Wednesday 31 December 2014

Ipswich Town 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

So we end 2014 with our heaviest defeat of the season. If you consider that Ipswich also hit the woodwork three times, this could have been much worse. The stats tell us we had 57% possession and we had had chances although there was no-one capable of netting. The corner count is more telling of the possession with Ipswich swinging 16 over and us managing 4. Following the match on Charlton Life, Ipswich got their 15th corner early in the second-half, around the time we won our first, which suggests they may have taken their foot off the gas.

Bob Peeters also gambled with a 3-5-2 formation although probably hard to be objective about that given we started 4-4-2 and were already one down before we changed. Irrespective, it's now only two wins from 14 games and the 24 goals we have scored matches the paltry showing from this time last season. The defeat also sees us slide into the bottom-half of the table for the first time this campaign. It really has been a poor footballing show under Bob Peeters so far, all things considered.

I am confident we are only a few players short of turning things around and we have to hope and believe they will be brought in over the next fortnight. I have written the F A Cup off already although we should be seeing off sides like Blackburn at our place. Any win would be welcome right now and if we progress it could give us another valuable 90 minutes for new players to acclimatise.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for visiting these pages and for sharing the trouble, especially all of you who take time to comment during the year. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing this evening, I hope you have a good night and wish you all the best for 2015.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Ho! Ho! Ho!

A late Christmas present for all Addicks. The ego that is Alan Pardew has managed to find a graceful exit for himself from the ridiculous Geordie Nation and he is to return to SE25 where he will have the glaring opportunity to take them down in his first six months in charge. It's a gift that we should be able to enjoy for some time.

Palace are going to pay Newcastle £2m in compensation for a manager the fans would have carried down to London three months ago. Mike Ashley must be laughing his big tits off to think he will pocket more cash he can squander on the Geordie money-pit or his new lost cause in Glasgow. It also vindicates his bonkers decision to hand the chancer Pardew a seven year contract which has looked like a huge mistake up until yesterday. Ashley must have studied the league in great detail to identify Palace as the only realistic club likely to take Pardoo off his hands and banked on getting compensation - genius.

I was convinced that Pulis couldn't save Palace last year and was proven wrong. I don't believe lightning strikes twice and fully expect to see Pardew rock the boat in SE25 over the next month as he gets his excuses ready early and whilst he takes the January opportunity to splash more of Palace's promotion cash to bring in some of his players who will upset the applecart. It promises to make great viewing....

Monday 29 December 2014

So, how much are we going to bet?

That's the question occupying the thoughts of all Addicks as the January transfer window prepares to open on Thursday. Who will we bring in and how quickly? I see several possible options:

Let's save our money and hold for next season

If you take Roland Duchatelet at face value and his previous stated intention to get us breaking even, then January transfer activity may be minimal as he opts for a season of learning and squad consolidation before preparing for a stronger push next year. 

If this is the route we take I am still expecting to see us bring in one or two players with an eye on strengthening what we have and settling them in ahead of next season. As a minimum we have to get a another striker and I would plump for strengthening our attacking options in midfield, be that a left sided winger who would allow Cousins to compete in centre-mid or a faster ball-playing central operator. To meet the requirement of this option we need look no further than the network. Tony Watt is in the house and I am sure there are other midfield options if there was anyone who would clearly improve what we have and who would be keen to move to the Championship. I also wouldn't rule out Watt being flogged on if they could recover most of his £1.3m Summer fee although that looks unlikely and Charlton may be used as his Last Chance Saloon. If he did go it might increase the prospects of Reza Goochanijhad returning although I can't see two small men hitting it off up front. Either way I would expect this to happen quickly given our overdue need for reinforcements.

Take the opportunity to invest conservatively and aim to finish top ten

This is the most likely route in my view. There should be some acknowledgement that we have been running with too small a squad for this division and given the injuries we have carried. That should mean we address the requirements of the first option but may be more assured in whom we bring in and perhaps there could be more activity. There is talk of Igor being sold to fund broader changes but I can't see that. He is clearly capable at this level but we haven't yet played to his strengths by finding him an equally dangerous partner (think Vokes and Ings) and Roland has no need to sell at a loss. Tony Watt should be a nailed on starter in this scenario and we might see a more exciting and assured recruit in midfield. No reason why both of those shouldn't happen sooner rather than later.

Go for it chaps - there's not a lot much better than us

In spite of the style of football we have been playing, the large number of draws has shown that there have been few sides who have managed to beat us. If you work on the basis that our defence is functioning superbly given the amount of work we settle for in most games, it's not a huge leap of imagination to see them becoming even tighter if we spent more time in possession in our midfield and attack. I believe there is a strong case for taking a calculated risk on bringing in two high class midfield operators and a couple of strikers. We could even allow a couple of the lesser players to go to help manage the wage bill. If that worked we might reasonably expect to close in on the play-off positions although that sparks the debate whether or not we would be ready for possible back-door promotion? The history of the PL tells us we might expect an instant return and a season of hardship in spite of the cash injection. Frankly, it's something I would take now but I suspect Roland is content to play the long game and would prefer to enter the top flight with a squad capable of holding it's own outside the top six.

Before all that we face a very tough looking task at Portman Road. Mick McCarthy's side has the bit between their teeth and may be focusing on a promotion battle with Bournemouth, Derby and co. Ordinarily I am writing this off as a defeat and possibly one of only a couple of double-defeats this season. However, I didn't see a side much better than us when they snatched the points a few weeks ago in south-east London. If we can start with more ambition than we managed against Blackburn or Cardiff, then we could frustrate the Tractor Boys. 

Looking around us, we shouldn't be too despondent. Palace have sacked Warnock and now face near-certain relegation in my opinion and Millwall must be contemplating ditching Holloway who appears to have lost the dressing room in much the same way he did at Palace. It's hard to see too many managers suffering 6-1 reverses home and away in only a handful of matches. Another tonking might just be enough. If Brighton manage to win at Fulham this evening or Wigan beat Sheffield Wednesday in Lancashire tomorrow night, Millwall will take their place in the bottom three. Their next league match is an awkward looking trip to Blackpool when defeat might seal Hollway's fate without taking another pasting.

Friday 26 December 2014

Charlton Athletic 1 v Cardiff City 1

The Bob Peeters Express continues to screech to a halt and at half-time today it looked to have finally stopped. Those present were fearing the worst at the break with the toothless Addicks one down and reduced to ten men. I couldn't see where a goal was coming from, nevermind a spirited fight-back with ten men.

As the players lined-up I couldn't see Igor Vetekole and, more worryingly, I couldn't see George Tucudean so thought Bob Peeters was relying on Calum Harriott to win the game. Thankfully George started but it was a stinker of a first-half. Neil Etheridge made a debut he could barely have imagined a couple of weeks ago when joining us as third-choice keeper. Johnnie Jackson also returned to central midfield to partner Buyens once again with Cousins pushed out left and Gudmundsson right.

Cardiff came at us from the off although they looked limited to long balls or deep throws aimed at Kenwyn Jones. It was a long throw from Gunnarsson from the left flank after half-an-hour that put the Bluebirds one-up. The ball was flicked on and Tom Adeyemi was able to steer his header into the gaping left side of the Charlton goal. We waited for a Charlton response and George Tucudean managed a creditable effort from a tight angle that Marshall did well to parry at his near post but I am sorry to say that was it and we also had to see Callum Harriott red-carded for a bad tackle on Adam le Fondre which the inept referee, Mick Russell, decided was two-footed. It may have been but it looked like no more than a yellow at first pass. Le Fondre played his part in the sending off by hammering the turf on hitting the deck with his hand as if signalling an agonising leg-break. He recovered quickly enough as Harriott trudged off and was well enough to acknowledge his part to the Cardiff fans.

We didn't exactly tear into Cardiff after the break but it was obvious Russell Slade's half-time team talk was to slow it down, play for time and hang-on. That may have played into the Addicks hands after Bob Peeters made a double-substitution on the hour. Oguchi Onyewu made his left-back debut replacing Joe Gomez and Igor Vetokele replaced Johnnie Jackson as we gambled. The substitutions begged two questions. Most obviously, if Igor was fit enough to play, why didn't he start? Secondly, what was Bob Peeters expecting by replacing Gomez? Onyewu is tall but he didn't come in to win anything in the air and he looked surprisingly slow.

Irrespective, fired by fresh legs we started to boss the game. George Tucudean had been trying his best from the off but he was lifted by the appearance of Vetokele and began to lay the ball on and played several of his team-mates in with clever flick-ons balls over his head into space. Gudmundsson latched on to one if these and ran in in goal only to see Marshall get enough on it to divert it wide if the far post. Tucudean himself was denied from close range on the line and Gudmunsson shaved the post from a twenty yard free-kick. 

Solly was joining the attack at every opportunity and Ben Haim was edging ever further upfield. We really did play some good good stuff and it was easy to forget we only had ten men. Having said that, Callum Harriott has been ineffective for weeks so perhaps he wasn't really missed.

With the clock ticking down it looked a lost cause with only two minutes left of normal time when Johan Berg Gudmundsson weaved his way into shooting space twenty five yards out and hammered a splendid shot into Marshall's top right-hand corner. The goal brought the house down and for the added four minutes of time we were buzzing. It nearly ended as dramatically as Cardiff's last Valley visit when Igor was played in on goal with seconds left on the clock. He ran in and drew Marshall but with the goal yawning, he somehow managed to blaze his shot over the bar. If only. If only we could play with this level of attacking commitment for most of our home games in both halves, our fans would be much happier and we might be challenging for promotion instead if sharing the points with inferior opposition.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Dragged from my bed before 7am by my youngest who gets up at the same time every day irrespective of what time she went to bed. We took the kids for a Christmas treat to see the excellent (if long, I thought), Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre last night. It was close to midnight before they were in their beds. "It's Christmas Eve Daddy!"

So, on that note, time to wish my regular readers a very Merry Christmas and hope we all get what we want on Boxing Day. We should beat Cardiff City and the Bookies might be asking for trouble by offering us at 15-8, although those prices probably reflect our tendency to settle for draws at home.

As I reflect on the year, I see that the number of Posts has again dropped for the second year in succession. Very simply, there has been less to write about and perhaps points to a continuing disillusionment of sorts amongst our fan-base given the near perpetual struggle, our ongoing inability to score goals and, frankly, our relatively poor performances at the Valley.

The numbers of visitors to this site has also dropped again in the last year, the second time in succession since the 2012 high, when I had 120,00 page visits. That will partly be accounted for by the reduction in posts but also by lower gates and a similar decline in overall interest. 

Still, I have always been a quality over quantity kind of guy, so I thank all of you who do look in here for my view, if not necessarily for news. I was talking with Chicago Addick recently and we both agreed that you could break news via Blogs when blogging started but it's almost impossible now given the proliferation of smart-phones and just how connected everyone is. Forever Charlton has always been my daily staple for all things Charlton Athletic and NewsNow was good for awhile. Nowadays Twitter usually spreads any news (and a lot more non-news) like wildfire and it's almost impossible to hear something without finding a thread on the excellent Charlton Life on the same topic with less that twenty comments. 

So, blogging is changing but as I have said before, I do it mainly because I enjoy it and because it's a form of therapy. The strapline of a "a trouble shared..." is very deliberate.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday 21 December 2014

Blackburn Rovers 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Fourteen and half hours away from home and a tad over 600 mile round trip. It was a long way to go for a couple of Leavers pies (thanks for the recommendation Chris).

Three hundred hardy souls gathered in the lower left of the Darwen Stand. The usual faces were there and in addition an expected smattering of our northern contingent. Ewood Park didn't look in the mood for it and the Rovers fan we shared a table with in the pub before the match wasn't particularly confident. Would this be one of those wins against the head that only the diehards get to see?

Disappointlngly, there were no changes to the side from the last fiasco. Solly was again playing in a diamond formation midfield in front of Fox, Bikey, Ben Haim and Joe Gomez. Well, he was for thirty minutes until Big Bob was forced to change things. Nicky Pope was defending the goal in front of us and we were to get a close-up of his loss of confidence.

Lawrie Wilson was again wearing a tracksuit as we kicked off and it was Harriott and Vetokele up front, although I only noticed Harriott when he was subbed.

We made a disastrous start. Blackburn put us on the back-foot and we began to defend as per the game plan. Unfortunately, after only five minutes and seconds after a failed Blackburn attack where they had committed men forward, Pope played a casual ball short out of defence through the middle of the box. I will need to see it again but it was either a shockingly poor ball or our players weren't ready for it and it was quickly seized by Marshall who squared to Rhodes who had the simple job of rolling it wide of the horrified Pope. One-nil and there was worse to come. On eleven minutes Rhodes challenged Ben Haim for a ball in our box and the experienced Israeli used his body to hold the faster moving Rhodes off the ball and create space for his keeper to collect. Pope hesitated but came for it anyway as Rhodes struggled past Ben Haim. Pope was there first and should have collected but he fumbled the ball and it cannoned off Rhodes' legs and fell nicely for him to roll it in from two yards. Pope said something to Ben Haim but he walked away and shook his head. There was nothing to say. 

A few minutes later and Pope decided to fist a bouncing ball onto the ground rather than hold it and nearly lost possession. It was desperate goalkeeping and we had barely threatened. He did pull off an excellent tip over from a Gested drive that was headed for the top corner before half-time but it was a little too late. Igor failed to connect with another couple of crosses, one of which was meat and drink and Andre Bikey headed down too strongly at a corner when anything which less of an angle might have troubled Steele.

Big Bob acknowledged the match was beyond our formation on the half-hour when Morgan Fox was subbed and Lawrie Wilson was eventually brought on to the left flank. Solly went to left-back and we looked better even if he can't cross with his left boot. We also improved marginally after half-time when Joe Pigott came on for Callum Harriott.

So, yet another unconvincing performance and for the first time some worrying body language from our players. Solly had words with Andre Bikey after Ben Haim had been left two-on-one and it was pretty clear to me that the back four are not confident with Nicky Pope in goal. Pope made another couple of decent second-half saves but he needs a penalty save and a clean sheet to help restore confidence. 

Beyond all of that, Bob Peeters tactics are clearly not working. There is very little football being played and we don't look like scoring. It's not a good picture as we prepare to slide into the bottom-half of the table. If you need convincing of our lack of ambition, look at what Bournemouth did to hapless Blackpool just up the road from us yesterday. That was a side we handed a draw to last week. 

I dare not look forward but it's Cardiff on Boxing Day and I have some extended family members join us. I can see us throwing another stink bomb to remind my Tottenham supporting brother-in-law why he never followed his local team. Cardiff are struggling too and were beaten by Brentford yesterday at home. They will be pumped by a visit to the Valley on Boxing Day no doubt. 

Finally, I was told yesterday that Tony Watt is on his way to SE7 next month having been frozen out at Standard Liege. I think we will need to see the best of him to arrest the decline and prevent us finishing the season in a lower position than Jose Riga managed last year having taken us off the bottom of the table. Away trips in 2015 look increasingly unlikely for me.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Michael, Michael Morrison

Sorry to learn that we have let Michael Morrison move on a free, although pleased for him that he has a permanent deal and some security that he deserves.

Michael Morrison was a defensive rock for us for almost every one of the 136 matches he played in a red shirt. He was there or thereabouts for Player of the Season for us in my book in each of the last three years and he played like a Captain most weeks even if he wasn't wearing the arm band. There aren't many better Championship central defenders around who are 26 or younger. Birmingham have done a tidy piece of business here.

Morrison has every right to feel aggrieved at the way the Duchatelet regime has treated him. He was royally messed about over his contract renewal and it was only done late in the late with him on holiday etc. Far from convincing and shabby in my view. Nonetheless, he was a trooper throughout and it never affected his on-the-field performances. I wish him all the best under Gary Rowett (knows a thing or two about the position) and he will always be cheered by me when he returns to the Valley.

The having grace for Peeters and Duchatelet is that Bikey and Ben Haim are arguably a better pairing and Michael Morrison would have been locked out pending injury or suspension, something he doesn't deserve given his age and ability. 

Wyn Grant has sniffed out Tractor Boys interest in Morgan Fox. I hope we can resist any temptation to sell him on. He is holding his own and has massive potential. The danger here could be that Ipswich have spending power if Arsenal take the very impressive Tyrone Mings in the January window and money would talk given our options and Roland's published position on balancing the books. 

Saturday 13 December 2014

Charlton Athletic 2 v Blackpool 2

Deservedly booed off at the end for another sub-standard home performance where we again squandered two points. Lack of ambition is turning this season into a slow strangulation and if we are not careful, it could become disastrous.

I do not like singling players out but Nicky Pope was at fault for both goals but Blackpool were so poor we should still have won this game comfortably had we played to our strengths and been more aggressive. Bob Peeters needs to be answering some basic questions this evening.

Blackpool are the divisions' whipping boys and attack had to be the game plan. Instead we went for yet more caution and when we should have gone for the jugular we backed-off and exposed ourselves. We managed only one effort on goal in the first-half and that was an equalising penalty just before half-time. I need to see it again but the challenge on Igor Vetokele didn't look too bad to me at first pass. Irrespective, Yoni Buyens drilled home for parity that was deserved given Blackpool's own indifferent showing, even if Chris Eagles (it had to be him) had managed to fire home after Pope failed to collect a rare Blackpool corner.

After the break Jordan Cousins slotted home a fine strike from twenty odd yards which for once he kept low and on target. From there the game was crying out to be won. Igor Vetokele floated one wide from distance and Callum Harriott missed the far post with a long range effort too, but we didn't manage to build the requisite pressure or commit enough men forward to score a decisive third. Almost inevitably, Blackpool equalised at the end of full-time from a dodgy free-kick which Pope completely fluffed. In the four minutes of added time it was the usual panic stations as we poured forward trying to rescue the situation. Bikey was presented with a free shot from 18 yards in the last minute but he blasted over and the opportunity was gone.

Bob Peeters needs to be explaining why he decided Chris Solly should have been playing in a strange role in front of the back four and to the right, almost as if covering Joe Gomez. Gomez did ok at full-back today but he offered nothing like Solly might have going forward and his delivery into the box was negligible. Solly was sound enough but he wasn't in the match nearly enough and it meant we were short in the middle. Buyers and Cousins were busy but we had nothing on the left and Gudmundson cut in so frequently from the right that we lacked any sustained threat down that flank either. Given Callum Harriott was again largely ineffective upfront it meant Igor Vetokele was once more ploughing a lone furrow.

The chance to change things in the second-half was wasted. Lawrie Wilson should have entered the fray but instead it was Clumsy George who came on to make nothing of what little service was being provided. We had decided to slow things down after going two-one up and invited the equaliser which Blackpool didn't really look capable of. 

Having missed two successive home wins in August when on holiday, this season has been pitiful for me with only two wins. My patience has now been tested and I will be far more critical of Bob Peeters and the team if there aren't obvious changes from here on. Against my better judgement I am headed up to Blackburn next week where I guess Bob will be planning to escape with another point. Frankly, I'd rather we had a proper go and lost. Booooooooooo.

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Jackson opportunities

News that Johnnie Jackson's calf injury will keep him out until New Year. Not good to hear given the thinness of the squad but perhaps Bob Peeters will learn a valuable lesson through necessity. It should mean Jordan Cousins gets a few more matches in the centre where he is happiest and can use his pace and directional running to best effect. He really is wasted on the wing where he looks uncomfortable. It may also give more opportunity to Lawrie Wilson who I think we have missed and who is rarely as effective coming on from the bench.

Assuming all fit, I would like to see us take Blackpool on with a Gudmundson, Cousins, Buyens and Wilson midfield supporting Vetokele and Ahearn-Grant or Harriott. For once it would be good to aim to play most of our football from midfield and not defence. Moan, moan, moan...

Monday 8 December 2014

The luck of the draw

Our post 1940's F A Cup luck continued this evening with an uninspiring home draw against Blackburn Rovers. No doubt their fans are equally delighted. The Marketing Department will have a tough day at tomorrow's planning meeting.

However disappointed you might be feeling, spare a thought for Mexico City Addick, Vic. Vic's annual trip home for Christmas usually gives him two match windows either side of Christmas and New Year when he has family commitments in the south-west. I bought us both tickets for Blackburn on 20th December and we have been laughing at our crap pre-Christmas fixtures over the last umpteen years. He was looking forward to the F A Cup draw more than most any other Addick......

Given our league form, we could go a long way this year if we are any good at penalties.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Nottingham Forest 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Another draw and another wasted opportunity to take a decisive lead in a match. We have slipped to eleventh and mid-table mediocrity beckons. Such a shame given we clearly have the backbone to hold our own against whatever this division has to offer.

Excluding the Derby game at home, where we went 3-1 up briefly, we have failed to take a two goal lead or score more than twice in any other game. Very simply put, that isn't play-off form, so we should temper our expectations for this season and settle on progress from last year. There is talk of a striker in January but one was needed in October.

Having taken the lead through a fine strike from distance from Calum Harriott - I was asking when the next midfielder would weigh in - we should have gone two up when Igor and Wilson were both foiled in a double-saving move by Carl Darlow in the Forest goal before half-time. Bob Peeters needs to learn that if you are going to fall-back and defend a lead, it needs to be a two-goal lead other-wise you are setting yourself up to draw at best, especially when you have a habit of retreating with half the match or more left.

Those who went said it was a good point in the end because of the battering we took in the second period. What we aren't accounting for is the physcological impact of going two-down. I will wager that Forest might not have had the heart for a prolonged second-half fight if we had come out two-up. We might also have caught them on the break if we had been able to gamble more strongly courtesy of a two-goal cushion.

So, we look ahead to playing the bottom-placed side at the Valley next Saturday. Blackpool are a basket-case but they picked up only their second win of the season yesterday by edging Brum one-nil by the seaside. We should manage three goals or more next week but history tells us this won't happen. Just like our oh-so-predictable games on Live TV or against Millwall, you  can pretty much bet the Tangerines will dampen pre-christmas spirits. I am so sure of it, I will take a long look at the visitors odds. 

Friday 5 December 2014

Forest fire

I will be playing the loan parent tomorrow as my better-half slips off for a night away with the girls. Against my stronger intentions, I have decided to rule out taking my now interested-in-Charlton girls to Nottingham for the day. Fifteen-odd years ago I took my seven-year-old Niece to Nottingham for the weekend and safe to say she remembers nothing of it now and the match wasn't her highlight at the time. So, whilst we are trying to avoid our first successive defeat of the season, I will be traipsing around Blackheath Village watching the Kings Troop and eventually seeing Nick Ferrari turn the Christmas lights on.

Nick is scheduled to be flicking the switch at around 4.30pm but as a local resident he will be in no particular rush and I am guessing it may be delayed ten minutes to ensure everyone is out of the shops, bars and restaurants to maximise the cheer. Therefore, I am seeing this as a sign that we will also be acknowledging a likely-looking result from the banks of the Trent.

Forest are level with us on 28 points but they lead the table early on and have fallen away in the last couple of months conceding plenty of goals in the process which will have concerned Stuart Pearce. They have beaten Norwich and Wolves in reason weeks but then again, who hasn't? They went down at Michael Morrison's Birmingham last time out and we should be confident of avoiding defeat.

We haven't had a refereeing calamity for a while. No ridiculous penalties against us or harsh sending offs and are probably due one. If we can avoid that, then the big question everyone will be asking is, can we score? I should add some counter-balance to my previous statement here in that we are probably due to benefit from a penalty decision or a sending-off too. The pressure has been building on lone striker, Igor Vetokele, but I am wondering where the goals are from a five man midfield. Jackson, Gudmundson, Harriott and Wilson have all pulled their weight in the past but have been light of late. We weren't short of shots against Ipswich but our shooting was wayward. 

We really could do with three points to keep our interest for Christmas. After an unexpectedly good start to the season, it would be disappointing to reach the half-way stage in a more expectant lower-half table position. Momentum can be a big factor once you are in the mix and we need to ensure it's at the right end of the table.