Saturday 29 November 2014

Charlton Athletic 0 v Ipswich Town 1

The curse of live television struck yet again today. We matched Ipswich Town throughout but fell to an injury time sucker punch.

It was a decent game to watch in crisp winter sunshine and there was some quality from both sides. Unfortunately, both were short in the last third and there was always a chance that the match might be stolen. Neither side really did enough in full time to warrant a winner but Town sneaked it with the last roll of the dice.

Charlton simply weren't positive enough from the outside. It's not good enough to play one up front and play to hold on for 70 minutes. We have to be more aggressive at home and we must seek to provide greater entertainment. This may be only our third league reverse of the season but too many others have been games we might have won and which we might have provided more entertainment for the home supporters save for uber-caution. Igor Vetokele is a class act but he is playing on his own most weeks and we are expecting too much for him to win every game on his own. George Tucudean has a big heart but that doesn't get you the goals you need and anyone we pair with Igor is striker-lite. Roland needs to address the situation before it condemns our season to mediocrity.

The back five were solid enough once again but in midfield we didn't impose ourselves. Johnny Jackson had a poor game and struggled to get involved. Cousins, Gudmundsson and Coquelin were competitive enough but we need assertion at home and we didn't get it once again. Calum Harriott didn't give enough up front either which left Igor ploughing a loan furrow.

George Tucudean was introduced too late in a move to a 4-4-2 and we created nothing before Town snatched it. Six goals in the last eight games is nowhere near enough to stay in contention with the promotion chasers and it's no surprise, therefore, that we have slipped to tenth.

Big Bob needs to change his game plan in the coming weeks or we risk dropping out of the promotion race altogether and perhaps suffering a loss of confidence which could kill the season. 

Friday 28 November 2014

Night at the Museum

No, not the terrifying corny Ben Stiller movie franchise, but the opening of the Charlton Athletic Museum.

I was heading passed the back of the Covered End this afternoon when I spotted Ben Hayes unloading stuff and he beckoned to the Museum. I had time to get the lift up to the third floor and wander through the exhibits that Ben, Clive and the rest of the team are busy assembling for the Opening this evening when Derek Ufton, Keith Peacock and others who are living history, will cut the ribbon or whatever they are going to do.

I was immediately taken with this pub sign having never seen it before (pretty certain I haven't). I am told it once hung under the Covered End in what was the pre-cursor for what I knew simply as the Covered End Bar and from which this Blog was named. No doubt someone will sally forth remembering it fondly and who can tell us a story or two?

The Museum idea has been kicking around for a long time but it is finally here and I am certain it will go from strength to strength once open. Our fans will be motivated to contribute - it's our history after all.

For my part it was the signal to return the flood-lamp I stole saved 28 years ago. I was also able to hand in a book of older programmes and a couple of 1946 and 1947 F A Cup Final tickets which might be used to illuminate some other artifacts and help tell a small piece of our rich history. Just found a threat on Charlton Life with more pictures and background.

If those Sky boys know how to build the story ahead of tomorrow's live game, they could do no better than get a few shots in the fledgling Museum.

Two cursed games in a week

After the Curse of the Millwall, we run out at the Valley again tomorrow at lunchtime facing the Curse of Live TV. If we manage to follow the long-established pattern of televised disappointment, just like at Fulham, then we can at least take some comfort that it was to high-flying opponents.

Ipswich are on a very good run at the moment with only on loss in fourteen having settled into the season. Mick McCarthy's boys have also won three of the last four and earned a battling draw against Bournemouth at the Goldsands Stadium on Saturday. Daryl Murphy is firing the goals and having hit 11 to date and will provide an interesting comparison to our own Igor Vetokele. 

Town also moved yesterday to strengthen their attack by bringing Leeds' Noel Hunt in on loan. I expect Hunt to get a spell from the bench tomorrow. There is increasing frustration that we are missing a huge opportunity by not bringing in another attacking option ourselves. 

Tomorrow's match asks big question of Bob Peeters and his squad. Obviously I am hoping they can answer those unequivocally but I fear this could be our first home defeat of the season and perhaps the start of a bumpy patch before we are forced to take some remedial action in January. 

It is a Club SE7 game and I tried to buy tickets yesterday to bring local non-Charlton fans to the match. However, the catch with this is that they need to be seated in the otherwise empty and unattractive viewing seats in the corners of West and North Lower in view of the cameras. Nothing like the old adages that you get what you pay for and that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. That could have been clear in the promotional information and not disappointed all concerned.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Charlton Athletic 0 v Millwall 0

Another bloody draw but I suppose it's a step up from last year's home game against them. I called the 0-0 before kick-off on the basis that I thought Igor would miss out and we were good enough to contain them at the back, so disappointed we didn't nick it with Igor starting, although he looked a yard short of pace and was playing on his own.

We had a pre-match drink in the Oak and there was an atmosphere of expectancy and the pub was unusually busy for a Millwall game. The gate was also bigger than recent derby matches and I sense more Charlton fans feel more comfortable about playing Millwall than in the past. The gate topped 19,000 and it looked as full as that judging by how many of the regularly empty seats around us were taken. 

I notice some criticism of the atmosphere on Charlton Life but I thought it was decent enough given neither set of fans had a lot to get really excited about. I thought we had the majority of the possession although the BBC are saying we had 49% to Millwall's 51%? We certainly did most of the pressing in the game and i thought we looked better on the ball but once again there was little attacking threat. Igor Vetokele did get a clean head on a cross in the box but he steered it wide. Pope, in for the injured Henderson, made a routine save from a Millwall header and that was pretty much it until the end when we threw George Tucudean on. He came on ten minutes too late for me and once again he fumbled a great chance at the finish after Igor played him in on Forde. Having decided to lift it over Forde he lacked the pace to hold off the covering defenders and they managed to clear.

Solly was at his best today and Bikey held the line. Ben Haim was also solid although he got away with another high arm challenge today which have cost us if the ref had seen it differently. The pair of them kept Fuller quiet for the half-an-hour he was on. Coquelin had a fine match and added more attack to the midfield - it's just a pity he didn't have much to aim for and he had headless Harriott flapping about on the left having come on for Yoni Buyens after 27 minutes. None of the Millwall players did anything of note although I was surprised to see Upson subbed unless he was injured.

That was about it and I don't think much else to report. I understand that Plod decided it was time to mess the visitors about for a change and they were largely corralled onto trains at the station. Probably the most logical way to prevent trouble as a free-for-all would inevitably lead to scuffling which has the potential to get out-of-hand. It's certainly better than kettling the majority  home fans which they did a couple of years ago.

Our style of play may be more suited to the away game at the New Den but that elusive twelfth victory looks like it could roll over another year....

Thursday 20 November 2014

Bring on the 'Wall

I am looking forward to Saturday's local derby more than I should be. I have been going to these games since the mid-70's and our record is so paltry that I shudder when I think about it. Irrespective of where we stand, who is managing us or how we play, we struggle to get results.

Don't tell anyone but I spent a season watching Millwall as an eleven year old when my parents split up and a well-meaning friend of the family took me along with his own son to every home match. I enjoyed it although Millwall were as hopeless as we were (and Chelsea at the time where I also spent some time). My soft spot for Millwall didn't last too long. I was there with my Chelsea supporting Old Man the day they beat Chelsea 3-1 (77?) and I witnessed families being attacked and crying women and children being spat upon. 

My own experience as an opposition fan when we play Millwall isn't anywhere as bad and, I am sure, the expectations for most are much worse than the reality. Our fans aren't on the Bushwackers radar but we suffer more than anyone else from their personal determination to rule the roost in Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley and Kent. It's why a game against us is their "Cup Final" and they hate us saying it. They sell out in hours and would take close to a home gate if we gave them the tickets.

I have some very good mates from my youth who are Millwall through and through and I am expecting a call to rendevous before or after the match so we can take the piss out of each other other once more. They may have more to crow about in these games but we hold our own in the banter stakes. One of best mates (now in Cyprus) and his four older brothers are all died-in-the-wool Millwall and I will be getting texts throughout the weekend from them.

All that said, we should look forward to this match. They have been very beatable this season and haven't travelled well. We should be closer to a full squad and we have a lot of character about us at the moment. We also have the quality in Igor Vetokele to win this game irrespective of the opposition. Bob Peeters also seems to get it and I hope he can convey that message in a way most of his predecessors ahem failed to do so miserably.

I have friends down from Aberdeen and I pray we put up a better show than the Palace home game they suffered with us last year. My heart is saying one nil will do it but my head still tells me fate will ensure they take something. Bring on the 'Wall!

Saturday 15 November 2014

Scotland 1 v Republic of Ireland 0

The dream lives on. A bruising evening of European qualifying action was justly settled twenty minutes from full time by the best piece of football of the evening. Scotsman Shaun Maloney was on the end of a training ground short-corner routine to stride onto a Brown back-heel and curl a pearler beyond Millwall's keeper. It's a sign I tell ya!

Ireland can have few complaints. They came for the draw and tried to prevent Scotland from playing football. They were shown a series of yellow cards and Martin O'Neill must have been subbing carded players in the second half in order to avoid going down to ten men. That said, Scotland found it hard to create clear-cut chances and it looked harder after losing Steven Fletcher to injury.

Steven Naismith often disappoints me but he was my man-of-the-match last night in a free role which saw him playing all across the Ireland defence and holding the ball up to superb effect. Mulgrew and Robertson were a new full-back combo and both did fine work, especially Mulgrew who got forward and provided support for Ikechi Anya.

The Irish were in good voice before the match in the East End bars of Glasgow but they were drowned out after thirty minutes by which time the stadium had filled up. Traffic into Glasgow was horrendous last night due to the volume (Bryan Adams was playing and One Direction were somewhere as I saw them at the airport this morning), and torrential rain on the road down from Aberdeen and in from Edinburgh. Maloney's strike silenced the visitors.

Scotland are now level with Germany and Ireland on seven points and all three trail Poland on ten. Scotland, however, have played Poland and Germany away and have six points to come from Gibraltar. Gib visit Glasgow next in March before Scotland head to Dublin for a show-down.

I am left thinking this afternoon thinking about the twenty year old who died today following a fall the Upper tier at Parkhead. Alcohol may well have played a part but the front wall of the Upper Tiers at Parkhead is very low. Several others have fallen previously.

Finally, I caught Football Focus today - a rare event for me - and hung around to see Maloney's corker again. Not only didn't they show it, but they didn't how any others. Anyone know if this is the way it works now or why?

Friday 14 November 2014

Celtic clash at Parkhead

Off this afternoon to Glasgow for a potentially classic celtic encounter as Scotland and the Republic of Ireland meet in a Euro 2016 qualifier. After Scotland's positive start to the campaign, this is their chance at home to cement it and put down a marker as real challengers for an automatic place. 

Scotland currently trail the Republic by three points and eight goal difference, so it really is a must-win. That's usually a worrying sign for us but I am hoping Ireland come looking to maintain their margin and take a point as that should play into our hands. The choice of Parkhead for this fixture is a strange one as the Ireland side will feel more at home here than anywhere else they might have had to play and there will inevitably be a larger away support given Celtic's Ireland-leaning. Nonetheless, the Tartan Army are in good heart given Wee Gordie's fine start as team supremo and we will give our side all the vocal backing they need.

This may be my last game of the qualifiers. The daft idea of playing all of the fixtures on a different day of the week means that most involve at least two days off work which is a nonsense. I may go to Dublin in the Summer for the return fixture but tickets will be hard to come by and Scotland would need to be well in the mix to get me flying over.

It's England on Tuesday night in Glasgow too for a money-spinning friendly. Fifty quid a ticket is cashing in but I won't travel for friendlies, let alone take time off work. England didn't sell their ticket allocation but they are taking four and half thousand which is impressive for a meaningless fixture. I hope the match is trouble-free - it should be - or it will quickly quash this fixture once again for years to come.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Will Roland rethink?

News that the Championship clubs have voted in favour of relaxing Financial Fair Play rules have come as a bitter blow to Charlton as outlined by the current CFO, David Joyes.

Having effectively allowed clubs to make double the loss and base it on a rolling three year period, they have removed the immediate threat to a number of sides spending way beyond their means which makes a mockery of the whole thing. I am no expert on this but there have been many poo-poohing the idea that FFP would ever come to pass. The likes of QPR have laughed at it and threatened legal action, whereas Bolton Wanderers farcical financial management has clearly stuck two fingers up to it.

What's more concerning for us Addicks is how Roland Duchatelet might take the news. His network model was based upon the idea that he could exploit FFP regulations but running a number of clubs sensibly and trading players and other resources. Given the goal-post have just moved by 100%, he may well decide that the playing field isn't going to be levelled anytime soon and he may rethink his investments.

Frankly, I am amazed that 18 out of the 24 clubs voted to change the rules which spookily enough gave them the 75% vote required to bring the changes. Call me a cynical old git if you like but this sounds too good to be true as my Dad would have said. I wonder if money has talked here somewhere in the background?

Tuesday 11 November 2014

All change in Charlton Church Lane

If you are a member of Club SE7 or even just a recent visitor to the Valley and come via Charlton Station, you can't help but have noticed the final building work to open a Sainsbury's Local on the corner of Charlton Church Lane and Floyd Road.

I say the final building work because the work started so long ago I have forgotten when it was. Let's say three years ago and be generous. I have heard a number of reasons for the delay but it certainly wasn't the amount of work involved. I will go with the most plausible and that was that Sainsbury's realised the original plan was insufficient and had to re-apply for permission for a revised extension out the back. In any event, the signs were up, the lights on and the shelves were being stacked with crisps when I passed at 7pm. No reason not to expect to see it open tomorrow or Friday latest.

You might be wondering why I am so interested in this? The simple reason is that I have been anticipating a revival in the local area for far too long now and I have always said that it would take some mainstream movers to spark what could be a quick turnaround in the fortunes of the area. The local housing stock is decent, like the populous, and we have been hugely under-served for far too long. I am also a firm believer that a lift in the local area would reflect well on our famous club and give football fans a better day out.

Just how long Sainsbury's Local hangs on with a huge Sainsbury's Superstore opening on the former Kingdom of Leather and Wickes site opposite the BP garage on the Lower Road remains to be seen, but it is a welcome start.

It will obviously serve football fans too, although those huge unprotected glass windows looked rather vulnerable to late-night high jinks in downtown Charlton. Sainsbury's have also installed a through-the-window cash till, which takes us to three free-to-use machines within strolling distance of the of mega-Stadium. Progress indeed.

Now can we have a proper pub or even a wine-bar please? I would love to open the latter but I am simply too busy and am at the wrong end of my working career to do it, although I would make a hefty contribution in weekly Customer sales if and when it does happen.

Monday 10 November 2014

Club SE7

In spite of all the comings and goings of personnel at Charlton latterly, the marketing department has very evidently not been closed down. In addition to a host of other concurrent initiatives, they have now launched Club SE7.

I received a postcard from 'Club SE7' this morning informing me that by "living in the footprint of the Valley" I was "now part of the exclusive Club SE7." The card went on to offer me tickets for the Ipswich Town home match at what I assume to be an exclusive rate of £10 for adults, £5 over 21's and Over 60's and £1 for U11's. On that basis, I will be taking both of my girls and possibly the mother-in-law (Simon - let me know as it would be good to help make this a success?). I look forward to seeing the full impact of Club SE7 flowing through to local house prices.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Reading 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

I really didn't fancy us today. Perhaps I should have known better but I was invited to the Bromley v Dartford match and saw the opportunity to convince myself I had something better to do than head down the M4.

Unfortunately, my Mum went into hospital last night and I spent the day back and forth so missed a 3-4 humdinger down at Hayes Lane. I was at the QE on the common for most of the afternoon so didn't get to follow the match bar a refresh which told me that Igor Vetokele had struck again to put us in front before half-time. Given our defensive solidity, there was every chance of us holding out and that's just what we did. Once again, the stats don't look great - only 39% possession and they had 20 efforts - although the only one that matters is our goal to their nil.

George Tucudean was a late substitute and he missed a double chance at the death to improve our goal difference but the main thing is we have moved up to eighth and have narrowed the gap on those above us. Chris Solly was at his imperious best today by all accounts and alongside Ben Haim, Bikey and Wiggins/Fox, I will be bold enough to say we have a Premier League defence. Francis Coquelin may well help strengthen midfield enough to alleviate the pressure we are so content to absorb but also to push us ten yards forwards and help us score more goals. Igor Vetokele is a class act but without him we are very obviously short in attacking options. Hopefully the right player will become available before much longer and we can dream of rattling some cages well into the second-half of the season.

Our next two matches after the international break are home games against Millwall and Ipswich. Everything suggests we should be registering our seventh ever win over our nearest rivals but history tells us to expect disappointment (even if they lost again today, this time at home to the Bees). Ipswich too should be a ding-ding affair with them riding high after an impressive home win against Watford today. If we can take four points from those two, we will remain unbeaten at home and should head into December in a play-off position. Who'd-a-thought it eh?

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Leeds United 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

On an evening of 32 goals in the Championship, we did our bit by sharing four at Elland Road. Leeds lead twice and we showed yet more character to battle back with two goals from Johan Berg Gudmundsson (JBG). We had to play the last thirteen minutes with ten men after having used all our subs and seeing Rhoys Wiggins limp off.

After the triumphant return of Igor Vetokele on Saturday it was disappointing to see  him on the bench at kick-off and us starting with George Tucuden in the lone advanced striking role. It looked like being a long night and with Calum Harriott starting I couldn't see us scoring. Lawrie was in for the resting Chris Solly. As it was, we matched Leeds through the first-half and edged possession although Leeds were winning on the efforts on goal tally.

Minutes after the restart and we fell behind to a super long range Mowatt goal. That was the trigger for Igor to enter the fray in place of Tucudean and within ten minutes we were level after Wiggins found JBG on the left-hand side of the six yard area and he squeezed a shot in at the near post which Silvestri should have done better with. Charlton looked bouyant at that point but just as we were hoping to take the lead, Mowatt struck again with another edge of the box strike, this time to the other top corner. I thought that was it at that point but the boys hung in and Tal Ben Haim was brought down in the box on 81 minutes as he move in to compete for a header. JBG stepped up to smash a penalty straight down the middle to beat Silvestri. It was then that Rhoys Wiggins was forced off and with debutants Coquelin and Onyewu already on, we had to hang on for the draw.

It's our ninth draw from 16 which is not helping our points total but we clearly continue to fight in almost every game we play and you have to hope there are more wins around the corner. We remain in ninth place and are a win off sixth and two wins off automatic promotion positions. Plenty to play for and looking at some of the other scores this evening, we should be relatively happy. Norwich crashed 4-0 at Bolton and Watford went down 2-1 at Birmingham. Bournemouth, Ipswich and Derby all increased their gap on us and Saturday's opponents Reading warmed up with a 3-0 win over Rotherham. Millwall fought back from two down again to draw at home to Blackburn but they had Wilkinson sent off and assistant manager Marc Bircham sent to the stands. If they carry on like this, they will face another relegation battle.

Bob Peeters must pick our best side on Saturday. Hopefully Wiggins recovers for left-back and Chris Solly should return on the other side. Coquelin might offer us more in the centre with Buyens and I would like to see Wilson on the right and JBG on the left with Vetokele and Aherne-Grant leading the line. I don't fancy it and will be heading down to Bromley for a bit of F A Cup action for the visit of the Darts where I know I won't be the only Addick at Hayes Lane.

Happy Hunting

Surprised to learn that we are undefeated on our last six visits to Elland Road. I'll wager that's about our best away ground record currently? Even more impressive when you consider how expansive Leeds have been on Valley visits over the years (you know which games I am talking about).

I am feeling more confident about this evening's visit than perhaps the match against Wednesday on Saturday where 1-1 was the most likely outcome. Leeds haven't won in seven and news of Redfearn's re-appointment didn't spark an immediate bounce on Saturday as they went down 3-1 at Cardiff. Leeds fans will tell us Redfearn wasn't in charge on Saturday but the players were playing for him to all intents and purposes. 

Leeds are in a mighty mess with their latest new dodgy owners and Massimo Cellino is hiring and firing managers left, right and centre. I believe he is a very hands-on owner in terms of team selection so wonder how long no-nonsense Redfearn will put up with any interference. The Red Bull group are also rumoured to be interested in Leeds although Cellino is resisting advances at the moment.

The Whites will be without Captain Jason Pearce as he is suspended and I expect we will have a look at loanee Francis Coquelin this evening. With Igor back and Charlton playing on the counter, I reckon we can get a result if we score first and I am taking us to do that. 

Come on you rip-roaring-goal-scoring Addicks!

Saturday 1 November 2014

Charlton Athletic 1 v Sheffield Wednesday 1

Today's game finished in a draw and the same scoreline as the corresponding fixture last year. Both sets of supporters probably left happily enough although, for me, this was two points lost. 

Wednesday gave us more space in midfield than any other side this season. Buyens and Jackson couldn't believe it but with only Moussa and Cousins out wide we failed to capitalise. That and we were forced to start with Cumbersome George and 17 year old Karlan Ahearne-Grant up front.

Wednesday looked sound enough across the back four and better going forward although I was pleasantly disappointed with Stevie May who seemed out-of-his-depth against the Beast and Tal Ben Haim. That said, Wednesday showed first and tellingly, it was Royston Drenthe who served notice first with a burst of pace inside and a driven low shot that squirmed wide of the far post. 

We were making good use of our midfield possession and were pushing the Owls back when we got forward but it was hard to see where the goal was coming from. After 27 minutes, Drenthe struck. A similar sweep in from the right and he teed himself up for another low drive which curled away from Henderson and inside the right hand post. 

We huffed and puffed after that and again after the break but it was pretty clear we needed a change of personnel to affect the game. With Vetokele, Gudmundsson and Wilson on the bench it was only a matter of time. JBH started the second-half in place of Ahearne-Grant and whilst he added some incisiveness to our forward play it was Igor Vetekole we needed to change the game. Five minutes after coming on he was in step with Rhoys Wiggins who took a trademark barrelling run into the box past two yellow shirts before sliding the ball across for Igor to squirt home. For five minutes we were hot and Igor was played in again and he maintained his distance to close in on Kieran Westwood but his shot didn't have enough angle to beat the keeper and it missed the near post.

After that we seemed to compose ourselves for fifteen minutes which broke the momentum and allowed Wednesday to sniff the point. It should have been killed off but we left our charge too late and just short of enough quality to win it. Wilson came on for the finish but was probably five minutes short of really getting into the match.

Chris Solly was excellent today and looked particularly impressive in the second-half in front of the Wednesdayites. Bikey and Ben Haim were immense as usual and Wiggins put in a shift. The midfield was better but Cousins didn't contribute enough and was naive on occasions. Buyens swept up in front of the back four and once again it was Moussa who made the lightest contribution. Ahearne-Grant's confidence will soar with a goal but he still so much to learn. Tucudean can't be faulted for lack of effort but his first touch is poor and he is a luxury in this division.

A point's a a point as they say and we remain unbeaten at home which is important. Leeds away on Tuesday is winnable but we will need to battle Neil Redfearn's troops before we head to Reading where we can expect an even  sterner test.