Monday 31 December 2012

Best Wishes to Addicks everywhere

We head to Vicarage Road tomorrow for what is usually a tough game. Over the years I can't readily remember any easy games against the Hornets. In fact, it's been a long time since we last recorded a win against them - 17 years - and current form suggests we won't do it tomorrow either.

Dervite will most likely return to central defence for the suspended Morrison and I am guessing Danny Haynes won't make it either as he eases his hamstrings. A repeat of the battling display at Millwall in early December looks like as much as we might realistically hope for. I am spending my New Year's Eve with my wife's twin and her hubby down at Halling. I will probably be the first adult up tomorrow and, therefore, the tiredest as I look after the kids and their Staffie takes me for a walk. I have already decided that a trip around the M25 to the other side of London will be too much and instead I plan to get home in time to tune in to the battle.

I would like to wish all of my visitors and returning readers a very happy and prosperous New Year and would particularly like to thank those who regularly comment which makes blogging feel a bit more worthwhile. So, in no particular order, thanks and best wishes to Pedantic Peter, Bob Miller, Tony P, Chicago Addick, Pembury Addick, Mike Barry, Geoff, Hungry Ted, SM, Sciurus Carolinensis Nemesis, Daggs, NYA, Thamesmead Irons, Wynn Grant, Aido, Suze, KHA, Scoops, Algordon, Marco and Crowborough Addick.

Sunday 30 December 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Derby County 1

A big improvement in the performance from the dross we had served up on Boxing Day as Chris Powell made a host of changes and reverted to a more familiar side from last season.

Cedric Evina replaced Danny Seaborne at left-back and made the most of his opportunity with a battling display. Cort and Morrison anchored the defence until Morrison was again red-carded for a second yellow after 70 minutes. Cort was again in great form and is plainly fighting to hold on to his shirt from Dervite. Chris Solly had a much better game at right-back than of late.

In midfield we went with Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard and Wilson. Pritchard made the difference but Derby more than matched us for the duration and their edge here kept them in the game. Wilson had an unusually quiet game and Jackson was less involved than he might have been.

Kermorgant harried the Derby back-line but it was Danny Haynes who looked most threatening and who scored the Charlton goal, the best strike we have seen this season. It's a real shame that Haynes has  tight hamstrings and again had to limp off in tears, this time after just 35 minutes. He was replaced with Bradley Wright-Phillips who also made the best of his chance on the day and proved a thorn in the Derby side for the remainder of the game.

To the game then and Derby started brightly attacking the Covered End. They won several free-kick, one of which saw Morrison booked worryingly early for tackle on Hughes. Hamer was called upon to tip one of these over the bar and another whistled just wide. At the other end, Kermorgant was being shackled by two men but that gave a bit more space for Haynes and he capitalised after 30 minutes. Kermorgant knocked a ball down to him and ran out wide to the left in front of the East Stand, moving quickly, Haynes double-back and turned inside 30 yards out. With players again of him in the box and all taking up their defensive positions, Danny saw a shooting option. I was in-line with the shot and it was a goal all the way as it rose above those in the box and was high and wide enough to be beyond Legzdins reach. Crucially, it was also curling right to left which took it inside the far post - what a goal. It lifted the home side and minutes later, Ben Hamer was inspired to make a superb stop from Tyson who burst through clear on goal and who looked certain to score. His score was low and hard but Hamer managed to block it and hold on.

In the second-half Derby upped the ante and looked like they would score from open play but we responded by getting men forward whenever we could. BWP was particularly successful chasing balls down and we should have increased our lead when a four man move started by a galloping Solly carved Derby open and left Pritchard one-on-one with Legzdins. The Derby stopper made himself big as he rushed out but Pritchard's rushed shot hit the underside of the bar allowing Legzdins to catch in on the bounce.

The miss encouraged Derby to press even more strongly and from a melee in our box, Morrison was dismissed for a second yellow and a penalty was conceded. Jamie Ward, who had only been on the pitch for two minutes, stroked it home and we had twenty minutes in which to hang on with ten men. That we did was a credit to the reds and we even managed to go close a couple of times ourselves as we reshuffled the pack to cope. Dervite was brought on to replace Stephens and Fuller got on for the last five for a tiring Kermorgant. Ben Hamer earned his man-of-the-match award from me with a further couple of important saves as he rallied our desperate defence.

On reflection this was as much a point won as two lost and I would hope Chris Powell starts with as close a line-up to this as possible - Morrison will be suspended and Haynes will most likely miss out. Other results were kinder to us and we remain in 18th place, still about as close to the play-offs as the drop zone on points. The problem is we haven't won in six and we need to break that cycle soon.

Friday 28 December 2012

Home is where the heart aches

Close on the heels of Wednesday's Valley sickener, we have to remount the horse and face Derby County in SE7 tomorrow. After that we have the M25 visit to Watford and then return for two more testing home games - Huddersfield in the F A Cup and Blackpool. We must tackle the trouble in our back yard.

Like the vast majority of Charlton fans, the Valley is where I watch most of my football and it's what I see there that sets the tone of my relationship with the club. On that basis, what we have seen this season has not been encouraging. Personally, having missed the first home match of the season due to holiday, I have only seen two wins all season - the topsy-turvy 5-4 defeat of leaders Cardiff and the unconvincing 2-0 beating of Peterborough. If you add three winless away trips the two wins come from 15 matches most of which you would hope to have come close to winning courtesy of home advantage. Unfortunately, we simply haven't come anywhere close and it's doing untold damage.

Gates have undoubtedly suffered as a result. I accept that the attendance given is for paid for seats and includes a couple of thousand season ticket holders each home game who have found better things to do on a Saturday afternoon or midweek evening. In recent weeks we also appear to have been inflating gates with complimentary tickets, presumably to cook the books and make the club look more attractive to prospective buyers. Wednesday's gate typified that. It looked to me like no more than 14,000 home fans and around 1000 visitors and yet a gate of 18,830 was given.

For me, the midfield has been the cause of the problem. More often than not, we have failed to control it and have been unable to bring the home fans more into the match. The atmosphere has suffered as a result and away teams have been able to settle quickly. We have also conceded the opening goal on far too many occasions as we have failed to adequately protect the back four. Vicious circle.

Chris Powell doesn't seem to know what his best back four are and, judging by the threads on Charlton Life, neither do the fans. No great surprise when we have had very little consistency from any of those available. I would make an exception for Wilson since he was moved forward and possibly Pritchard but the rest of the options are a struggle. We have had precious little width on either side. Danny Green's contribution is usually defined in his opening three minutes. If he doesn't get past his man to deliver a telling cross almost immediately then you can be sure he's going to do next to nothing. Salim Kerkar has flattered to deceive on the other side in equal measure. Danny Haynes has done better playing out-of-position on the wing but he is just that. Johnnie Jackson has not looked anywhere near as convincing on the left as he did in League One, although to be fair he hasn't looked the same player since returning from injury.

The biggest problem has been in the middle where we don't appear to have one player good enough for the Championship let alone two. Stephens needs more time to play his game than he will get at this level. If you add his inability to tackle to his lack of pace and he looks vulnerable. Add the lack of a covering partner and he becomes a liability as demonstrated against the Tractor boys.

Frimpong has done ok since joining on loan but I expected more from a promising Arsenal youngster - we certainly got more from Alex Song in his day.  Jackson has tried hard when played in the centre and even Dervite looked a modest improvement when moved out of defence. 

With Hollands and Wagstaff already elsewhere on loan and seemingly surplus to requirements there haven't been too many options. Bover-Izquierdo, Harriet and Cook all appear to be considered too young or no better than what we have, so without money to spend in January we look ready to soldier on with the graft in midfield and long balls from the back. It doesn't look like a recipe for success. The home gate against Huddersfield when we have to pay for our tickets is looking like a potential embarrassment and record low home F A Cup gate for the 21st century.

None of this is helping our away numbers either. Our travelling support has dwindled despite us having won more matches on the counter. News that Palace are seeking to extract the most they can from us when we visit - £32 is a liberty - I expect the 2300 allocation to hang around until the deadline. I find myself in two minds at this stage and only a real improvement in performances and results will change that. Bah humbug!

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Charlton Athletic 1 v Ipswich Town 2

Heightened expectations come with the risk of heightened disappointment. Like a child who didn't get what they really wanted for Christmas, we limped away from the Valley this evening in a cold downpour which felt like Mother Nature herself was laughing at us.

For those of you who weren't there today, and that will be quite a few given the empty seats (there must have been 3000 less than the 18,380 gate and Ipswich only brought 1000), this was a thoroughly unacceptable performance by a side who don't look up for it at the moment. Three consecutive defeats and we are heaping the pressure on ourselves and, more importantly I suspect, Chris Powell.

Hard to say what's going wrong but today it wasn't player selection or the timing of substitutions. It was simply the underwhelming first-half and our complete failure to spark anything as a side. We started with what looked like an attacking formation and I wasn't displeased to see Stephens back in for Jackson or Kerkar dropped for Haynes. Hulse got the start with Fuller and I thought that would be enough firepower to see us take control of the match. Green also started although you could be forgiven for not noticing.

The back four were as at Sheffield, Seaborne, Morrison, Cort and Solly, which is our best choice (Wiggins when fit) but they didn't look settled and were given far too little protection from midfield. Solly was again below par and Lee Martin had something of a field day. Seaborne's distribution on the other side was poor. 

To the game then and we lost it in the first half. To their credit, Ipswich came at us and were prepared to commit men when they got forward. That was to secure them the points and they could have taken an earlier lead than they eventually did after Lee Martin won them a penalty. Seaborne cut out a cross-field ball but mishit it back across to Martin who cleaned-up quickly and cut inside Solly. He was then tripped by Frimpong inside the box. I must have been the only person in the stadium to think Frimpong touched the ball first but maybe not, the place was like a morgue and Frimpong looked to apologise to Martin after the spot-kick was awarded. DJ Campbell stepped up and knocked his shot wide of Hamer's right-hand post in front of the Covered End but he was to have his revenge. This should have provoked an immediate reaction in the Charlton side but it didn't.

The game moved on and Ipswich continued to come forward looking for a goal. On 34 minutes, Lee Martin again got down the Charlton right and managed to get a cross in that was overhit but rescued at the far side of the Charlton area by Darryl Murphy who drove it back into the box where it appeared to hit Campbell in plenty of space and rebound beyond Hamer. To be fair, it was probably a better goal from Campbell than I am giving him credit for. Still no change or response and the inevitable happened before half-time. This time, Darryl Murphy managed to get on the end of another Ipswich attack which we didn't cope with and beat Hamer with ease.

We started the second-half with two changes; Jackson came on for Frimpong and Pritchard replaced the anonymous Green. For fifteen minutes it looked like we might recover. We began to threaten from the right with Solly and Haynes getting good crosses in on the run but it wasn't falling for us in the midfield and we were squandering good chances by missing simple passes in advanced positions with men committed. Ricardo Fuller misplaced more than most and he was also guilty of being selfish on a couple of occasions when we had superior numbers and real openings.

Hulse worked his socks off but got nothing although we did finally manage a goal even if it did come from the spot after Chris Solly was taken down on 72 minutes by Lee Martin. Again, that should have sparked something but it didn't and the game was slowed by the inevitably slow Ipswich substitutions and we also lost several minutes when a corner flag was broken. Fuller then lay injured for a minute and took as long to vacate the field of play before the game restarted with Kermorgant eventually replacing him.

I was expecting six or seven minutes of added time but we got four. Even then we seemed to wait until the last 30 second to threaten with a routine corner at which all 11 of our players were in the box desperately hoping for an equaliser.

Perhaps it was my personal expectations but this felt like a defining defeat. If not, then I have to say that Saturday's game against Derby County could be if our players manage to deliver another unacceptable showing. The victory at Portman Road earlier in the season and the resurgence of November look well behind us. This was a poor result and a worse performance - something's got to change.

Monday 24 December 2012

All I want for Christmas

It's Christmas Eve and the excitement is building in my household. Can we do the double over Ipswich Town on Boxing Day? Alright, the excitement is really from my girls who are at fever-pitch and doing everything we tell them for once, simply by looking up towards the sky. 

Obviously I am too long in the tooth for the excitement of Christmas but I have always looked forward to Boxing Day more, especially when we play at home. The Valley was traditionally swollen with a bumper gate although we don't seem to have benefitted nearly as much since the Premiership days as our star has waned. It was also the one day of the year when you could expect a completely different and lop-sided team to be announced without any apparent explanation although you always assumed it was down to players drinking too much or not having turned up for pre-Christmas training. Results were often bizarre for that reason too...

Defeat at Oxford United on Boxing Day in 1980 always sticks in my mind. We were on a six or seven match winning sequence and bossing the division but were undone by a flat and lack-lustre performance. Thumped 4-0 at Portsmouth in the early eighties. Going down 3-1 against Wimbledon under Lennie. Simon Webster sent off at Ipswich as we were beaten.Who can forget the 5-0 humping we got at West Ham in 2000? There have been some highs too, of course. Beating Palace at the Valley was one that immediately comes to mind but the humbling of Chelsea when Paolo di Canio orchestrated the match and we hit four.

I am expecting a proper performance from the Reds tomorrow and that first double of the season. The Tractor Boys may have recovered under Mick McCarthy but we should still send them packing if we get at them from the off and not wait until the second-half to start looking to win the match. I see Derby on Saturday as potentially more of the same. I will be disappointed with anything less than four points and we need them to right the ship.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Sheffield Wednesday 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

A good day out in Sheffield had the gloss taken off it somewhat by an unconvincing Charlton display against a side who, frankly, were there for the taking. In spite of the flooded landscape between London and Sheffield we made good time and were in a taxi just after midday and headed towards Hillsborough. A few pints in the hospitable Old Crown and we walked down with the locals to the ground.

The 500 visiting supporters were housed high in the Leppings Lane and we looked forward to a rip-roaring-goal-scoring victory. The signs were good. Leon "the Beast" Cort was back alongside Michael Morrison and he played an absolute blinder. Solly and Seaborne took the full-back berths although Chris was given an unusually hard time by Helan (I think - didn't get a programme).

I was pleased we had opted for a four man midfield of Wilson, Frimpong, Jackson and Kerkar with Haynes and Kermorgant doing the pressing. Frimpong and Jackson held their own and Wilson was especially lively early on and in the first half although he faded after a booking which he seemed very unhappy about. Salim Kerkar had another duff game and missed a gilt-edged opportunity in the opening few minutes when he appeared to get too far forward and missed a fine cross from Wilson which only needed a back-post touch. He also overhit half of the crosses he delivered as we wasted a number of promising positions.

Wednesday came back into the match and Hamer was called on to save and Leon Cort headed off the line before they opened the scoring. A corner was headed out and fell plumb centre for Rhys McCabe with no-one able to close the shot down. McCabe hit a venomous volley straight above Hamer's head but all big Ben could do was flap at it and it was one-nil. We saw little goal threat after that although Wednesday put a lot of balls into space on the flanks for Johnson and Helan to chase and the threat of a second was always there.

For our part we did manage to get the ball into their net just before half-time but I saw the flag go up as Haynes picked up a through ball from Frimpong and beat Kirkland. We should have then scored but Haynes fluffed his lines four yards out after Kermorgant finally won a far post header and steered it down passed Kirkland for Danny-Boy but he got his legs crossed and the chance was gone. Chris Powell was sent off I understand (didn't see it at the time) for complaining about this and an earlier failure to send Johnson off for his umpteenth crude block on Wilson.

After the break we again persisted with an attack that was struggling against a huge Wednesday back line. Yann Kermorgant was getting no change in his vain aerial battles and resorted to trying to win free-kicks. Haynes persisted as he had the legs on Llera but nothing was falling. With Kerkar still posing out left and Wilson fading, we needed a change but it didn't come until 63 minutes when Fuller entered the fray for the ineffective Kerkar.

Chris then waited another 15 minutes before a belated double substitution as Hulse and Green replaced Frimpong and Haynes. We went for it again as the game closed out but Wednesday had a rare victory in their sights and they defended manfully as Hulse attempted to get one over the booing locals (always hard for an ex-Leeds player at Hillsborough). In the final minute of four added, Wednesday forced a corner and from the pressure down at our end, Helan raced along the goal line and fired through Hamer from an acute angle to give the scoreline an unfair reading.

Two successive two-nil defeats oop north and I think we have learnt that this season will be about consolidation. What I would like to see now is some bigger and bolder performances at the Valley as we rescue our home form and reward our season ticket holders ahead of what could be an improvement next year. It was good to see old face, Dave Nixon and his lad yesterday.

Friday 21 December 2012

Twas the Wednesday before Christmas

I'm off to Sheffield tomorrow for only my third away game of the season (Forest and Millwall) which is a record low for me at this stage of a season and I am looking nervously at the incessant rain and worrying if our national railway network will let us down.

Sheffield was a favourite city of mine in my youth. There were always lively pubs in the centre of town  (eg The Stone House) and the locals were always inquisitively friendly. It was the venue for  'Blackheath Ramblers' weekend on one occasion ("why don't any of you wear rambling boots?"). One of my good mates even met a lovely lady on one visit which developed into a year-long attraction which helped me develop a convincing Sheffield accent. None of that tomorrow. The Gringo and I will hopefully be there by 12.30, enjoy a few pints in town and then catch a cab to Hillsborough.

I think it will be my fourth or fifth visit to Wednesday and I am still looking for my first victory and a chance to sing Jingle Bells. Wednesday may have claimed a scrappy win at neighbours Barnsley late on Saturday but they have been on an horrendous losing sequence and are in the drop zone. I am expecting another close and hard-fought game and will, once again, pray for a little more ambition from the manager. This match should tell us a lot about the depth of our sides playing conviction, coming three days before Christmas and with us safely in mid-table.

We must make better use of our substitutions later in the game. I don't know why Chris is so loathe to introduce them and why he is invariably too late to tactical match the opposition when they make theirs.
After the 1000-plus following we took there last year, we will likely be down to bare bones tomorrow in the Lepping Lanes end as the desperate go Christmas shopping, but I am looking forward to it nonetheless. Charlton forever!

Sunday 16 December 2012

Charlton at the London Soccerdome

I was invited down to the London Soccerdome by a fellow northern Scot to see his son playing for Cambridge United today. His lad is 9 years old and has been with Cambridge, their home town, for a couple of years. He regularly plays against the likes of Arsenal and Spurs as well as Walsall and Barnet, but until today never the mighty Addicks.

In the ten years or so that it's been there, I have never previously set foot in the London Soccerdome (formerly the David Beckham Academy) and I have to profess to thinking it was now closed. Anyhow, it was very much open this morning and I was very impressed with both the scale (two full size artificial pitches), the facilities and the quality of the football I got to see.

The Under 9's and Under 11's were at the Soccerdome whilst the Under 8's, Under 10's and Under 12's were playing at our Academy at Sparrows Lane. Whilst all were welcome at the Soccerdome, I understand visiting parents had to obtain tickets to attend at Sparrows Lane!

I was obviously there to support my mates son and to be encouraging to the other proud parents down from Cambridge but it was impossible for me to remain impartial. I was reminded that scorelines are unimportant at this age and that it's all about touch, positional play and movement. That's as maybe but Cambridge were beaten 3-2, 5-2, 6-2 and managed a 5-5 in the other game. It was really good to see some of these kids. Two-footed, quick, comfortable on the ball and real team players. They played to the whistle, didn't appeal decisions and were courteous to their opponents.

I have checked the programme since getting home but nothing below U17's registers. There were no team sheets available and I didn't get all the names but Jeremy and Richard were two I did hear and they were superb.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Bolton Wanderers 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

David Ngog came off the bench late in the second-half to score twice and break the Addicks resistance. It was tough to take because up until that point we had first matched Bolton through the first half and looked like we were going to take the lead ourselves. 

Lawrie Wilson had another impressive game down the right flank in front of Chris Solly and he was involved in creating several chances for Danny Haynes which went begging. Yann Kermorgant was preferred as the lone striker with Haynes playing behind him in a withdrawn role from the left and played his usual physical role in testing the Wanderers defence.

Dale Stephens sounded like he was keen to impress back up north and was unfortunate to be booked early on after Bolton players hammed it up to the referee. He will now miss Hillsborough next week through suspension but we are not short of options in midfield. Manny Frimpong and Johnny Jackson were alongside Stephens but it didn't sound like either made any telling contribution. 

The defence stood up pretty well until Ngog exploded onto the scene and Dervite and Morrison had little to deal with in the first half in particular. Seaborne was again at left back and Ben Hamer made one good save from Chris Eagles from a corner but could do little to stop Ngog.

The defeat disrupts our recent momentum but we get another chance to win next week at bottom-of-the-table Sheffield Wednesday who have lost seven in succession but are currently winning 1-0 at Oakwell in the late game. Still plenty left in that one and now's as good a time as any to get another result in Sheffield.

It was our first defeat in eight and we need to bounce back and establish ourselves in the top half of the table before New Year.

Thursday 13 December 2012

December whizzing by...

Another hectic working week. Maybe I should just accept that this is the new norm but it's hard not to hanker for a more balanced Monday to Friday so will carry on deluding myself that things will slow down.

After I finished last night I joined some old working comrades for our annual visit to Tayyabs and my current favourite world food, 'north-west Frontier' or Punjabi. I have been addicted to British Indian restaurant food (Bangladeshi) since my teens dating back to the 1970's. My old man was an early adopter of foreign foods and I was fluent with Indian and Chinese menus long before my generation got into Chicken Tikka Masala. I also spent a year in Singapore in '95 when I discovered what MSG was and how Chinese food I was used to should more accurately be named Hong Kong food. Anyway, if you haven't tried it, look for a Punjabi restaurant and fill your boots. They are occasionally run by Sikhs but are more often, like Tayyabs, Muslim owned which is why they are often unlicensed although they are quite happy for you to bring-your-own which means you get to drink exactly what you want and at off-licence prices. It was great to catch-up with friends whose level of working cynicism surpasses my own and have a good old moan about the state of the world. I always leave feeling slightly better about everything.

Hopefully things will slow down a bit tomorrow because I am off to the Mick Jagger Centre/Dartford Grammar School for a few pints and a dose of old favourites, the Buzzcocks.

I will be tuned in to the Bolton game on Saturday afternoon and praying for three points rather than the solitary one which looks nailed on. Bolton aren't exactly setting the heather alight at the moment but they have been hard to beat and have drawn eight games so far. Wild horses couldn't persuade me to travel to the frozen wastes of northern Manchester but Mexican Victor is back next week for his Christmas visit and I have agreed to accompany him on the similar trek to Hillsborough on 22nd - definitely no Christmas shopping for me. These games give us a real chance to prove any realistic play-off ambitions.

Fulham are being linked with January swoop for Ben Hamer which I suppose will be successful if they aren't deterred by Spanish Tone's valuation which should be about £4m if his valuation of Dale Stephens is anything to go by. I don't want any disruption to our current squad, at least, until the destiny of this season looks clearer but if Ben is to get the big money move then we will also need to move on and hopefully with a fee commensurate with the increase in his earnings. If it's not Fulham, Nottingham Forest should be rebuffed unless they are dangling equally stupid money.

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.

Friday 7 December 2012

4th October 1977

Still probably my most memorable league match occurred 35 years ago when tomorrows visitors came to the Valley on a Tuesday night. Both Charlton and Brighton were going well in the old Second Division and both had leading scorers in Mike Flanagan and Peter Ward respectively. Their names dominated the evenings' raucous singing.

My memory as a 14 year-old was that Brighton brought thousands of fans and that the Valley was swollen with a massive crowd. Interesting to read that the attendance was actually only 19,098, although those were the days when Charlton look liberties with the official gate as they avoiding tax by declaring lower numbers than were actually there. It was also a time when people could get into the game in a variety of ways without paying.

There was a fantastic atmosphere that night and the Covered was packed. It was a cold evening but we were kept warm by repeated surges down the Covered End terraces and by the fact there was so little room.

The Brighton side were delayed by traffic and arrived at the ground with only twenty minutes to spare which may account for their slow start. 

Midfield prompter, Dick Tydeman opened the scoring after 16 minutes. Just after the half-hour Hugh McAuley netted for the Charlton second and we believed we were home and dry. I leapt up in the air for the second-goal and was caught mid-air by the surge from above which carried me ten yards down the terracing before space opened up and my new Indian moccasins hit the concrete again.

Peter Ward pulled one back after 38 minutes but we went in at half-time with our noses in front. After the break the referee gave Brighton a lifeline when he awarded them a penalty after Mark Penfold, our exciting young left-back prospect was adjudged to have brought Ward down (I walked passed Mark the other day on his way to the Huddersfield match - he's a regular).

Brian Horton took the spot-kick but Jeff Wood saved it, only for the ref to rule that Jeff had moved before it was taken. Horton's second effort was slammed wide but again Wood was penalised for moving early and they were given a third bite at the cherry. The Covered End was livid and and we roared our disapproval. Horton wasn't trusted with the third effort and Peter Ward stepped up to make it 2-2. 

After that the game swayed towards the visitors and their comeback was completed after the hour when Winstanley scored to put the Seagulls ahead for the first time in the game. We couldn't believe it in the Covered End and I remember our players having words with one another across the pitch at that moment.

We tore back at them and within minutes little Keefy Peacock out-jumped the Brighton defence to meet a typically pinpoint Powell cross from the right wing and steered home our third. Cue another eruption in the home end and a mass surge down the terraces where the gaps were between the stanchions. We all  turned around and climbed back up the steps to regain out positions and continue the fevered singing. The ground was alive at that moment and every Charlton pass that found another red shirt increased the volume as the East terrace and West Stand thousands joined in. On 71 minutes, Colin "Paddy" Powell sped down the right flank in typical fashion veering infield and threatening a trademark obstruction by deliberately running into his opponent and throwing his hands up in despair. He shunned the opportunity for the free-kick this time, checking inside instead and strode on making a couple of yards odd space, the winner was on. 

I remember the movement of that shot vividly. It went left from Powell's right boot (his left was strictly for standing on) which set Eric Steele heading that way but the force of the shot had spun the ball violently and the night air caught the spin and sent it back right. What a goal! Chaos in the Covered End and Brighton were finished 4-3. I lost a moccasin in that surge and was lucky to have it handed back to me by a mate. It was great night which I have talked about on and off ever since. 

If Saturday's match is half as good I will be a satisfied Customer, especially if we collect the points again. The gate will be almost certainly be bigger but the atmosphere can't possibly match that evening in a sardine-packed standing Covered End. Oh how I miss it.

Tuesday 4 December 2012


The F A Cup draw was a tad disappointing. Yes we got a home tie in the 3rd Round Proper but Huddersfield Town won't set the tills ringing. Expect the club to run a Rick-style promotion. To be fair to Huddersfield, it's hardly a more attractive fixture for them having to return to SE7 a couple of months after their last visit. We live in hope, of course, but I am not anticipating a Cup run and by then we might all settle for a graceful exit if we genuinely have something else to focus on.

Our current form suggests that might just be the case. Unbeaten in six, with an improving defensive record and more players to return from injury, the signs are good. If we look at the forthcoming opposition, the average position of the sides we face over the next six games before the Terriers is 15th;

Brighton (8th) - well beaten in their big derby on Saturday and we should look to apply some salt at the Valley to an injury-hit Seagulls.

Bolton (18th) - potential banana-skin up there but not yet fully recovered from a difficult start.

Wednesday (23rd) - obviously struggling and will be under enormous pressure from their deluded fans at home.

Ipswich (20th) - looking for recovery under Mick McCarthy but we have already beaten them at their shop and a double should be achievable.

Derby (16th) - have not maintained their bright start and have been beaten six times away from home so far.

Watford (6th) - probably the toughest of the lot away from home but it's New Year and with a bumper noisy Charlton following, we could capitalise.

I may have the rose-tinted glasses on here but I don't think it unreasonable to expect to pick up more points than those around us through these games which should lift us into the top ten and position us nicely for a second-half charge. We have undoubtedly learnt lessons in this division through the first-half and if we can apply those we can expect a better second-half return which would make things very interesting indeed.

We have a better squad than I think most realise and we have a couple of key players yet to return. Wiggins is the obvious one who would give us one of the best defences in the league. It would also strengthen our attacking left side. With Lawrie Wilson restored on the right we would carry more direct threat and could expect more high quality supply - we have the front men to score the goals if they are given sufficient opportunity.

In the circumstances, I am looking forward to slipping quietly out of the Cup once again.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Millwall 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

I said before the game I would take a draw and we duly got one.

It was a very decent Charlton performance without our Captain although, typically, he was behind the goal with our fans doing his bit to support the side. First thing first then, I thought Dervite had a very solid game and Leon Cort was counted alongside him as he shackled Chris Wood. Chris Solly was the man-of-the-match by a country mile and that included both sides. Danny Seaborne was better than he has been of late, but he needed to be and that gave us the foundation for the clean sheet. 

Our midfield worked tirelessly against a determined Millwall centre although they got the upper hand and did more damage, especially in the second-half when they stretched the game. Upfront Yan Kermorgant and Rob Hulse fed on scraps and Hulse looked like a man trying to knock a wardrobe over against Danny Shittu. It looked to me like we were crying out for Danny Haynes or Bradley Wright-Phillips much earlier but supply was limited to be fair. Kerkar had a poor game down the left and Pritchard wasn't much more effective in getting down the right. Jackson and Stephens were much busier in the middle.

Millwall have a very definate style coming forward. They play in set patterns and they look to do a lot of juggling and flicking, as they bring more players into the attack. They created a number of opportunities but only came really close once in the first-half when Warren Feeney connected six yards out but slid his shot across the face of goal when anything on target would probably have beaten Hamer. In the second-half and attacking the Cold Blow Lane, the Lions had us back-pedalling and defending a lot of corners but there was no sign of the panic displayed in the Posh match and they were limited to long range pot shots, several of which scared the goal-frame and one of which Ben Hamer had to help over the bar. Chris Solly made a goal line clearance towards the end which represented Millwall's best chance to break the deadlock. I am sure one would have lead to two but it wasn't to be for Millwall.

The draw maintains both sides unbeaten runs but was obviously a better result for Chris Powell.

I thought our support was fantastic yesterday. We filled our end and made a lot of noise, things we haven't always done in this, our most local of derbies. I don't think we need to apologise or to be embarrassed about that. Millwall fans have made it very uncomfortable for visiting supporters to attend games and they have bullied and abused us on every visit. We are very used to the throat-slitting gestures of the eegits who choose to sit as close as they can to the visiting supporters and who contort their faces in rage and posture throughout the game. Personally, ignoring these saddo's is the best response because it's the one they can't handle. However, I do know how tempting it is to respond and they can hardly complain if they get some back.

The "Jeremy Kyle....he's coming for you" line was a cutting observation of the differences between more of our fans than theirs and it was probably what wound them up more than the smoke bomb and flare which was thrown onto the pitch at the end by Charlton fans.

Personally I left at the whistle with my two mates and we made our way home as quietly as possible. I chose to avoid New Cross or South Bermondsey so can't comment on the argy-bargy that went on. Millwall fans should do well to think about their behaviour in these games over the years and Charlton fans should also remember that we are not Millwall and for that reason, getting too lairy when we play them is pretty short-sighted.