Sunday 20 December 2020

Swindon Town 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Another late goal and another two points dropped against very modest opposition. 

Our failure to kill games off that are there for the taking is becoming a problem and it could cost us dearly come May. Having fallen behind to a well-taken goal from Jayesimi, we fought our way back into the match and after taking the lead on the hour, we really should have put the game to bed but Lee Bowyer went all defensive early and we invited the pressure that typically leads to last minute goals.

Out two scorers were front men Bogle and Anneke but the nature of the goals summed us up. Bogle's goal was a dog's dinner and he didn't know much about it. He was presented with a golden opportunity to score a straightforward goal but he got too close to the keeper and then fell on the ball, somehow knocking it in with a back heel he knew little about. Anneke got what looked like a deflection but they all count. 

For the thousands watching on Valley Pass the real drama started after 67-72 minutes when Bowyer withdrew Forster-Caskey and then Maddison for Purrington and Matthews. With seven defenders on, we defended. Swindon couldn't believe their luck that they were now free to get forward at will and so we all began finger-nail biting as they got closer and the clock ran down. 

Brett Pitman, an historic thorn in our side to my mind (Louis Mendez reckons he has never previously scored against us?), had come on after 62 minutes and I was peering over the top of the sofa when he headed the 90th minute equaliser and rescued a point for the 22nd placed club.

It felt like a defeat and we dropped down to 7th in the table. It's rare that we have a good Christmas, so news that Peterborough have cancelled the match on 29th might be good news although we are beginning to build up a backlog of games which rarely translate into the points you hoped for. 

A new striker can't come soon enough and the jungle drums are saying Ronnie Schwartz is in the building. Hopefully we can announce him on the opening day of the window and get him up-to-speed quickly. He must surely step in for the hapless Omar Bogle whose poor return is entirely in line with what you would expect looking at his less-than-impressive track record at lesser clubs than oursleves.

I think we also need to give consideration to our central defensive situation. Ideally Inniss and Famewo would stay on loan but we can't be sure of that. having been taken apart by Liverpool yesterday, Roy Hodgson might well be looking at his defensive options in terms of recalling Inniss, although with him still some way off returning from injury who knows? Norwich are riding high at the top of the Championship, so Famewo has more chance of extending his loan but he too will still be missing for a number of games yet. Lee Bowyer may decide he can't rely on Pratley Pearce possibly for the remainder of the season and might be asking for a new centre-half.

The question on any incomings, of course, is juggling the wage bill under the salary cap. Levitt is likely to return o man United with his tail between his legs but we may need to move others on. I'd give Bogle a piggy-back to Carlise if it moved him on but he's hardly hot property. Expect a few more to go out on loan.

Saturday 12 December 2020

Charlton Athletic 5 v AFC Wimbledon 2

A classic game of two halves at the Valley this afternoon and, I believe, what should be a final lesson for Lee Bowyer.

In the first-half we did ok against what I felt was a very ordinary Wimbledon team. Our defence was largely untroubled until the end of the half when Pearce and Pratley in central defence went missing allowing not only Joe Piggott to fire in from 25 yards but to also take the lead from a close range header where there were no less than three yellow shirts competing for the ball and not a red one in sight. Conor Washington had put us one-up with a delightful shot, having turned inside his man on the edge of the box and lining up a curler which whistled in. He was quick to congratulate Jason Pearce for the slide-rule pass from deep which created the opportunity.

In between times we had battled in midfield to try and get balls up to Omar Bogle but once more the only ones that seemed to stick with him momentarily were when he was out wide and of no immediate threat to the opposition. The fact that he and Gilbey were yanked off on 53 minutes confirmed that Bowyer had seen enough and that we needed some drive and urgency to avoid another home defeat. That urgency was fired by Jonny Williams and Chuks Anneke who both tore into the Wimbledon back line. Maatsen had been having a solo go for most of the first half and was emboldened, as was Chris Gunter who suddenly surged forward from his full-back berth. 

Within ten minutes, we were level. Anneke had been played in on the right by a determined run from Gunter and his acutely angled shot was blocked by Trueman in the Wimbledon goal but the deflection only succeeded in arriving at the feet of Jake Forster-Caskey who gleefully rammed it home.

A minute later and an even more committed move at pace down our right side saw Gunter play a one-two with Maddison as he advanced into the box a la Anneke a minute before but instead of shooting he picked out Jonny Williams in the same spot that Forster-Caskey had scored from and Jonny fired home to his obvious delight in front of the Covered End.

We had the lead now and Wimbledon made four substitutions over the next fourteen minutes as they tried in vain to get back on terms. Maatsen, who had been a thorn in the opposition's side all afternoon, got down the left again on 84 minutes but his ball in appeared to have been claimed by the Wimbledon defence, but under pressure from Chuks Anneke, they lost it and Chuks was able to drag it on and squeeze it in off Trueman for 4-2. 

There was then just enough time for the third Charlton substitute to get on the scoresheet. Jonny Williams must have thought he had scored his scored when he flicked the ball beyond Trueman but it struck a post and fell for Ben Purrington who gleefully made it five from close range. 

It was great to see us score 5 goals in one game having managed only 20 in 15 games previously. I really hope we can start with close to the side we finished with on Tuesday. Let's beat Bristol Rovers on Tuesday before we consider bringing on Omar Bogle or changing to a more defensive formation. 

Sunday 6 December 2020

Shrewsbury Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton were denied an undeserved win at Shrewsbury yesterday courtesy of a 94th minute penalty. It would obviously have been great to come away with the three points but I think that would have masked a glaring and urgent problem. This side has somehow lost what attacking momentum we have had this season and no-one looks capable in recent weeks of changing it.

The good news pre-kick-off was that the side chosen finally matched the one the Cognoscenti have been calling for. Back in central defence was fit again Akin Famewo and Jason Pearce. Up top we started with Anneke and not Bogle. Surely that would be enough to get the points against bottm-of-the-league opposition?

The defensive change worked almost immediately. Pearce and Famewo played like they have been together for 25 games and rounded off with Maatsen and Gunter, the Shrews struggled to get forward and we began to edge possession. Pearce, in fact, had our best first-half chance when he was inches short of a ball that Anneke knocked down across the goal. 

The big stumbling block for us, once again, was a mess in the middle. Watson, Pratley, Gilbey and Forster-Caskey was the combo given the nod this time and it failed. Plenty of experience but oh-so ineffective. Fortser-Caskey and Gilbey hardly had a touch and bizarrely it was Pratley playing in behind the forward pairing for much of the half. Watson was working over-time to halt the Shrews trying to pass through the middle with the experienced Pugh. 

Nil-nil at the break and you hoped we would step it up, get the goal and kill it off. We didn't step it up but after 60 minutes Williams and Morgan were thrown on for the ineffective Gilbey and Forster-Caskey. Within ten minutes we had the lead. An attack down the right flank gave the advancing Watson a chance and his shot took a nice deflection which beat the impressive Sarkic. 

After that we failed to seize the initiative and instead fell increasingly back on a rearguard action which encouraged the Shrews to get at us. Amos had already fumbled a good effort onto his own bar but was now coming under increasing pressure. The back four were holding the line but there was little respite from our midfield which looked tired and had players going to ground looking for fouls to slow the play rather than getting on the ball and looking up. Bogle had come on for Anneke but offered zero out ball and Washington couldn't hold play up either. 

On 85 minutes we had the bizarre sight of substitute Williams being subbed himself for Matthews. He looked fine to me but was well off the pace and I suspect Bowyer was making a point. He has already been critical of Jonny's work-rate in training and he certainly hasn't provided the usual spark from the bench that we have become used to. 

Shrews maintained the pressure into the fourth minute of added time when a final burst of play saw Gunter stick out a leg in the box and Amos had to face a penalty. Norburn hammered home the deserved equaliser and it was match over. Gunter raced straight the tunnel and the rest looked forlorn.

I wouldn't want to be Lee Bowyer right now. He has a lot of pieces but many of them look very similar and ill-fitting. We are missing Doughty's pace and it was odd to rest Morgan I thought yesterday. Maddison apparently had a knock but it looks hard to fit him into a midfield that relies on teamwork. He is a selfish player whose game is based upon looking up and lauching long balls at strikers. If he plays, it has to be in behind the front two in order to improve his contribution. We are also short of an attacking game-plan. It really does look like amble forward and hope to see a pass.

Watson or Pratley are a given at present in the holding role but they are slow to get the ball forward and we pass it around the back way to often. I am fed-up seeing attacks turned into defence because no-one can see a forward pass. Without Doughty and maybe Morgan, we have no natural pace or width and that means little for the forwards to chase. Not enough players make space for a pass or support the man on the ball. Milton Keynes showed us how to do it on Wednesday.

Perhaps we need a decent left-sided winger as well as a striker in January. This last month has seen us burn our games in hand advantage and fall off the pace of Hull and Lincoln. It's been tough to watch too and I am reminded we weren't great in our first seven or eight games either despite picking up points.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Charlton Athletic 0 v Milton Keynes 1

The bad news is that due to some unplanned domestic duties I needed to do this evening I missed much of the game. The good news though was I missed much of the game. What I did see has made me severely pissed-off and am reminding myself just how much worse I would feel if I had won a golden ticket in the lottery only to be frozen to death as well as angry. I can't be bothered to write this up but feel I need to make some points;

1. Why did Bogle start this evening? I thought everyone had learnt this lesson, including Lee Bowyer? He is simply not a good enough footballer to be playing for us or in League One. Sorry, but he hardly gets a touch and when he does he loses possession. Finally, a goal on Saturday (a back post tap-in) and he starts again? It's almost as if Lee Bowyer doesn't want to be proven wrong about him.

2. Where was the midfield tonight? I missed the first-half but saw that Maddison was on for Shinnie at the start of the second-half. Perhaps Shinnie was injured but the mess the midfield was making early in the second-half suggested it had been no better during the first. Milton Keynes were first to everything. When we did touch the ball it was a last-ditch lunge or a desperate block and the ball went back to them. Unsure what went wrong but nothing was happening until Williams came on and we were chasing the game by then.

3. Where are our centre-backs? It was Gunter and Pratley again. I didn't see enough to apportion too much blame because the midfield gave them little respite but when are we going to see centre-backs playing centre-back again? Pearce has been a sub for weeks and Famewo was brought on when we were one down. Barker looked composed for the few games he played there and not even on the bench in recent weeks.

4. What's our attacking strategy? I appreciate Bowyer doesn't have an embarrassment of striking talent but so far this season it's been a case of compete for as long as possible, hope to dominate possession and throw the ball forward hoping something sticks or by weight of numbers it falls for us. There is no consistency to our play. Without Doughty there is little pace or threatening wing play. Our midfield options are very safe and very similar. It's all tidy and percentage football which doesn't help when the options ahead of you are limited. Anneke offered a glint of hope at Ipswich last week when he was winning the ball, pulling defenders out of position and creating space for his team-mates. Tonight was two steps back. Milton Keynes showed us how to do it. They attacked in threes and there was nearly always a player free to receive a pass as they came at us. If Amos hadn't been in goal it would likely have been a more convincing scoreline.

5. Marcus Maddison? Flattering to deceive. Seems to play his own game in midfield. Every time he gets the ball he tries to put someone in on goal. Nothing necessarily wrong with the ambition but it's usually 30-40 yard balls because he's so deep when  he picks the ball up and doesn't appear to be interested working with his team-mates in the midfield to work at building pressure and create much more realistic chances. Also, will someone tell him he's playing for a professional club now and wearing different coloured football boots has zero impact on your ability or contribution and makes you look like a, a prima-dona.

6. Can we sort out our home form? We are sitting in the play-off places and have won five on the road. Our home form, though, has been poor. Three wins, a draw and two defeats from six. We didn't deserve the draw against Sunderland and only just edged past Wigan and Fleetwood. Empty stadiums haven't helped but we need to find a style and rhythm playing at home and we haven't managed it so far this season. Needless to say, our home form isn't promotion-winning. 

It has to be much better on Saturday.

Saturday 28 November 2020

Ipswich Town 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

Normal service was resumed this afternoon at Portman Road. Lee Bowyer's boys dusted themselves down and put the Tractor Boys to the sword. It was a competent and no-fuss display in which we got gradually stronger and rarely looked in trouble after taking the lead.

The questions all week were about what changes would be made in defence and which ones up front following the debacle at Burton. Bowyer told us on Thursday that he would go again with Pratley and Gunter at the back because no-one else was fit enough to start in central defence and the pairing proved him right. Pratley had one of his better games and the pair were not seriously troubled. Maatsen and Matthews anchored the backline and Ben Watson played in front of them to help subdue Ipswich. 

Upfront, we did the change many have been craving with Anneke starting and Bogle on the bench. That worked even better with Anneke putting in a man-of-the-0match performance. He won nearly everything thrown up to him and for once was able to flick-on, lay off or go himself, far more convincingly than we have seen up until now. It's been said he has struggled to gain full fitness but perhaps we are seeing that now for the first time. Ironically, of course, it was substitute Bogle who was on hand to open his scoring account with a back post tap-in but he won't mind. It was heartening to see all of the players making their way over to congratulate him. I promise to lay off him for now, as long as he isn't preventing Anneke starting. 

I should also say that the midfield looked far more settled and competitive today. Watson played at the base of the diamond with Shinnie, Morgan and Williams and it worked. the opening goal came from an Anneke knock-down into the path of Shinnie who forced a reverse ball through two covering blue shirts into the path of Morgan who couldn't miss from ten yards out. Morgan clearly relished that goal and although Town continued to try to play football after it, we were a yard and a touch ahead of them.

The only negative was seeing Smyth taken off on a golf cart having twisted a knee. That looks like he will join the injury list for a few weeks at least and maybe longer. He had also played his part harrying the Ipswich back-line who never settled. 

The win takes us into third place with a game a hand. With lowly MK Dons, Shrewsbury and Wimbledon up next we really do have a chance to consolidate our position at the top end of the table.

Burton Albion 4 v Charlton Athletic 2

Fate intervened to save me from a totally frustrating evening. It was my Wife's birthday and her twin sister and other half joined us for dinner. Caught up in the cooking, eating and bonhomie, it was 7.40pm before I checked my phone and was reminded that CHARLTON WERE PLAYING! Before I could fire up my computer, WhatsApp messages revealed a disastrous first-half and I decided, for once, that I would not be completely anti-social as to put the game on and would instead follow furtively via updates.

It was a good call. Despite pulling two goals back, both only adjusted the arrears to one from two and the howling on social media was loud.

In the aftermath I see that the lack of recognised centre-backs did for us although few escaped with any credit. Marcus Maddison, the player many foamed over and the rest of us hoped for, had a stinker and stormed off down the tunnel when subbed. We may now just be seeing why this apparently mercurial talent hasn't yet made the big time. Lee Bowyer will need to work some more magic to get the best from him.

Bowyer is also getting stick for starting Bogle again who did nothing for the 34 minutes he was on. Maybe tough when the midfield weren't performing and the back four were inviting pressure by trying to play it around, but his problem is he has had loads of these games and there have been no redeeming features. I am not sure why Anneke doesn't start and hope it's because Bowyer has wanted to persevere and give Omar his chance. If it's because Chuks can't do more than a half, we really are in trouble up front. 

It will be hard to arrest the decline at Ipswich on Saturday. Having lost at home to Hull 3-0 last night, they will be equally determined to get a result. Bowyer's big calls will be who plays at the centre of defence as well as who starts upfront. 

Pratley has looked like Bambi-on-ice at times in the back line but Gunter has hitherto looked comfortable. Do we drop Pearce and Barker back in straight away? The clamour will be to do it but I am more cautious and would suggest just Pearce with Gunter and see how it goes.

Anneke has to start up front though with Washington or Smyth and I would like to see us getting the ball out of defence much quicker. Racking up a dozen passes across the back line involving the keeper can look good and build a bit of confidence when you are leading but continuing to do it when you are behind or being pressed is asking for trouble. Getting to ball forward at more often will result in more balls coming back into midfield from our opponents but it still gives opportunities and creates chances to attack again.

Until Inniss and Famewo are back in harness, we are going to having to work our way through this. Pearce could be key and could provide the steadying hand and leadership needed. 

Sunday 22 November 2020

Gillingham 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Lee Bowyer's boys returned from Priestfield with a precious point after going down in the second-half and looking like they would get nothing. From that perspective, Chuks Anneke's close-range blaster was a point gained but there is a stronger case that it was two points dropped.

The pre-match news was that Ryan Iniss would be missing due a quad injury that Bowyer says doesn't look good. That meant it was Gunter and Pratley in central defence and we never looked Inniss-Famewo confident. They did ok but their lack of togetherness and pace meant the Gills were encouraged to get the ball forward to Oliver and Graham in particular who had chances throughout the game. Having said that, Charlton still had more possession and when we did get forward, the Gills looked like they were struggling at the back. Perhaps that's what lead to the two penalties in the game.

Charlton really should have taken the lead in the first-half when Omar Bogle was shoved to the floor as he awaited a floated ball that was heading towards him at the back post. It was a clearcut penalty although I heard that the horrendously biased Gills commentary on I-Follow suggested "not sure of there was much contact there." I once won a Judo competition with an Ippon Seoni Nage throw that had less contact. What followed for Addicks fans was hard to watch. Omar Bogle grabbed the ball and told Washington he was taking the penalty in the manner schoolboys do when they are fouled for the penalty-kick - "it's mine." Washington, the nominated penalty taker looked like he remonstrated but it took a loud shout from Jackson on the touchline before Bogle handed the ball over. As Washington placed it and took his run up, I knew it wasn't going in. It looked very much like he would drive it low to the left and he that, but Jack Bonham also saw it and was down quickly to get a hand to it. 

It was a real shame because we had been building a bit of pressure with a sequence of attacks. Maddison had seen a superb long distance free-kick touched over by Bonham at full stretch and the Gills stopper did it again after a cheeky effort from Chris Gunter which he hit from the half-way line. Gillingham's best effort during the period was brilliantly saved by Amos. A clever ball to the back post found Dane Oliver unmarked but his powerful prod hit Amos on the line as he made a reflex star shape and he somehow got enough on it to keep it out.

After the break the game ebbed and flowed but we weren't creating enough chances in the Gills box and on 66 minutes the crook came out for Bogle, Maddison and Washington. Bogle can have no complaints after another poor showing and surely it's time we started with Anneke. I felt Maddison had done ok but he looked very short of pace at times and I am left wondering whether that is fitness or just all he's got. Washington also didn't do enough and I thought the subs, bringing on Aneke, Gilbey and Smyth were the correct ones.

Six minutes later though, Gillingham won a penalty and took the lead. Oliver chased a ball into the box and Gunter found himself desperately trying to catch-up. As Gunter entered the box behind Oliver, there was slightest tap of toe to heel and Oliver was upended. It looked accidental to me and given that the ball may well have gone out of play before Oliver caught it, I thought the ref might wave play on. However, there was a brief delay before the fourth official apparently gave it. It looked harsh but in his position, Gunter would have known that the slightest touch would go against him. Graham stepped up and beat Amos for the lead.

For ten minutes, Charlton upped the ante and after a string of corners, a ball in from the left found Smyth who ran across the box looking for space to shoot. As he got level with the right-hand post he played the ball around the corner to Anneke on the edge of the six yard box with a man behind. Credit to Chuks, as he moved the ball back with his right and ripped a left boot through it to fire high into the top of the goal giving Bonham no chance. 1-1, game on, and both sides went for it. Anneke might have got the winner after winning a header in the centre of goal with Bonham beaten but he couldn't get enough downward pressure on the ball and hit the top of the netting. 

Other results at the top were mixed which meant the draw didn't do us any real damage in the table. We are fifth with a game in hand on Ipswich and Hull and two on Portsmouth and Peterborough. We face bottom of the league Burton on Tuesday night and it's an opportunity to continue this run and improve our goal difference. We then go to Ipswich on Saturday to play one of our games in hand. If we can pick up the three points there we will be top of the table come 5pm on Saturday evening. No pressure lads.

Friday 20 November 2020

Can a good ten days get any better?

The international break means our unbeaten run has been halted temporarily but, as the players say, 'we go again' tomorrow at Gillingham. In the intervening period, the gloom of 2020 has been lifted and spirits are high. Not only did Dominic Cummings finally leave Downing Street (I am convinced it was his decision) but the first of a rash of announcements on successful COVID vaccines brought the prospect of a return to a full-house at The Valley a huge step closer. 

More incredibly, Scotland qualified for a major football finals after 22 years of trying.  I was at all of their games in Euro 96 and France 98 but the pain of the failure since then has been immense as anyone who has read these wittering over the years might appreciate. To top it all, Thomas Sandgaard remains the master of all he surveys. He is facing down the loser Paul Elliott over his desperate, last-ditch, naked attempt at a dirty bung which really confirms what his interest was all along, if anyone remained in any doubt. Sandgaard is also behind a brilliant marketing plan to auction off one of the notorious Range Rovers that marked the ESI era in much the way the Sofa did Duchatelet's. All you need to do is pay to follow the Addicks on Valley Pass between now and Christmas and you could be the slightly embarrassed owner of a good-as-new Chelsea Tractor.

I reckon this will attract a lot of additional interest in Valley Pass. Some will-I-won't-I's will be moved to buy. It will attract some first time watchers and many of the, ahem, IPTV brigade may also be moved to recognise the spirit of this gesture and chip in too. For the record, I have a full collection of Valley Pass stamps and will be continuing.

So tomorrow then and a game that for once I am pleased we are forced to watch on Valley Pass. Gillingham is a direct train ride for me down the North Kent Line but a day out I have never really enjoyed previously. No offence to fans of ours who live there, but it's a dire and unwelcoming destination for the visitor. Rochester is far prettier and makes a better pre and post venue but you still have to watch the game in Gillingham.  

They are a proper small club and nothing wrong with that, but they are small club with a chip on it's shoulder, certainly when it comes to us and I am assured by mates, Millwall too. I enjoyed a bit of hospitality down there once when the club were faultless but their supporters classless. During the pre-match meal, their MC told us that they were sold out in hospitality for the first time that season and acknowledged the large number of Charlton fans who had contributed. As you would expect, the Addicks present were well behaved and suitably respectful. That wasn't enough though for a few Arses to get a bit lairy after we equalised. In the bar after the game they thought about it for a half-pint but decided it wasn't really for them when asked to dance and slithered off. I should add that the attraction of the hospitality was really more of a reaction to the thought of drinking again in any of the God-forsaken pubs in the 'town' which all seem to be inhabited by cast members from the Walking Dead.

Anyway, I am praying we can focus again once more and get the three points. I think we are a better side but they will battle tomorrow as they often do against us. They have had some sound defeats so far this season but when they get a break or are really interested, they can be a difficult side to beat. An early Charlton goal would do wonders and it would be great not to be hanging onto a one goal lead at 80 minutes. 

Did I mention that Thomas wants to bring Metallica to The Valley. Not my cup-of-tea particularly but I will be there with a crowd. Kerrraaaannnngggg!

Sunday 8 November 2020

F A Cup Exit Charlton Athletic 0 v Plymouth Argyle 1

As anticipated, we slumped out of the F A Cup again at the first attempt yesterday in the First Round. Before we could start the debate about the value of cup competitions, Lee Bowyer was quick to rubbish them all once again in his post-match presser. Many would agree that the EFL Trophy and the League Cup are both a complete side-show and a waste of time. The fact that both change their name every five minutes probably doesn't help but someone's got to pay for the admin. We are playing in one of them on Tuesday and I think it's called the Papa Johns Cup this year which it kind of deserves.

Anyway, on Remembrance Sunday weekend, we were involved in the real deal, the F A Cup. That esteemed competition that gave us the biggest boast we still cling to, even after 73 years. 

It is a shame then that our manager also thinks this is a waste of time "because we'll never win it." What about the romance of the cup? What about 'you never know?' Look at Leicester - if they could pull off a footballing sensation by winning over a whole season, why can't we at least have a cup run of three or four games? The reason Millwall play big top flight Cup games practically every season, is because they respect the F A cup in particular and their supporters as well as their club tradition. I can't remember them struggling in the league as a result and would mount a counter argument that cup success breeds confidence and competition for league games. None of that matters though when your manager picks a weakened side and you seem to lose narrowly irrespective of where the game is played or who the opposition are - you are out of the competition and have fulfilled your manager's prophecy. It's for that reason, I stopped attending our annual fixture and why I decided I wouldn't be paying for the stream either. 

I did get to watch the game but I also had an eye on a couple of other matches as well as the lack of progress on my coupon. We did indeed field a changed side although credit to Sandgaard, Bowyer and Gallen, even that looked decent enough on paper. I reckon we were six light of the first choice team, maybe seven. Maynard-Brewer was in goal and did well enough. Chris Barker made an unexpected start at centre-half alongside Ryan Inniss and was surprisingly sure-footed. Elsewhere in defence, Purrington and Matthews are also probably second picks to Gunter and Maatsen.

In midfield, Levitt and Morgan got another run-out although Morgan was oddly left pushed further forward, almost partnering Chuks Aneke, in move that smacked of picking a side that would fall just short. I have little time for those who start shouting at new players just because they have a poor game or two early on, however, I felt Levitt was well off the pace early on and maybe fortunate to stay on after his booking, although, to his credit, he improved second-half.

That would be the six I mentioned, but you could debate whether Williams and Maddison would be first choices at the moment given Bowyer's public criticisms that neither are showing enough in training. For me, Williams has to play but he fades in games he starts and is only a sixty minuter at best. We haven't seen anywhere near enough of Maddison to honestly judge. He has an urgency about him I really like and he appears to play balls other wouldn't dream of trying but that's not always a benefit. Yesterday he was guilty of trying a little to hard to please. He seemed to shoot or be looking to shoot whenever he received the ball regardless of who was around him or of other options. having said that, we weren't over-flowing with other opportunities. 

The Argyle goal, when it came, was fairly predictable. They had been knocking on the door gently throughout the match. Camara was a thorn in our left flank until he was injured and Hardie and Jephcott (scorer) kept Innis and Barker on their toes.

So, out of the F A Cup when the fireworks are still going. Fully expect the O's to edge us out on Tuesday for the giant pizza and we can then concentrate fully on the league. There's no excuses now Lee.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Charlton Athletic 3 v Fleetwood Town 2

Six wins in succession and 18 points in 18 days. Charlton up to third with a game in hand on Ipswich and Peterborough. It's a pity we have to play in the F A Cup on Saturday but perhaps the break will do us good and help get one or two nearer a return from injury.

At last we were fully competitive in an opening forty-five minutes and we deservedly raced into a two goal lead. Ben Purrington met a third minute corner from the left and took his chance for redemption heading home from six yards. After that we were rampant for half-an-hour. Maatsen had been moved up on the left and he was a revelation. Running at Fleetwood with pace and poise he supplied a line of ammunition from the wing and prompting from inside with Shinnie and Watson.

Fleetwood were carved open as Charlton ran at them from left and right. We forced a series of corners which were all delivered into the box for a change, as we knocked on the door. Purrington fired over from close range after Gunter had headed a Shinnie cross onto him at the back post. Maatsen rifled high after a direct run and Bogle also knocked one over the bar after Albie Morgan had found him in a bit of space.

However, Charlton weren't to be denied and a ball from Gunter freed Bogle in space on the right, he ran on and shot at Leutwiler whose block ricocheted out to Washington who stabbed it back beyond him for 2-0.

Bet365 paid me out at that point and I also decided to cash-in on my double with Huddersfield who had gone one-up against Bristol City. A whole minute later and Ched Evans reduced the deficit with a typical poacher's goal having got one-on-one with Inniss and finding space to dispatch a shot from close range. Two minutes later and Evans repeated the feat although there was a hint of a foul on Inniss this time but the goal was given. 2-2 at the break then but this had been our best forty-five minutes of the season so far with far more ambition and enterprise than we have shown so far.  

It only took us a few minutes of the second-half to restore our lead. Albie Morgan did well to work his way into the box and when the ball was played to him from several yards behind he knew all he had to do was keep his line and he would go down under a challenge. He did that for an easy penalty and Conor Washington strode up to drive in his fifth goal of the season. 

After that it was just a case of could we get a fourth really. Bogle got into a couple of great positions but fluffed his lines once again. Washington found a yard of space and whistled a low drive inches wide of the post. Amos tipped a Duffy header over the bar and saved low from substitute Camps. 

Morgan made way for Matthews and Anneke finally got on for Bogle. As if to underline the difference between the two, he struck a post after a run across the goal. After that we saw the game out without too much drama as we have become quite accustomed to. It was also great to see Inniss and then Anneke fronting up to Evans and Finally after both had clattered young Maatsen and hung about a second longer than they should have. Bowyer has them battling for each other as well as for the team.

I also thought Fleetwood were a decent side. Lots of experience and they put a succession of really good balls into our box throughout the game which we dealt with admirably. It was very evident just how well drilled they were. Every player taking a touch before playing the ball, time and time and time again. Perhaps they would have beniffied from a little more directness and speed at times?

Anyway, it was another good day on Valley Pass and it's refreshing to be anticipating a glimpse at the table and the fixtures. Our games to Christmas don't look too taxing I have to say. Gillingham and Wimbledon are probably the trickiest given how they can play-up against us but equally, we should be confident of beating both of them as well as the majority of the others who lie in wait.

Thomas Sangaard said last week that if we are well placed at Christmas it would be wise to invest a little in the squad. That sounds eminently sensible and very likely. We really need a goal-scorer who can offer real competition upfront and help us put games to bed during the second-half of the season.

Sunday 1 November 2020

Portsmouth 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

Well, well, well! Five wins in-a-row and six consecutive clean sheets since Thomas Sandgaard took full control and was able to remove the transfer embargo. He must be sitting pretty this evening enjoying a cold glass of something like the rest of us and wondering just how far we can go this season.

Three changes were made to the starting line-up today with a reshuffle to accommodate the suspended Ryan Inniss and Ben Watson. Darren Pratley went into the centre of defence with Adam Matthews playing in a back five alongside Gunter, Famewo and Maatsen. That left us with Forster-Caskey, Williams and Shinnie in midfield (supported by the wing backs) with Bogle and Washington leading the attack.

Portsmouth started brightly and made the running for ten to fifteen minutes. They might have done better after four minutes when Harness did well to get to the touch-line and pull a ball back but it was blazed over from six yards. Famewo uncharacteristically gave the ball away in defence minutes later but we averted the danger. After that we began to come more into the game with Maatsen beginning to get down the left and Shinnie holding and passing with Forster-Caskey and Williams in the middle. They looked a mobile and balanced trio today and reminded me in patches of much better times when we had players like Parker, Murphy and Smertin.

Our main problem today was a lack of any attacking outlet upfront. Washington and Bogle don't find enough space and once again I am left rubbling my head to see what Bogle brings to the play. There was a moment early in the first half where we countered quickly from defence. Shinnie did very well to bring the ball out and his balance enabled him to release Bogle forty yards from goal with players moving forward in support. However, he floated a ball forward, perhaps hoping for Washington to be coming across (he wasn't) but the ball was so over-hit, it went out for a goal-kick. 

Darren Pratley flew into a tackle with his feet up around the twenty minute mark and he couldn't have argued if he had seen red but somehow he managed to escape without even a yellow. Within five minutes of that let-off we took the lead. Jake Forster Caskey played a raking ball across the pitch from right to left which Maatsen caught on the run and struck first time back across the goal and into the path of Jonny Williams who netted his first ever Charlton goal and that seemed to sap the confidence from the hosts and allowed us to settle.

Unfortunately, I has to dash off at half-time so missed the rest of the action but I have seen Chuks Aneke rising at the back post to kill the match.

Time for a cold beer....

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Charlton Athletic 2 v Oxford United 0

A pretty uninspiring opening 30 minutes at the Valley this evening as Oxford bossed possession and we struggled to get forward in any meaningful way. A midfield of Washington, Pratley, Watson and Shinnie looked short of gas and we were left admiring the probing by Clare and Henry down our left side. 

However, after 31 minutes Andrew Shinnie stepped up and took the game by the scruff of the neck. He took down a ball from Gunter in the middle, drew the Oxford backline and played a lovely reverse ball into the path of Conor Washington, who took a touch towards goal before sliding it under the advancing Eastwood for 1-0.

After that we looked far more interested and a free-kick to the left-edge of the box saw Shinnie shaping to cross for Inniss and Famewo. I could see a line of sight to the far top corner but Eatwood was well positioned and I was sure he would get to anything fired that way. Shinnie went direct and his shot tore a line straight into the top corner and there was nothing Eastwood could do - it was far too well struck and motoring. The online bookies payout now at two-nil but we still had to win the match.

Unsurprisingly, we started brighter in the second-half with Shinnie and Smyth continuing to work hard as we looked for a killer third goal. Nothing was falling for us and on 61 minutes Inniss was booked for preventing Eastwood from taking a quick kick. It was a silly booking and five minutes later he was off after a stiff defensive tackle. That changed the game and we spent the last half an hour getting men behind the ball every time Oxford got possession.

Amos was forced to save at close range from Henry once again and Akin Famewo didn't well to block a follow-up shot. Bogle was sacrificed for Purrington after 80 minutes and his first notable touch was to get onto a cut back from Maatsen inside the box. He fared no better than the man he replaced. Shinnie and Smyth spent a couple of minutes playing keep-ball in Oxford's corner at the end and Forster-Caskey also got a few minutes as Washington came off. 

First league win over Oxford this century. Five clean sheets in-a-row. Four successive wins. Up to sixth (few others still playing). The game in hand takes us into the top three. Early days and we will need to reorganise without Inniss and Watson at Pompey on Saturday. They are warming up for us by being three-up at home to Northampton this evening after an hour.

Saturday 24 October 2020

Northampton Town 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

The facts are that Charlton Athletic have picked up nine points in eight days and won all three games without conceding a goal. The team continues to evolve and the side have slid comfortably into the top ten with a game in hand that would move them firmly into the play-off positions.

Anecdotally, however, it wasn't quite as pretty. Another stale first-half in which we only managed a soft downward header straight at their keeper and where we failed to compete in midfield. The pre-match news was that Chuks Anneke was out with a groin strain which meant another start for Bogle. On top of that, Bowyer decide to change the midfield with Forster-Caskey starting in place of Roberts with Williams and Levitt also on from the start.

The first-half was dire. The wind and rain probably didn't help but we were poor and Northampton were little better. The Cobblers made all the early running and had their best chance from a free-kick after quarter of an hour. A curling ball into the box was knocked goalward from eight yards out, possibly by a Charlton player, and Amos did very well to parry the effort. It hit Inniss and was heading back in before Amos extended a leg and hooked it clear. 

The rest of the first-half was largely uneventful but Charlton failed to get a grip in the middle and Bogle fumbled everything that was thrown up to him. He managed to lose a ball that landed on his chest in acres of space and to allow a ball to go out for a Northampton throw that he really should have controlled with ease under no pressure. I don't like to dig him out I am struggling to see what he brings to the piece. He is a big lump but nothing sticks to him and if he was quick enough, his second touch would always be a tackle. Smyth wasn't helping either I have to add. He has quick feet and tries to be direct but he has no pace and is lightweight, often looking for fouls once he's lost possession. 

The highlight was the back four. Gunter and Maatsen were largely untroubled and Inniss and Famewo stood up to everything. Famewo was very assured along the back line and Inniss made his presence felt when we did get a set-piece upfront Bowyer made the change we needed at half-time with Pratley coming on for Levitt and it paid dividends within ten minutes. From a left-wing corner, Inniss headed down, Bogle held the defender off and Pratley smashed high into the net from six yards. We should have made it two four minutes later when Inniss dinked a header over the back line where it dropped for Smyth unmarked five yards out but he put it over the bar - it was a dreadful miss.

Not to be deterred, Ben Amos collected a cross minutes later and freed the galloping Doughty down the left. Doughty tore past the Northampton full-back and careered into the box. His cross was firm and Harriman could do little but make contact and divert it into his own net. For the next five minutes, Doughty was all over them down the right but he fell after a tackle and had to limp off with what looked like a groin strain.

Shinnie came on for Doughty as the conditions worsened and Washington also joined the action after 76 minutes to give the tiring Williams a breather. The whole side will need a good rest before Tuesday's home match against lowly Oxford United. It is still very early days but I would hope to see us creating much more on Tuesday and not relying upon a superior second-half effort alone to get the result. It would also be good to send Karl Robinson home with a walloping for a change. 

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Blackpool 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Once again, it was awkward watching a side play against us in 'our' kit. Unsure why, but Blackpool appear to have given up their famous Tangerine and were instead kitted out in red shirts, white shorts and red socks. I couldn't find any reason for this other than it was a strip they played in back in 1913!

Another scruffy performance from Lee Bowyer's emerging side this evening at Bloomfield Road. League One debutant referee, James Bell, took less than a minute to make a mark on this match when he was left with no option but to dismiss James Husband for a last-man foul on Omar Bogle as he chased a long Purrington ball towards the penalty area. Two minutes later and Purrington himself went into the book after being worryingly exposed by Hamilton's pace down the right flank.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Charlton looked comfortable at the back for most of the first-half as Madine and Hamilton were left to fight it out with our back four. Inniss and Famewo had plenty of time on the ball and they needed it as they were left to do all the prompting of forward play by Roberts who was content to play triangles with them.

Going forward was our real challenge. With most balls being pumped upfield from the centre-backs, Shinnie, Bogle and Doughty were left battling for possession and even when they did manage to hang onto anything, we invariably mis-played the second ball. Doughty had some success down the right where his pace was as troubling for them as Hamilton's was for us but his end product was limited to deep far post balls which several players in turn failed to stop from going out. Pratley was also getting forward but with 11 against 10, we needed creativity and guile, not someone looking for or conceding free-kicks. 

On 35 minutes, Doughty and Gunter exchanged passes and Gunther crossed a high ball into the box which Bogle chested and took down but his was already swinging his boot and he scuffed it over the bar. 

Three minutes later and we were level - ten men apiece. Purrington was put on the rack by Hamilton once again and having bust a lung to get back, he couldn't contain himself as Hamilton prepared to glide inside and hauled him down unceremoniously. It was a blatant second yellow and Lee Bowyer will not have been pleased. Don't expect to see Purrington playing again any time soon.

Before half-time Blackpool fashioned a half-chance. A long ball down the middle dropped for Woodburn charging between Inniss and Famewo. He managed to get a first-time effort off but thankfully it cleared the bar. The sad fact at half-time was that neither side had managed an effort on target and we had, had 65% possession.

Lee Bowyer made the change at half-time that I thought was obvious. Ian Maatsen made his debut at left back as Darren Pratley was sacrificed. I thought Pratley had been clogging our attacking moves up when we had the extra man and without him we moved a bit more freely. 

Indeed, on 55 minutes we should have taken the lead after Ryan Inniss climbed at the back post to head down a set-piece that cleared the goal-line. As the grey shirts came away celebrating, the referee gave the goal but five seconds later after angry Blackpool players crowded the linesman, he put his flag up. The goal was disallowed, presumably as a result of a suspicion that Bogle may have touched the ball on the line as it went in. The fact was the referee hadn't seen it and it looks very much like the lino bottled it. 

Either way, Bogle's evening was over and Chuks Anneke entered the fray as Blackpool upped the ante and began to impose themselves a bit on the game without seriously threatening us. Maatsen kept them on their toes with a sliced left-foot effort from distance which cleared the bar and after Smyth came on for Washington we settled down once again and looked more coherent going forward.

With less than ten minutes left, Maatsen ran onto a ball knocked out from the Blackpool defence and pinged a swirling corner to the back of the six yard area. Alfie Doughty, still wearing his white headband, knocked it in towards the near post and Chuks Anneke reacted first by moving back towards the ball but he made a good enough contact to steer it in. It was a lead we barely deserved on the balance of play but which was justice for the goal that had been chalked off.

We had to play out six minutes of added time but that passed relatively uneventfully and the boys will be having a sing-song on the journey home this evening.

Still early days, of course, but the lessons are becoming clearer. Maatsen may have the pace and better of Purrington. Pratley needs to be used as a game holder in the second-half. Smyth and Anneke look better than Bogle and Washington on early viewing. We need to make better use of Shinnie and find a way to introduce Williams to press games. 

We are up to eleventh with a game in hand that could move us to around sixth. We should be looking to beat Northampton more convincingly on Saturday.

Sunday 18 October 2020

Charlton Athletic 1 v Wigan AFC 0

It should come as no great surprise that this was another scrappy affair, low on quality and chances. It's quite something for both sides that the fixture even took place given the serious survival threats each were faced with during the Summer.

Thankfully, both sides have seen the cavalry ride over the horizon in the last few weeks. Ours was actually US-lead and theirs a Spanish variety, but both appear honest, well intentioned and capable. Whilst Wigan await full completion of their saviour from the Administrators, we have finally seen the splashing of cash and an embarrassment of new playing personnel arriving over the last fortnight.

It's almost impossible to remember the names of every new signing since Thomas Sandgaard waved his wand but there have been a dozen and Lee Bowyer now has a job to work out how best make use of what he has. Four players made their debuts at kick-off yesterday; Inniss, Gunter, Shinnie and Smyth. The exuberance off it all gave Charlton an early edge as we played with a little more urgency than the visitors for the first twenty minutes and tried to prize an opening in their back line. Smyth had the only real chance after being played in to the near post but Jones smothered his shot from a narrow angle.

After that, Wigan had a decent fifteen minute spell when they should have scored. From a couple of corners, Amos punched the first before being called on to make an instinctive block from a strong Joe Garner header six yards out. Garner also missed a decent opportunity after Soloman-Ostobor had teed him up. 

Forster-Caskey floated a free-kick high over the bar before the break and had me complaining at his selection. Why was he getting a run-out now when we had all this new blood? He has had his moments in a red shirt but he has been injury prone and hasn't done nearly enough for me to warrant a regular selection. The first-half was brought to a merciful close and we hoped for better in the second half.

Wigan started the brighter after the break and did get the ball in the net but it was disallowed for a push on Famewo. That was the trigger for a spell of Charlton pressure which lead to the winner. Jones pushed a Pratley effort around the post after decent work from Anneke to flick on Amos' long ball. Anneke was tiring and was replaced by debutant 5, Omar Bogle, on 62 minutes, just before Charlton won a free-kick 35 yards out from the Covered End goal. After a long wait, Jake Forster-Caskey, that under-achiever I was moaning about, stepped up and wrapped a shot around the wall which bounced on it's way towards the keeper's left-hand post. Jones scrambled across the goal and threw himself at the ball but it beat his finger-tips by inches and, somehow, clipped the post and crossed the line. 

After that it was pretty much a case of seeing it out. Wigan did force a couple of goalmouth scrambles before the end and struck the bar during one but fortune was with us for once. 

The victory lifts us up the table and with a game in hand we could slide into the top ten. We have played three at home and two away and now face Blackpool away and Northampton at home this week. Away games don't carry the threat of the booming home support, and hopefully, we can settle quickly and be competitive. Realistically we have to give this side half-a-dozen games, but we should expect to be collecting points more regularly in the run-up to Christmas when I would hope that we are much better to watch, can create some sustained pressure against our opponents and carry much more goal threat than we have seen. 

If I am going to be critical, and I am, I am not sure I can see anything like a twenty goal scorer this season and that's what we will need if we are to seriously challenge for promotion. 

Monday 12 October 2020

Project Big Picture and the end of hope.

Sad but hardly shocking news this weekend that the 'Big Six' football clubs in England are engineering cunning plans to further accelerate their growth and control of football in this country. Under the patronising name of "Big Picture" (only they are capable of seeing it) they are seeking to capitalise on the current financial weakness of other clubs and especially those in the EFL.

The plan is to reduce the Premier League down to 18 clubs and leave 24 in each of the three EFL leagues. For now, promotion and relegation from the PL would remain but would be reduced to two automatics and a third PL side involved in the Play-Offs. This would mean the PL clubs would only play 34 league games a season, twelve less than the grafters in the EFL. That would free them up to play more lucrative matches elsewhere. It would also, of course, be a step on the journey to a closed Premier League, where the elite remain there with no fear of relegation and all the clubs left stranded in the EFL would lose any hope of their day in the sunny uplands of the top flight. 

A closed league is the model deployed in many US sports, where city-status rules and where the big money players can build their fortunes immune from the threat of  losing their lucrative TV and commercial revenues. No surprise then that these latest proposals have emanated from Liverpool and Manchester United, both owned by Americans. 

You might think that the EFL would be circling the wagons at this time but you would be wrong. The third big sponsor of these changes is none other than the EFL's CEO, Rick Parry. Why, I wonder, would the former Liverpool FC Director, CEO of the PL and one time board member of NewYork Cosmos be in favour of this move? Parry  took over at the EFL little more than a year ago and many fans of EFL clubs have been screaming for him to reform the EFL and safeguard clubs from unsuitable or unscrupulous owners. He appears to have been sitting on his hands but clearly he has had his eyes on the bigger picture. 

The sop here is that the PL are offering up £250m to bail out Covid-hit EFL clubs and a promise of 25% of future PL revenues. They would scrap the parachute payments to help pay for this but that in itself would only be another step towards a closed PL. I am no fan of the League Cup or the Charity Shield (other than it's for charity) but Big Six also want these scrapped so they don't have to tire out their U23's and don't have their lucrative Summer friendlies inconvenienced by having to appear in a gala game where the revenues are given to charity. 

My suspicion is that beleaguered EFL club owners may be supportive of the proposals as for many it may prove a short-term lifeline. The Big Six are offering improved status to those clubs with longest top flight pedigrees in order to get them on board and the others would probably like the idea of a closed league as long as they are it. 

For the country's rank and file supporters who follow their local team through thick and thin, these proposals could be a final kick in the teeth. The PL needs a thriving EFL because it's the breeding ground for talent and builds the pyramid upon which the PL sits. However, their primary aim is to make more money for themselves at all costs. This proposal comes at a time when Macclesfield Town were allowed to go out of business because of debts of £500,000 when that sort of figure is typically paid out by the Big Six as wages to each of their first-teamers every month or less. 

The success of football in this country has been built over the generations by the ambitions of every club and every team. The chances of winning your league and gaining promotion or by battling to beat the drop is what gives meaning to every match your team plays and an interest in all the others. 

The Championship has for years now been the most competitive league in the world and hosts the most valuable match in world football. All driven, of course, by the tantalising glimpse of joining the PL elite, if only for one season for most. If that is to come to an end, and make no mistake, this is where the Big Six want to get to, it would have a profound effect on football in this country. Imagine not having the excitement of a Bielsa-led Leeds United challenging once again in the top flight? Or a rejuvenated Wolverhampton Wanderers challenging the Big Boys and thrilling competitors in Europe? You can be pretty sure, too, that the slim chances of any of the smaller clubs 'doing a Leicester' would disappear for ever. 

When it is safe once again to return to our local football grounds, I expect a boom-time as supporters are eager once again to experience the thrill of live football in front of large and passionate crowds. They will want to see their team fighting for promotion with one eye on the league above in hope and anticipation of joining it. All we need in the meantime is a fairer share of the money that continues to pour into the game at the top. that is where Rick Parry should be thinking, not how he can help the rich get even richer because almost inevitably that will be at the expense of the rank-and-file that he is paid to represent. 

Saturday 3 October 2020

Charlton Athletic 0 v Sunderland AFC 0

The first point of the Sangaard era from another game in which we struggled to compete for long periods. 

I said before the game that Sunderland don't tend to score too many but don't concede much either. When you add to that our struggle to score goals which was obviously not helped by selling Macauley Bonne yesterday then there can be few surprises at the scoreline.

It was pretty obvious after about twenty minutes that Charlton were far from a compact unit at the back. Bowyer shuffled things with Purrington and Famewo swapping positions but it didn't really help and Sunderland should have taken the lead. Amos had already blocked an effort from Graham at close range before making the save of the game after half-an-hour when he clawed out a header from Flanagan or Wright that he had no right to. 

After Pratley dived in again inside the box, Sunderland escaped with the ball and the  cross saw a scramble in the box in which Watson blocked the first effort from O'Brien before Graham also had two efforts blocked as Charlton players threw themselves at the ball.

Charlton were on the ropes and six minutes later Graham should have opened the scoring. Scowen found a bit of space on the right and his back post cross reached the unmarked Graham who only had to direct it on target but somehow he missed the back post. 

The shot count at half-time was 11-1 to Sunderland. That's a bit flattering in terms of genuine chances for the Makems but it's hard to dress Charlton's goal threat as anything more than powder-puff. 

Williams came on for the wasteful Oztumer at half-time. Oztumer must surely now be at the end of his Charlton career. He has never been able to command a place. He rarely manages to beat the first man from a set-piece and he is even more light-weight than his diminutive stature would suggest. When you add to that his preference for a dive rather than to create a chance, there's not much of a case left for him. It's a shame because he has always looked better playing against us than in a red shirt.

Alfie Doughty fired two long range efforts over the bar as if responding directly to Bowyer's half-time team talk and Lynden Gooch managed a similar effort for the visitors. Ben Watson earned his weekly booking and Dylan Levitt followed. 

On 64 minutes, Phil Parkinson changed his front two. Wyke and Grigg came on for O'Brien and Graham. I don't think it helped Sunderland. Neither made a meaningful contribution after coming on but that wasn't helped by Flanagan being sent off on 72 minutes for tripping Washington as he chased a flick-on from Aneke. 

Suddenly, the pressure eased on Charlton but any idea of a winner still looked fanciful. Levitt wasted two free-kicks and Aneke's clumsy touch ended a couple of other attacks.

Wyke wasted a near post chance after Hume had played his way to the line and cut the ball back before Marcus Maddison made his debut on 83 minutes. Rusty he may be but the urgency and precision of his few balls into the box gave a glimpse of what we can expect from him. 

In the fifth minute of added time, Marcus Maddison appeared deep in his own box to back-head out a dangerous ball in that was Sunderland's last chance. Maybe there is more to his game than I had realised.

Phil Parkinson's side remain unbeaten and may be pleased with an away point, but I I feel they dropped two by not really going for it in the opening half. They were content to look to pass their way to goal. With more direct running and urgency, I think they could have killed the game off - like Doncaster did a fortnight ago.

Lee Bowyer will be pleased to have taken a point in the circumstances. The cavalry are coming over the horizon and I fully expect a goal-scorer to arrive this week as well as a right-back and another central defender. It will take us a couple of months to settle down but the important thing is to keep nicking what points we can in the meantime - we did that today.

Monday 28 September 2020

The dawning of a new era - Lincoln City 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Annoyingly, I was in hospital on Friday and this weekend, so have missed out on the opportunity to report on all the excitement of Thomas Sandgaard's successful takeover over of Charlton Athletic Football Club.

When I surfaced from the anaesthetic on Friday around 5pm, I had over 200 emails, texts and WhatsApps messages - I knew it had happened before I opened the first message. Absolutely brilliant news which made me shout out aloud in my bed! The last four years in particular have been extremely tough for us Addicks but it now looks certain that we have a decent, responsible, ambitious and wealthy owner who can give us a desperately needed period of stability and investment which should, once again, raise the fortunes of the club.

Thomas Sandgaard looks heaven-sent. A genuinely engaging man who appears to be very down-to-earth and who has fallen for CAFC in a way all of us once did. His enthusiasm is wonderful and when he tells you repeatedly that he can't believe his luck and that Charlton look so much better a prospect every time he looks, you know we have struck lucky. I think we all know how special this club is and how great it can be and, as fans, have always wondered why others cannot see what we do so clearly.

It is incredibly sad that he cannot get an audience with 27,111 of us in full voice to truly welcome him to The Valley and to put the Fear of God into League One opposition. The second wave makes it look very likely that he will have to wait another year for the full effect. Another year of bearing heavy operating losses but still he wasn't deterred. 

So to yesterday's game then. You just knew we would lose. It's the Charlton way. The bigger the build-up, the bigger the disappointment. Lincoln are one of the fancied sides in this division and went top last night with Doncaster Rovers who also beat us last week. However, they looked distinctly average to me and we matched them in that.

We looked powder-puff up front with Washington and Bonne unable to find any space and creating very little. Washington had our best chance of the game on 3 minutes when twisting in the box and firing a shot back across the goal which skimmed the post. After that, it was all huff and puff. Liam Bridcutt once again lead us a dance in midfield but we had plenty of possession but just couldn't find the space to play in. Oztumer is a trier but, for me, he simply doesn't deliver. Dylan Levitt was a high point on his midfield debut as was Akin Famewo at centre-half. 

What lost us the game was the carelessness of Oshilaja and Pratley. Oshilaja can become a far better player but he has to be a better tackler in order to do that. For me, he gave away a stone wall penalty on 35 minutes when he bundled Anderson over in the box but there wasn't a strong appeal by the Imps and the ref let it ride. Just before the break, Pratley handled on the edge of the area giving away a dangerous free-kick. We charged that down but from the resulting play, Pratley bundled Hopper over and Lincoln had their penalty. Amos saved the initial effort but it was turned in by the taker Grant after being knocked back in to him in a clear offside position. The only possible explanation for allowing the goal was if the touch to Grant had come from Purrington who had challenged for the second ball. It was tough but no less than we had deserved from the preceding ten minutes.

In the second-half we simply didn't do enough and none of our substitutions managed to raise our game. Pratley dropped back to centre-half after new boy Famewo was taken off on the hour due to tiredness. He managed to concede two more free-kicks in dangerous positions and we were fortunate not have lost the match from one of those. As it was, the coup de grace came just before full-time when Lincoln headed home a soft second goal from a back post cross. 

Sunderland next up. We might have one or two more options by then and we always fancy our chances against the Makems. Phil Parkinson's side don't score many goals so it's likely to be another very close affair. 

Thursday 24 September 2020

Sandgaard Tweets spell trouble ahead...

After the surging confidence in recent weeks that Thomas Sandgaard has the funds, the team and the energy to acquire CAFC and secure the future use of the Valley and Sparrows Lane, two Tweets early today would suggest he has spotted an iceberg on the horizon and it's Duchatelet-shaped.

Sandgaard made it clear from the outset that he wanted full control of Charlton and of the club's dependence on it's stadium and training ground. He also Tweeted at one point that he would settle for a negotiated extension of the current lease deal if the assets were not for sale or otherwise unattainable. 

Something evidently derailed closure of a deal last week and it's widely suspected that it wasn't Elliott winning an injunction hearing. Sandgaard's early-morning Tweets suggest that once again, Roland Duchatelet is proving the stumbling block.

It looks like a sale of the assets isn't likely and I suspect that's still an issue over the price. In which case, we can assume that Duchatelet is playing hardball over a longer lease. The current lease is believed to be a five year term which expires mid-2024-25 season. A term so relatively short would make it inadvisable to invest significantly in the training ground or The Valley, in addition to handing Duchatelet massive negotiating power next time around. It might also hand the Belgian a ready-made-excuse to possibly fail to extend and thus bring to a head Charlton's tenure and perhaps begin his case for change of use. We know that Greenwich Council are unlikely to support this as things stand, particularly at Sparrows Lane, but the Valley without Charlton playing there would be a different proposition after a year or two of dereliction. There are arguments that the site isn't viable for development for numerous reasons and that may well be the case but it cuts no ice if Duchatelet believes otherwise. 

Sandgaard's second Tweet also confirms that he has players waiting to sign for the club but that failure to sign them would ruin this season's chances of competing in League One. His wording is a little ambiguous but could be interpreted that without accommodation here by Duchatelet, all bets could be off.

Paul Elliott's court wrangling with Panorama Magic have brought the club to a perilous position and without Sandgaard's backing, Administration looks not only inevitable but also quite quick. As I have said before, Administration is not what anyone wants but it may be the only way to wipe the slate clean and give a new owner a fresh chance without Duchatelet's interference. It would be a risky venture but it would break the deadlock of the last four years.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 3

First home game of the season and 1,000 fans, including Thomas Sandgaard, were let in to see it in late Summer sunshine. The streets around SE7 were eerily quiet and with only the North and West Lower Stands open, fans entered from Valley Grove (West) or Harvey Gardens (North).

The rest of us had to make do with struggling to follow the game on Valley Pass. Last week we had an electronic hammering sound for half this match and this week no commentary. 

A now familiar Charlton eleven started with Amos in goal, Barker, Oshilaja, Pratley and Purrington once again forming the defence. Albie Morgan got a rare start alongside Forster-Caskey, Doughty and Gilbey in the middle with Bonne and Washington upfront.

Charlton had a bright opening 25 minutes and should have taken the lead. Bonne headed onto the roof of the net before Washington charged in on goal and forced a shot just wide of the far post with Alex Gilbey who was sliding in, inches away. Gilbey himself also had a fine effort tipped away at the base of the post as Charlton  pressed for the opener. 

However, on 25 minutes Doncaster struck. Having committed men forward and getting getting into a good position, Charlton won the ball back deep in defence and should have cleared their lines. Darren Pratley instead decided to play the ball out but his pass across his box went straight to a black shirt and Rovers sensed blood. Two touches later and Gomes strode onto a pass and forced a low shot beyond Amos into a huge gap to the left of the Charlton goal. 

After that, Doncaster had their tails up and more of the play switched to the Charlton half. It took a low diving save from Amos to keep out a second Doncaster goal. His save went some way to atoning for his positioning for the first.

Charlton hopes of drawing level ended minutes after the restart when the unfortunate Chris Barker could only slice a ball into his own net as he tried to clear. Doncaster looked home and dry and despite a concerted effort to get back into the game. Charlton struggled to create anything significant. Washington worked his way into goal on 62 minutes but Bursik blocked his near post shot. Doncaster then put the result beyond doubt when John-Jules skipped past a lame tackle in the box before smashing the third.

The distraught Barker was shortly withdrawn as Jonny Williams came on to try and turn the tide. He had been clattered by James who was booked for it. Conor Washington headed home a consolation goal on 67 minutes from a corner after Doncaster failed to clear and the ball was headed back and forth across goal before the Ulsterman reached it. We continued to attack and made some promising moves but nothing fell for us.

It was a spirited display by Lee Bowyer's men but the difference between the sides was Charlton's poor defence. Darren Pratley has made a name for himself at The Valley by coming on with twenty to go and shoring things up or urging the side forward. However, he is no longer a 90 minute player and that's what we are asking from him. Osilaja wasn't a first choice last season and still has a lot to learn and Chris Barker is only 17. Lincoln away next week suddenly looks a lot tougher.

The need for strengthening of the first team was cruelly exposed this afternoon and Paul Elliott needs to be held accountable for his selfish court action that is currently preventing it - "make Charlton great again," my arse.

Elsewhere, a group of protesting Charlton fans took action at a local Screwfix store by picketing in protest at Screwfix's sponsorship of the EFL whose inaction over Elliott's Owners & Directors Test may be helping his ongoing legal action. The store closed it's doors after awhile and the EFL will be squirming. 

Friday 18 September 2020

Stick with Thomas Sandgaard

It's the morning after and Charlton supporters are waking up and assessing the damage from last night. It's clear that there are a lot of unhappy souls out there. Disappointment, uncertainty, frustration and some anger. A lot of finger-pointing and general abuse isn't helping the situation either.

Some people are, understandably, critical of Thomas Sandgaard. His confidence that he could get a deal done this week has proven to be misplaced and the widespread and well-supported rumour that Duchatalet's agreement with ESI had a clause which meant the club had effectively reverted to him in light of ESI's failure to adhere to clear clauses like payment of rent and onward sale of the club has also proven not to be the case.

Sandgaard's initial response on Twitter was a disappointment. With the fans looking for him to pull out a loaded double-barrel shotgun, he whipped out a catapult and asked us to change our Twitter icons to the Club crest to show solidarity. He did go on later to re-affrim his even greater determination to get control of the club and displayed some clear anger of his own by saying he would not do a deal with Elliott under any circumstances because it would involve a lack of integrity.

It looks very much like we are going to have to suck it up until after Elliott's hearing on 23rd November. The EFL are sitting on their haunches and will do nothing until Elliott either agrees a lawyer for his appeal hearing into his failure to pass the O&DT or is awarded control of the club by the Court of Appeal. Elliott's Counsel's view yesterday that he is worth £12m won't have impressed the EFL who, in spite of their very visible shortcomings, will have a damn sight better view of commercial football reality than socially naive and crusty privileged Court of Appeal judges.

In the meantime, Elliott now has to hope that his adversaries (Nimer/Panorama Magic) in this case somehow find a way to keep the club from Administration over the next two months. I think that may be a serious challenge given Nimer/Panorama were willing to let Elliott find the funding for the most recent monthly shortfall. What is their incentive? Especially if they risk losing the club to Elliott in a couple of months time for £1? It will almost certainly involve cashing in on Dylan Phillips as a minimum.

What seems certain, is that ESI in all it's forms will shortly exit the scene and we will be at the mercy once again of the high seas. There are very few noble businessmen out there willing to acquire a League One club that's been on it's arse for a couple of seasons and which has very little assets beyond the playing squad in such uncertain times where there is no real sense of revenue streams returning any time soon. 

I whole-heartedly back Sandgaard's determination not to pay a ransom for the club whoever wins the November Court Case. Both parties have put us in this position and both continue to slug it out with zero interest in the football club or it's supporters. What happened to your desire to "make Charlton great again" Elliott? 

Therefore, I come back to Thomas Sandgaard. This bloke is a noble businessman. He has made his intentions very clear and I reckon he has fallen for the club in a way we all did once upon a time. He will already be in for a fair whack given the involvement of Freshfields and I am sure he knows that the club will bob up for sale at some point and there is every chance by then it will be a distressed sale. We really have to hope Sandgaard is still keen at that time or else there is the risk that another shark will get involved and the merry-go-round will start up again.

Thursday 17 September 2020

The agony continues...

So no glad tidings yesterday as predicted...

Two judges in the Court of Appeal today agreed that Charlton Athletic is an ongoing ownership disaster with a professional football club and 115 years history attached. Ignoring some very obvious questions, they have followed the letter of the law and decided that Paul Elliott's appeal against Taynoon Nimer and Matt Southall's sale of the club should go ahead and will now be heard in November.

What became very clear today was that Panorama Magic have played this poorly and were today trying to bring in evidence and questions which have not previously been brought to light. Judge Lewison summed up saying "Panorama must live with its' decision to remain silent" on aspects of the trial, like explaining the solidity of Thomas Sandgaard's interest. Marian Mihail has been complicit in this in addition to managing to discredit himself which giving contradictory accounts as to ownership of the club. I can only assume this has been deliberate but I am struggling to see how it might benefit Taynoon Nimer and his Romania Directors.

We learnt today that Paul Elliott claims to be worth £12m. Much more than many had given him credit for but even Appeal Court Judges must question what he's doing trying to play Football Monopoly. The fact that he claims to be £500,000 down so far might demonstrate his ownership conviction but you really have to question what's going on here given the ownership liability and his ability to run the club for any length of time without significant additional funding. No-one in their right mind would lend you money on that basis today. The obvious answer is that he's fighting for the right to sell the club and from that perspective alone he has a right to pursue his case. 

As things stand, Charlton Athletic, the League One football club with ongoing ownership issues, faces missing out on it's chance of taking any further advantage of the transfer window which threatens to scupper this season. There is also the prospect that Paul Elliott may not be able to find a satisfactory buyer, in which case Administration could well loom large once again and the future of the club be put in jeopardy.

All of the above ignores the fact that a Danish multi-millionaire has been all over the acquisition of the club like a rash and has told us he is 100% confident of buying the club. In the circumstances, I am expecting a statement from Thomas Sandgaard before it gets dark, informing us of his current position and what this all means for him. He has been confident he could close a deal in short order and has not denied the speculation that a deal is imminent. 

Come on Thomas, lift the spirits here!

Tuesday 15 September 2020

RIP Dr Kish

Very sad news today of the death of stalwart fan Chris Thompson. He had his health challenges but today's news still comes as a shock. Chris was better known as blogger Dr Kish (Frankie Valley before that) and a regular at home and away games. 

His output on all things Charlton Athletic was prodigious and a sign of just how central the club were to his life. His blog records nearly 8m visits to his site since 2008. Chris was always close to the action and had a good idea what was going on inside the club and you could rely on his site for the latest news. 

God bless you Chris.

Tomorrow - a day to remember

The collective Addick temperature is high. Fatigue and anxiety stalks the fanbase, or certainly for many who spend too much time on social media pursuing news of their beloved. The latest wailing and gnashing of teeth was caused by the straightforward news that saviour-elect, Thomas Sandgaard, had returned to Denver on Saturday after a fortnight in the UK. They panicked that Sandgaard had somehow lost interest and thrown the towel in. 

It seems pretty straightforward to me that he has gone back to attend to business. He is the CEO of a multi-national and will have pressing things he needs to be there to deal with. He has extended his London stay twice as I understand it, so no-one should really be surprised. I don't think the prospect of watching Charlton play friendly matches was the incentive, rather events unfolding around his planned acquisition of the club. He has told us repeatedly that he is on top of everything and that he is 100% confident that he will complete the purchase of CAFC. He has also told us that he should be able to announce a takeover by tomorrow and that Bowyer would get new players in the same timeframe. That may have seemed to have been pushing it a bit but a tip-off from a fan today suggests six or seven players will be confirmed tomorrow. What's more, the fan, has form for decent inside knowledge.

So, what to hope for tomorrow. I reckon Sandgaard will be good to his word and that he will be announced as new owner tomorrow. If there are legs in the new player rumour, then it would only be right to assume that the EFL have lifted, or will lift, their transfer embargo so that these can go ahead. Six or Seven would be impossible under the embargo unless a similar mount left the squad. The only logic for lifting the embargo is that Sandgaard has succeeded in taking control to the satisfaction of the EFL and that he has passed the Owners & Directors Test in addition to providing proof and source of funds. He has already Tweeted that he had deposited a year's club running costs in an account here with his legal team, so perhaps that too is a sign that everything is being lined-up for the big day.

If it all happens tomorrow, it will be a massive shot-in-the-arm for the club. It will be the green light for reluctant fans to go ahead and make season ticket purchases to ensure they have their seats in the event that we are allowed back into stadiums, albeit in limited attendances. I suspect we could quickly sellout. 

Lee Bowyer will already be aware of the good news as he will have been working with Steve Gallen to identify the new recruits and negotiations will have been going on for some time. This would have been happening to some extent business-as-usual but it would take the money and authority from someone like Sandgaard to have pressed on with confidence, especially if they have been done for a big reveal tomorrow. That should be a huge boost to the existing squad and create genuine competition for spaces. If there is a goalkeeper amongst them, it could also mean that Dylan Phillips has played his last match for us and may get a 'big money' move away. 

It would also mean that there would be no danger of any congestion on the conference call lines for Thursday's Court of Appeal hearing into who owns East Street Investments. There will also be next to no interest in the outcome either, bar who is going to have to pay for it all. It looks increasingly likely that the costs will fall very squarely on the Directors of ESI which could be a calamity for those involved. What's that saying about playing with fire?