Friday 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas!


Christmas Eve and I am wishing everyone who lands here a merry and peaceful Christmas!

It's that time of year where there are usually nine points to be won and lost and the promise of the New Year. The Third Round of the F A Cup adds some early excitement too if we are still in it.

This year looks likely to be a bit of a mess. Covid is severely hampering the schedule and we surely can't be far away from a complete break being called. Our game at AFC Wimbledon has already been called off and the home match against the Gills on Wednesday is almost certain to follow. We are due at Wycombe on New Years Day and then follows that F A Cup tie against Norwich City on Sunday 9th January.

My guess is we will be lucky to get to see one of those which will personally make it a duller Christmas and New Year than normal.

Good news just in, that the club have reversed the decision to close the most popular section of the ground - the upper tier of the Covered End - for the F A Cup clash against Premier League Norwich City. All I can say on the original decision is that it was made by someone who does not understand what being a Charlton fan is all about. Preventing season ticket holders from occupying their regular seats and dispersing the Covered End Choir. I wouldn't mind so much if the business case was material, bit with the lower tier remaining open, that was clearly in doubt.

Also today an announcement that the owner's son, Martin Sandgaard, has been appointed Director of Analysis. The good news here, as far as I am concerned, is that the announcement appears to distance Ged Roddy from any involvement in the playing or recruitment side. I take that as a tacit acknowledgement that his role during the Summer recruitment wasn't viewed successfully as many of us have suspected. It will be interesting to see what Sandgaard Junior brings to the role. Hopefully he won't have anything as like as much clout as his long time predecessor, Thomas Driesen had over player recruitment and interference in team selection. A positive influence, of course, would I am sure be welcomed. It would also be great if he could help loosen the purse strings because his father's talk of "a minimum of one in" during the January window, will be leaving our season to chance once again. 

In the meantime, merry Christmas once again and Up the Addicks!

Sunday 19 December 2021

Plymouth Argyle 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

I watched a film last night that was so engrossing that I managed to forget all about this poor defeat for nearly two and half hours before bed. Bad Times at El Royale was one of those films that popped up and looked ok, so we gave it a whirl. Not sure how I missed this when it came out three years ago but pleasant surprises are often the best - it was a cracker.

Having watched our dismal showing I had been fuming since 3.45. Prior to the game a mate had asked what I thought of our chances as he was obviously struggling to find enough matches to complete his Acca. 'All day long' was my reply. Jackson's first celebratory match as permanent manager, team returning to Home Park where we walloped them earlier this year and Plymouth on a dismal run of results since we beat them at the Valley a few weeks ago. I then saw the team sheet and news that Famewo and Washington were out due to late Covid tests but it wasn't all bad news, as Josh Davidson would also be missing. It was a sign but with Purrington stepping into the back three with Pearce and Clare, and Leko going up top with Stockley I didn't panic.

In the opening forty-five minutes all Plymouth could muster until their late second attack of the half was a tame shot from a free-kick. They looked like the side I was expecting us to beat. We had played most of the half in theirs and had created several reasonable chances and could consider ourselves unlucky not to be in front. Stockley had missed the best of them with an unmarked header from a free kick which he aimed too close to Cooper in the home goal. 

Sadly, despite our opening superiority, we were miles off the recent form and a number of players were not having a good day. The central midfield trio of Dobson, Gilbey and Lee were all off the pace which meant Souare and Jaiyesimi had seen a lot of the ball but had struggled to make any impression on Edwards and Garrick who looked to have the measure of them. Jaiyesimi's confidence visibly dropped as the game went on and became error-strewn. Souare couldn't do anything right either so it was no surprise that Stockley and Leko struggled in open play.

The Argyle goal was pretty decent when it arrived. A swift counter down our left saw Hardie burst into the box and fire across MacGillivray who did well to block with his feet. The ball went out a fair way and looked safe initially but the onrushing Agard slammed it first-time and found the gap between sliding defenders and a stretching MacGillivray to clip it in off the far post. Just our luck.

A second-half fightback was needed but whatever the half-time talk was, it made zero difference and Plymouth took control. The first substitution was always going to be important and Kirk for the poor Souare looked a no brainer. Unfortunately, the hapless Kirk proceeded to put in the worst forty-minutes of his disappointing Charlton career so far. Nearly everything he did went wrong. It didn't help that Elliott Lee played like he had yet to test positive for Covid and had avoided the ball like it was laced in Omicron. Jaiyesimi tried everything but got nothing from the impressive Garrick. 

Two more late subs followed with Burstow for Leko and Inniss for Clare but it made no difference. Plymouth should probably have killed the game off with a second but MacGillivray at least was earning his money.

So disappointed for the 750 fans who made the trip and for Sandgaard who must have felt a tad more let down than the rest of us having finally got Jackson signed on Friday. In his pre-match Charlton TV message he was a bit blaise about the January transfer window and I noted that his previous mention of "a minimum of two loans" was now "a minimum of one." He also suggested that the priority was central defence. We have certainly been short there due to injuries but with Inniss returning yesterday (hopefully not for another handful of games only) and Lavelle also getting closer, I would hope that the priority is that second goal-scorer because without one I don't see any chance of the play-offs and we are going to have to have more than Stockley if we are to have any chance of a promotion challenge next year, which I will remind you will be Year 3 of Sandgaard's Five Year Plan for the Premier League.

When you look at our player selection and performances so far under Jacko, it becomes clearer that we have a bunch of players who are nearing the end of their careers and for whom we need better. Arter was a decent loan risk but an expensive flop. Gunter and Watson cannot be relied on any longer for a full campaign and we need to re-examine our wide options. We paid too much to let Kirk go, although his performances since he arrived could convince you into thinking he did a deal with Crewe in order to bring them much needed revenue and then get back on the cheap as soon as possible. Blackett-Taylor is another puzzle. Desperate to win a contract as he showed blistering pace and threat to earn one. Since he got it, it's as if he no longer needs to push himself and he has looked a hopelessly different player. Perhaps he has a knock but I wasn't surprised to see he didn't even make the bus yesterday.

The Christmas and New Year period are rarely good for us and we started badly yesterday. Frankly, I would take a Covid break rather than watch us stutter through it as looks possible. AFC Wimbledon on Boxing Day suddenly looks a huge challenge and I can see party-poopers Gillingham managing to finally win another game when they pull up on 29th if the Covid situation worsens.

No more unpleasant surprises, please....

Sunday 12 December 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Cambridge United 0

Two successive home wins inside a week, up to 11th and within eight points of sixth placed Plymouth who we face next. Johnnie Jackson is also enjoying the club's best ever start to a managerial career with 70% win rate from his opening 12 games - he has to be given the job this week or else you will have to think there is a problem. The game could have been so much better but few were complaining as singing Addicks streamed out of the ground at full-time.

Expectations were understandably high after Tuesday evening's demolition of fancied Ipswich. We got the result but the match was a disappointment as we failed to get close to the tempo we achieved on Tuesday which blew Ipswich away. 

Cambridge arrived on the back of an impressive 5-0 away win at Cheltenham and whilst they played with ambition, they looked second-best all day to a Charlton side that never got out of third gear. The game was also spoilt by a rash of yellow cards (nine or ten) from Referee Ben Speedie in a match which was more scrappy than dirty. James Brophy caught the eye for the visitors on the left wing and, thankfully, we didn't see much of Joe Ironside who scored a hat-trick on Tuesday. 

Conor Washington carried on his own fine form of late by netting in each half (six in seven). His opener after 30 minutes was from one of our few chances in the first-half but he took it very well as he collected a short pass in the box and swivelled to push a low hard shot wide of Mitov in the U's goal. It was a quality finish and a step above what else we had seen that far. It also gave you the impression we would win the game without busting a gut, which is what happened.

Cambridge had two fine chances in the first-half as they managed to find a man free in our box twice. MacGillivray blocked the first with a foot and the second was dragged horribly wide as it looked easier to score. In the second half they managed another two half-chances in front of their 1500 travelling fans but couldn't beat MacGillivray. We played better attacking the Covered End, but not by much and had to settle with Washington's second two minutes from full time when he and Jayden Stockley found themselves with possession on the near post. Stockley tried to control the pass into the box but it fell to Washington who drilled home from eight yards. 

I was delighted to speak with my all-time favourite player, Colin Powell before the game. I had written about him for the latest My Only Desire (MOD) magazine and he came over to reminisce as we enjoyed a pre-match pint. My mate Pete and I lived in neighbouring streets to Paddy as teenagers and we had a laugh recalling some local characters including Bob Curtis. Oh how spoilt we were to have seen Hales, Flanagan, Peacock and Powell in their pomp. If only we had a stronger defence in those days....

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Ipswich Town 0

For twenty-five minutes this evening it was hard to call who was going to triumph. Ipswich had come to have a go and they matched us stride for stride, tackle for tackle. Both sides where probing their way forward but without any success. Then a ball over the top released Conor Washington who carried it into the Town box and fired across Walton in the visitors goal. Walton looked to have saved the shot but the rebound came out further than it looked at first from the Curbs Stand and charging in was Jayden Stockley who picked his spot and rammed home his low shot.

After that you could see the confidence start to drain from the white shirts. Ever so slowly we began to take control of the midfield and by half-time our backline had space and time to intercept everything Ipswich tried. 

It didn't get any better for Ipswich after half-time as our midfield began exert pressure and create chances. Walton proceeded to make five good saves thwarting Washington twice, Stockley, Lee and Gilbey, during which time Ipswich became increasing frustrated at their inability to find a way through our defensive formation. Their fans had long since stopped singing and were beginning to show their frustration too that their side were so impotent.

As the clock ticked down you worried that we would somehow contrive to offer a draw but that never looked remotely likely and with a couple of minutes of full-time left, we finally opened them up for 2-0. A fine pass and move break ended with Gilbey being played in and he stayed upright and sped in to beat Walton and end the contest. That was the signal for 3000 Town fans to evacuate the Jimmy Seed Strand. The home fans were in great voice for the last half hour in particular and the ground was bouncing at the finish.

Johnnie Jackson has really got his formation working and this side are full of confidence. For me, this was the best performance of the season so far, eclipsing the Plymouth game. Ably assisted by Jayesimi and Purrington, Famewo, Pearce and Clare were in total control at the back. Bonne and Piggott (when he came on) saw so little of the ball they were unable to threaten. Dobson was outstanding in front of them and broke everything up. He was my man-of-the-match and allowed Gilbey and Lee to push through the middle to keep Washington and Stockley stretching the Ipswich backline.

The win moves us to 14th but within a win of 10th and ten points off the play-offs. Cambridge United scored five at Cheltenham Town tonight and will come full of confidence on Saturday. However, if we get anywhere near close to this evening's performance, their fans will also be making an early exit. I will finish with a word for Christopher Sarginson who put in an excellent refereeing performance.

Bring on the U's.

Monday 6 December 2021

Norwich City at the Valley

It's too early to be talking about 'cup fever' but this evening there was definitely a twang of cup excitement and I do not mean the Ham and Pineapple cup. Genuine Football Association Cup excitement as ball number 57 made it through to the last four in the bag with Arsenal still in there. 

We didn't land the Gooners but we did get a very tidy home draw against Premier League opposition in the form of struggling Norwich City. The first time we have drawn a top flight side since I started this blog 14 years ago. Norwich might not be a glamour tie, especially as they are very much in relegation trouble but they are a proper club, with decent fans, most of whom are looking forward to a day out and a good game at the Valley. 

If we can continue our form under Johnnie Jackson into New Year, I think we have every chance of a having a really good go at the Canaries. Johnnie Jackson deserves credit for his approach to the cup competitions this year. He has fielded teams to win games and has been rewarded. Thomas Sandgaard, who is at the Guildhall for the London Sports Awards with the CACT team this evening, is also delighted with the draw and it should put a windfall £500k in the coffers. Enough one would hope to help secure the services of Akin Famewo and, hopefully, a much needed second centre-forward. It would obviously be good business if we could conclude that so that Famewo can play against Norwich.

The game is scheduled to take place on Saturday 8th January but will be subject to change to accommodate chosen televised games and the Met who won't stretch to Millwall v Palace, West Ham v Leeds and us on the same day. We could yet be seen as viable giant-killers and find ourselves on live TV again but I'd be happy to wait for that in the Fourth Round.

I should also add that we will face MK Dons in the last 16 of the Papa John's Trophy on Tuesday 4th January. If we win through there and make the last eight there may also be a tingle with a Wembley final only two games away and only one Premier League U21 side left in the competition (Arsenal U21's have been drawn to face Chelsea U21's). I could happily eat pizza in January at this rate.

Saturday 4 December 2021

Welling United 0 v Eastbourne 2

A very disappointing Wings performance this afternoon in the cold and damp. Mark Goldberg has continued to change his players at a rate that simply can't be healthy for any club. What manager Peter Taylor makes of it, I don't know, but it's not a sustainable set-up. I reckon there were seven or eight changes from the side I watched beaten by Hampton and Richmond in October. 

Eastbourne were only a couple of points better off than the Wings before this afternoon's encounter so I was expecting to see Welling put them under some pressure. Sadly they struggled to do that and Eastbourne won this at a bit of a canter. Both sides were playing a high defensive line but whereas Welling were repeatedly caught offside, Eastbourne managed to spring the Welling trap time after time in the first half and were unlucky not to have scored from one of a number of breaks and pops at goal. Joel Rollinson on the right wing in particular found himself clear and bearing down on goal a number of times only to be thwarted by covering defenders or Jack Sims in the goal. Indeed, Sims was called on to save a penalty to keep it level at the break.

Welling struggled to create anything. There was very little width or pace and Tom Derry was lost upfront on his own. Ademola Shokunbi looked most likely in the first-half to create something but he faded in the second. Tom Derry won nothing until a late header which was knocked on for Joe Muscat to head goalward but it was pushed out by Lee Worgan. By then Eastbourne had taken the lead when Charley Kendall raced on to another ball over the top and drove it past Sims. 

With the clock running down, Eastbourne sub Dominic Hutchings swept in from the left to pick up a cross in acres of space and beat the defenceless Jack Sims with ease.

The crowd looked unusually poor and to me at least, less than the 492 given. The atmosphere was flat and the side gave the supporters very little to cheer. It all feels a bit doom and gloom and with Mark Goldberg rumoured to be losing interest, you have to wonder how much longer Peter Taylor will persevere and just what a struggle this season looks like for Welling. 

Three cheers for Johnnie Jackson

I only caught part of the match last night as I was enjoying a rare night out with the drinking crew from 1980-2000. However, from the moment Conor Washington sprung the offside trap and tore into the six yard area I began to breathe more easily. His flick-back at head height was perfect for the steaming Stockley who beat two attendants to steer it home. When I saw we had gone two-up I could relax and enjoy the company of two fellow Addicks safe in the knowledge that there was no bait for the three Millwall and one Arsenal fan.

From what I saw of it, Gateshead gave us a good game and were unlucky not to have scored. Fortune favours the brave and we were brave. Jackson picked a strong line-up and went to win the the game. Personally I am delighted that Johnnie Jackson has arrested the criminal Cup decline over the last ten years. Bowyer's attitude to Cup matches was the epitome of crass. Fielding weakened teams that get knocked out wasn't just his preserve but he made no attempt to disguise his lack of interest. It was an insult to paying supporters to turn up and see a reserve team being humbled but to hear him say "well we were never going to win it anyway" was unacceptable and why I stopped going to them.

So, three cheers for Johnnie Jackson who has matched his words with deeds. He said he wants to win every game we play (how could his predecessors in recent years not want the same?) and he has picked strong sides to do that. 

Suddenly we have two Cup runs on the go. We are likely to exit both shortly but we have had a go and who knows? Monday's draw deserves to be kind to Jackson. It's a long time since we played a big side at the Valley in the F A Cup and it would be a fair reward for his endeavour. The revenue would also be very welcome and I am sure Thomas Sandgaard would be equally delighted if we could progress and keep adding to the kitty. 

All that remains, of course, is for Sandgaard to pull his finger out and do the right thing by appointing Jackson and his team on a permanent basis. Any notion that behind the scenes any of the management team would prefer someone other than Jackson must have died with us avoiding the banana skin last night. A failure to confirm Jacko would be nothing short of an epic mistake and likely to be a very costly one at that.

We haven't been great in the last few games but we have been short of a full strength side and even last night young Deji Elerewe had to stand up strong in defence and play his part, which he did. Jackson's battlers have put in the graft and they all deserve their reward. A Cup bonus would also support our acquisition of another centre-forward in January to bolster our push for the play-offs and strengthen the squad for next season which has to be done sooner or later.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Shrewsbury Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

For the thousand Charlton supporters who made the journey, this game will live longer in the memory than those of us who didn't. Storm Arwen swept down from the north overnight and brought widespread travel disruption. That included a direct tree hit on the Birmingham-Shrewsbury line which left many fans scambling for expensive 30+ mile taxi rides to make kick-off. Sadly, they weren't rewarded with victory. 

On paper we looked slightly stronger than on Wednesday night with the return from suspension of Akin Famewo to defence. Blackett-Taylor was given a start ahead of Jayesimi who I assume was being rested, although he was brought on towards the end.

Shrews boss Steve Cotterill had clearly done his homework and his side started the match strongly and put us under pressure for the opening 25 minutes without making the breakthrough. Unable to sustain it, we gradually found more time and space in midfield and the game shifted towards the other end where, we too, couldn't find a scoring opportunity. Once again we were labouring upfront. Davison and Washington were hard to find and neither had any aerial presence. We weren't finding much width and it didn't improve in the second half.

Shortly after the restart, impressive 18 year old Tom Bloxham should have opened the scoring for Salop with a fierce snap-shot to the top corner from inside the box, but somehow MacGillivray managed to get a hand to it and keep it out. We heeded the warning and our defence redoubled efforts to keep the home side at bay. Unfortunately, we were looking leggy in midfield and our forays into opposition territory often ran out-of-steam. Clare and Blackett-Taylor were pushing down the right but struggling to find the front men. Blackett-Taylor again failed to show us the pace that was taking him beyond full-backs with ease earlier in the season. Our threat down the left was poorer. The Soare-Purrington combo wasn't firing, largely because Soare had an absolute stinker. He has yet to show us any consistent form indicative of his CV.

We did fashion two decent scoring opportunities, through Gilbey and Lee. Gilbey arrived in the box to meet a cross but he still had a bit to do and his onward header didn't have enough pace or direction to beat Marosi in the home goal. Elliott Lee's drive effort was better but Marosi got behind that too. Jonathan Leko came on towards the end but couldn't change the rhythm of the game. Likewise Jayesimi for Blackett-Taylor. I think we really needed to see Burstow or Leko for Davison and much earlier once again than we did.

As the game wore on we were doing as much as they were to get the goal but neither side looked likely until 93rd minute when a heavily defended ball in was headed out but quickly played back in low to Udoh in space and his low shot squirmed beyond MacGillivray who got down very quickly and managed a touch but not enough to prevent the goal. Jason Euell was booked soon after the whistle for remonstrating with the ref for what looked like an obvious foul in the build-up to the goal but the match had been lost.

We didn't do enough to win the game and despite 62% possession and 11 corners to their 4, the match felt more even to watch. It was short of goal-scoring opportunities at both ends and for that we can have few complaints. Stockley will be back next week but for how long? We simply have to sign another goal-scorer in January if we are to have any chance of making the play-offs. Relying on one dedicated centre-forward from the start of the season was negligent.

I felt for the supporters suffering in the cold when the Met Police tweeted a message telling the train travellers that they needed to leg-it after the match to make the only two scheduled trains back to the Smoke. I hope they all made it.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

Morecambe Town 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Injuries and suspensions caught up with Charlton Athletic last night in the far north-west as they were forced to settle for a point on their first ever visit to Morecambe Town. A point on the road is rarely a poor result but on the evidence of last night Johnnie Jackson will see that it was really two points lost.

A fortuitous opener after only two minutes when Jayesimi surprised the home keeper with a cross-cum-shot at his near post was cemented on 26 minutes when Conor Washington picked up a long ball and lifted it over the keeper for two. Unfortunately, we quickly conceded a soft looking penalty when Gunther was judged to have brought his man down and Stockton gave the home side a lifeline.

We still should have been out-of-sight well before Morecambe headed on a corner and beat MacGillivray on his line with twenty minutes left. The trouble was, we were fielding a side shorn of a natural goal-scorer and fielding a makeshift back line. Our failure during the Summer to bring in another out-and-out striker to support Stockley meant that without his services last night, we were forced once again to watch Washington and Davison labouring upfront. Neither are a real aerial threat and whilst Washington weighs in with a contribution of goals, he doesn't carry a 90 minute goal threat. Davison is still learning the game but has had a few very quiet matches of late and last night was another. I know I keep banging on about this but it was a glaring omission and we are paying the price. Stockley's aggressive game means he is going to miss matches through suspension every year and probably a few through injury too. Expecting to cope with support strikers and youngsters was very naive.

At the back too, we did at least bring in reinforcements in the Summer but the loss of Inniss, Lavelle and Pearce to injury meant a re-jig and putting Gunter back in central defence was taking a risk I think we may have avoided by using Elerewe. To be fair, we weren't exactly put under massive pressure by Morecambe and the back three of Clare, Gunter and Famewo were largely untorubled over 90 minutes but Elerewe might have made a more convincing tackle than Gunter for the penalty and his height in 72nd minute may have helped us defend the second goal better. Wise after the event, of course, and there was an argument for Gunter's experience. 

The real problem was our failure to get a third goal and kill the game. We had plenty of possession in Morecambe's half and moved the ball on the flanks and across the middle with relative ease. Trouble was, we weren't inventive enough to create the clear-cut openings we needed and there little chance of Washington or Davison meeting a cross with a towering header. Too often our eventual shots were taken without enough space and were blocked or we over-played in the build-up and lost possession. 

Mason Burstow deserved more than the five minutes he got at the end. Davison hadn't touched the ball for twenty minutes before he was subbed. Corey Blackett-Taylor had already come on but was again surprisingly ineffective. I was left wondering where all his pace has gone. I really hope it hasn't left with his contract award. 

Anyhow, a point is a point and Jackson remains undefeated in the league - 14 points from 18 and we go to Shrewsbury on Saturday for what looks likely to be a stiffer test yet. 

Final word for the 690 fans who made the long journey and supported the boys. It was great to follow them all on Twitter during the day and I found myself wishing I had been there to rack up another ground and have added my voice. 

Saturday 20 November 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Plymouth Argyle 0

A game and a day that will live long in the memory. It was one of those very rare Charlton occasions where everything goes to plan. A near full house were treated to a spirited display against the league leaders and saw us beat them with something to spare. So often in the past we have managed to fall flat on our faces on days like these but something felt different today and it may just be the Johnnie Jackson factor.

Thomas Sandgaard updated fans this week on the position of a full-time replacement for Nigel Adkins and whilst he was complimentary enough about the job that Jackson has been doing, he also went on to talk about other managers and even suggested a situation where someone else could be appointed and Jackson return to his Assistant Manager position. Bit of an own goal for me - it didn't need to be said once he had made the point that he was taking more time to look at who was available. Maybe just trying to be open and honest but it was naive in the extreme. 

Today's performance should seal the deal for Jackson. His players battled from the outset and made the league leaders look ordinary. Even their manager, Paul Lowe, acknowledged as much at the end of the game. Sandgaard spoke of making a decision within 30 days. Hopefully he has read the runes because he needs to realise that he has thrown a double-six with Jackson who has turned the fortunes of the season in just five league matches and has the commercial weight of the fanbase with him. Any further delay will begin to look like Jackson may not be wanted irrespective of performance and that would cause major problems for Sandgaard and the club. The idea that we might take a punt on someone like Gerrard's sidekick when we have a club-hero getting impressive results and slowly but surely undoing the horrendous Adkins start to the season is unthinkable. Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink was apparently telling people he was being lined up last week and I was angered to see Neil Harris in the Directors box again today. Don't even go there!

We got good news ahead of the match when it was confirmed that Famewo's ridiculous yellow card for time-wasting at the end of the first half at Burton had been rescinded and awarded instead to Purrington who had initially picked up the ball for the throw-in before leaving it for Akin. Not such good news for Jayden Stockley, however, as his red card was upheld, although I am not surprised by that decision.

With limited striking options we started with Davison and Washington upfront and they struggled to fashion a chance in the opening half despite a slew of crosses, particularly from Jayesimi on the right who gave the Plymouth defence a torrid time. Gilbey and Lee were busy keeping the pressure on Argyle and when they did manage to break out, it was usually with two or three players only who were fairly well marshalled by Clare, Pearce and Famewo in particular. In spite of everything, MacGillivray still had to make the smartest save to half-time to keep the score level when he pushed out a Hardie effort.

After the re-start and attacking the Covered End we managed to up the tempo and were able to find more space and really test the visitors. The breakthrough came when a cross into the box drew both central defenders and but evaded them and fell to Ben Purrington who had anticipated it and moved away to created a yard more space. He took the ball down and drilled it past Cooper to finally ease the tension in the home stands. After that it we looked imperious and the second goal killed the game. The impressive Elliott Lee played a long through-ball which split the defence and ran beautifully for Conor Washington who took a touch and steadied himself as he closed in on goal before stroking it home.

We lost Jason Peace to injury before the end but Chris Gunter stepped in and you didn't notice.

It was a thoroughly professional performance across the side and you were left wondering who might be able to beat us. Morecambe, Shrewsbury, Ipswich and Cambridge all look like yielding more points and having edged into 12th this evening, all eyes are on the points gap to sixth. There is obviously a long way to go but we are full of confidence and have momentum. We just need to ensure injuries don't hamper our progress and Thomas Sandgaard needs to capitalise on our current position and end speculation over the next permanent manager. 

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Fill the Valley

Rejuvenated Charlton face the league leaders, Plymouth Argyle, at the Valley on Saturday in what should be the toughest game of the season so far. Thomas Sandgaard and Raelynn Moloney will be flying in and the club have launched a ticketing effort to #fillthevalley. 

This would have failed a month ago under Adkins when you couldn't have given free tickets away, but such has been the impact of Caretaker boss Johnnie Jackson, that the three free tickets per season holder are flying off the shelf and a near full-house is expected. 

Argyle are bringing a decent following and with 2500 sold already, there should be a tasty atmosphere. Using season ticket holders was a good way to try and ensure those given freebies tickets actually show up on the day - so often when the club dishes out large numbers of comps, disappointingly large numbers of recipients don't bother to make the journey on the day. Hopefully too, those attending will have more affinity with the game and Charlton (through links with season ticket holders) than the usual comp brigade who have a tendency to annoy regulars. From a personal experience, they often arrive late (sometimes well into the game), have no idea how rows and numbers work and are oblivious to other fans watching the match as they show no sense of urgency to get seats. As for turning up sporting other clubs colours.....

Anyhow, hopefully the empty seats won't be so obvious and the atmosphere not too dulled by the uninitiated. On current form we look like we may be in for a hard afternoon. If you consider our injury depleted squad will also be without our main striker and our best available defender, the task looks ominous.

At the tail end of last season we walloped Argyle 6-0 away. Assuming a change of manager or wholesale change of players, I was surprised to see that Ryan Lowe is still the manager and the team that won 4-1 at Accrington on Saturday contained eight of the side we beat in April.

So, will they be fired-up for revenge, or will our boys be confident of picking up where they left off at Home Park? Plymouth are playing a high pressing game under Lowe and that was our downfall under Atkins because we sat back and invited pressure. Jackson will aim to counter that and his formation may be critical. Without Famewo, we are going to have to rely on Pearce and Elerewe and I don't think we can risk three  at the back. I'd go 4-1-3-2 with Dobson in front of the  back four. Hopefully Leko is fit to return and play in a striking role alongside Washington. We will also need a much bigger game from Gilbey (who excelled in the 6-0) than we got at Burton. 

I'd go MacGillivray, Gunter, Pearce, Elerewe, Purrington, Dobson, Lee, Gilbey, Jaiyesimi, Washington and Leko.

Sunday 14 November 2021

Burton Albion 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Johnnie Jackson did it again yesterday as his rejuvenated side made it ten points from twelve since he took over from Adkins. The thousand travelling fans didn't care but it wasn't pretty to watch and the game will have left Jackson cogitating on the way home about the side he will field against form team Plymouth next week.

Referee Trevor Kettle was at it again yesterday with two red cards and five yellows in the opening half which spoilt the game. The reds, for Stockley and former Addick Deji Oshilaja, came early and it was clear Kettle hadn't seen the off-the-ball tussle and was lead by the lino who I don't think got a proper view of it either given the decision. From the replays, Stockley had his arm around Deji's neck and wrestled him to the ground as the ball was cleared from the other side of their box. On the ground and as they broke, our Jayden appeared to catch Deji with a flailing left arm and the two locked again as other players came to separate them. For me, a red for Oshilaja was wrong but Stockley was asking for trouble and found it. His aggressiveness and use of his arms in particular is all part of his game, especially when trying to compete in the air but this was on the ground and he can have few complaints. 

Who would be missed the most was the obvious question and two minutes later Ben Purrington answered it with a fine headed finish from a corner which Famewo did well to keep alive. His strong headed flick on to the centre of the six yard area found Purrington unmarked he was able to nod it past Garratt in the home goal.

After that, Kettle's famed card-tourettes saw him flash yellow approximately every three minutes until half-time. A couple were deserved but a couple weren't and there was also some inconsistency elsewhere, but this is Trevor Kettle. Famewo in particular can count himself unfortunate for a card for time-wasting four minutes into added time in the first-half. Kettle also managed to show a yellow in the tunnel to Harry Arter "for something he said." I think we have a better idea of what that might have been than the rationale for some of his other decisions. Kettle may well have 'had a moment' at half-time because he managed not to get a card out for the entire second-half. 

The game itself was very scrappy with few clear-cut chances at either end. Charlton edged it but Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink was clearly unhappy throughout and was seen arguing toe-to-toe with Jackson before half-time. Burton didn't do nearly enough to deserve much more than they got and barring a strong Joel Powell effort at the near post which MacGillivray did brilliantly well to beat out with one arm after the break, they didn't seriously threaten. 

Injuries and international duty saw Clare drafted into a back three with Famewo and Pearce. Not my choice with Elerewe on the bench but he did ok and the defence was solid enough, if not exactly stretched. Dobson broke things up in front and I though Jaiyesimi had his best game in ages and was a constant threat in the first-half particularly. MacGillivray did everything expected of him and Lee was busy keeping the pressure on Burton which stopped them moving up. Gilbey had a quiet game but he prefers it when there is more space to play in and that was in short supply yesterday.

Jackson's dilemma this week will be his defence against Plymouth - Famewo will be missing through suspension and with Inniss and Lavelle crocked, I think he will need to consider a return to a four man backline against free-scoring Argyle. At the other end Stockley's absence will expose our failure to sign another striker this Summer. Conor Washington will be back from Northern Ireland duty but partnering options are limited with rookies Davison or Burstow. If Leko is fit again, he may offer a better option or he may decide to go with one upfront. Argyle is looking like a very tough ask as things stand.

Wednesday 3 November 2021

Charlton Athletic 1 v Rotherham United 1

A good point last night against an impressive and hard-working Rotherham side maintains Johnnie Jackson's unbeaten start as Caretaker Manager. This was a game we would have lost by several goals under Nigel Adkins.

Rotherham showed their ambition and determination from the first whistle. Piling forward in numbers, supporting the man on the ball and getting shots and crosses in whenever they could. Our back four and George Dobson were worked hard keeping them at bay although MacGillivray didn't have too much to do. They headed wide, missed the post and were generally just a yard short until the 45th minute. 

In the meantime, we got forward when we could and had a couple of half-chances to match Rotherham's. On the stroke of half-time though, they forced a throw-in deep down our left. The throw hardly passed the guy's head and he was a couple of yards from the line when he took it which somehow made it long more wrong. However, it was picked up and hoisted high to the back post where Smith knocked it down into the six yard area for Miller to lash high into our net with his left. 

After the break the game moved towards us and we had the balance of attacking play although not with the cohesive and fluency that the Millers Millers managed in the first-half. We were getting more men forward and some fine inter-passing on the run threatened a goal. With ten minutes left it looked like we might come up short but that battler Conor Washington wasn't having it. He chased a ball over the top which he looked second-favourite to get but muscled his way onto the ball and shaped a shot from twenty yards which look an early deflection off the blocking centre-half and flew in low to the keepers' right. 

Jackson was rightly proud of his side after the game and so were the fans in the 12,500 crowd which was notably light on attendees. Keep battling, keep picking up points and they will come...

Sunday 31 October 2021

Charlton Athletic 4 v Doncaster Rovers 0

Two wins for Johnnie Jackson and two clean sheetsToo early to call it a bounce' but its certainly a 'bo.'

The jury has been out on whether Nigel Adkins was simply not up to the job or whether he had been dealt a shockingly poor hand in this Summers transfer dealings. The fear for many fans was that the underlying problem was the latter and that we might struggle to steady the ship. That was certainly my concern but yesterday's performance went some way towards suggesting that Adkins was by far the biggest problem.

Jackson was forced to make two changes from the Sunderland line-up but that was all he did - Gunter for Matthews and Pearce for Lavelle. Those dreading a Gunter/Pearce fluff had needn't worried. Doncaster were so powder-puff that neither were troubled. Donny arrived with the worst away record in the division and left with it fully intact - eight straight defeats, two for and twenty against - relegation bankers.

From kick-off we saw the difference that motivation and organisation can make. Once again we were playing 30 yards further up the pitch than Adkins' teams managed. Doncaster were challenged quickly when in possession and Charlton players were competing aggressively for every fifty-fifty.  As a result, we played the game in their half and when they did get forward we had time and space to close them down and get the ball back upfield.

My 'first goal-scorer' bet died after ten minutes when Jonathan Leko limped off. Ten minutes later and Elliot Lee found the net direct from a free-kick on the left that was intended for Stockley but which beat him and bounced in at the far post. 

On 34 minutes the contest was over bar the shouting when Alex Gilbey ran into the Rovers box and took a tumble at first contact. Conor Washington rifled home the penalty and it was only really a matter of how many. 

We maintained our desire to get forward and score and the goals came. Stockley got a tap in after Dahlberg spilled a shot at the near post and Ben Purrington made up for an earlier bad miss with what looked like an own goal to me but he celebrated like it was his great back post header and I wont argue.

It could have been a few more too but four was enough to satisfy a 16,000 crowd boosted by a quid-for-a-kid deal. For once the many occasional visitors actually saw a home win, goals and a whole-hearted performance. It was great to see all the club shots and selfies of fans with their kids and families, many of whom were clearly there for the first time. Hopefully Thomas Sandgaard will see this and seize upon the opportunity to build gates when we are actually playing well and winning. Get the team playing and they will come.

Rotherham will present a real test on Tuesday after hammering Sunderland 5-1 but we should fear no-one in this division when our team is up for it, as they currently are. Come on you Reds!

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Welling United 2 v Hampton & Richmond 3

It's been awhile, but last night I got over the hill to see the Wings once more. Truth is I have been as disillusioned as most Wings fans in the last year or so. Not sure why, exactly, but owner Mark Goldberg seemed to have lost interest in the development or the club or perhaps he was experimenting but whatever it was, the side lost it's identity and managers seemed to come and go nearly as regularly as the players. Results have suffered as you would expect.

The rumour-mill suggests that Goldberg has been obsessed with getting permission to redevelop the site but frustrated by co-users Erith & Belvedere's refusal to entertain him. Whatever the truth of it, there is certainly bad blood, typified by Goldberg's recent refusal to let the Dere's open their bar during Wings' matches.

Anyhow, after the latest three month flirtation with Steve Lovell ("I played for Millwall in the top flight") and a disastrous start to the National League South season, Mark Goldberg appears to have once again made a bit of a commitment to the supporters by appointing highly experienced and one-time England manager, Peter Taylor, as Wings supremo. I was very surprised by the appointment but Wings' Tone told me last night they have remained "pals since their Palace days." That might explain it but I am pretty sure Peter Taylor (only 68) wouldn't have accepted the job if there was any chance he would be sacked before Christmas.  Similarly, I suspect Peter Taylor wants an end to the merry-go-round of players which means the side has literally changed every two months for the past however long. Taylor was a great player in his day and has huge managerial experience - still only 68. I remember seeing him at the Den in the late 70's when he tore the Millwall left flank to pieces and supplied a stream of pull-backs that deserved five or six goals on their own. 

Whatever, Taylor has had a mini-bounce with two wins and a draw, although Tone assured me that the football isn't quite yet of the champagne variety. To be fair though, they started brightly last night after a panicky opening couple of minutes when the impressive Jack Sims made a couple of smart stops to prevent an early goal. After that the Wings settled and began to find a counter-attacking groove that warned Hampton not to get too cocky.

They were rewarded after fifteen minutes when Akinyemi got up well at a near post corner and facing the incoming ball he managed to get a lovely glance on the ball to send it flashing past Alan Julian. Fifteen minutes later it got better for Welling when Akinyemi turned provider after peeling off to the left wing in support of another rapid counter. This time he picked up the lay off and drove in to the box before whipping in a low cross which (I think) the admirable Charlie Wassmer could only get a leg to and take some pace off the ball. It fell to the on-rushing Shokunbi who looked like he couldn't believe he was in a scoring position but he was and he did. 

Two-nil at half-time and it looked like a third would wrap things up. However, the visitors came out in a determined mood and they put Welling on the backfoot from the whistle. They forced a string of corners and the ball was bobbing around the Wings' six yard box for at least ten minutes before the pressure eventually told and Gray forced it in. With the visitors tails up, Welling needed a response but there wasn't one. They seemed content to defend and their running seemed to stop which meant they couldn't get out when they did have possession. The second goal was inevitable and the lively Gondoh rifled it home three minutes later. 

Welling were on ropes and desperate for someone to step up but no-one did. Several minutes later after a defensive mix-up where Sims appeared to be watching the man rather than the dropping ball, Hampton were handed a winner.  there was still 25 minutes to  go but we didn't see a concerted Welling response until it was too late. They did manage to get the ball in the net before the 90th minute but it was ruled offside. 

It looked like Welling ran out of steam and if I am being hyper-critical, several of their more attacking players looked frightened of the tackle and more content to anticipate free-kicks rather than believe in themselves to do more when in possession - certainly something Peter Taylor never lacked as a player. They also appeared to lack any leadership when it was needed. Issues I am sure Taylor can sort out quickly, especially if backed by Goldberg. I certainly hope so because it would be great to watch a more settled side once more and see Welling competing strongly again. 

Saturday 23 October 2021

Sunderland 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Johnnie Jackson's first game in charge looked a match too soon. Away at high-flying Sunderland who were unbeaten at the Stadium of Light this season. A side low on confidence with a leaky defence and no clean sheets since August, even the most optimistic of us were looking at avoiding a skelping.

However, I saw the side he was fielding and thought we could compete if the players were really up for it. He had made five changes and was focusing on experience to see us through. Importantly for me, he had Matthews and Purrington both back in full-back berths alongside Lavelle and Famewo. He had also made the bold decision to bring George Dobson back into central midfield at his old hunting ground and that proved masterly. Gilbey, Lee and Leko supported in midfield with Washington and Stockley up front.

It wasn't so much the formation that changed it for us but the way Jackson had them pressing. Within the first ten minutes, it was clear we were thirty yards further up the pitch than we have been all season. For a change it was the opposition who were struggling to play out. Not only that but when they did get forward, we had bodies dropping back to cover and support. Sunderland tried to dictate play but they kept finding us breaking and throwing men forward which caused them to fall-back. Attack is indeed often the best form of defence and we even forced a succession of corners in the opening twenty minutes. 

It was a frantic game with the ball going from end-to-end but without any serious goalscoring chances. MacGillivray was called on twice in a minute to beat out Sunderland efforts and we had several really good positions in their box but failed to make the final ball or the right pass to really expose them. Jason Pearce slotted in for Lavelle who went off with a knock after thirty minutes and played a blinder.

Nil-nil at the break and we looked in no real trouble. McGeady flattered to deceive once more although O'Nien and O'Brien were more threatening as Sunderland sought to tee Pritchard or Stewart up. The trouble for Sunderland was that they couldn't really build any sustained pressure because we were moving the ball quickly upfield and keeping them pressed when we did. Jonathan Leko (my man of the match) was tireless down the right, running them ragged and probing for openings. Lee had been performing a similar role and with Washington fully supporting Stockley in a front pairing, Sunderland couldn't relax at the back. 

Jayden Stockley had been all over the Sunderland defence, challenging for everything. His own attempts on goal had all been speculative and high or wide until the 66th minute when he finally managed to get on the back of a Leko ball to the back post and direct a looping header back across goal. It beat Hoffman in the goal and was handled at the far stick but it had already crossed the line and the goal was good.

After that, I thought we might sit back and concede an equaliser but we maintained our shape and kept Sunderland on their toes. Clare came on for Lee ten minutes before the end and Jaiyesimi will have been delighted to be given the last five minutes of added time to give Leko a much deserved breather. 

At the final whistle the players and management team celebrated as they were entitled to and you could see that something had clearly changed across the side. There are still doubts and concerns about our recruitment model and some of the players we have brought in, but what cannot be denied after today's game is that we have a basic side capable of prospering in this division. That shouldn't come as a complete surprise given our finish last year and the bodies we have brought in but the football under Adkins for three months has given obvious clause for alarm. 

If Thomas Sandgaard was reluctant to sack Adkins, I hope he has been convinced he made the right decision and perhaps wonders what might have been had he done it five or six games ago. One Swallow does not a Summer make, but we should take a lot of heart from today's performance and look forward to collecting points in the next six weeks to move us well clear of the drop zone. 

All of a sudden, the Doncaster Rovers game next Saturday looks like a decent fixture and I think we should see several thousand added to the gate in addition to season ticket holders making the effort to be there to cheer their team on. I am sure we are all pleased for Johnnie Jackson this evening. He has once again reminded us of his footballing qualities. Some people, too browned off with the the state of affairs under Adkins, were also calling for a total clearout. Whilst Jackson and Euell were obviously part of that set-up, I think we saw very clearly this afternoon just how influencial a manager can be - both positive and negative. Given the performance, I suspect some people are now wishing they had not been quite so disrespectful, if not unrealistic that any owner would remove the whole management team after only three months of the season. 

It is only one game but I have seen enough to tell me we will be alright under Jackson. The only question is how good can we be?

Thursday 21 October 2021

Adkins gone, JJ caretaker

Thomas Sandgaard was determined not to bow to pressure but this morning at around 10am the club announced that Adkins was gone and that Johnnie Jackson would step up as Caretaker with Jason Euell assisting.

It's a little disconcerting that a decision hadn't been planned for announcement immediately following the home defeat to Accrington Stanley. Sandgaard, Roddy, Gallen and couple of others were visible in deep discussion in yhe Boardroom for a couple of hours after the game but a lack of any announcement yesterday makes it look very much that there was no decision to out him and that has only come after a tidal wave of demands from the fans. 

It's not like this was a knee-jerk reaction either. Adkins should have been removed weeks ago when it was clear nothing was improving. The empty stands on Tuesday - I am reliably informed the actual attendance was under 7,000 - would have worried me if I was the owner. Commercial revenues will have fallen off a cliff too and some longer term damage to the fanbase will be inevitable.

The prevarication over the decision has also given a section of the fanbase time to decide that Jackson and Euell needed removing as well and I don't think that has helped the final decision. I suspect they will come around if results improve but there will be a vocal minority telling us they said so if not. Personally I am not convinced either but Jackson and Euell know these players better than anyone and it's a least-risk option to start with. It is, after all, why you have an Assistant manager. 

It does look increasingly like we have a far weaker squad of players in spite of all the recruitment hype. If that's the case, Jackson may find it very difficult for any sustained improvement and if that turns out to be the case, perhaps we should be happier we haven't brought in an expensive name who might not have got us much more. 

Today feels like a good day and I am pleased Sandgaard hasn't prolonged things with Adkins as he was in danger of becoming public enemy number one - something he doesn't deserve. The jury is still out though on his willingness to invest in success. Summer business was ok but still modest and the Jackson decision is also least-cost although I don't disagree with it for now. Let us all pray that these players unite as a team under Jacko and we can all look forward to putting thoughts of relegation behind us and concentrate on finding the right side for next season.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Accrington Stanley 3

This evening's game at the Valley between struggling Charlton Athletic and Accrington Stanley was overshadowed by the ongoing demands of increasingly angry and frustrated Charlton supporters that manager Nigel Adkins be replaced.

Following the defeat at Lincoln, Adkins made four more change to the starting line-up. Charlie Kirk, Harry Arter and Josh Davison were all dropped and Elliot Lee had not yet recovered from Saturday's knock. Incoming were Clare, Morgan, Blackett-Taylor and Stockley.

In a scrappy first-half, it was clear that MacGillivray had finally been told that he no longer had to play out from the back and we were treated to a more direct style of play which at least saw us sustain some attacking football. There were still too many niggly and unnecessary fouls which disrupted the momentum of the game but at least we didn't have to watch the ball being played around the back continuously to no effect. 

After nine minutes the visitors took the lead from a superb free-kick. Former Charlton youngster Harry Pell stepped up to drive his shot over the wall and high into MacGillivray's right-hand corner. It provoked the first calls of 'sacked in the morning' and 'we want Adkins out' but there was little anyone could have done about the goal. However, it did galvanise Accrington and they began to come forward with more confidence and cause us more problems. Pell was involved in everything and played the pantomime villain at every turn. He had already celebrated his goal too cockily in front of the Covered End and been pelted for his troubles and he was then booked with Souare after making a nuisance of himself ahead of a corner. That didn't stop him, however, from nearly making it 2-0 with another free-kick that rattled bar and post before bouncing suspiciously close to the line and out. Some have said it was in.

After that we managed an equaliser. Alex Gilbey picked up a ball inside their half and ran on. He overplayed it but made good his chase and got a toe to keep it going. He caught the ball on the goal-line and could only cross and hope. Red shirts were closing in but it was an Accrington player who got a touch ahead of his keeper and turned it in. So 1-1 at half-time and another 45 minutes with no Charlton efforts on target in spite of having more ball in our opponents half for a long time.

Charlton restarted the second-half in a hurry and penned Accrington into their box for five minutes, Blackett-taylor looked like he'd been told he had done nothing in the first half and would be off after five minutes if he didn't do something. Gilbey was also charging down the left and between them we forced a several corners from which Stockley missed two decent headed chances.

After that we slowed and Accrington once again threatened. There were getting forward with ease and we were all over the place in defence. On 57 minutes they broke down our right and as their winger tore in he pulled a ball back across the box and with two red shirts continuing their runs it went behind them to Pell who had time and space to control the ball and pick his spot. It was dire defending. For ten minutes after that our heads dropped and I told Pete a third was coming. MacGillivray did very well to beat out a superb effort but Accrington weren't to be denied. Hamilton finished it after he was allowed to get to the box and turn along the 18 yard area before squirting a shot low inside MacGillivray's post.

Three-one down and Adkins made changes, Clare, who had disappeared in the second-half, was hooked for Washington and Davison came on for Blackett-Taylor. Washington did very well to chase a lost cause, beat his man to get free in the box and pick out Stockers who had time to adjust himself before driving home for 2-3. There was huff and puff after that but Accrington had a victory to hold on for.

The weirdly absent Jaiyesimi was brought on after 91 minutes in what might have been Adkin's final apology before he is dismissed which surely follows this evening.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Note to Thomas Sandgaard

Dear Thomas,

Woke up this morning and Nigel Adkins is still manager. Why? After the shambles of the last two months you must have made contingency plans for him to be replaced in the event of another howling performance. You must have told him results have to improve and they haven't. More than that, the performances are worse than the results. So why didn't you fire him last night? He simply isn't going to turn a corner and we risk things getting worse, if that's possible.

We are third bottom of the third division of English football. Our lowest resident position in our history just in case that's escaped you. Fans are clamouring for Adkins to be replaced and whilst I am in strong agreement, you have to act now to address both the on-field and off-field issues because addressing one without the other risks not making us sustainably better. 

I don't need to tell you the consequences of a relegation-battle season, let alone actual relegation. Season ticket numbers would halve as would merchandise sales. Supporters buy hospitality when they feel good about their club. They tend not to buy when watching matches is painful and embarrassing. So you really need to walk the walk and be decisive.


These are blatantly obvious to anyone who follows the club and has been watching games this season. I have seen them all and there are common themes;

Formation - Nigel Adkins may have a favoured style of play (4-3-3?) but we have been hopeless when we have tried to play it. It clearly doesn't suit our players but he has persevered and so have the defeats. He did switch notably to a 4-4-2 when we beat Crewe. It might be that Crewe are just not great but we looked more solid, even if the victory wasn't convincing. The problem appears to be the midfield where, in spite of whomever he picks and whatever tinkering he does around 4-3-3, we are a distant second-best. No midfield combination have been able to dictate play. We have really struggled to find our wingers in space or anyone up front. Most of the time they lose possession playing forward so play backwards under pressure far too often. This is the manager's responsibility to fix.

Negativity - the habit of passing back from midfield has meant that our back four have seen more of the ball this season than anyone else. Not only that, but we have the coached mentality of always playing out from the back. Liverpool, Man City and Chelsea do this to great effect and are a joy to watch. However, in this league and with the players we have, it has become a serious vulnerability when you don't have the personnel in midfield to do it. Goalkeeper to centre-half to centre-half or full back. By this time the opposition have pushed up. We eventually play it forward and with a relentless monotony, whoever picks it up is under pressure and either can't turn upfield or doesn't want to risk it, so returns it and the cycle continues. It's desperate to watch and hardly surprising we struggle to keep a clean sheet when the ball spends so much time in our defensive third. This is the manager's responsibility to fix.

Individual responsibility - I expect professional footballers to have a responsibility when they play for you. In return for the privileged working conditions you expect them to show for you on match days. You expect graft, commitment and ambition. You hope for more and you want to see them excel. You want players aiming to be the best they can. Players who may attract a bigger move and more success. I'm not being unrealistic here, even in League One, but this current squad has too many passengers. In far too many games we have players disappearing for long spells. Hardly getting a touch and content not to be involved. This is a motivational and managerial issue. Adkins has chopped and changed freely but he's back where Lee Bowyer was in the sense that every three games a player comes back into the side and too often there's no improvement. I'd name names but we all know who the guilty ones are and there are far too many of them. It's as if the players aren't that bothered.

Set-pieces - far too often this season we have been caught out by opponents taking quick corners, free-kicks or throw-ins. Very simply, our players seem to think they have far more time than they have and no-one seems to have learnt the lesson. If they can be coached to play our relentlessly from the back, they can be coached to be on their toes at set pieces. When we get them we aren't much better. Throw-ins are embarrassing. Yesterday was a classic - Souare got a throw-in well into their half. By the time he was ready to take it their players had picked the three or four of ours up. None of ours moved, no-one came running it for an option. Souare dithered and eventually had to take the shortest throw for a return pass which left him under pressure and once again he turned back and the ball was eventually played to MacGillivray. This wasn't a one-off yesterday and has been happening all season. It's as if the players aren't really that bothered.

Continuity - this is critical to the success of a season. You need to instill confidence in your side and build on results. You can't win every game but when you do, it's vital to build on that for the next game and aim to get your players to use that mind-set to get a sequence going. We have only won twice this season and have performed very poorly following each win. This is the manager's responsibility but it's also as if the players aren't really that bothered.

In summary then, we need a new manager now. I would also go as far as to say we need someone with something about them who will sort out the men from the boys. Those who want to be winners and those who are not really that bothered. I don't care if we have only just signed them or how long their contracts are. If they aren't good enough or really aren't that bothered, they need to stop being picked and moved on.


Leadership - this is harder for supporters to gauge but we are a small club with a unique set of supporters, some of whom have held senior positions at the club in the past and who are still well-connected with club employees, many of whom are also keen supporters. All the chatter suggests all is not well within the club on a day-to-day-level despite what impression you are being left with when you visit. The club is desperate for an experienced Chief Exec who can galvanise day-to-day decision-making and provide leadership across the club. This is too important to do part-time from Colorado.

Recruitment - it is becoming more obvious by the week that this Summer's recruitment was a disaster. There seems to be an acknowledgment by all now that waiting until the season had started to finish off our recruitment was a glaring mistake. Banking on picking up hungry Premier League youngsters ended up with Lee and Arter and a panic buy in Leko. It may be that Premier League clubs saw the appalling start we had and decided their starlets would be better off at a club that wasn't struggling at the wrong end of the table. We have had a hitherto decent recruitment track record lead by Steve Gallen and our manager of the day. However, the current crop have been under-whelming and fans are left wondering what anyone could see in some of them. Time will tell but have we regressed somehow? Is there an over-reliance on player stats in a league where heart and soul are as important as percentages? Has the manager had too little say in the choice or negotiation of players contracts? Does he have players he would rather not - it looks like it? Are all the players playing for him - it doesn't look like it?

We need some honesty here. The club has closed ranks and presented a united front on these issues but the truth will out and sometimes it's better to put your hand up and acknowledge you have made mistakes that you aim to rectify. 

This club has a long and proud history. We have been degraded over the last fifteen years and our standing in the game has fallen. We are now at serious risk of a new low and a position from which we would struggle to recover. This has to change and it cannot be left to wither. You need to act decisively and now.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Lincoln City 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

Today must surely be Nigel Adkins last game in charge as manager. There are simply no excuses left and it is crystal clear that nothing is going to change with him in charge. Another hugely disjointed performance in which another of the poorer sides in League One were made to look far better than they are. It was a miracle we managed an equaliser having failed to trouble the home goal all afternoon, but having snatched it, you just knew we wouldn't see it out. A late 'winner' for Lincoln was ruled offside but they weren't to be denied with a 93rd minute goal.

I feel sorry for the 1300 Charlton fans who made the journey. Let down by a side, half of whom should be embarrassed by their lack of involvement. Charlton started ok but with Elliott Lee going off injured after only fifteen minutes we fell back into a familiar back-foot defensive display. Adkins spent most of the rest of the half imploring his defence to move up but they simply couldn't get out. Arter and Gilbey looked like they were playing blindfolded and every ball long was lost.

From the high gantry camera position, I honestly didn't see Souare until just before half-time. I thought it odd that we were playing three at the back but that Famewo was covering the whole left side of the defence. Souare seemed to be limiting himself to ten metres either side of the half-way line. It was very strange, although he did appear for the second-half. 

Blackett-Taylor came on for Lee in the first-half but I swear he didn't touch the ball for the duration of the game. Captain Kirk was moved inside left when CBT came on and he did manage a number of touches which were mostly clumsy and lost us possession. That left Josh Davison wondering why he bothered getting on the coach and Jonathan Leko, who aside from an early run and wide shot, was another who went into hiding.

So, Thomas Sandgaard, now is the time to act. Now is the time to show your mettle, admit mistakes have been made - it's not all Adkins' fault - and move to rectify them. Not easy, we know, but your business is now on fire and you simply can't sit back and watch it continue to burn. If Adkins is in charge on Tuesday the atmosphere will be toxic.

Sunday 3 October 2021

Fleetwood Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

Nigel Adkins prayers were answered in the north-west with his first away win of the season. The jury was out on whether or not he had lost the dressing room. Tuesday's pathetic collapse at home to Bolton suggested that the players had given up and that Fleetwood might be the latest side to roll us over.

Instead, his side competed for the 90 minutes and whilst there were still some worrying moments, they stood up to the task and deserved their victory. Chris Gunter, a target for the boo-boys, was back in the side at right-back alongside Lavelle, Famewo and Souare. The defence stood up fairly well aside from being opened up for a first-half chance which saw Camps through on goal but squander his opportunity. 

After that, Jonathan Leko scored another Leko special with a shimmie and another low hard cross-shot which beat the home keeper at his far post to give the Addicks breathing space. Fleetwood equalised from a 20 yard free-kick to which we appeared to make an appalling poor wall. The shot was hard and just over head height and it beat MacGillivray over his head but may have moved or taken a deflection in flight. As the second half wore on we had the chances to kill the game off but were profligate. Josh Davison hit the far post from an angle and Elliott Lee might have done better from a couple of decent positions before Leko squared for substitute Jayden Stockley to rifle home from six yards. 

We had to suffer a late bombardment as Fleetwood threw everything at us but we saw out six minutes of added time and the players looked mightily relived at the whistle. I think we still need to remind ourselves that this was only Fleetwood Town, fellow strugglers, and that they had, had their moments. Much more will be needed to repeat the feat at Lincoln in a fortnight. 

Harry Arter was back in the starting line-up alongside Alex Gilbey and whilst both were involved, Arter's role seemed to be limited to very short passes around him, too many of which went backwards for me. Charlie Kirk also came back into the side and whilst he saw more of the ball than he did last time out, he still looked off the pace and struggling to beat his man. 

In summary, I still don't think Adkins knows what his best side is but clearly he is relying on experience at the moment to try and shore up his reign.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bolton Wanderers 4

I am just home, tired, wet and thoroughly demoralised. I want my bed but I know that I won't sleep until I get this off my chest. Tonight must surely be the last game in charge for Nigel Adkins. If it is not, I will begin to suspect that Thomas Sandgaard isn't quite what he appears to be and that he is trying to bluff his way through this season and possibly his ownership.

Let me be clear, I do not hold Adkins wholly responsible for the dire trouble we find ourselves in and getting shot of him won't necessarily solve all of our problems. Those look deeper and more fundamental. We are ten games in and there should be no doubt that we are in a relegation battle and look like relegation candidates. You can say whatever you like about the squad but all the evidence is that we are nowhere good enough for League One.

Tonight's game started brightly enough. For the first time this season we looked in control and held it together for most of the first half. Corey Blackett-Taylor justified his start and within 12 minutes we were one -up. Another surging run and cross found Davison inside the six yard area and his volley beat Dixon with ease. After that we looked good attacking with ease and managing the midfield and defence, although once again, we were still short on clear-cut chances. I said to my mate that we had to get the second goal because we were slowing down and inviting an equaliser once again. Within a couple of minutes Bolton were level and half-time looming. 

In the second-half we simply wilted once again. The urgency was gone. Blackett-Taylor looked shot. Jonathan Leko took a knock and Washington was brought on, not that you have noticed over the next 30 minutes. Sean Clare and Ben Watson went missing and Bolton stepped into the gap. On 73 minutes we were opened up like a can of beans and Kieran Lee fired Bolton in front.

There was no response. Nothing. We just kicked off again, half-heartedly and the match was over. No leadership, no fire, no ownership. Gilbey came on for Clare and he went into hiding. Before the end we had the ridiculous substitution of Stockley for Watson. The midfield may have lost us the game but with Washington and Davison hardly seeing the ball, I am not sure what Adkins was thinking by taking a man out of the midfield. Bolton had walked a third in by then but it was very clear that we weren't coming back from this and no surprise when they scored a fourth which flattered them over the course of the evening but they deserved their win.

We cannot continue with Adkins in charge. He is getting no meaningful response from these players. Nothing he is trying is working. The club is being humiliated almost every week and we are in big, big trouble.

The longer this has gone on and the more we have seen of these players, it looks very much like our Summer rebuilding has been disastrous. We used to talk about bringing players to this club with the right mentality above all else. Players who often had something to prove. Players who were going to knuckle down and fight. Players with grit and attitude. Occasionally we got a bit of flair or real quality as well. Looking at the latest crop we seem desperately short of those qualities and it's hard to see who changes it. 

Ged Roddy has to answer for this. The scientific player analysis seems to have failed quite spectacularly. Stats may be useful but not sure how you measure heart and soul. We seem desperately short of it. I think everyone will now acknowledge it was all too late but the next booming question is just what quality have we brought in? It seems increasing clear too, that half of them are still not fully fit - it's October on Friday. That is disgraceful and an indictment on the club.

Ten games gone. Six meagre points from thirty (6 from 30). Three defeats away and three at home. It is not good enough by a country mile and someone has to do something. Thomas Sandgaard needs to step up to the plate and act. He also needs to address the recruitment piece and satisfy himself we aren't simply going to play musical chairs with the manager because the players aren't good enough.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Charlton Athletic 2 v Portsmouth 2

Charlton snatched an unlikely looking point in the 88th minute today, in another game of two differing halves. Portsmouth had the chances to have wrapped this game up by half-time after another woeful Valley opening. After half-time we showed in spells what most have us have expected to see all season - energy, pace, passing and movement. The draw will have saved Nigel Adkins from the bullet for now but he simply has to get a win on Tuesday at home to Bolton.

Thomas Sandgaard gave us a long piece in the week about how he thinks the club is progressing since his takeover and whilst there is plenty to note and admire on a number of fronts, sadly, the quality of our football in the opening nine games of the season hasn't been one of them. In a piece designed to back his manager and frustrate growing calls for him to be replaced, Sandgaard said "I'm still very confident that we're going to be looking really good at the end of the season." I am sure he means where we will finish as opposed to finally finding the formation, tactics and style required to win games in League One as we are relegated. Obviously we all hope he is right but there have been precious few signs of this so far.

After single-handedly sparking a first-half fire at Gillingham on Tuesday and having been described as "unplayable" by Adkins, Corey Blackett-Taylor must have been fuming to find he wasn't starting today. Instead, Gilbey and Leko were named with Arter back in central midfield. The first-half was another messy Charlton showing with Portsmouth taking the lead from a 20 minute wonder-strike from Curtis and Marquess fluffing a sitter from six yards. For once, we weren't penned in but our play from midfield was stuttering and too often our forwards were left to try and go it alone. Leko, in particularly, showed an urgency and determination to take Portsmouth on but it was all a bit staccato and real chances were very few once again. We squandered a series of crossing opportunities - our players appear to either be unable to get a ball off the ground or they blast it ten feet over the bar or towards the opposite corner flag. We were also guilty once again of being asleep at a set-piece. We have been doing this for weeks now. Gillingham's equaliser came from one such instant on Tuesday and we were nearly caught out again today. This is Janet-and-John stuff and another piece of evidence that does not support Nigel Adkins as League One's Best Manager. Gilbey had a decent chance before half-time after a good one-two with Leko but he chose to shoot from an angle at their advancing keeper when Stockley was waiting in space in the six yard box.

At half-time I predicted Harry Arter would come off and Corey Blackett-Taylor be unleashed.  I was none-to-pleased when Clare appeared after the break instead of Arter. As if to prove me personally wrong, Clare then scored a goal from a corner in which Pompey weren't fully awake. Elliott Lee played a hard and low pass to the edge of area and Clare picked it up and rifled a shot straight inside the keeper's near post.

After that and for fifteen glorious minutes, we managed to shut the Portsmouth fans up and we really got at them. Suddenly our midfielders were facing the opposition with the ball and showing for each other in space. We were actually passing and moving and Portsmouth were being pulled around. However, it didn't last and we lost a bit of cohesion I thought from Clare and Gilbey. Lee was still driving forward but now without so much support and we began looking forlornly for Stockley once again.

Portsmouth did not stop counter-attacking and when they did get forward it was usually with relative ease that they found big gaps in our back line. A second goal always looked likely and when it came, they opened us up in the middle and Harness had all the time he needed to pick his spot against old team mate MacGillivray. With the sound back on in the Jimmy Seed it looked like our heads would once again drop as defeat loomed but Adkins finally threw Corey Blackett-Taylor and Josh Davidson on. Within a couple of minutes they combined superbly for Davison to score a fine equaliser. 

The booming first-half choruses of "we're fucking shit, we're fucking shit, we're fucking shit" and "we want Ad-kins out, say we want Ad-kins out" looked a tad harsh but the facts are we have picked up just 6 points from 27 and have deserved no more. God was a little boy the last time we started a season so poorly and even then it was never in the depths of the third division. 

No-one truly wants their side to lose any games but we are at that stage when another loss should hasten the removal of the manager and perhaps give us a chance to start afresh. Another point is welcome but it is only that and we remain in the relegation places. We really must get a 90 minute performance against Bolton and three points on which Adkins can maybe turn a corner, but I am not hopeful. 

Effectively bottom after ten games would signal a massive failure. Our recruitment policy must bear a big chunk of that responsibility and whilst Sandgaard, Roddy and Gallen are putting a brave face on it, you know their position will eventually move to one of 'with hindsight.' In spite of that, Adkins has failed to put out a team that has played decent football for more than twenty minutes. We have created very few chances in most games and been awful to watch. He has changed his line-up and formations dramatically from one week to another and often failed to retain what did work from the game before. I don't want to hear him waffling on about changing to suit the opposition because patently it hasn't worked. Instead I want him to focus on getting the best side out that plays like a team, which is positive and confident and goes after the oppostion.

He accentuates the positive to the point of absurdity and often looks lost on the touchline. After Portsmouth opened the scoring today, the camera caught him standing there like a rabbit in the headlights. He didn't know where to look or what to do. Eventually he looked at his players and waved gently towards the centre-circle. I have stopped watching his post-match press conferences because it's just excuse making. I suspect this evening he will be full of how we nearly won a match and came away with a very good point at home. It doesn't really help Sandgaard's latest promise that we will be looking really good at the end of the season.