Tuesday 28 November 2017

Charlton Athletic 2 v Peterborough United 2

I said after our defeat at Scunthorpe on Saturday that I was now looking nervously at avoiding a seventh-place finish. Especially with the current 8th and 7th placed sides the next Valley visitors. 

Up stepped inconsistent Peterborough this evening, whose away form has been poor, and they took a point but will rue missing all three after conceding in the 89th and 94th minutes. After the cup this weekend (AFC Wimbledon), Portsmouth could also give us trouble based on our current form. To rub a bit of salt into the wounds, Blackburn used their game in hand to batter local rivals Blackpool and open a gap above us.

The pre-match news was that we have finally made Leon Best an offer of a two month contract. Two months? He must be absolutely desperate. Having already been training with the squad for two months you would think he might have held out for an end-of-season loan having shown us what he can do. What it tells me is that Karl Robinson is also desperate. Desperate to increase his goal-scoring options but realising that Best is probably not going to be able to do that, irrespective of how much he might want a longer deal. Nonetheless he started this evening in a strange formation which inexplicably saw Magennis go out left. Best hardly touched the ball and was subbed after 70 minutes.

In front of another pitiful home gate (laughable given as 9,532) we had another stuttering first-half. Playing in fits and starts but not really troubling Posh, whilst Amos was forced into a couple of saves and couldn't stop Gwion Edwards' free-kick for the opener. Edwards turned provider early in the second-half as Marriott scored at the near post. Peterborough had a strong penalty appeal waved away after a poor Kashi tackle in the box.

Ahearne-Grant and Aribo came on for the hapless Best and the anonymous Marshall but it took a last minute penalty to throw the Addicks a lifelong. That man Forster-Caskey stepped up to give the Reds hope and in the dying seconds of added time, Karlan Ahearne-Grant finally scored a long-awaited and much-needed equaliser. Some light then at the end of another dim evening at the Valley. I was thinking about KAG earlier today and thought about how long it took Carl Leaburn to start scoring. I meant to check but didn't get around to it - maybe tomorrow.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Scunthorpe United 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Not a great surprise to go down at Scunthorpe given their league position and our growing injury list. However, we again had chances before they scored with Magennis, in particular, seeing a close range first-half header somehow pushed onto the post.

Josh Morris won the game for the Iron with two fine strikes from distance; the first a peachy free-kick around the hour-mark and the second a 20 yard strike on the run and we had no response. Karlan Ahearne-Grant came on but it was a tough ask at two-down and Hackett-Fairchild also got the last five plus added time. 

Down to sixth and some distance lost but we still have two games in hand over Bradford and Scunthorpe and one on Shrewsbury (who lost again today) and Wigan. One of those games comes on Tuesday at home to Peterborough. Being a Charlton supporter since the seventies, my natural pessimism causes me to look at 7th place (where you miss the play-offs) and there we have a five point gap over 9th December visitors, Portsmouth. So, a six pointer there before we head to Bristol Rovers. Blackburn Rovers are on a roll and they visit the Valley after that before we go to Southend in the week and finish at Wigan on the Saturday. A real challenge to our end of '17 finish. Let's hope there's no further injuries and we make a fist of it.

Friday 24 November 2017

Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust AGM

I attended the CAS Trust (CAST) AGM last night and it proved to be a very worthwhile and interesting use of 90 minutes. Chair, Richard Wiseman,  opened the meeting by quoting from Richard Redden's 'the history of Charlton Athletic' and a similar meeting in the same location (The Bugle) in 1913. If you know, your history.......

The business of the AGM reminded those present of the rationale for the Supports Trust and it's link to other Trust organisations via the umbrella group, Supporters Direct. Richard spoke about the constitution and the key operational facts before giving a review of what the Trust have done through the last 12 months. It was a useful reminder of the campaigning the Trust have done on behalf of supporters over various issues, which largely involved formally raising various questions and complaints with the club and other bodies.

What stuck out, for me, was the number of times the Trust did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. I remember the Trust writing to Russell Slade seeking an apology from Roger Johnson for abusing supporters at Bury. That wouldn't have taken more than ten minutes but Slade didn't see fit to do even that and his subsequent comment that "Roger apologised to me" wasn't good enough on a number of fronts. 

The Club itself still refuses strategic dialogue with CAST, although they do tick the EFL regulations box by holding a Fan's Forum four times a year at which CAST have a seat. The output from those sessions is, sadly, limited to routine domestics which don't trouble Katrien Meire or her team to share any information or insight which supporters might find genuinely useful or engaging. The Supporters Trust has a bit over 1,000 paid-up members (it's only a fiver a year), all of whom should be entitled to a bit more respect. Members receive a weekly email bulletin from the Trust which is a handy catch-up and reminder of all the key things going on in an around the club. 

Membership also entitles attendance at the AGM an other periodic Trust events. After the business of the meeting was done with last night, we had an open session with Steve Avory, Director of the highly successful and much-envied Charlton Athletic Academy. I have never heard Steve speak so it was a very pleasant surprise to listen to his dulcet northern tones. What came through very strongly was his absolute dedication to coaching and development of youngsters. In the mood of Lennie Lawrence, we was formerly a PE teacher (at Hurstmere amongst other schools). He has an authoritative but engaging tone and he couldn't have been clearer or more convincing in the answers he gave to questions thrown at him. He knows exactly what he wants from his staff and players and he was clear about the standards expected from everyone. 

It was touching to hear him speak with so much evident pride in the success that Joe Gomez is currently enjoying. He regretted not being able to get to Wembley to see Joe make his sparkling England debut, despite being offered tickets, because he was down in the west country with a Charlton side in a cup competition - typical of what you would expect from him. We got a good insight to a whole range of questions and some good anecdotes about Scott Parker, Diego Poyet, Jonjo Shelvey, Callum Harriott, Regan Charles-Cook, Karlan Ahearne-Grant and a number of others in between - Steve spotted Jonjo Shelvey watching a session at the training ground recently during the international break which shows the sort of impression it's made on so many.

Steve was also clear about the ongoing upgrade of the facilities at Sparrows Lane. Things are much improved under Duchatelet and the two full-size 4G pitches make a massive difference to the "60 by 35 yard" ones that the likes of Diego Poyet trained on.  He was complimentary too about Karl Robinson and made the point that he has a really good working relationship with him and that he believes Karl listens closely to his advice and invariably follows it when it comes to emerging players.

All that over a few pints - can't be bad. Anyway, as a plug for the Trust;

or by cheque to CASTrust , 83 Heathwood Gardens, SE7 8ET.

or you can make a direct payment to: Charlton Supporters Society:  08-92-99  a/c 65612954  (reference your name)

Alternatively, you can renew at our stall behind the North Stand before home games - they have stall which operates for 45 minutes up to 15 minutes before kick-off. 

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Charlton Athletic 2 v Rochdale 1

The proverbial cold night in November and a home game against the archetypal lower league strugglers, Rochdale. The official gate was 8,801 (inc 146 visitors), although many season ticket holders took the opportunity to swerve this one.

Whatever, Charlton eventually rose to the occasion after a woeful first-half when Dale took the lead through debutant, youth product Matty Gillam, a goal he will probably remember longer than anyone else present. The visitors could have gone two-up before half-time when they struck the inside of the post but we survived into the second period when an early finish from Forster-Caskey from a Da Silva cross levelled matters and put Charlton in the ascendency. 

Forster-Caskey has been weighing in this season and he duly notched the winner which Amos preserved with two good saves before the whistle. Ahmed Kashi did also see an effort cannon off the post.

The win lift us to fourth and with a game or two in hand over those above us, we sit pretty. Ben Reeves limped off last night and with Tariq Fosu out for five weeks, the squad is now being challenged. Given our proximity to Christmas, the fixtures before New Year and our points position, we will finally enter a January transfer window in a position that Duchatelet promised us would merit a gamble in the market to strengthen the side for a real promotion push. 

It will be very interesting to see if the owner is finally as good as his word if he is still calling the shots come New Year. What does look clear, is that we will cash in some chips on Konsa irrespective and my fear is that money might talk over Ricky Holmes. Robinson has spoken about a possible loan-back of Konsa in the event of a sale, although I have to say I can't ever remember us managing to do that. Fair to say that centre-half is the one position we aren't short of options, although Konsa has proven very solid in a number of other roles. Money eventually talks and I wonder whether Chris Wilder will pay over the odds to get Holmes and boost Sheffield United's surge to the Premier League (oh the irony)? That chance might also prove compelling for an older footballer who deserves his crack at the big time.

In summary then, if Duchatelet is still carrying the can come January, we are going to see where is mouth is, to use a local expression. In addition to at least one proven striker, he may have to re-use some of whatever he recoups on a very decent attacking midfielder and good-fit defender in order to honestly say he has supported a second-half promotion push.

In terms of the takeover, the continuing delay in any news breaking officially tells us two things; first that there must be something going on for the club not to have denied it or at least to say that speculation isn't helpful, secondly, that the process is beginning to take longer than might have been expected which begins to get worrying. Due Diligence was rumoured to have completed a number of weeks ago with the majority of the issues on the list having been dealt with. This week the rumours of those purporting to be getting whispers, is that one party may have pulled out and the other is equally exasperated over the stubbornness of the owner and his desire to keep an interest. 

I am not panicking just yet but if we get into December with no news then my hopes will begin to fade quickly and if takeover fails publicly, supporters are likely to vent frustrations again. Remaining hopes this season would be pinned on promotion and once more Duchatelet's actions on that front would be put under heavy scrutiny. 

Saturday 18 November 2017

Hemel Hempstead Town 2 v Welling United 2

An hour around the M25 and I was at Vauxhall Road to see the Wings take on the side one below them in the table. It was a wintry day and the match was played in a light drizzle throughout but it didn't stop a fine match with plenty of good football.

The Tudors bossed the first-half and a finely taken early goal had the Wings on the back-foot. They nearly forced an equaliser after about half-an-hour but the home keeper did well to keep a Tom Bradbrook effort out. Welling were coming more into the match but Hemel were stronger in centre midfield where man-of-the-match, Jordan Parkes, pulled the strings whenever they moved forward. Five minutes before half-time and Welling conceded a penalty which Hemel converted to go in two-up at the break.

Kicking down the slight slope in the second-half we were treated to a rejuvenated Welling. Elias Phipps was on and his pace and threat down the right had Hemel pegged back. However, it was a splendid overlapping run from left-back Archie Johnson which lead to a pearler of a cross which Tom Bradbrook fought to get his head to and he did it justice with a rasping header which flew in under the bar. 

Welling sensed blood now and they threw everything at the home defence. The Hemel keeper was forced out wide to clear but his downfield kick was knocked quickly in field to the wily Joe Healy who planted a 40-plus yard shot towards the goal with the keeper still sprinting back to his posts. There was nothing he could do as the ball bounced home for 2-2 (see Joe's longshot here http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/match-info/match-centre/1-2850626)  were rocking now and minutes later Welling should have made it 3-2 after the mother of all goalmouth scrambles. The  ball cannoned off bodies, spun, was defected and palmed off the line before it was eventually hacked clear. 

The scare was enough to send Hemel straight back at Welling and they struck a post as they took the match to the visitors again for ten minutes. Callum Kitscha in the Welling goal has struggled with crosses since stepping into the side and his lack of command of his six yard box was painful to watch as defenders around him made block after block and clearance after clearance to keep Hemel at bay. 

The draw was the right result and a good return for the Wings after a torrid first-half. They are missing on-loan Dylan Barnes in goal after he returned to Colchester but Kleton Permtreou should be fit to return soon.

At the Valley the Addicks also drew 2-2 but it was a case of two points dropped after missing yet more chances and seeing the Dons get a fortunate last minute penalty just after we had gone 2-1 up. Despite our great start and sitting in fifth, having only one capable striker at the club is costing us points.

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Cashing in....

First, good news for St. Truiden that Roland Duchatelet has sold-up and freed himself of the tiresome responsibility of owning his local football club. Japanese media group DMM have stepped in to take his full shareholding after a period of part ownership. Not a bad model when you can 'try before you buy the whole shop?'

The obvious interest for Addicks fans here, of course, is that it would appear a clear sign that the ill-fated network-experiment is finally being aborted after the earlier sale of Standard Liege and the ongoing cloak-and-dagger negotiations at the Valley. The fact that the sale of St. Truiden still leaves Roland owning the stadium and associated infrastructure isn't such a bright point and something we must view negatively, especially if price becomes a stumbling block on our own sale.

The St. Truiden Chief Executive, Phillippe Bormans, speaking about the takeover said that "DMM is very ambitious and we are looking forward to it.......they have seen with their own eyes that you can't handle a football club like you treat a company." Wise words indeed Mr Bormans - ambition is precisely the issue with Roland Duchatelet, because he has none.

Elsewhere, Katrien Meire seems determined to maximise cash for Roland, something else you might expect of a departing regime. We have already seen prices for the 'Back to the Valley' dinner set at an eye-watering £95 a head which seems indefensible even taking into account a donation to the Community Trust. This week's club update on tickets sales tells us to hurry because there are only ten tables (100 seats) left! Those re the hard-to-shift ones that less well-off supporters might have coveted.

Having listened to the various complaints of those fans unable or unwilling to fork out ninety-five smackeroos for dinner, they have compounded matters this week by ramping up tickets prices for the heralded 'Back to the Valley' league game against Portsmouth. Apparently, last year's League Two opponents are now 'gold' visitors and the prices will range from £20 to £31 and that's without the walk-up Meire Tax. Not sure what Alan Sugar would make of these tactics on The Apprentice but my guess is he might have two words to say....

The other news of the week would appear to be the ongoing expectation management that Esra Konsa will follow in Joe Gomez's boots and be heading out the door to bring in several million more in the January sales. No great surprise but interesting to see Karl Robinson continuing to put it out there and actually mentioning Arsenal and Everton as prospective buyers.

In the meantime, we wait and hope for white smoke from the Valley chimneys....

Saturday 11 November 2017

Welling United 3 v Concord Rangers 3

An absorbing and entertaining match this, if slightly disappointing result from a Welling United point of view.  The Wings are the form side in the National League South and have moved themselves into genuine automatic promotion contention in recent weeks. A win today would have moved them up to second in the table but sharing the spoils means they have to be content with fourth spot.

In front of 636 fans, the Wings started like a steam train and really should have taken the lead and control of this game. In the opening two minutes Louis Wells in the Concord goal pulled off two excellent close range saves to deny Christian Nanetti who was following up from the right on two fine Wellings raids down the left lead by Jeffrey Monakana and supported by Jebb, Healy and Goldberg. Just as the home fans started to settle, Welling came very close again and Wells this time managed to save one-handed and push the ball up and out beyond his far post when it looked in all the way.

The Wings have been guilty of squandering early chances in other home matches and the early flurry of opportunities almost inevitably lead to Concord Rangers settling more into the match. They were disciplined and lead from the back by Steve King who had an excellent game. In front of King, Amos Nasha swept up and prompted the midfield in front of him. Welling were generally a match-up or better elsewhere but the Concord spine with Ben Greenhalgh at centre-forward was strong. It was Nasha who opened the scoring by running on to a ball in from the left on a quick break and steering it high inside the near-post with debutant keeper, Callum Kitscha, clutching air.

Welling continued to boss possession in the first-half but didn't have enough penetration in the centre of their attack to finish off some excellent play down the flanks with Jebb and Healy supporting Nanetti and Monkana. Bradley Goldberg is a decent striker but he is small and it's asking a lot for him to lead the line on his own. 

After the break, and with the Wings kicking towards the massed home fans at the main road end, Welling looked more lively but again it was Concord who scored after a counter-attack down the right lead by Greenhalgh in which Kitscha was caught out of goal and Farrell only had to hit the target in front of the ten visiting supporters. 

Two-nil and time for Jamie Coyle to change the game by bringing on the bigger and stronger front pairing of Phipps and Bradbrook. Almost immediately, Concorde were under more pressure and the very-cool Joe Healy took the ball through two challenges before driving home a low shot which Wells couldn't stop this time. Two-one with 25 minutes remaining and Welling went for it. The difference between the sides was now fully apparent and it was no surprise when Phipps met a swirling cross from left-back Archie Johnson to volley the ball home from close range with the outside of his boot. Welling continued to press and Phipps got his reward for a surging run under pressure which saw him force his way into the box and see his cross-shot deflected high past Wells into the top of the net.

Three-two from two-line down with only five minutes left but the visitors weren't done and the spine of their side had stood up and they had counter-attacked effectively all afternoon. So it was that they had the last laugh scoring in the 92nd minute when sub Femi Akinwande capitalised on a far-post mix-up which again had all the eyes looking suspiciously at Kitscha in the Welling green jersey.

It's a real shame that Welling struggle to maintain a consistent squad of players because they have the nucleus of a really good side. Dillon Barnes has been outstanding in goal this season but, like Eliah Phipps, is on short-term loan from Colchester and has just returned. However, they are competitive and disciplined, which they will need to be next week when they travel to fifth-placed Hemel Hempstead.

Monday 6 November 2017

It's AFC Wimbledon away....

The reward for seeing off Truro City on Sunday is a second round F A Cup tie away at AFC Wimbledon. Hardly inspiring but a winnable away London derby is probably as good as it gets given who's left in at at this stage. It will give the angry Dons fans the opportunity to get their naughty Robinson banner out again and it will also fire big Karl up to beat them once again. We should have no problem selling our tickets for this one.

Elsewhere today, great news for oppressed football, as Valeri Belokin wins his high court case against the 'orrible Oystens at Blackpool FC, who have been told to buy-out his 20% shareholding as part of a move which will cost the hated owners a cool £31m. Belokin had argued "unfair prejudice" towards him as minority shareholder during Blackpool's Premier sojourn when he claims the Oystens used the club as "a personal cash machine" without any discussion or recourse to anyone else. Owen Oyston famously took an £11m "Directors fee" during the boom times. 

Long-suffering Seasiders will hope that this leads to regime change with the Oysters finally forced to sell. The judge called it "an easy decision" and denied a right of appeal, additionally setting a condition that the first £10m must be paid within 28 days.That won't stop the Oysters from going directly to the Court of Appeal but it won't stop Blackpool fans either from celebrating in the meantime and praying for new ownership which will signal a return to matches for thousands who continue to boycott. I will raise a glass for the Seasiders this evening.

Sunday 5 November 2017

Two wins

Couldn't make it to St. Albans yesterday where the Wings picked up from last week's home set-back and beat fellow promotion contenders 2-1. That man Joe Healy scored again and Jack Jebb put Welling clear before St. Albans managed an equaliser. 'Charlton Tony' and son Bobby where amongst 140 Wings who made the trip and returned with their side sitting third in the table. A win at Park View Road against Concorde Rangers next Saturday could send Welling top of the table if Dartford and Braintree fail to win their games away from home. 

This afternoon, Karl Robinson fielded the strong side he promised Charlton fans at the Bromley Branch meeting this week. Reeves got two and Marshall added a third as we kept the White Tigers at arms length. Truro had a proper go though and can return to Cornwall with their heads held high. Addicks fans have a rare chance to listen with interest to tomorrow's evening's draw on BBC Radio 2 and BT Sport at 7pm, where we will dream of avoiding another potential banana skin. 

Katrien Meire will be praying for an away draw in order to avoid losing any more money. Today's disappointing F A Cup gate of 4,494 will have cost us and it means (I think) that we have set another new record low in a week following the Checkatrade Trophy 741 v Fulham. Assuming the rumoured takeover goes through, it would be fitting that these records have been set towards the end of Duchatelet's reign.

Wednesday 1 November 2017

A pair of one-nils

Back home from a frantic week's break in Cyprus. I took the family to stay with longstanding friends in Pafos for half-term and was too heavily engaged watching their beloved Millwall on i-Follow to cover the Charlton (or Welling) game.

I was explaining why Ricky Holmes appears to score so many goals (because he's very good and has an unerringly accurate shot) when he duly obliged and we were able to see him bend yet another rasper in from an acute angle to see off what, I gather, was a typically scrappy Wimbledon side in what was an otherwise disappointing match. Still, the three points maintain the current fine run and suddenly we have a bit of a gap as we close in on Wigan and Shrewsbury. I keep saying it won't last...

Welling fell at home to the other National League South top form side. Ben Jefford's sending-off didn't help as Wealdstone ran out 2-1 winners at Park View Road. They face another tough game this weekend away at fellow play-off hopefuls, St. Albans. The Addicks, meanwhile, take on another of Welling's play-off contenders, Truro City, in a first round F A Cup encounter at the Valley at 2pm on Sunday according to my Flash Score app. Not sure how I missed that but probably a consequence of Duchatelet-induced lack of attention.

Speaking of which, we must be due some confirmation of pending takeover talks, if not wild, deep and long-lasting celebrations of an actual announcement that a deal has been done and we can finally move forward with hope and genuine ambition of engaged and committed ownership. Reading between the lines, the view is that those pesky former Director loans might be presenting a last-ditch hurdle. That figures as the individuals concerned probably have no better chance of getting their money back now than through any well-intentioned thoughts of repayment from a Premier League windfall. They can see Duchatelet looking to recover every penny of his disastrous ownership and are probably saying, 'fuck that, I will insist on my money now if he thinks he's getting out intact." Something like that anyway. There is obviously a danger it delays or even scuppers a deal but this is their best leverage and I don't blame any of them if they take it. We only have to hope that whoever is buying us holds  the line in terms of paying what the club and it's prime assets are worth and not paying through the nose, however desperate we are to be rid of the Belgian-ridden Scrooge. Pray too that change of ownership also means he is gone forever and not left holding any cards.