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.