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.