Wednesday 15 August 2018

Welling United 0 v Billericay Town 3

Big spending 'Ricky blew into town last night and took the points although the score-line flattered them and the Wings will feel aggrieved not to have taken something from the match.

There was no Paul Konchesky in the visitors starting line-up, nor Jamie O'Hara, but they did boast Adam Coombes, signed from the Wings during the close season and I spotted Louis Wells between the sticks, lured from Concorde since I last saw him in at action at Park View Road.

It was a fine Summer's evening and the atmosphere was enhanced by 150 or so 'Ricky fans whose chant of "we'll support you evermore" was met with derision from the home fans and taunts that they were all new arrivals hitched-up to the big spending of owner Glenn Tamplin.

So, to the game them and the Wings started well, as they invariably do at home. Jack Jebb put an early free-kick two feet over the bar before finding his range with a second one that hit the underside of the bar with Wells beaten and Danny Mills could only head the bouncing ball up and over. Wells made a sharp save from Goldberg after a fine piece of touch football from the impressive Brendan Kiernan had played him in. Wells touched the hot-shot onto the bar and was called into action shortly after to tip over a speculative effort from midfield.

With Welling looking to open the scoring, Billericay won a penalty and Adam Coombes scored again on his return to PVR. Thierry Audel was the Wings culprit after clothes-lining a Billericay player who had beaten him for pace. That was the half-time score and after the break with Welling kicking towards Park View Road, I was hopeful they would get back into the match.

Early pressure was again applied with Kiernan, the pocket battleship Kissock and equally diminutive Goldberg all combining well and giving Billericay a hard time. However, from another break, a Billericay forward got a free header and it was two-nil.

After that, Welling huffed and puffed but threatened less and with substitutions being made they lost concentration and heart. A third goal was harsh and it killed the game.

Early days for Welling given the wholesale squad changes and it will take time for them to settle down. The 4-1-3-2 formation struggled a bit, primarily because Ijaha in front of the back four looked off the pace. Danny Mills, playing the big man to Goldberg's foil, also had a poor game.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Charlton Athletic 2 v Shrewsbury Town 1

Good to start at home with three points. Good to force the issue with a late winner. Good to beat play-off nemesis Shrewsbury Town.

As predicted, we did sign a keeper from Aston Villa on loan yesterday, but it was Jed Steer not Sarkic as widely rumoured earlier join the week. I am pleased to say that Dillon Phillips started today as I think the lad deserves his chance.

 The first-half was dull and I heard nothing after the start of the game as I did a few jobs in my back garden, a stone's throw from the ground. I was listening to the Fulham v Palace game and the occasional update on the Charlton game wasn't enlightening beyond 0-0 and no scoring chances. I was keen to see how ma any subs we were fielding given that is the new barometer for how badly abused the first team is under Roland Duchatelet. We managed to field one more than last week but it was Albie Morgan, a kid I assumed was along for the ride.

How wrong was I then, as Lee Bowyer threw him into the fray at half-time. It says something about how poor a match Mike Marshall was having - he really has been a disappointing signing - that Bowyer turned to a debutant so early on. However, Morgan's introduction swung the match. Fellow-youngster George Lapslie crossed for Lyle Taylor to head us in front and despite the setback of a Shrews equaliser, Karlan Grant grabbed a header of his own to take the points. I heard all three goals very clearly and the decibel count also told me the sequence of scoring.

Lee Bowyer deserves the plaudits for the tactical switch and for getting a battling second-half performance from his small squad of players. If you are going into a backs-to-the-wall fight, Lee Bowyer is just the sort of man you would want to be leading the team and that looks just where we are at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Wings cruised to a 4-1 win at Chippenham Town today ahead of Tuesday evening's home match against high-flying Billericay. 

Friday 10 August 2018

Status quo on deadline day - is the takeover finally off?

I hoped Lee Bowyer wouldn't be left 'polishing a turd' yesterday but that's exactly what happened. With no reinforcements arriving, he was left trying to make it a positive day by telling us that none of our remaining 16 first-teamers had left and that we should be signing a loanee this morning subject to a medical. That will be a desperately needed second keeper ahead of the home game against Shrewsbury on Saturday - Villa understudy Matija Sarkic.

Blackburn's refusal to meet Duchatelet's price on Bauer means he stays until January but he is clearly unsettled and could still be loaned out to save on wages. However, with Pearce out for 4-6 weeks, and the loan win now closing at the end of the month, it looks like he will have to resign himself to another five months in Addicks colours. Ajose didn't go either but it's very clear he isn't wanted in SE7 and a loan deal is most likely, even if that's abroad after the end of August.

Bowyer did speak of 'two more' loanees, one of whom he appears to be close to but they are holding out for a Championship club. That sounds very much like Leeds' unwanted Irish midfielder Eunan O'Kane who Bowyer clearly sees as a short-term replacement for the injured Forster-Caskey. I would assume the other has to be a central defender to bolster options at the back following Summer outgoings.

So, we have started the season with a significantly reduced squad from the one that ended it and undeniably weaker. Injuries have added to that situation and it will be another test of Bowyer's management skills to see if he can get the bare bones to play-up above the sum of their collective parts.

I am also left wondering if the Aussie's takeover ship has sailed? Still no word and with the transfer window closed, their ability to influence things on the playing front is shut until 2019. They would be starting with five months of ongoing operating losses and most likely to see this season written-off in terms of any chances of promotion before it opens again. Timing is everything when you have been scrabbling to get sufficient money together to fund a takeover and a plan long enough to change the fortunes of the club. I wonder if Bowyer's position being confirmed as permanent rather than temporary in the short-term might come with an announcement that the deal is finally off?

Finally, CARD were at it once again yesterday, embarrassing the Belgian Billionaire by sending branded bottles of water to the training ground for the young players who have been forced to drink from the tap following a miserly decision to restrict bottled water to the first-team. The club's Spin Machine (Tom Rubbashaw) was forced to respond and after a brainstorming session he came up with a defence on grounds of the environmental damage of plastic water bottles which was incredibly weak and left us all laughing and asking about the first-teamers still getting bottled water and all of the plastic bottles and cups used at The Valley on match days. I loved the line that they had decided to provide "fresh water' for the players instead of that unfresh bottled stuff. Massive own-goal and school-boy error from the Duchatelet Apologist.

Monday 6 August 2018

Sunderland 2 v Charlton Athletic 1 - it just gets worse

At half-time on Saturday I was feeling pretty chipper. Lyle Taylor's penalty had us in front and alongside Grant and debutant Lapse, we had created far more than a nervous looking Sunderland. It was at that point I wondered what odds I might get on the Makems turning it around. They had started odds-on favourites but were now 5-1 to win and Bet365 were offering 15/2 on a 2-1 scoreline. Surely, I thought, that would be the winning scoreline if Charlton were to do it again on live TV, so I had a bite by way of some consolation in the likely event we managed to lose. 

That winning goal was horribly predictable, even after they had spurned an open goal only a minute before and whilst I started the betting season with a modest win, I was disappointed not just to see my beloved team beaten but more-so by the nature of the game which I think may prove prophetic this season. 

We started by only being able to field five subs and finished with two more walking wounded. Our bright start to the game made us competitive for 45 minutes. After the break we tailed off alarmingly as Sunderland grew in confidence and by the end we were carrying passengers who were exhausted and adding very little. In short, our squad wasn't strong enough to hold out for a result and that promises to be the story this season.

As if to rub salt in the wounds, it's clear today from a tweet from the BFG that he is on his way out, most likely to Championship Blackburn Rovers according to Lee Bowyer. Jason Pearce left the field injured on Saturday and whilst he may not be as bad as initially feared, we will be down to only two centre-backs if Bauer goes. We are already relying on a rookie Keeper and our attacking options are picking themselves due to lack of options. 

I am left reflecting on the transfer day deadline a year ago when we let Scunthorpe take Novak from us as we were forced to sign anyone (Dudu or whatever his name was) just to save face. I wonder what could match this level of incompetence and disappointment this year? Ajose will be sold if Duchatelet can get him away but that wouldn't bother me given his all-round failure to contribute since we signed him. How about selling Lyle Taylor to Sunderland and re-signing that Dudu bloke? That would just about top it.

Lee Bowyer must be close to throwing the towel in and after telling us that there will definitely be incoming players, I sincerely hope he's not left trying to polish a turd like Karl Robinson was this time last year. Talking of our Jose Mourinho, I see his Oxford side managed their biggest opening day thumping for 40 years (4-0 battering at Oakwell). Gobby was his usual self afterwards telling anyone daft enough to listen that there would be changes for Saturday and if players think their position is safe, then they are wrong, blah, blah, blah. It makes me feel even better that we have 'basic Bowyer' who sticks to the facts and manages his opinions and reflections incredibly maturely by comparison. If Bowyer were to walk now, I really fear we may not be able to attract anyone competent enough to take the job on - certainly not without new ownership.

Meanwhile, in front of 1075 at PVR, Welling United started the season with a decent 2-0 home win over those middle-class trendies from Dulwich Hamlet. A new look Wings side did well to keep a clean sheet, which was their undoing last year, but deserved their win and will improve as their new-look side gets more playing time together. I will be there next Tuesday to see them take on Billericay Town at 7.45pm. Up the Wings!

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Addicks take a deep breath as kick-off approaches

August is upon us and on Saturday we open the League One season at newly relegated Sunderland. I have just read a good piece by fellow-blogger Blackheath Addick which details the current squad short-comings and the ongoing hopelessness under Duchatelet.

This isn't really news to any of us. We have seen the fire sale. We know he is continuing to have players touted (Bauer and Ajose) and it's crystal clear he is asset stripping, probably with tacit support from any would-be buyers as it lowers their wage bill and keeps their hands clean. What surprises me, however, is the near-permanent optimism of some Charlton supporters who will always believe that the latest signing is Lionel Messi or that their personal urging from the sidelines can turn matches. For that merry band, their hope is now placed full-square on "our first eleven can be competitive" and "if they all stay fit."

Confirmation this week that Bolton have stolen Josh Magennis for a fraction of what they bid for him in January, maybe as low as £200k, tells you that this is as much about wage trimming which is probably why Bauer and Ajose are next in line. Lee Bowyer's suggestion that Lyle Taylor has been signed as Magennis' replacement is managing expectations and those are that we will once again start a season short of the strike power necessary to get promoted. Furthermore, we had a significant first-half season from Ricky Holmes that we won't get this year. I think we will need a Lionel-Messi-level of goal-scoring from Taylor to even stay in contention. Suggestions that Ahearne-Grant might partner him is also the least-cost option. Ahearne-Grant hasn't been ready for League One so far and despite enjoying a successful loan spell at League Two Crawley Town, we should not expect that he will suddenly weigh-in with the goals needed from a second striker either. 

As a gambling man I am far closer to taking us at 16-1 for relegation than 9-2 for promotion. The old adage is that we just need to be better than three sides to avoid the drop. I suspect we probably are, even with out attendant positional weaknesses, but I'd argue that as things stand under Duchatelet, there aren't three clubs as poorly prepared or under-resourced as us and if we find ourselves in trouble, I can see us spiralling downwards.

We had a surprisingly good set of pre-season results, which usually follows with a poor start to the season. Sunderland have been a basket-case over the last few years but if they have managed to sober-up during the close season, it's hard to see us getting anything up there, especially as we are live on TV.