With 45 minutes to go before kick-off, not a Charlton fan within shouting distance of The Valley would have said no to a point against much fancied Blackburn. The news that Ricardo Fuller was missing through illness, in addition to long term absente Yann Kermorgant, left the home side very short up front. Forced to go with a 4-5-1 formation with Bradley Wright-Phillips up top on his own, a set of very worried Charlton fans expected little from the fixture.
Fast forward to 5pm and 17,000 home fans could feel justifiably frustrated not to leave the ground with the sense of joy a win brings. Chance after chance was created, near miss, save and controversial decisions followed. Completely dominating in midfield, The Addicks controlled the game giving Blackburn very few chances to get forward; Ben Hamer had no save to make. Blackburn’s one shot on goal was enough for them though to sneak an underserved 1-1 draw.
The game had a flat feel to it during the opening stages with both teams giving the ball away and very few chances created. The only threats on either goal came from blocked shots. Blackburn may have been finding it tough to settle without the influence of their manager Steve Kean, who resigned on Friday night just hours before kick-off; Charlton possibly struggling to adapt to a formation and team selection thrown together at the last minute. The highlight of the opening 15 minutes was the chorus of boos and abusive chants towards former Addick Danny Murphy, who was captaining the away side, after his acrimonious transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in 2006.
It took 16 minutes for the first meaningful attempt on goal, which resulted in Blackburn taking the lead. Solid passing led to Morten Gamst Pederson playing in Dickson Etuhu, who smashed home from close range. It was an unfortunate time for Charlton to concede as they’d just began to settle and exhibit some excellent passing triangles. There was a concern at that point that a long remaining 75 minutes would await, but Charlton continued to play the better football. Leon Cort even came close to equalising when his header sneaked just wide.
It looked like Charlton would finally be rewarded for their efforts when a penalty was awarded after Leon Cort was dragged down in the box following a long free-kick. The skipper Johnnie Jackson, who missed his last penalty in the shoot-out against Leyton Orient, stepped up and slammed his kick into the legs of Rovers’ keeper Paul Robinson. Again, heads could have easily dropped, but The Addicks regrouped quickly and 60 seconds later Danny Hollands’ bouncing volley flicked off Jackson’s head for his second goal of the season.
The home side’s domination began from their goal. Danny Green saw a deflected shot from inside the area hit the post and Cort continued to be a nuisance from set pieces. The two sides went in level at the break though, with Blackburn players bemoaning the penalty decision and Charlton players ruing their missed chances.
The Addicks came out after the interval and looked inspired. Cort had a header saved on the line that looked a dubious decision, whilst even the forced substitution of Jackson replaced by Pritchard failed to disturb the passing rhythm Charlton had developed in midfield. A ball in from Kerkar met the head of Morrison and somehow was stopped from hitting the net by a deflection of Wright-Phillips. You got the feeling it wasn’t going to be Charlton’s day at that point.
Blackburn created a number of half chances, but Rhodes and Gomez fluffed their lines with Hamer never breaking sweat. The lack of attacking threat may have been in part down to the poor performance of Murphy. Rarely passing anywhere but sideways and backwards, a lack of boos throughout the second half showed just how little he touched the ball. It wasn’t just Murphy though, Blackburn as a whole were below poor. A Steve Kean hangover is an obvious answer.
Going into the dying minutes, Charlton failed to give up hope. Green was certain he had a penalty after he was brought down in the box, but it came to nothing when it possibly deserved more. One final chance, and the most agonising, a free-kick from Danny Hollands found its way to Wright-Phillips who performed a stunning overhead kick only to see his effort tipped over the bar from Robinson.
Special mentions from the game go to Wilson, Green and Kerkar. Wilson has had many doubters, but he proved to them all he can play. Excellent in defence and even better going forward, linking up excellently with Green, the summer signing was pivotal in the team’s performance. Green, for possibly the first time, lived up to the hype of last summer. Beating his men time and time again and delivering balls that consistently beat the first man, he was a real threat. On the other wing, Kerkar showed similar ability to beat his man, but failed to deliver a final ball on a consistent basis, but when he did, my word, it was excellent. If he can sort his delivery out, he’ll be an excellent player in this division. Of course, it goes without saying that Solly, Morrison, Cort and Wright-Phillips were outstanding too.
A fantastic performance from Charlton that wasn’t on the cards before kick-off has raised hope we can comfortably apply ourselves in this division. The display was something akin to last season: comfortable, wonderful to watch and that feeling a goal was always going to come. Of course, it didn’t, but with a bit more luck, it could have been a completely different result. If Lady Luck shines in SE7 on Tuesday in addition to a repeat performance against Watford, three points must surely be on their way.
It seems ridiculous to be talking about must win games and six pointers just over a month into the season, and so it is. But even with 120 points still left to play for, both Ipswich and Charlton will be desperate to secure a vital three points to move away from the relegation zone. Ipswich, 23rd on 5 points, have won one game all season, form that has caused fans to question the quality of both manager Paul Jewell and his players. Newly promoted Charlton have had their fans question Chris Powell’s tactics and team selection, a fact that was justified in Tuesday night’s defeat to Derby where the introduction of Ricardo Fuller and Salim Kerkar changed the game. Even at such an early stage, playing catch up to the vast majority of other teams is physically and mentally difficult for any team. The winner of this match will go a long way to avoiding that situation.
Charlton Team News
Powell began to tinker with his team on Tuesday, with the injured Rhoys Wiggins replaced with Lawrie Wilson and Danny Green coming in on the right to add true width. It was the decision to play Wilson at left back ahead of Cedric Evina that angered most fans, with the general consensus being the 20 year old former Arsenal academy player deserved his chance. Following Wilson’s indifferent display, question marks remain over who will start at Ipswich. There are no doubts however over Green’s starting place. Following an exceptional display at Derby that saw him score a goal of the season contender and create a goal for Yann Kermorgant, Powell confirmed he would be starting on Saturday. Powell has also hinted at Ricardo Fuller making his first start, and the Jamaican will start up to with Kermorgant. The only other change from the team that faced Derby may be a full league debut for Salim Kerkar replacing Danny Hollands, who has looked lost at times in The Championship, but Powell is unlikely to make so many changes.
Ipswich Team News
With goals being a problem for Ipswich, the news that first choice front pair Michael Chopra and Paul Taylor are doubts is disastrous for the Suffolk club. Jason Scotland and Jay Emmanual-Thomas will be the likely stand ins if needed, whilst Daryl Murphy will also be pushing to start, but neither of the trio have a goal to their name this season. The Tractor Boys’ back four has also been a problem this season, with 13 goals conceded, but with a lack of options, it’s likely to remain unchanged. Former Charlton loanee Lee Martin is expected to start against his old club.
Prediction: Ipswich 1-2 Charlton
Three points. No matter how they come, three points must be collected by The Addicks come 5pm.
Crystal Palace beat their South East London rivals Charlton at The Valley for the first time on a league fixture for the first time since 1968. A goal from South African midfield Kagisho Dikgacoi from a poorly defended corner was enough to give the Eagles a 1-0 victory.
It wasn’t as simple as it may sound for the away side, as Charlton created a number of chances but failed to convert, most notably from Ricardo Fuller and a Ben Hamer header as the keeper came up for the dying seconds of the game. The incident that made the Charlton fans most bitter was a goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips after a Leon Cort flick on that was wrongly ruled offside when the score was still 0-0.
The cracks can be glossed over thousands of time, the ‘we were unlucky’ comment can be passed around and the officials can be blamed, but the facts still remain. Charlton have not performed in the last two fixtures. Mainly due to individuals not performing, but Chris Powell’s team selections and tactics haven’t helped.
Crystal Palace’s strengths highlighted where The Addicks are going wrong. Wilfred Zaha and Yannick Bolasie teared the Charlton defence apart with great pace and trickery down the wings. Those two players were the difference in the overall game and the reason Palace dominated possession so much. Charlton were forced to play long ball football, and with Ramage and Jedinak limiting Kermorgant’s threat brilliantly at the back, it was often a case of lumping the ball up only to lose it straight away.
Johnnie Jackson and Bradley Pritchard have not been up to scratch this season, partly through no fault of their own. They are not wingers. Neither have the pace or trickery that the likes of Zaha and Bolasie do. Time and time again, the ball is lost or chances aren’t created because of the weakness of the wings. Jackson has the support of Wiggins, and it was evident how ineffective he became without the Welshman’s ability down the flank when he was forced off with an injury that has caused concern.
Starting with out and out wingers is a must. It was no coincidence that Charlton played their best football, all be it in a 10 minute spell, when Danny Green came on. An inconsistent and frustrating player, Green has a talented player hiding away inside him, and if he can replicate his performance last night consistently, that player will stop being so shy. A similar last 10 minutes happened at Forest, with Salim Kerkar coming on, creating a goal and almost scoring one himself. We have a number of wingers at the club: Green, Kerkar, Wagstaff, Cook. They’re all talented. Two of the four must start at Derby.
Both Jackson and Pritchard were fantastic players last season, and I don’t doubt their ability, but bring them inside. A centre midfield paring of Jackson alongside Stephens or Hollands would be excellent. Pritchard has shown he has a lot to learn, but against Birmingham and Leicester, he showed his talent. He should be an impact player off the bench at the moment, but not forgotten.
It’s early days, and anything can happen. I think we’ll be safe and in no danger of relegation at any point, but things need to change.
It may be a cliche, but the derby games always attracts the eyes of the fans when the fixtures are published. Both sets of fans would have been delighted to see this game played so early on in the season. After three years without meeting, and two weeks without a fixture for either side, Chartlon and Palace will be raring to go in this huge South London clash. With an expected crowd of 22,000, an expected full debut for Ricardo Fuller and the added factor of Sky Sports the Friday night lights, the atmosphere will no doubt live up to expectation. It’s not all about bragging rights though. Both teams have started their seasons indifferently, Palace only collecting three points and Charlton putting in a worrying performance last time out against Nottingham Forest. A win for either side could kick them on to greater things.
Charlton Team News
There’s only one place start, and that’s the small matter of Ricardo Fuller. An impressive 15 minutes off the bench at Forest has already won the fans over and there’s a general felling the Jamaican will be making his first start in an Addicks’ shirt tomorrow. The former Palace man, who this week signaled his intentions to ‘wear his heart on his sleeve’ if selected, will line up with either Yann Kermorgant or Bradley Wright-Phillips, with the former likely to be the man who gets the nod. Dale Stephens is more than likely going to reenter the fold after missing the Forest game after speculation linking him with a move to Aston Villa. This will see youngster Jordan Cook resume duties on the bench. Scott Wagstaff is back after injury and will fight for a place on the right with Bradley Pirtchard and Danny Green. Leon Cort and Danny Haynes join Wagstaff in resuming full training, but Taylor, Hughes and Pope remain sidelined. Rhoys Wiggins, like Fuller, will be facing his former club and he’ll line up at the back with Morrison, Cort and Solly in front of Ben Hamer.
Away Team News
Former Addick and Palace captain Paddy McCarthy will miss out after being sidelined for month with injury, so Peter Ramage is likely to be joined at the back by powerhouse Johnathan Parr, who has dropped back from midfield. Highly rated youngster Johnathan Williams is back from a thigh injury and is pushing to start, along with deadline day loan signing David Goodwillie. The Eagles main threat will come in terms of pace with wonderkid Wilfred Zaha and former Charlton target Yannick Bolasie expected to play.
Prediction: Charlton 3-0 Palace
I’m confident, and probably overly so, but I really feel Ricardo Fuller will make the difference in this one.
Over 20,000 empty seats for a competitive fixture. The novelty of Wembley has long worn off and charging £60 a ticket doesn’t encourage anyone, especially on a Tuesday night with the West London stadium’s dreadful transport links. The embarrassment of an empty top tier is surely a sign The FA should make some changes, not only reduce prices but move England games around the country once again.
During the period when the new Wembley as being built, England played internationals at 14 different grounds. From St. James’ Park to Portman Road, from Old Trafford to Pride Park, the attendances were always good. Why? The prospect of seeing the national team at their local ground was an opportunity not to be missed for supports. Continuously playing fixtures in one location that has lost the novelty of being new does not conjurer up the same excitement. Wembley is a wonderful place for a cup final, or even a major international, but not a midweek friendly.
The cost of tickets is an issue in the whole of football, not just at the highest level. A student ticket at Ipswich Town, a club in the second tier of English football don’t forget, costs the grand sum of £24. An adult ticket shouldn’t cost that much for that level of football. In most areas of the ground at Wembley, there is no cheaper ticket for children. A father and his son would be robbed of £120 even before transport, a programme and food are considered. The building of Wembley was a complete failure, and of course The FA are doing everything they can to make their money back, but they can’t make a profit when the cost of a game puts the punter well out of pocket.
There’s no thrill to England internationals in the current set up. Changes have to be made. It’s over to you FA.
The 25 man squad rule in the Premier League is a curious one. What does it achieve? Well not very much. It’s aim is to prevent clubs stockpiling players, increase the number of ‘homegrown’ players being used and give those under the age of 21 more value and chance in the first team picture. It does this to some extent, with Man City being forced to sell their dead weight in the summer transfer window for example, but most squads are filled with reserve players who wont feature all season (David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas at Spurs the prime culprits), contain the minimum (eight) homegrown players and the young players still don’t get a look in.
For every Bentley and Jenas, there’s a fringe player who misses out on the 25 man squad. Most all of them will be available for loan, and with the emergency loan window opening on Friday, expect some unhappy 30 somethings turning up at a Championship club waxing lyrical about having a point to prove.
Elliot Ward – Norwich
The centre back has a wealth of Championship experience and two promotions at West ham and Norwich under his belt, and following his admission from The Canaries 25 man squad, it would seem he’ll be heading back there very soon. The injury hit defender played every game for Norwich last season after coming back from knee problems, but following the signings of Michael Turner, Sebastian Bassong and yet another pre-season injury, Ward has seen himself knocked down the pecking order. Strong tackling, good in the air and still only 27, he’d be an excellent acquisition for a club looking to bolster their defensive options.
Michael Johnson – Manchester City
Once upon a time, a young Michael Johnson was the next biggest thing in English football. After breaking into the Man City first team at the age of just 19, he was seen as a future England international. But injuries, personal problems and weight issues has meant Johnson has played just 19 times in the last 4 seasons, 9 of which came during a loan spell at Leicester City last season that was curtailed by injury. Subsequently, he’s been left out of City’s squad but is in need of game time to get his career back on tract. It’s a huge gamble. Is he fit and going to stay fit? Is he worth the wages? Does he still have ability? There are so many questions that wont be answered until he is given some game time, but he’s still just 24 and there may be a club in the Football League willing to take a risk.
DJ Campbell, Luke Young, Rob Hulse, Radek Cerny – QPR
Following QPR’s transfer policy of buying anyone who used to be somewhat good and still has a fully functional pulse, there’s a lot dead wood that needs to be removed. Campbell showed he can do it at the highest level with an impressive goal tally for relegated Blackpool two seasons ago, whilst Hulse, despite injury plagued, has scored goals throughout his career and both would be an impressive loan signing for a Championship club. Radek Cerny, an experienced keeper, was first choice as QPR won promotion in 2011 and has played for Spurs and the Czech Republic national team. Although those days are past him at 38, he would still have something to offer as an excellent shot stopper. Finally, the most impressive of the four, Young has played in the Premier League for his entire career, has 7 England caps and played 25 times last season. He still has more than enough ability to play in The Championship and doesn’t deserve to waste his time away in QPR’s reserves.
It’s rather odd. It had been suggested by many that if one player were to be lost from the favoured starting XI, Dale Stephens would be that man. He missed a large chunk of last term with injuries, during which The Addicks played some of their best football with Danny Hollands taking a more attacking role in the guidance of either Andy Hughes, Darrel Russell or newly converted winger Bradley Pritchard in a holding position. It was generally accepted that the rumoured sum being offered by Aston Villa for Stephens was for more exciting than actually keeping him.
It was the midfield though, lacking the 22 year old midfielder, that played the most crucial part in Charlton being thoroughly outplayed by Nottingham Forest. It was obvious that without the calming, metronomic like approach from Stephens, the midfield struggled to keep possession, build meaningful attacks and were forced to chase the shadows of the slick Forest side for much of the game. The replacements failed to cover his absence.
The easiest approach would have been to bring Pritchard back inside and pair him with Hollands in the centre whilst bringing in Scott Wagstaff or Danny Green to fill the vacant slot on the right of midfield. Instead, and it pains me to criticise, Powell made a terrible mistake in placing you Jordan Cook, a winger by trade, in the middle. Not only did he fail to keep possession with his passing but he was often bullied off the ball by the dominant Forest midfield and on numerous occasions found himself wondering out wide to his natural position on the wing, leaving a gap in the centre. On the wings, Jackson and Pritchard caused no concern at all for the Forest defence with an obvious lack of pace, Prichard in particular was dominated by his midfield counterpart Andy Reid who took the ball from his feet time and time again.
Forest on the other hand were exceptional in midfield. Reid and Lewis Mcgugan caused constant problems, especially with Jackson and Pritchard leaving Wiggins and Solly exposed time and time again. In the middle, the calm Stephens like passing from Guedioura and man of the match Gillet kept the ball ticking over and gave little opportunity for The Addicks to win it back. It was a lesson in how to play through the midfield with the ball on the deck.
The goals themselves came from defensive mistakes. A free-kick, which in all fairness shouldn’t have been given, from Mcgugan avoided everyone, including the flapping hands of Ben Hamer, and somehow found itself buried in the bottom corner of the net. Hamer, who had been Charlton’s start performer up to then, was the only man to blame despite his attempts to pass it on to anyone in a black shirt within 20 yards of his goal.
The second goal was a perfect example of the midfield weaknesses, with Jackson being easily pushed off the ball, before some neat passing play saw a good finish from Chelsea loany Sam Hutchinson. It may have been a goal that was warranted for the home side, but just two minutes earlier substitute Danny Haynes failed to control a ball put through by Solly that would have seen him one on one with Lee Camp in the Forest goal.
Camp looked uncomfortable all game, the only Forest player not to perform, and continued to spill the ball. The one bright spark for Charlton was the introduction of Ricardo Fuller and Salim Kerkar that gave The Addicks 10 minutes of dominance at the end of the game. Fuller, who showed unbelievable control and great skill, forced the Charlton goal after seeing his header hit the post only for it to rebound and scramble though Camp’s feet for an own goal. In the dying moments, Fuller bamboozled the Forest defence out wide and pulled the ball back for Kerkar, who’s shot looked like it may have been blocked by the hands of Daniel Ayala. A goal and point though would not have been deserved, as Forest controlled the game for start to finish. Even in Charlton’s brief spell of pressure their calm passing game remained.
The first defeat of many, but plenty of teams will come away empty from The City Ground. Powell will have to shuffle his cards for Palace and fix the issues in midfield though; it wasn’t just a dominant Forest, it was a poor Charlton.