Sunday 27 March 2022

Doncaster Rovers 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

What will be a rare double this season was secured against lowly Doncaster Rovers yesterday whilst I was enjoying a long lunch in East Greenwich. I looked at my phone a couple of times to see that we had missed a load of chances, including a penalty and then that we were one-up.

The third successive win against poor opposition means we are safely in mid-table and finally kills the season. Looking at our remaining fixtures there's nothing much to get excited about either. 

Roll-on the player clear-out and rebuilding for next season...

Sunday 20 March 2022

Charlton Athletic 2 v Burton Albion 0

Two home wins inside five days and the threat of relegation has faded away. Like Tuesday, the opposition made it relatively comfortable for us in what was a scrappy match.

Goals from Conor Washington and Corey Blackett-Taylor before half-time finished the game as a contest and both sides waded through the second-half. Not sure how Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink could claim his side deserved something from the game but he was claiming to be the next Charlton manager before Johnnie Jackson was appointed, so maybe a fit of pique.

The goals were really the highlight of the game. The first was a straightforward punt from MacGillivray and a chase from Washington who shook off his marker and managed to lift the ball over the advancing keeper for the opener after 12 minutes. Corey Blackett-Taylor got his first league goal for the club before half-time. Cutting in from the left and pulling a couple of defenders inside with him, he took a snap-shot back towards the near-post. It didn't look to have the pace to beat the keeper but the covering defenders may have disguised it sufficiently to deceive him and it crept in. 

After that, I had one eye on the football and the other on Italy's brave battle in the Millenium Stadium. All the action was in Cardiff. 

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Charlton Athletic 1 v Gillingham 0

Huge relief at the Valley last night as Charlton ground out a fairly straightforward one-nil victory. In a game short of goal-scoring chances at either end, the home side saw far more possession than in recent months and the quantity of balls into the box was much better, even if the quality wasn't.

The win gives us a ten point cushion over Gillingham and Morecambe in the drop zone. Another six points and we should be safe but it will need more performances like this. If the players revert to what we have seen in the last six weeks we could still be in for a nervy last few matches.

It was good to Stockley and Washington back in tandem up font and they were ably supported for a change by a central midfield three of Fraser, Dobson and Gilbey who found it relatively easy against a struggling Gills side. Corey Blackett-Taylor made an unexpected return to the left wing. Probably in recognition of his best game for us in the away leg earlier in the season. He wasn't as effective as that night but he still gave McKenzie loads of problems and managed to swing over a succession of crosses and a few shots when cutting inside. It was one of these that lead to the Charlton goal before half-time. He had moved into the centre of goal and with it all to aim for, he push his shot straight at Dahlberg. It didn't look threatening but the Gills Keeper spilled the shot and Stockley pounced on the rebound. Dahlberg smothered that at close range to but it bounced back to Gilbey in more space and he had the time to measure his shot into the back of the net.

Gillingham had tested us a couple of times in the first-half but McGillivray had saved both efforts. After the break I expected an assault from the visitors attacking their end but it didn't come and we continue to maintain pressure from midfield without seriously threatening their goal. Pearce came on for a tiring Blackett-Taylor before the end but the win was never in doubt.

I was worried about the defensive centre of Clare, Lavelle and Purrington, but Lavelle took responsibility and was barking instructions throughout which was great to see. Matthews struggled to get past the half-way line and we saw far too many balls played back across the back three. However, the difference this evening was that Dobson and Fraser were finding space in the midfield and we were able to move the ball forward. Gilbey was in behind the front two and actually had the best couple of chances but dragged a good opportunity wide in the first-half and missed a second after the break. After a very disappointing couple of months, it was good to see him step up this evening but it's too little, too late for me and I hope he is moved on during the Summer. My concern is that he's the sort of player Jackson might make a case for because he has the ability. The facts are though that he is simply far too inconsistent to command a regular place. Hard too not to see Blackett-Taylor's latest showing as a "time to put in a shift" game which is also nowhere near good enough at this stage in the season. 

On a more positive note, Fraser looked very assured in the midfield. He has great balance and sudden change of direction which creates space he drives into. Him and Dobson could make a great pairing in a 4-4-2 if we can find some really decent attacking wingers. Stockley won his share of headers but most were in and around the box, and not in the six yard area where it really counts. Washington pulled his markers about but saw much less of the ball. 

If we can maintain this level of effort and concentration, Burton should be a second successive victory and all but end any serious relegation talk.

Monday 14 March 2022

18th defeat of the season as Accrington Stanley do the Double

Pleased to say I enjoyed a long-awaited break in Italy this weekend watching Scotland beat Italy in the 6 Nations and drinking cold beer in the Spring sunshine. A break from the depressing news of Russians shelling desperately poor souls in Ukraine as well as the continuing decline and humiliation of Charlton Athletic Football Club back home.

News, when I could finally be bothered too look, was as predictable as the Russian onslaught. We had managed to score a goal (a penalty of course) but had then collapsed at the double and failed to take advantage of ten men for the final thirty minutes of the match when we couldn't even manage an attempt on goal. Just how desperate are we? I'll tell you, the latest defeat means we have lost half the games we have played and won only eleven of the other eighteen.

Jackson continues to stick with the only formation he appears to have heard about, which we can't play, even when we are losing and should be chasing the game. If I were Thomas Sandgaard I would be looking at exercising any option at the end of the season to allow Jackson to further his career elsewhere. Sadly, I think we also need to clear-out the rest of the coaching team who have demonstrably failed now for several seasons running.

As for the Summer player cull I don't think there will be many looking to watch any of these players again saving Player of the Season, George Dobson. We shouldn't even announce a runner-up because it would be disrespectful to Dobson. The size of the turnaround is massive but it can be done - Powell did it in 2011. Trouble is, Jackson won't have the heart for it, Sandgaard hasn't got the money for it and I am frightened what our starting line-up will look like in August. A team largely of losers with suntans. If that's the case, I won't be back. I have watched more matches on the box than in the ground this season and I have been giving up of late even suffering it at home after we inevitably fall behind. 

I will say once again, that when I started this blog 15 years ago, I named it after that point in so many of the depressing seasons of the past when home performances were so poor that the only pleasure left was to head down to the Covered End and drink as much Light Ale as you could before the match finished. In my heart I was hoping to look back with a sort of romantic fondness for those days safe in the knowledge that we were enjoying far better times. How wrong I was. It's been a slow and gradual suffering like someone dying from a terminal illness and it hurts like hell. 

Saturday 5 March 2022

Charlton Athletic 0 v Sunderland 0

First the good news. We managed a point to stop the rot and avoid a record sixth successive League One defeat. None of the five bottom sides managed to make any ground on us either.

The not-so-good news was that it was another home performance without creating an effort on target. Sunderland dominated possession for long spells and should have been ahead at half-time but they wasting several great aerial chances and Craig MacGillivray made a couple of decent saves.

After the break we saw more of the ball but our chances were limited to a couple of headers, the best of which saw Lavelle narrowly miss the near post from a corner. Jayden Stockley might have stole it at the death when he drifted clear of the backline but fluffed his volley.

Other than that, Jackson persisted with his 3-5-2 formation even though we don't have the personnel to play it and in practice it was a 5-3-2. The clean sheet was hard earned given Pearce and Gunter were together in the nominal back three with Lavelle. Jaiyesimi and Purrington hardly got across the halfway line and it was left to Fraser, Dobson and Lee to be creative. Fraser had moments but is clearly still not fit and was eventually subbed for Gilbey. Dobson toiled hard again and earned his wages but Lee was a disappointment once more.

Stockley did his best work in defence and Burstow again huffed and puffed but saw little of the ball and had limited support when he did see it. 

I think we should be able to beat hopeless Gillingham at the Valley shortly (they were beaten 3-0 at home today by Bolton) and a victory over Burton and/or Morecombe with a couple of draws should be enough to secure our League One status for next season.

Away from the match, those marketing geniuses over-seeing the distribution of targeted complimentary tickets for home matches as part of the increasingly naive Fill The Valley initiative also managed to anger paying supporters today when it became apparent that bundles of tickets are simply being handed out from a food outlet in Plumstead. It appears to be making little difference, however, as the gate today was 13,000 which included nearly three thousand visitors on top of 9,000 already paid season tickets. The season ticket offer for next year is going to have to be far better thought-through if we aren't to see a fair sized drop in renewals as increasing numbers of supporters now deem it poor value-for-money (apart from the poor football). If the club doesn't get a grip soon, Fill The Valley could turn into Empty The Valley. It really is a mess and should have been sorted out before now. 

Friday 4 March 2022

Sandgaard Update to CAST

It was good to hear first-hand from Thomas Sandgaard as he answered dozens of questions from nearly 200 supporters at a very well-run CAST zoom forum (link to notes at the bottom of this post). Thought I'd chip in on the main points as I saw them;

- he was asked if he remained as ambitious as he was two years ago and if he still had the personal finances to move the club forward. No surprise at all that he said he remained as determined to stick as closely to his five year plan as possible in spite of the 'slow start.' He was also quite forthright about having already made a lot of money since floating his US business through share sales. These are documented and fair to say he has the money if he still wants to spend it on the club.

- asked about his longer term intentions to acquire the Valley and Sparrows Lane, I was surprised to hear him jump straight in and say that he has been in dialogue about this recently and was exploring options although nothing imminent as things stand. 

- he was questioned over his recent claim that the club lost £100m under previous owners dating back to the Premier League period and that, somehow, Duchatelet had improved things! This has already been pulled apart by Rick Everett (who's figures I would put my money on). Thomas tried to gloss over this and got a tad irritated and closed it off by saying he won't be questioned on his maths because he understand numbers. Not sure what point he is trying to make here other than perhaps making his existing losses look far better but we aren't comparing Paolo Di Canio here with Alex Gilbey. 

- Fill the Valley also got an airing and he acknowledged mistakes but appears intent on continuing using a paid third party agency to help distribute tickets. I    cannot understand why he doesn't involve fans who intuitively understand this and would do it for nothing. Specifically he said he was working on a new Season Ticket deal that would be attractive and deter holders from going week-to-week, free-deal-to-free-deal....

- Finally, and the most important piece for me was the debate about our recruitment plans for this year which obviously touched on last Summer. He said that Adkins was unhappy with the delayed recruitment last Summer and that they had had words over that, but he dismissed it as being down to greedy agents who allowed us to be gazumped on a couple of deals. That was a major under-call as far as I am concerned. Your Summer recruitment shouldn't be derailed and run until the last day of the transfer window two months into the season because you don't get two deals done earlier. In response to the question about his plan for this year he made the statement that some players will stay, some will go and there will be loans which tells us nothing. Pressed on numbers following the radio show this week where he mentioned bringing in two new players, he said he was looking at "two to four" and later added "maybe five" and then "maybe six." He then said that he expected one of these to be an experienced quality player and the rest 'investment players.' This was worrying because his view of 'investment players' on experience so far are players who aren't immediately able to play at the required standard week-in-week-out - Kirk being a prime example. If that remains the case, I can see his actual intention being closer to his original claim of two or maybe two-to-four. Loans would be additional but that he said he was looking at more affordable 'quality loans' than we have been used to. Numbers-wise, five or six replacements and five loanees would allow us to churn 10 or 11 which is the minimum I think we have to see if we are to change the mentality and culture in the current squad. If we can't do that, I can't see what will change.

Full CAST Notes at