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.