Chris Powell's Flat Cap

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Outstanding Addicks Pick Up Well Deserved Point

If you had offered me two points from the two tricky away games this week, I would have bitten your hand off. Leeds, much like today’s trip to Wolves, is a very tough place to travel and both teams are packed with quality; both would have felt a win against Charlton was a must. And yet, despite picking up two points with two 1-1 draws, Charlton can consider themselves very unlucky not to have at least 4 points, if not all 6.

Where Tuesday’s game saw Leeds’ keeper Paddy Kenny pull of an outstanding last minute save from Bradley Wright-Phillips, today saw Rob Hulse miss a hat full of chances to give his side all three points, not least a header in the last minute. Two excellent performances away from home that offer a lot more positives than negatives will see the Addicks go into back-to-back home games brimming with hope that three points will be forthcoming.

To today’s game, and Charlton remained unchanged from the Leeds encounter, as did Wolves from their game against Bolton in midweek. The half began in a quiet fashion with no real chances created for either team as both were restricted to long range efforts that didn’t trouble the keepers. With the first chance of the half though, game the first goal. Cedric Evina was unfortunate to see a pass from a Wolves shirt deflect off his legs and go straight into the path of Kevin Foley, who’s pinpoint cross was side footed home on the volley by Bakary Sako.

Wolves took control of the half following their goal without threatening to any real extent. Their efforts on goal were comfortably saved by Ben Hamer and they seemed to want to look for one more pass when the short or a dribble was on. Charlton were struggling to keep the ball and misplaced passes regularly, their only significant chance coming from Salim Kerkar’s curling shot from outside the area that just cleared the crossbar. At times though, the build up play looked promising, especially down the right hand side with Chris Solly and Lawrie Wilson, but the end product was lacking. Hope for Charlton was certainly not lost as the half time whistle blew. Hope, however, could have been lost in the opening stages of the second half.

A Wolves break saw the ball drop to Tongo Doumbia inside the area with the perfect sight of goal. His powerful shot looked to be heading home, when Kevin Doyle got his head in the way of the ball, which deflected the ball into the net. Thankfully for the Addicks, the Irishman was in an offside position and they were given a lucky reprieve.

Charlton took full advantage of the let off by equalising moments later. A fantastic ball from Evina on the left was poorly defended by the Wolves’ defence, giving Rob Hulse the perfect chance to open his account for the Addicks. Somehow though, he missed two absolute sitters after his original effort was saved by Carl Ikeme and then saw his rebounded effort, somehow, hit the post from centimeters out. Thankfully, Lawrie Wilson was on hand to put home the third chance and pull Charlton level with his first goal fro the club, and a goal that was much deserved from his all round performance.

The goal saw Charlton have a brief period of domination. A few minutes after his poor finishing, Hulse was unlucky not to redeem himself when his header hit the post. He soon had another chance when Bradley Pritchard’s through ball played him in, but he couldn’t beat Ikeme when one-on-one.

With the Addicks seemingly going for the win, Charlton fans soon had their hearts in their mouths as Ben Hamer took one step too many with the ball in his hands and Wolves were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. Despite the ball beating the wall, Hamer was equal to the flat drive from Sake. This was the start of a nervy last 10 minutes for Charlton, who struggled to get on the ball but solidly kept Wolves at bay.

With the game heading for stoppage time, Hulse missed yet another guilt edge chance that should have snatched three points for Charlton. Wilson, again a danger for the Wolves defence, chased onto a long ball, cut it back to Solly who dinked the ball into Hulse, with the resulting header somehow going wide when it looked easier to score.

The last chance fell to Sako for Wolves, who scuffed a volley way off-target following a headed knockdown. A chorus of boos rang out from the home fans following the full time whistle, but Wolves certainly weren’t poor. Charlton’s display in second half was outstanding and the point was much deserved. The draw was a fair result for both sides, but both will bemoan their failure to finish their chances.

An outstanding display from the Addicks, but a failure to finish chances meant more dropped points yet again. I feel like I’ve said this on several occasions but the signs are promising. Wilson on the right wing works perfectly, with it clearly being his natural position and it gives the chance for Solly to move back to right back. Evina looked good at left back, as did Prichard in his favoured centre midfield position. Despite the missed chances, Hulse did very well up front on his own, holding up the play and winning his fair share of challenges. The wins will come if the second half performance can be replicated, especially at home where we have struggled. A win from one of the next two games is a must.


Poor Charlton Pay the Price in Midfield as Dominant Barnsley Secure Victory

A game that began with so much anticipation and excitement, yet the final outcome could not have been any more contrasting. After a two week break following the internationals, Charlton’s players failed to replicate their performance last time out against Blackpool and disappointed the bumper ‘Football for a Fiver’ crowd as Barnsley outplayed them from start to finish in a 1-0 defeat.

Once again the ‘it was the ref’s fault’ excuse has been put about, but he wasn’t to blame for the inability of the Addicks to string more than a couple of passes together as the ball was lost in midfield time and time again. Nor was he to blame for Danny Green’s individual error that saw Tomasz Cywka smash home Barnsley’s winner from a tight angle.

There wasn’t much to talk about in the first half with only a handfull of chances for both sides, but Barnsley were in control. The passing was controlled, movement on and off the ball fantastic and challenging strong once possession had been lost, epitimised by David Perkins’ ability to be in every square inch of grass at the same time, yet they seemed to hold onto the ball for long periods of time without any Charlton player attempting to close the ball down. It was clear Barnsley were an excellent passing side, but we let them play to their strengths. This passing play almost led to a chance on a number of occasions, but the only genuine opportunity fell to Chris Dagnell, who failed to get the ball out of his feet from three yards out and Ben Hamer managed to pick up the pieces.

The only chance of any note for the home side fell to Abdul Razak who saw his curling free-kick saved by Ben Alnwick in the Barnsley goal. The Barnsley dominance in midfield meant the Addicks failed to build any meaningful attacks. Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands struggled to pick out red shirts whilst Danny Green and Salim Kerkar had little opportunity to get forward down the wings. Chris Powell would have been delighted to see his side go in level at the break, giving him the opportunity to address the flaws within the performance.

Despite a change in formation, to 4-4-2 with Wright-Phillips and Johnnie Jackson coming on, the outlook of the game didn’t. Barnsley continued to dominate possession but creating very few chances; Chris Dagnell volleying just wide from Jacob Mellis free kick was the only genuine chance before the hour mark. But Cywka soon changed that, smashing home from after Green’s mistake.

The goal seemed to put at least a little bit of life into the Addicks, but to no avail. Chris Solly had a penalty shout turned down that riled the home fans and did look indeed like a foul from Dagnell, Stephens shot just wide and Lawrie Wilson put a number of balls into the box that failed to find a man. The frustrated home side weren’t helped by some of the referees decisions, with tempers boiling over into handbags that saw Solly and Barnsley’s Dawson booked. Despite a late serge that saw a goalmouth scramble and Ben Hamer find himself in the opposition’s box once again, the disappointing performance got what it merited.

The afternoon was made even worse when with 10 minutes to play, Ricardo Fuller pulled up clutching his hamstring. With no substitutions left, Charlton were forced to play out the game a man light. Yet another name to add to the growing injury list as Chris Powell confirmed after the game he would be missing for a number of weeks. Powell even mentioned bringing back Leon Clarke, hopefully as nothing more than cover to Wright-Phillips, Rob Hulse and Michael Smith.

Despite the injuries, the main concern for Charlton is the midfield. It was obvious from the contrast in quality between our’s and Barnsley’s, a side who are at best mid-table, that there is definitely something lacking. It didn’t do it’s job with five or four men and it’s not a question of formation, it’s more a question of ability to pass and travel with the ball. The likes of Stephens, Hollands and Jackson must start picking up their game in order for us to move up this division.

Racism will remain a problem in football until proper sanctions are issued

The events of this week and a number of weeks before it have highlighted the issues of racism within in our game. It’s easy to say ‘oh but that’s just in Eastern Europe, we’re fine over here, move alone chaps’, but that isn’t the case. Aside from the troubles out in Serbia, Brentford’s Clayton Donaldson was subject to racial abuse via Twitter, there were accusations (albeit accusations with much doubt cast over them) that Oldham winger Lee Croft racially abused a ball boy, Millwall fans allegedly racially abused Bolton striker Marvin Sordell and the actions of Chelsea in the John Terry case. Although these incidents don’t necessarily mean racism is rife in English football, which it isn’t, they do show how we deal with racism is a problem.

Millwall have denied it, pointing those questioning whether or not they are a racist club to their work in their community and the fact their player of the year, Jimmy Abdou, is black. In a similar manner, Croft’s manager Paul Dickov said after the match against in Sheffield United, in which the accusations arose, the Croft can’t have been guilty because he’s a lovely chap and wouldn’t harm a fly, even calling it ‘ridiculous’. As it’s transpired, it would seem Dickov was correct, but should managers really be defending their players in such a manner when the accusations have just been made with little evidence either way?

Chelsea’s backing of John Terry is rather odd. After he accepted his punishment for using a racial term against Anton Ferdinand, the club have said they have internally sanctioned him but wont reveal what those sanctions are. No doubt he will continue as captain. When compared to Chelsea’s dealings with a fan, who was banned for three years for using a racist language, it does seem like the punishments for racism are not going far enough. Clubs are too willing to stand by their players, those who dish out the punishments from above often go soft and, if Sepp Blatter had his way, it would all just be solved by a handshake.

Blatter and his cronies at FIFA, along with Platini at UEFA, are the main culprits of soft punishment. Not only has Blatter suggested his handshake gesture, but UEFA have enforced fines of a lesser extent for racism than for Nicklas Bendtner wearing Paddy Power shorts. They care more about their sponsorship deals than clamping down on racism, well I’m sure they don’t, but that’s the message they’re putting across.

UEFA’s decision to charge both Serbia and England following the brawl at the end of their under 21 play-off fixture has set a dangerous precedent. They’ve already made it clear that players choosing to walk off the pitch when being the victims of racial abuse is not acceptable, and by charging England, it would seem racial abuse must be taking on the chin. I’m not saying England are totally innocent, the coaching staff getting involved probably hasn’t helped that, but they have reacted to a nightmare situation and UEFA have to understand that. In fact, the English players coped admirably. Danny Rose only wrong doing was to kick the ball away in anger and frustration, emotions he so easily could have taken out a Serbian player, fan or coaching staff member, whilst Jack Butland showed maturity well above his young years to calm his team mates down and get them down the tunnel. The pictures show almost ever punch, push or pinch was from someone associated to Serbia, how they can hope to justify actions that are not justifiable in any situation, let alone one in which their supporters were racially abusing England’s players, is beyond me.

The Serbian FA have also firmly nailed their colours to the mast. By refusing to believe any racism took place, despite monkey chants and the like being clearly heard, and blaming Danny Rose for, well I’m not too sure really, they’ve shown yet another example of this total lack of acceptance and a desire to stand up for themselves in a situation that is undefendable. This isn’t the fist time either. The Serbian FA have been warned on several occasions of the behaviour of their fans and were threatened to be kicked out of qualification for Euro 2012. The total ignorance towards the situation from the Serbs is unbelievable.

I’ll reiterate my first point, the game isn’t racist, especially not in England, but a minority of individuals are and in other parts of the world racism exists on mass. The problem isn’t the racism, the problem is the way The FAs, the clubs and those right at the top deal with racism. Stronger sanctions need to be introduced, such as banning Serbia, the removal of this idea of defending everyone and everything no matter how guilty they are, or when a lack of evidence exists, needs to happen and players who are the victims of such abuse need to feel like they have a way of dealing with it, which should be an entitlement to leave the pitch.

For those who spend a great deal of time supporting campaigns to stop racism in football, such as Jason Roberts, Jason Euell and Clark Carlisle, the current situation must be heartbreaking. Their work seems to have reached a dead end, emphasised my the fact that Roberts is planning to instruct players to boycott wearing the ‘Kick It Out’ campaign t-shirt this weekend over what he feels is a lack of action. It’s also upsetting for everyone who plays or is involved with the game, no matter who they are. You’re not going to change a way a country behaves, but those at the top need to change their ways and their ignorance towards racism in football.

England aim to move one stop closer to Brazil with win over developing Poland

After their 5-0 victory over tiny San Marino, England will be aiming to cement their encouraging position in the race for World Cup qualification against tougher opposition, in the form of Poland, tomorrow night in Warsaw.

They won the hearts of almost every football fan with their fighting performances at Euro 2012, but the Polish have a lot more to them that just spirit. Although not up there with the highest standard of international football, there is a certain amount of quality throughout the team and they’ll be expecting to put up a strong fight not only against England but in the battle for qualification overall.

What players should I be looking out for?

The key man for the Pols is Robert Lewandowski. Playing a crucial role with his goals in the Dortmund dominance of Germany in recent years, the striker is a wanted man with numerous big clubs chasing him. He’s arguably the the only truly world class player in the current squad with Arsenal goal keeper Wojciech Szczesny and inspiration captain, and team mate of Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski both injured. Despite the fact he often fails to show his full ability in the Polish team in his role as a lone front man, coupled with a lack of service, he’ll still be a major concern to England’s back four.

How have they fared in qualification so far? 

As expected. A comfortable 2-0 win at home to minnows Moldova and a vital draw 2-2 away at fellow challengers for qualification Macedonia have left Poland level on points with the Macedonians in second. A win over England would not only damage the away side’s qualification hopes, but leave the Pols in a very strong position for at least the runners-up play-off slot in Group H.

Haven’t we got previous with the Pols?

Indeed we do. They shared a group with England in qualification for the 2006 World Cup, with the Three Lions doing the double over them with two 2-1 wins. In fact, Poland have only achieved one win in 17 games, way back in 1973 where an Alan Ball red card contributed to a 2-0 win at Chorzow. The signs are positive for England win, but Poland is now a much tougher place to travel.

What about England? Will there be any changes from the San Marino match? 

After leaving out a number of big names on Friday night, manager Roy Hodgson is likely to make changes. Captain Steven Gerrard is back from suspension and is set to win his 99th cap, possibly taking him ahead of Ashley Cole with doubts over his selection remaining. Leighton Baines will fight to keep his place, but Glen Johnson and Joleon Lescott are likely to replace Gary Cahill and Kyle Walker. Also coming in will be James Milner with Theo Walcott injured following his collision with the San Marino goal keeper. Despite the performance of Danny Welbeck, he is also set to miss out and will be replaced by Jermaine Defoe. It’s a selection headache for Hodgson, but a nice one to have.

ITV the real losers as England hit San Marino for 5

Frustrating at times, efficient come the end, England did what was expected of them and secured a comfortable three points in front of a ‘sell out’ (minus 4346, but don’t let that get in the way of what The FA have been telling everyone this past week) crowd.

A goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, his first for his country, two from man of the match Danny Welbeck and two from Wayne Rooney, who became England’s fifth highest scorer of all time, spared the blushes of several players who missed numerous guilt-edge chances. 33 shots with 20 on target to San Marino’s 1 and 0 says it all.

Solid performances from Leighton Baines, Tom Cleverly and a first cap for Jonjo Shelvey in a typically comfortable display meant the more experienced players of Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were barely missed. In all, a good night for the Three Lions.

The only dampner on the night was an injury to Theo Walcott. Chasing for the ball with San Marino keeper Simoncini, Walcott was charged down in a similar manner to the Harold Schumacher incident of 1982, if you were to believe Adrian Chiles. I wouldn’t if I were you. I wouldn’t believe anything he says, but on this occasion he couldn’t be more wrong. It was merely a collusion, with Simoncini slightly late but with no intention to injure Walcott. He was possibly lucky to get away without giving away a penalty, but all the same, there was no malice involved.

Away from the action though, a group of former pros acted without any sense of professionalism. Before the game even the San Marino manager had admitted that there was no chance of them getting a victory, but that doesn’t entitle the ITV punditry and commentary team to treat an international team as some kind of joke.

The pre-match talk was embarrassing, analysing the jobs the semi pro San Marino players do. Yes that’s right, real people doing real jobs but being criticised for it. Commentator Clive Tyldesley counted up the seconds after kick off past the point when San Marinian Davide Gualtieri had scored an 8 second goal against England in 1993 and compared the game to ‘playing FIFA with your dad’. Gareth Southagte asked at half time ‘what is the point of San Marino?’. A disgrace throughout, especially when you consider San Marino held England for over half an hour and put in quite an impressive defensive display considering their world ranking of 207.

Thankfully, the English players didn’t replicate such arrogant behaviour, and baring the occasional Danny Welbeck flick, treated the opposition with respect. 86% possession and Joe Hart barely touching the ball just shows how seriously England were taking the game right until the final whistle, despite the poor finishing at times.

I wasn’t the only one who felt embarrassed to hear it, with the San Marino FA tweeting ITV ‘shame on you!’. It would be great to hear some form of apology from those involved, but that wont be forthcoming. I’m sure the San Marino FA wont mind, the performance of their players and the actions of the English broadcaster have helped to form a place inside the heart for the La Serenissima of many English fans.

Who are ya? Who are ya?

It’s the game The FA were publicising as ‘the game you can’t afford to miss’: England v San Marino. Yes, the mighty San Marino. Okay, I’ll admit it was a play on words about their cheaper ticket prices, but it’s still a game The FA clearly feel has the potential to be a good one. This possibly has something to do with San Marino’s international record: played 112, won 1, drawn 4, lost 107, scored 19 and conceded an impressive 467. England are expected to put on a jolly good show. They’ll knock the ball around a bit, score 6 or more goals and then have a Nandos like all good professional footballers. All a piece of cake, except for the small matter of the San Marinians wanting to make the English lads work for that over priced spicy chicken. Here’s everything you need to know about the smallest country in UEFA.

Do I know any of their players? 

No. No you do not. Their squad of 20 players contains only 2 who don’t play for a team in San Marino. One of those is unattached, the other plies his trade in the fourth division of Italian football. Only three members of the squad have ever scored an international goal, one of them being all time top scorer Andy Selva, who has eight. Selva is a club team mate of Damiano Vannucci at La Fiorita, who is the most capped player for his country with 66. And to think the people of England believe there’s an issue with developing talent.

That one win, tell me more?

28th April 2004, at home to Liechtenstein in a friendly in front of 700 fans. Andy Selva’s 5th minute goal was enough to secure a 1-0 victory for his country. The previous year the San Marinians had snatched a draw off the same opponent after being 2-0 down, again in a friendly. Their two competitive points came away at Latvia with a 1-1 draw in 2001 and, more impressively, a 0-0 at home to Turkey in 1993.

700 people at a home game, do they play at the back of the local pub? 

Not quite. The Stadio Olimpicco is the national arena, holding a maximum capacity of 7,000 seated spectators. Think Carlisle away on a cold Tuesday night, then make that image 10 times worse. That’s the experience the Olimpicco is going to offer you. It’s also used by San Marino Calcio, a club side from San Marino who play in the Italian 3rd division. Unsurprisingly, they only have one San Marianian in their squad.

Do they have a manager or do they sort themselves out like a Sunday League side?

A manager. Giampaolo Mazza, an Italian with a history in the lower leagues of his country’s football set up, has been manager since 1998. He played for San Marino Calcio and even earned 5 caps for the national side in the early 1990s. More importantly though, he’s currently a PE teacher at a school near San Marino. I can’t imagine Uncle Roy putting on his jogging bottoms and teaching at a London Comprehensive.

Do they have a chance?

Well everything is possible in foo… No of course they don’t.

International break brings ‘foreign’ fans to non-league football

The international break. Hated by fans of clubs in the top two divisions as it inconsiderately leaves a gap in the fixture list; loved by almost no one. But this international break is slightly different. After the success of the two previous events in 2010 and 2011, next Saturday will see the third Non-League Day. The day aims to welcome fans from football league clubs into the world of non-league football with reduced ticket prices.

It’s an invaluable day for all non-league clubs. With budgets so tight and every penny making difference, the extra income can really help a local club make it through a season financially unscathed. This has been heightened this weekend with Kettering Town failing to field 11 players after being unable to pay their staff.

Thankfully, this year is anticipated to be the most successful to date with creator James Doe using feedback from fans to fully incoperate everyone’s needs. The best possible date has been picked, avoiding clashes with the Paralympics, fa cup fixtures and summer school holidays whilst big names such as Sky Sports Commentator Martin Taylor helping to spread the word.

It can be often be mocked for it’s ‘fat man with a pint’ support base, but non-league football is much more than that. Serious competitive and talented teams are found all the way down the ladder, helped by most clubs having a scattering of ex-league players and passionate young players, with knowledgeable and passionate fans to the rival those of the league. The non-league experience is just as enjoyable as any other that involves football.

So instead of being dragged around a shopping centre this Saturday, take a few pence out of the piggy bank and head down to your local non-league club.