and again. It was from one of these that the bearded beastie, Des Brett (outdoes Killer) burrowed his way across the line on the stroke of half-time to give Club a precious 12-11 lead.

After the break Rosslyn Park stepped up and Blackheath (Club!) were pegged back for long periods. but they maintained their lead in spite of this and were tantalisingly ahead at 15-14 with ten minutes to go. They couldn't hold on and Park's pressure paid off with two slotted pens to win the game.

Once again I left Rectory Field wondering why they don't promote rugby and their lovely set-up more. I used to know a few of the key movers at Blackheath and, in our Premiership days, suggested they should do a deal with Charlton to offer a "free" pass to Club home games for season ticket holders.  I am sure they would have attracted several hundred new customers to home games. The non-ticket revenue would have made it worthwhile and they could have increased their fanbase in the process. If you do fancy it, it's £12 to get in which includes a decent colour programme. The bar welcomes all and Club's sponsors, Green King IPA, is available in abundant draft.

I took this picture using Pete's phone (forgot mine) and despite the gloom, the match was in full progress in a reasonable light.

Friday 9 November 2012

It's all happening

Several surprising news items on the CAFC front today, one of which is a revisit and two of which have since been confirmed.

First, Sky Sports ran a virtual repeat of the "Paul Elliott to become Chairman" story which first appeared in The Mirror and managed to accompany it with a quote from 'Tek' confirming ongoing negotiations which he expected to be concluded soon. This really will surprise me if true and I can only believe it will be part of a wider announcement, hopefully involving new and broader based funding and control of the club. On it's own I can't see what it brings; someone with no experience and no real investment money. I certainly can't see him matching the contribution of Peter Varney or Rick Everitt, although he shouldn't have much trouble out-working Martin Protheroe.

Secondly, we announced the loan signing of Southampton centre-back Danny Seaborne. It's only a month and presumably to support Michael Morrison's return to central defence (he can play left-back), although we would appear to have enough with Dorian Dervite, unless Dervite is being blamed for the goals against Cardiff in the week, which personally I would find harsh. Still, it shows a real focus on ensuring we aren't caught short and it feels like we may be desperate to ensure we don't miss any opportunity this season for a play-off finish (renewed optimism from the Cardiff Miracle).

Thirdly, another one month loan of Eggert Jonsson, a tall utility player who can play central midfield as well as defensive positions. He is largely an unknown having played most of his football at Hearts and the initial Wolves fans views, from where he joins, have not been entirely complimentary. My guess is he may only play if we encounter any further injuries.

In spite of the injury crisis I think we are great odds at close to 2-1 to inflict Bristol City's seventh successive defeat. Derek McInnes, their manager, will surely know it's shit-or-bust but presumably he doesn't know our record for forcing busts! If you double that with Middlesbrough to win against Sheffield Wednesday, you are looking at around 5-1.....

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Ten things we learnt from last night?

1. Making some positive noise in support of your team can actually inspire your players to achieve more than they might have thought possible.
2. We don't have to sit at home games trying to hear what the players are saying.
3. We should fear no-one at the Valley.
4. We can afford to be much bolder tactically at home, even when fielding a weakened side
5. We have a more capable squad of players than I think we give ourselves credit for.
6. We can come from two goals down to win, although it's not compulsory.
7. We are in a false league position.
8. The vast majority of our fans are perfectly happy with the manager and would be provoked by any premature decision to change that.
9. We may be attractive odds for a win on Sunday at Bristol City.
10. Yet again, Cardiff don't look like automatic promotion contenders to me.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Charlton Athletic 5 v Cardiff City 4

The Fifteen thousand, three hundred Charlton fans went home happy this evening after seeing Chrissy Powell's Red Army beat the league leaders. It was an eventful match with nine goals and (I think) eight bookings. It was also a match in which some sloppy Charlton defending at the start and the end of the game gave a misleading scoreline which does not do justice to our five goal blitz.

Our make-shift side was patched again for this one with Morrison going to right-back, Chris Solly to left and Dorian Dervite drafted into the middle with Leon Cort. I think it more accurate to say we had a fluid midfield this evening with only Salim Kerkar playing in his position on the left wing whilst Stephens, Pritchard and Jackson swapped places throughout, with Pritchard also swapping on occasions with Haynes upfront who was partnering Rob Hulse.

I prefer a more attacking game-plan at the Valley. It's home advantage and we pay to see us winning at matches in SE7. It suits an attacking game-plan and we got that tonight despite going two-nil down to two very soft goals that made Cardiff look like Inter Milan. In a strange way that might have helped the course of the rest of the match.

The home fans played their part tonight as well. A non-stop chorus of Chrissy Powell's Red Army from the Covered End was a powerful show of faith in the manager but was intended, I like to think anyway, as a warning signal to Spanish Tone and the Fickle that we will not support any premature change of management.

To the game then, and it was a disastrous start. Cardiff scored from their first corner as Helguson ran in to glance a header beyond a flat-footed Ben Hamer. Our challenges were no-where and it was weak. It got worse after 25 minutes when we were out-jumped three times in our six yard box as the ball bobbed about before being rammed home from ten yards. It looked like a second-successive trouncing at home but the Covered End continued it's beat for the manager and we continued to plug away. Ten minutes before the break we got a slice of good fortune when Marshall looked impeded from getting to a ball and flapped it down to Jackson who steadied himself before curling his shot high into the unguarded net. A consolation for half-time then but it got unexpectedly better as Jackson met a deep corner to head powerfully home for the equaliser before tea. 

The Bluebirds looked deflated and we came out looking for the lead. Within ten minutes we won a free-kick not far from Chris Powell's stomping ground and Dale Stephens fired in from what must have been forty-plus yards. He did at least have the good grace not to overly celebrate his over-hit delivery which caught Marshall unawares and sailed in to the top corner over his despairing dive.

Three sides of the stadium were buzzing at this point and we were roaring them on for more. Cardiff were all over the place and Bradley Pritchard's deep play saw him win a back-post ball, bring it down for himself and manage to flick it back across goal under pressure to the lurking pocket dynamo that is Danny Haynes and he headed home the fourth. We were now rampant and the best finish was left to Rob Hulse who sped into the box unmarked to meet a Salim Kerkar cross with a thumping header that had goal written all over it once the trajectory of Salim's cross was clear. Cardiff were beaten then with five goals having been scored in twenty-six glorious minutes.

We continued to look to get forward and the inevitable substitutions came for both sides for weary legs. There were a flood of cards too for lazy challenges and dissent as both sides threw balls away after being penalised for free-kicks. To their credit, the league leaders didn't give up and were finding holes in our back line, especially between Morrison and Dervite. Almost inevitably they struck a third as six minutes of added time was announced and we knew they would find another for squeaky bum time.We held on for what we deserved. Three points and my first win of the season!

Bristol City doesn't look half as daunting as it did before this evening and the win lifts us up a couple of places and puts us within a win of mid-table. Suddenly the gloom looks like lifting and some order should be restored. The whiners and lightweights can go back to supporting their team and not knocking it and perhaps the manager and players have learnt a tactical lesson in this division where margins are slim and draws aplenty.

What with Numpty Levein having been rewarded for his failings, it's been a good week for a change. Roll on Sunday.


A hectic 24 hours which included a boozy evening at the Music Industry Trust Awards last night where Gary Barlow was honoured. A glowing tribute from Sir Elton John was topped off when Gary and the Take That boys climbed on to the stage to be joined by Robbie for an impromptu gig. Enjoyable though it was, the main event is this evening when we remount the horse that threw us on Saturday.

The "this is Charlton, this is the Valley" refrain is certainly sounding tired and unconvincing at the moment but we must all be strong here and continue to do everything we can to win some football matches and find our just level in this division. Probably not the right time to be facing the table-toppers but why not a reassuring home win against them tonight? Injuries aren't helping the cause but we should give it a good go and we need to get behind the team.

This is not the time to be questioning our side or our manager. The fickle amongst us are beginning to show their hypocrisy and cowardice by declaring that our team aren't good enough and calling for a change of manager. I thought we had all learnt that lesson? We didn't spend enough in the close season and all that guff. Sorry but I'm not buying it. This side was good enough to romp League One last year and it's good enough to stay in the Championship. The squad was improved with a number of key additions even if we didn't really nail the central midfield question. Solly was retained and we even hung onto Dale Stephens when we had a better offer. We are good enough and I think the players know it and sooner or later results will improve even if it's not this evening. 

As far as Chris Powell is concerned, there are continuing rumours that he doesn't see eye-to-eye with Jiminez and that Spanish Tone would like to see him replaced. The laughable notion that Alan Shearer has been lined-up must surely be just that. Chris Powell knows his job is with the players and that getting on with the owners is not a requisite for success even if it might help. Jiminez may not give a toss about Charlton beyond his investment and he may be arrogant enough to believe he doesn't have to communicate with us at all, but he won't ignore declining gate receipts. Prematurely sacking a Charlton "legend" after a tricky spell would cost him significantly in terms of compensation, a replacement, presumably more spending money not to mention the damage to his plummeting relationship with the supporters. It would inevitably lead to a decline in attendances, not something we are well equipped to deal with given the lack of qualified staff at the club to manage it.

So, it's back on the charger tonight and roar for the Reds!

Saturday 3 November 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Middlesbrough 4

I didn't fancy our chances today. Boro arrived on an impressive run and we have had a glass jaw at home. Prior to the match I was tempted by Boro's odds at 13-8 and did them in an accumulator with Palace, Derby and Huddersfield. Business is business I'm afraid.

Anyhow, it was a pleasant autumnal day for it and the 16,000 Addick regulars (where are any of the glory-boys?) were joined by an impressive 1500 Boro fans in a 17,736 crowd for this Championship match. Chris Powell pulled a few selection surprises that, for thirty minutes at least looked inspired. The unfit Cedric Evina was replaced at left-back by Salim Kerkar whom I have to say, did pretty well. In front of Solly, Morrison, Cort and Kerkar we went with a four in the shape of Jackson, Dervite, Pritchard and Wilson which enabled Wright-Phillips to partner Hulse up front.

For thirty minutes it worked perfectly. In a slow tempo start, we bettered Boro across the pitch and deserved our lead when Hulse fired home after being played in following a sharp move in which Pritchard stood out. In fact Pritchard had an impressive first half with Dervite who was active in breaking up much of what Boro contrived to create. Unfortunately, Boro struck an equaliser on 27 minutes through Jonathan Woodgate and by half-time they deserved to be level. Woodgate got a yellow card before the break for a crude dragging tackle on Wilson which was to end Wilson's match as he didn't appear after the break. 

Slowly but surely, we were outclassed in the second-half. Huff and puff as we might, Boro began to assume more control and moved the play further upfield. Leadbitter and Ledesma began to play behind our midfield and Boro committed more and more players to the attack as they went in search of goals. It was an unfortunate mistake from Morrison that was punished for the second. Having intercepted a through ball, Michael played it straight to a Boro player who fed Scott McDonald in space and he hooked home past Hamer from an angle to put Boro in the driving seat. After that Boro sat and waited for their chances on the break. Emmanual Ledesma was next with a 20 chip after a four-against-two break and we can thank Ben Hamer for keeping out two other efforts after that which could have given the match a completely unrealistic scoreline. The fourth at the death was probably one more than we deserved to concede but this is a very good Tony Mowbray side and they will surely be close at the finish come May.

Hard to be overly critical of our side but we are not showing enough urgency or being bold enough in my view. We have the players to score goals but matching teams is not good enough in this division. You have to be decisive and go for the jugular. Millwall did it at Forest today and that has to be the game-plan for us, especially at home.

Nicky Bailey had a quiet game today which says something when you are soundly beaten at home. Too many Charlton heads dropped after the break and I thought Jackson looked lost. Pritchard faded badly after Dervite went into the back four as Cort made way and we didn't see anything from Haynes or Cook as we gambled upfront.

We really need to beat Cardiff at the Valley on Tuesday. They remain top-of-the-table after a 0-0 at Bolton today, so we will need a step up in urgency and commitment if we are to stay out of the bottom four.

I will collect my £601 from the bookies tomorrow without any sign of guilt or embarrassment but I would gladly have binned my coupon had we managed even a point at home.

Friday 2 November 2012

The times, they are a changin'

Ever felt old? It crept up on me this week. Two events made me feel my age, probably for the first time.

On Tuesday I attended a retirement seminar, my first after 32 years at work. Suddenly,I have realised that the end of my working life will quickly be upon me. The Big 5-0 next year and there's only so much I can do now if I want to retire before I am 60. 

I am fortunate to have a longstanding company pension scheme, mostly final salary, but I have to think now about AVC's and being at least slightly more circumspect about finances if I am going to be able to retire at a reasonable age without a significant drop in living standards. Longevity doesn't run in my genes, so I have always wanted to get some in early!

If that was not enough to make me see more grey hair and wrinkles in the mirror, we now appear to have a new Youth at the Valley. The Youth themselves are no longer young and must be wondering about the wisdom of their monicker, although I suppose they were handed it rather than adopting it, in line with the Youth phenomena up and down the country ten to fifteen years or so ago.

The new youth model themselves on Italian Ultras although it does appear to be more about passionate support for your team than cowardly and vicious attacks on opposition fans. "Red Division" have turned up at recent Charlton away games and whilst my initial reaction is to cringe and say "Gawd no" I am reminded that I am knocking 50 and that 30 years ago it would probably have excited me. I bought my tickets for Millwall away this week and wondered whether I would have to wear a scarf around my face to hide my embarrassment as I left the New Den.

Like all things, I have decided I should reserve judgement until they have been given a chance. I suspect they are planning their first Valley show tomorrow in a game in which our team will need all the support it can get. Boro are on top form and Nicky Bailey appeared in a dream in the early hours of this morning running rings around Stephens and Hollands. Finally I am wishing for a 4-5-1 at home without either of them.

If we are to go down the Palace Ultras route my only ask is that we do it with the class of proper Red Ultras.