Friday 26 April 2019

Duchatelet prepares to damage the club further

In a week when Lieven De Turck gives the Fans Forum a laughable update on the three "eager" remaining bidders and claims that the sale will be done by 30th June, Lee Bowyer expresses his disappointment that his contract (and those of his management team) has still not been sorted and that he is clearly disappointed if not angry and pissed off.

Charlton are about to enter the play-offs with contract uncertainty not only for the management team but also the nucleus of the side. This is a completely ridiculous state of affairs and it's a shrieking siren as far as I am concerned about what is to come. I don't believe anyone will agree Duchatelet's price for the club and I am sure he knows that. Instead, the long-running sale fiasco gives him a cover story for an out which has dulled the appetite for supporter protests whilst he is determined to recover his losses before he leaves and the next step will, I believe, take the club to a new low. 

If we fail to make the play-offs Duchatelet will terminate the contracts of the biggest earners or may seek to cut wages for any who still want to stay. Lee Bowyer can't be on a lucrative deal but the proposal that LDT tells us they made was incentivised, so more risk than reward. That would suggest Bowyer and Co could be materially worse off, particularly if he cannot continue to do miracles with a smaller and weaker squad. If he gets an offer elsewhere he is very likely to stick two fingers up to Duchatelet and we would be in a real mess and at serious risk for next season. Duchatelet will also seek to cash in on any assets so we can expect to see Patrick Bauer and Joe Aribo sold for starters and I am sure he would entertain offers for Lyle Taylor and Naby Sarr if they came in. 

Duchatelet has made it very clear he is no longer interested in football (if he ever was really) and everyone knows he hasn't seen us play for over four and a half years. LDT told us this week that Duchatelet wouldn't even be at Wembley for the play-off final, so, he won't lose any sleep over the state of the squad for next season if we are still languishing in League One.

If we were to pull off an unlikely promotion, Duchatelet might have to look to extend the contracts he would otherwise cancel but it's highly unlikely that Bowyer would get the additional investment needed to compete in the Championship. That would also point to a season of struggle and a realistic relegation fight which would sap supporter enthusiasm yet again. 

It seems we can't win whatever happens but I really do fear another season in League One. The club still has no coherent management structure (more simple cost-cutting) and with a decimated squad and possibly new management, even the "support the team" diehards could be sorely tested. 

Saturday 20 April 2019

Welling United 2 v Chelmsford Town 0

Cracking day over at Park View Road yesterday. The sun was out and a healthy gate saw the Wings see off their fourth-placed play-off rivals with something to spare.

With two matches left to play (away at lowly East Thurrock on Monday and at home to Hampton & Richmond next Saturday), the Wings have qualified for the play-offs but are battling to have home advantage in those games by finishing second. Woking are currently second but they were beaten yesterday and the gap is now only two points. The way Welling are playing at the moment, I wouldn't put it past them to finish runners-up to promoted Torquay United.

It took Welling only a minute to open the scoring yesterday when the tall Danny Mills got up high to a long ball and managed to get a touch which flicked it on for the scampering Bradley Goldberg who made a yard for himself with a twist and turn before firing home.

Backed by a decent following of several hundred, the Clarets settled into the game and played some tidy football from back to front but they looked short of quality upfront. Welling sat back a bit and were content to play on the break and they got their reward before half-time when Brendan Kiernan chased another through ball. He broke free on goal and was bundled over just in the area. It was a clear penalty and the only question was would the visitors be reduced to ten men. We were close to the linesman and as the ref raced over to consult we told him that the offender had to go. He agreed with us and Chelmsford were down to ten men a minute later. Goldberg was made to wait for the penalty and the Chelmsford keeper stood big in front of him trying to intimidate the diminutive Goldberg but it didn't work. When he was ready Bradley knocked it in for the two-goal cushion. Mills should have added a third before half-time when he got head and shoulders above everyone to meet a McCallum corner but his powerful downward header beat everyone and the back-post.

I expected Welling to at least double their lead against the ten men but Chelmsford stood up well and, to their credit, continued to try and play football but the front two couldn't find any space or manage to hold onto the ball. Welling have been very well-drilled defensively this season. They deploy a drift defence which sits a little deeper and which falls back very quickly to pick-up through balls and which engages quickly to support the covering midfield if anyone makes a break. The mantra when in possession is only one or two touches to enable them to launch the ball back upfield. It's not always pretty but it is effective.

Welling might have had another goal but they were content to contain Chelmsford in the second-half and continue to play on the break which they did very competently. Next Saturday's home game may have a little more at stake if the Wings can seal second-place. 

Thursday 11 April 2019

Millwall 0 v QPR 0

A football-obsessed Aberdeen supporting mate of mine was down in London last night ahead of work commitments today. He had brought his eager 11 year old son Danny and they were keen to see any live match in town. A quick scan of the upcoming fixture showed it was a choice between Brentford v Ipswich or Millwall v QPR. Naturally I fancied taking them to West London to see Griffin Park and it's famed four corner pubs before the Bees move into their new stadium. However the logistics of their arrival put that out of bounds we we decided on a trip to the New Den. That worked out well because another old mate of mine from Cyprus decided to come back to see his daughter and cram two Millwall home games in so we also got to catch-up. If that wasn't enough I was immediately called out when entering the West Upper by a coterie of lifelong Millwall fans I have known for years. That's my excuses over...

The match itself was a real disappointment. I was expecting Millwall to wallop a sliding QPR team, especially following their dismal defat at Norwich on Saturday. That's probably what the travelling QPR fans also expected given there were barely 1000 of them. However, the alarm bells at Loftus Road must finally have been ringing and with QPR at risk of Millwall closing to within a point, they stood up to Millwall, especially in the first half. It wasn't a great advert for the Championship with few goal-scoring opportunities but Rangers shaded the chances up to the break. There was a huge shout after Lee Gregory was bundled over 30 yards out but the ref looked across to the lino, saw no flag and waved play-on to a raucous chorus of abuse from the home fans. As if to maintain his authority he then awarded QPR the next ten decisions which didn't endear him to the locals. The half-time catch-ups on the concourse revealed that Millwall's other three relegation rivals were all winning against better opposition and Millwall were effectively in the bottom three.

After the break Millwall came out with much more determination and during the course of the second-half they forced a string of corners which they failed to capitalise on. Too often the ball didn't beat the first man and the Lions were second-best in the air to a big QPR side who packed the box. Whilst the Lions huffed and puffed, QPR continued to counter when the chances arose and they were aided by their later substitutions. The good news during the half was that Aston Villa, Norwich and Hull City all fought back against Rotherham, Reading and Wigan so Millwall's point was enough to keep them out of the drop zone but they now sit with their rivals all on 41 points with a game in hand. They should be ok but they go to Sheffield United on Saturday and they really are in a scrap and on last night's showing lacking a bit of confidence and goal-scoring capability - Gregory is the lone striker and Morison can only do a late shift now. 

Charlton fans would love to change places with Millwall at the end of the season, as much so we can avoid them next season but I suspect there is a greater chance of us playing them in either the Championship or League One.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

All hail Bow and Jacko

Last night's grinding 1-0 win at Wycombe Wanderers has continued Charlton's surprisingly good form and raised questions again about could we win second place? Given the January transfer window shenanigans that saw us weaken our striking options at the time we needed to strengthen then, it is not short of amazing that we have stayed in the play-off hunt, let alone moved into a position to possible finish top of the play-off grouping and possibly very close to the automatic second position.

It's all the more remarkable that we have achieved this at a time when there is so much future uncertainty amongst the playing and managerial staff. It can't be easy to concentrate fully and give your all in games when you are spending a fair chunk of the week wondering or actively planning your future when you are out-of-contract at the end of the season and there has been little or no contact from the Club's owner about a possible extension. The obvious conclusion would be that you are likely to be allowed to go given the stated aim of reducing the monthly wage bill for next season as Duchatelet continues to try to cut his trading deficit. 

The same goes for the management team but at least Lee Bowyer has seen his contract even if he couldn't make any sense of it initially and his comment yesterday to the press after having been through it with Richard Murray is that it seems heavy on 'incentivisation.' The conclusion to be drawn on this is that it's equally light on basic pay which would not be attractive to most of us and in Bowyer and Jackson's case, what chance of achieving incentivised targets when they can see that they would have to do so with an even lighter and less able squad of players? The other big question I would have, is what sort of incentivisation is Duchatelet looking to achieve? On the basis that he has no interest in the club and sees the Championship as a money-pit? Cynicslly you would conclude it's a ruse to reduce their level of pay too. Bowyer continues to play the negotiations brilliantly on the public front saying he's sure the details will be worked through and everything can be sorted but that simply puts pressure on Duchatelet that in the event of not reaching an agreement Bowyer has already given a view that it shouldn't have been difficult to achieve. Timing also favours him as the club have to unveil season ticket pricing next season and they should be reticent to do that knowing that supporters are much more likely to delay committing this to next season until they know who will be leading the side and who will likely be playing.

Chances of automatic promotion are being given another lively airing amongst the Charlton Life faithful. The form of Phillips in goal and the strength of the defence has similarities with the 1998 play-off run-in being re-played. The problem has always been our ability to get enough goals but 1-0's will do it for you if you can grind them out as we did in the 1998 run-in and appear to be capable of now. The improvement finally being shown by Igor Vetokele has also given cause for optimism and last night he shown glimpses of his previous best according to many who watch the game. The excitement gave me cause to study the remaining fixtures and whilst Sunderland have the toughest run-in and could possibly be caught with a stellar Charlton finish, I would be more concerning about Barnsley or Portsmouth maintaining form against lesser opposition and out-pointing us. We have our two hardest remaining fixtures upcoming with Luton at the Valley on Saturday before what's looking increasingly like a tricky fixture at Oxford United who have suddenly hit form in their season-on relegation battle and have now pulled well clear which is a big surprise given Karl Robinson has hung on and is still there. If we can win both games the table may look very interesting with three left to play.....

Saturday 6 April 2019

Welling United 2 v Bath City 1

Like a bear after hibernation, I finally managed to catch-up with this Wings this afternoon as they maintained their nine-match unbeaten run by beating play-off rivals Bath City. It wasn't a vintage performance and Bath City will consider themselves unfortunate not to take a point but Welling dug in, rode their luck at times and snatched the points late on.

The Wings started brightly taking the lead inside five minutes. A back-post corner was knocked down by Danny Mills towards Thierry Audel on the edge of the box and Audel pivoted left in order to swing his right boot and smash the ball high to the keepers' left for the lead. For twenty minutes Welling pressed with Kiernan and McCallum joining Mills and Goldberg in the attack as they sought a second. After that things eased off and Wilks was called on to make a flying save from a Bath shot from distance. Bath finished the half slightly on top and served notice for the second-half. 

I ran into an old Charlton friend at the start of the second-half and we had 45 minutes of catching up so I must profess to watching most of the second-half with one eye. The second-half was much shorter on chances and nothing was doing right for Welling on the attack. Kiernan uncharacteristically fluffed a couple of crosses and good opportunities to shoot and the ball wouldn't sit down for Mills or Goldberg. Bath were more than holding their own and trying to create the opening for an equaliser. Welling have 'units' at the back with Mendy, Achaeampong and Audel behind imposing Ijaha in midfield and they are hard to break down. Braham-Barrett keeps things tight at left-back and Wilks has been in fine form behind them all. 

Bath did get their reward towards the end after a deep and curling cross was met on the run at the back post and headed home powerfully. From there it felt like the Wings needed to hold on and the game was tight as both sides fought for control. In the final minutes Welling broke and a ball over the top found the lanky Mills who managed to reach it and prod it passed the on-rushing Ryan Clarke in the Bath goal. there was still time for a heart-stopping moment when Wilks came out for a cross and fumbled the ball which was swept goanward by a desperate Bath boot only for it to hit the bar and bounce down and back into Wilks' arms. Welling were unlucky on many occasions earlier in the season so will gladly take this today as bit of a correction. The win keeps them handily placed for a second or third placed finished which will give them a play-off advantage of only having to win two matches and possibly both at home. 

The next home game on Good Friday (19th April) is against Chelmsford who are also competing for Welling's play-off spot. Another Wings victory there would probably nail the play-offs. 

Charlton, meanwhile, had a fine 2-0 victory against in-form Plymouth Argyle at Home Park. What price an Addicks-Wings promotion play-off double?