Chris Powell has often been quoted in the media calling Ricardo Fuller a ‘special’ player. With the frontman battling with his fitness all season and regularly going in and out of the team, the Valley faithful were yet to see his talents to the full. That was until tonight. A strike of the highest quality, lobbing the keeping from an impressive distance, from the Jamaican was the crucial breakthrough in a 2-0 win for the home side over Peterborough.
Whilst Fuller’s individual effort was aesthetically pleasing, a fantastic team goal rounded off (codeword for stolen) by Yann Kermorgant on his return to the starting line-up was steeped in emotion. The cult hero had thanked the Charlton fans for their reaction to his return off the bench on Saturday, and the atmosphere after his goal today was identical; incredible. It wasn’t all class and beauty though, as the proceeding 75 minutes had all the characteristics of a scrappy midweek matchup. At times it was difficult to tell who were the side bang in form and the side down the bottom fighting for their lives; they both looked like the latter. Wins like this are invaluable come May.
As mentioned previously, the big team news was the return of ‘the beast’. Yann Kermorgant started his first game since Derby after injuring himself in training that week, replacing Rob Hulse up front. Danny Seaborne was passed fit to play and slotted in at left back, replacing Dale Stephens in the XI, with Johnnie Jackson coming into the centre and Salim Kerkar moving back to a more favourable left wing position. There was no place in the 18 for Danny Haynes, who is still nursing a knock and wasn’t risked ahead of the huge derby fixture on Saturday against Millwall.
For the visitors, club captain Gabriel Zakuani was only on the bench following a recent incident that left several first team players transfer listed and subsequently loaned out. In his absence, Michael Bostwick lead the side that contained deadline day loan signings George Thorne and Dwight Gayle in addition to former Charlton Academy player George Boyd.
It was Charlton who created the game’s first opening after just two minutes through the returning Kermorgant. A long ball was knocked down by Fuller and laid into the path of the Frenchman, who hit a powerful, swerving volley from just outside the area that was beaten away by Bobby Olejink in the Posh goal. Morrison’s header from the resulting corner flashed across goal, going well wide, but the start was a positive one.
The Addicks, however, failed to get a grip of the game after that early assault on the Peterborough goal. Struggling to maintain possession, the ball was given away time and time again as the away side’s pace began to threaten. Gayle especially was getting in behind and causing Morrison and Leon Cort problems, without creating any real chances. Despite the away side being the better side in the first ten, Charlton mustered up the next meaningful attempt. Arsenal loanee Emmanuel Frimpong was given space 20 yards from goal and took a dipping shot that just cleared the bar following a deflection. Fuller headed wide at the near post from the corner that followed; the Addicks may have started poorly but they were creating chances.
It was only a matter of time before Peterborough would threaten the Charlton goal, and they did so in their next attack. The classy Boyd played in Gayle, whose angled shot deflected of Cort and went wide across the face of goal with Ben Hamer stranded. With both teams struggling to maintain possession in a poor and scrappy first half, the chances were end to end. There was then a great sight for the Addicks fans, as fan favourite showed great close control and quick feet to beat his man out on the right, only for his shot to be blocked away. A goal from the home-grown talent at The Valley would arguable produce a bigger reaction that one from Kermorgant. It’s only a matter of time.
The pace of Peterborough was proving a nightmare for the Charlton defence to deal with, giving away several free-kicks as they tried to stop the breaks. A cleverly worked, if intentional, set piece on the edge of the area from Peterborough saw them test Hamer’s glove work for the first time. Knocked square by the taker Boyd, Tomlin swung for the ball and completely missed it, only for Bostwick to follow up and force Hamer to make a diving save to his right. Another free-kick, for a foul on Tomlin by Morrison, saw the big centre back pick up a yellow card, his 5th of the season, meaning he’ll now be absent for Millwall on Saturday as he serves a suspension; a huge loss.
Peterborough finished the half by far the stronger with Gayle coming close on a number of occasions. Just before the half time whistle, Boyd got through and looked set to score against his former club, but his effort was tipped over the bar by Hamer. As the players trudged off for half-time, a few disgruntled boos could be heard from the home fans, but most of them were directed at the referee, who wasn’t having the best of games. Thankfully none of his decisions proved costly.
Charlton game out for the second half with a new lease of life, at least for the first five minutes. The first half had been littered with crosses unable to beat the first man, and when they did, they evaded everyone. Three fantastic crosses all from Solly created three openings for the Addicks. The first one, headed down by Johnnie Jackson onto the chest of Kermorgant, resulted in little as he struggled to turn his man and his volleyed attempt was blocked away. The second one, a header from Kermorgant at the far post, was much closer, only narrowing going wide. The best effort was left to the last of the three, Solly’s low cross was met by the diving Pritchard whose effort clipped the outside of the post. Without a league goal for the club, the headed effort was the closest he’d come.
With Peterborough seeing out the storm, they managed to get forward and created their best chance of the game. Tomlin was offered the space to shoot, and his driven effort from just outside the area was saved fantastically from Hamer through a crowd of bodies. Posh continued to come forward but, despite breaking through the defence, Hamer was not to be breached. A string of well held saves and excellent gathering of crosses prevented Peterborough from taking the lead. Like all good keepers, he had luck on his side too, as a deflected effort from Boyd trickled onto the post with Hamer beaten.
With Charlton struggling and the crowd getting restless, the sight of Kermorgant standing over a free-kick shortly after the Peterborough barrage gave hope that the game was about to turn in Charlton’s favour. In reality, the dead ball was far too far out to finish from and his effort was well wide. Hearts were back in mouths a few moments later as Peterborough called for a penalty following a trip in the box. Referee Williamson awarded nothing, much to the fury of the Posh players and fans.
It was beginning to look like the game was heading for a scoreless draw; that was until a moment of pure magic from Fuller. Receiving the ball with his back to goal and 30 yards out, there appeared little on. With no clear player to pass to, he turned and smashed an incredible effort over Olejink. Pandemonium in the stands was mixed with pure disbelief at what they had just witnessed; arguably one of the best goals ever to have been scored at The Valley. Joy quickly turned to concern however, with Fuller unable to celebrate and taken with what appeared to be yet another pulled hamstring. The injury curse had struck again, but the goal was the crucial breakthrough in a tight affair and with just over 10 minutes left, looked to be the winner.
Hulse came on to replace the injured goalscorer, and he was involved in the Addicks second goal with five minutes left on the clock to put the game beyond doubt. Fellow substitute Green broke down the right wing, moved into the box and took a cross-come-shot that Hulse connected with. With the ball almost certainly crossing the line, Kermorgant got his foot onto the ball just to be certain, giving himself a scoring return to first team action and bringing joy and relief to the fans. They had three points and their hero back.
There was still time for Charlton to create one more chance, with Hulse breaking but taking too much time on the ball and eventually getting away a weak effort under pressure. Peterborough failed to cause much concern for the Addicks in the closing stages; the only effort of not a ballooned attempt from McCann right at the death. Three points that certainly didn’t look likely throughout the game were Charlton’s.
Peterborough were impressive in stages, but it’s difficult to say whether Charlton’s inept performance or the away side’s quality was more the reason for the side in the bottom three being on top. With the passing regularly off target and the defence looking fragile like never before, the team didn’t perform as well as they have done in recent weeks, and individually there were some rather poor efforts. Kerkar created little, Pritchard tried hard always but not a lot came off for him and Frimpong looked someone what lazy and not up to the standards he displayed on Saturday.
Whilst the performance of the team and individuals was the lowest it’s been in this run of 13 points out of a possible 15, there were still plenty of reasons to be happy, not least securing a 3rd home win of the season. Gritting your teeth and fighting your way through difficult games to claim possibly underserved victories is a positive sign, and something no doubt we’ll need to do several more times this season. The return of Kermorgant, just in time for Millwall, is going to be a massive boost going forward, and even with Fuller possibly out once again, the Frenchman partnered with Haynes when fit is an exciting prospect. Five points off the play-offs and elven points off the play offs, a continuation of this run could see Charlton challenging for a play-off spot, and not fighting for their lives down the bottom as it appeared just a few weeks ago.
It was another one of those days, days that have occurred too often this season. I’m going to refrain from including the ‘l’ word (the one that rhymes with duck) that has featured in almost every report this season, but Charlton failed to take their chances for the umpteenth time, meaning it was two points dropped and not a point gained for the Addicks as they drew 1-1 with Huddersfield.
It seemed to be plain sailing with 30 minutes to go after Rob Hulse’s third goal of the season put them 1-0 up against the ten men of Huddersfield; a red card for a two footed lunge on Michael Morrison by Keith Southern in the first half left them a man light. Without ever dominating an incredibly scrappy affair, the man advantage meant Charlton looked in control, but failed to find the cutting edge. Wasted opportunities to create a chance, poor finishing and a tendency to play backwards and the forward ball was on littered the second half. The Huddersfield equaliser, a penalty from Adam Clayton with just three minutes left, arguably wasn’t deserved, but it felt inevitable.
There were a few surprised faces when the Charlton team news was announced. The line-up contained no recognised left back with Danny Seaborne missing from the 18, as was in form striker Danny Haynes. Ricardo Fuller started up top for the first time since the Barnsley defeat and new loan signing Emmanuel Frimpong came into the middle of park, creating quite a buzz. It later emerged the aforementioned absentees had picked up knocks in training and were not risked, meaning a reshuffle was needed. Salim Kerkar moved to an unnatural left back, with Johnnie Jackson moving out wide and Frimpong slotting into the centre of midfield, partnering the returning Dale Stephens who replaced Eggert Jonson after recovering from illness.
Huddersfield were missing star striker Jermaine Beckford after he failed to pass a fitness test, but their front two of Simon Church and Lee Novak would prove a threat to any Championship defence. They’d be supplied by a strong-looking midfield that included winger Danny Ward, the Addicks’ tormentor during the 2010 play-off semi-final whilst at Swindon. Jack Hunt and Sean Dixon also provided a real threat going forward from their full-back positions.
It was the away side who started the stronger of the two teams and should have taken the lead in just the second minute. A scramble from a corner led to Jackson chesting the ball off the line, only for it to fall into the path of Huddersfield captain Peter Clarke who, with an open goal just five yards away from him, somehow contrived to loop the ball over the bar. Thankfully for Clarke, he’s just missed the deadline to be included in the Christmas blooper DVDs.
With the pitch sodden and the rain continue to lash down, it was no surprise to see neither side manage to successfully keep possession. Misplaced passes were high on the agenda, chances were not. Frimpong was beginning to show his class though, putting his weight around to win the ball and bucking the trend by dishing out a number of accurate passes.
The Addicks were yet to test Alex Smithies in the Huddersfield goal, and it was the away side that created the next opportunity. The ball was played into Novak inside the box, but his effort was blocked away, only for Ward to cross the deflected ball back in and Church flick the ball goal wards. Ben Hamer, however, was equal to it. Down the other end, only the occasional over hit cross was troubling Smithies, in addition to Stephens and Jackson warming his gloves from their respective free-kicks. That was until Fuller showed his Premier League class and went on a fantastic solo dribble, creating the perfect opportunity to finish inside the area, but his shot was scuffed and trickled wide.
With Charlton not beginning to play their football in the opposition’s half, Huddersfield’s ability on the break was being shown to full effect. One such break almost gave them the lead. The ball found its way to Church on the edge of the area, whose shot was saved away by Hamer, only for the keeper to just about react in time to pick up the loose ball with Novak looking to pounce. It was always Charlton’s number one’s ball, but a simultaneous sigh of relief still went around the ground when it was finally under his clutches.
It was just a few moments later that Huddersfield were reduced to ten men. Morrison, collecting the ball inside his own half from a Kerkar pass began to travel but took a heavy touch, Southern saw his chance to win the ball but was deemed to have dived in with both feet off the ground and was given his marching orders. The away fans were incensed, not helped by the referee’s failure to award a free-kick for what they thought was a foul by Frimpong went attempting to win a header from the resulting set piece. The extra man could immediately been seen to work in Charlton’s favour, with more time being offered on the ball and loose balls falling into the path of red shirts. Despite this, there was little meaningful action for the reminder of the 10 minutes after the sending off, and the sides went in level at least in scoreline.
The second half saw Charlton gain control of the game, and although Morrison was offside from a Bradley Pritchard through ball following a corner, his blocked one-on-one attempt was a sign of things to come. Solly and Pritchard down the right were linking up well with Stephens, who was in his element with the time and space given to him following the red card. The right wing pair offered some fantastic crosses, but Huddersfield defended astutely and constant target Hulse was failing to keep his headers down. Thankfully, 15 minutes into the half, Hulse gave the Addicks the lead.
Huddersfield gave possession away inside their own half, with Jackson picking up the loose ball and finding Fuller, who layed it out wide for Pritchard. His cross along the ground picked out Hulse perfectly, who couldn’t miss from just a few yards. It felt like the first of many. Charlton were dealt a cruel blow just five minutes later, as Frimpong took a long range shot, that was comfortably saved by Smithies, but injured himself in the process. The loanee was dictating the tempo along with Stephens at this point and his departure took the calm and composed nature away from Charlton’s play. Danny Green came on to replace Frimpong, with Pritchard moving into the centre.
Charlton were dropping deeper and deeper, playing triangles in small areas inside their own half. They seemed to be inviting pressure but then they had the chance to put the game to bed. Pritchard was involved again as he linked up with Fuller, who broke away and found himself just a few yards from goal with a clear sight. The home fans had already started to cheer as his effort somehow curled wide. The home supporters were given something to cheer for certain just a few moments later, as cult hero Yann Kermorgant came on for his first appearance since September following injury and immediately began to put himself about. The miss couldn’t be forgotten though, and Chris Powell said after the game this was the turning point, Charlton should have sealed the three points, but instead Huddersfield got their equaliser.
The Terriers began to threaten in the last five minutes; a succession of crosses providing a real test for the Charlton defence as Leon Cort somehow blocked a goal bound header. However, the next cross was one too many for the Addicks to cope with, as Solly gave away a penalty for a high boot on Clarke. Clayton stepped up to the spot, calmly sent Hamer the wrong way and sent the away fans into pandemonium. With just two minutes left it looked a point a piece would be the final outcome. Charlton mustered up one last chance, and a very good one at that. A whipped in cross, of that standard David Beckham in his pomp would have been proud of, found the head of Hulse. Head left or right and it’s a goal, but his effort was aimed straight at Smithies who reacted quickly and pushed the ball away. The whistle blew moments later and then game ended in a draw; a bitter pill to swallow for the home side who really should have gained all three points.
Despite Huddersfield’s early chances, it really was a game the Addicks deserved to win and threw away. Despite the disappointing result, the individual performances were of a high standard. Fuller really put himself about well, but just lacked the finish, whilst Pritchard, Hulse and Jackson continued with their form of recent weeks. Solly was fantastic as always and Frimpong was very impressive, showing his much talked about quality. Hopefully he’s been wrapped up in cotton wool for Tuesday, along with Haynes and Seabourne who were really missed. Playing Kerkar at left back is not a viable option, it’s clear it’s not his natural position and, despite a valiant effort, he looked all at sea. Haynes has done superbly since breaking into the team, and the prospect of him returning with a fully fit Kermorgant up top excites me. Ten points from twelve, unbeaten in four and a team almost back to full strength: today’s performance and result should not worry anyone.
During the West Ham v Stoke game last night, two former England internationals were providing an invaluable insight into how the Stoke set-piece came about. They told us all how Stoke manager Tony Pulis would have been behind it, whilst the players planned, organised and watched as it all came together through hours and hours of work on the training ground; both absolutely adored it.
Later on in the night, one of them continued to analyse, waxing lyrical about just how wonderful the goal was; Gary Neville is at the top of the punditry trade. The other, instead of recovering from playing in the game (which he should have been), showed fans pictures of mementoes from past glories; Michael Owen has become the punch line in every other football related joke. Injured yet again, it would seem any hope of the Michael Owen of yesteryear returning to our TV screens is long gone.
The 17-year-old who scored on his Liverpool debut, the 18-year-old who finished off a brilliant individual goal in the 1998 World Cup, the 24-year-old who joined, arguably, the biggest football club in the world, the 27-year-old who hit his 40th goal for England and the 29-year-old Manchester Derby winner have all become the 32-year-old with splinters on his backside. Wonderkid to benchwarmer for one of the more unattractive sides in the Premier League at the same age as other strikers would be just clinging on to the peak of their powers. One of the most natural goal scorers this country has ever seen to five league goals in three years. It’s a sorry state of affairs.
There are those who would have you know Owen’s move to Manchester United was the final nail in the injury hit striker’s coffin, not playing, not scoring, he was wasting his talent, but this probably isn’t the case. In his first season at United there were calls for him to be called up to the England World Cup squad. Although mostly coming off the bench, he was scoring goals, including a hat-trick in the Champions League, and only an injury in the League Cup final ruled out any chance of selection. But there you have it, there is the problem: injuries. He barely missed a game up until his move to Newcastle, after that he’s missed football left, right and centre.
He’s also got plenty of things to keep him busy away from football, and no matter what media trained spiel he comes out with, his horse owning commitments will have taken away not only his passion for football but his determination to attempt to regain form anything like in his heighday. Being contempt with sitting on a bench at Stoke does no favours to disproving this suggestion. He’ll retire earlier than he should have done, off to play with his horses and forget football even exists.
But what could have been? Could Owen, without the injuries, without the benchwarming and without the distractions, have become one of the best players of all time? It’s difficult to argue against it. He would have certainly become England’s all time top scorer; just another 10 goals were needed when he scored his last in 2007. That alone would have written his name into football folklore for years to come. It’s also easy to forget what he did before his injury hit time at Newcastle. A goal better than every other game for Liverpool, two golden boots, a Ballon d’Or not to mention being part of team honours in unfancied Liverpool sides.
Even the move to Real Madrid, although a relative failure, wasn’t as bad as the stats (16 goals in 45 games) make out. Most of his appearances were off the bench but he made a real impact to a team which was still in the Galacticos era. With three world class strikers in himself, Raul and Ronaldo normally battling for one starting birth, he only failed to play a part in two league games throughout his entire season with the club.
Personally, I believe Owen was yet to reach his peek when his injuries began. He could have gone on and become even greater than in the early stages of his career if so many factors hadn’t conspired against him. What do you think? Do you think Owen could have been one of the best of all time? Reply to this post and let me know what you think.
Luck has been a recurring theme this season. Quite simply, the Addicks have had none. Countless games could have easily had a different outcome with just the smallest ounce of luck. Today Charlton’s luck returned. You could argue lady luck has been on our side for the two fixtures prior to today, but, with Burnley creating numerous chances and going down to ten men, she was definitely waving her red and white scarf.
Danny Haynes’ header with 20 minutes to go gave the away side their third victory in as many games, meaning the Addicks are now looking up the table rather than over their shoulders. A ten point cushion from the relegation zone and just a five point gap between themselves and the play-offs is a world away from the boos and concerns of Middlesbrough just two weeks ago.
Charlton lined up with only one change from the win over Bristol City; Eggert Jonson came in for his debut, replacing the ill Dale Stephens. Scott Wagstaff, having returned from his loan from Leyton Orient, was among the substitutes. For Burnley, all eyes were on Europe’s top marksman Charlie Austin. The former bricklayer was awarded his Championship Player of the Month award before kick-off, symbolising just how much of a threat the striker would be the Addicks’ backline.
The game took a while to get going. The opening exchanges were scrappy at best and neither team could keep possession; epitomised by Ben Hamer kicking straight out to a Burnley shirt on the edge of the area, with the resulting effort way wide. Danny Haynes mustered the first shot on target ten minutes in, but Clarets keeper Lee Grant had no trouble with the tame effort from 25 yards. In their next meaningful attack, the Addicks were given the perfect opportunity to open the scoring and grab the game by the scruff of its neck.
Fantastic work by Pritchard, Hulse and Solly on the right flanks saw the later work his way into the box. Twisting and turning around the Burnley defence, the pocket-sized right back was given us his best Lionel Messi impression, but his shot was blocked on the line. A goalmouth scramble ensued and confusion reigned until referee Madely blew his whistle and pointed to the spot. Penalty to the Addicks! Exciting right back Keiran Trippier had handled on the loan during the melee and was shown a straight red card leaving Burnley a man light to fight through the remaining 75 minutes. Skipper and resident penalty taker Johnnie Jackson stepped up on the back of missing his previous two spot kicks this season, only to make it three. His soft penalty, although saved well by Grant, lacked power and the score remained as it was.
With the home side down to ten men, the game was surely there for Charlton’s taking, and despite a sliced shot from Haynes not long after, it was Burnley who took control of the game. A Burnley corner was cleared, only to fall into the path of Brian Stock, whose rocket of an effort look destined for the back of the net but for an extraordinary save from Hamer stretching to his right and tipping the ball over the bar. Hamer was at it again from the resulting corner as his block stopped a goal bound effort from rippling the net.
Charlton had another chance, and arguably their best from open play, when Haynes was put through by serial assist maker Salim Kerkar, but Grant saved well. This move saw Charlton enjoy an encouraging final few moments of the half, with several corners causing problems. Leon Cort’s long range effort from a cleared corner failed to match Stock’s attempt for accuracy and power to any extent and the end of the first half followed. Even, but Burnley creating the better chances after the red card and penalty.
If one player had stood out in the first half, it was Eggert Jonson, and for all the wrong reasons. His passing was off target, the ball continuously skipped off his head when attempting to win aerial challenges and he was all too often outmuscled off the ball. At the start of the second, he slipped when collecting the ball from a throw which almost saw Burnley break away, and was then robbed of the ball when taking far too much time on it, giving Austin a free run on goal. You’d back the on form target man to score in a one-on-one situation 99 times out of 100; this was the one. Somehow he placed the ball wide of Hamer’s far post and the Addicks breathed a large sigh of relief. Jonson was subsequently replaced by Ricardo Fuller.
Burnley were looking the brighter of the two teams once again, and some dangerous crossing saw Austin and strike partner Martin Patterson make nuisances of themselves in the box but neither managing to create anything more than half chances. Charlton weren’t troubling Grant at all though. That was until the 69th minute. Jackson pinged a long range ball up to Hulse inside the box, who won his header, knocking it onto the head of Haynes who was given the opportunity to finish well. The small in numbers but loud in decibels away following went ballistic as their side took the lead. Just 20 minutes to hold on.
Despite Burnley being in charge of possession for the final stage, no real chances were created. The only real moment of panic saw a Burnley corner met be the head of Austin blocked, only for the ball to fall into his patch but the impressive Hamer collected the ball at his feet. Fuller brook free with Burnley pushing, but seemed reluctant to shoot despite being inside the area with no other support and ended up running sideways into a dead end as the last chance for Charlton was wasted. Powell threw on Dervite and Taylor to shaw up the defence for the closing stages, but with Cort and Morrison winning every header and Solly and Seaborne impassable, the Addicks didn’t look like letting this one slip. Three points gained three games in a row.
You could see how much it meant to the players. Haynes signalled with his fingers what the score was to the Burnley fans giving him abuse, before he joined his team mates and Powell, who celebrated in customary fashion.
Although it’s difficult to say Burnley didn’t deserve something from the game, possibly even all three points with the chances they created, the all-round team performance was fantastic. Hamer was showing his shot stopping ability at its best, the back four were truly outstanding, especially with the difficult front two of Austin and Patterson to deal with. Seaborne received criticism from Southampton fans upon his arrival on loan, but on the back of his performance today, that criticism is totally unfounded. Ignoring his penalty miss, Jackson played well again, as did Kerkar, whilst Pritchard didn’t stop running all game, and played extremely well to boot. Hulse and Haynes linked up well again, whilst Fuller put himself about. The only concern was the performance of Jonson, but with rumours rife of Emmanuel Frimpong joining on loan, he may not be needed. An excellent day to be an Addick.
It’s not easy being a referee. It’s not easy being an assistant. The higher up the football ladder they go, the harder it is. The pressure increases, the number of eyes watching and evaluating their every decision increases, and the ramifications for getting just one decision wrong in 90+ minutes of football increases. In recent weeks especially, the isolated referee and his assistants have been under the microscope; both decisions and behaviour have come under scrutiny.
There hasn’t been more mistakes, there hasn’t even been more high profile mistakes, it’s just the situation we’re currently in. Every fall to the floor is a yellow card, either for diving or a player committing a foul, no one is really sure what constitutes a handball and, with every point meaning so much, the smallest mistake by an official is highlighted as criminal.
Each referee has their own interpretation of the laws. Some might choose to apply common sense in one situation, whilst others will stick straight to the laws. For one referee, Southampton deserved two penalties this weekend, for another, and most importantly Andre Marriner who was refereeing their fixture against Swansea, they didn’t.
The human interpretation of the laws is a problem (if you can call it that) that will never be solved. Referees will always be inconsistent when compared to one another, and errors will always occur, because after all, they’re only human. Their individual roles can be helped though, helped in a number of ways.
First of all, and it’s the most simple and obvious assistance, the introduction of goal line technology needs to be pushed through. It’s one pressure that can easily be taken away from the officials and make their life, and job, a lot more easy. It’s impossible for the referee to make a decision on the ball crossing the line from his position on the pitch, that’s a given. It’s also difficult for the assistant to make a decision, especially from set pieces, if just one player is obstructing his view. It’s simple, tests have proven it to work and it will improve referee performance, and therefore football, without damaging the pace of the game.
That, however, is as far as technology should go. Casual fans or middle aged men who have had two much to drink calling up radio phone ins often call for technology all over, but the vast, vast majority will agree that this just wont work in the fast paced and continuous animal of our game. Pundits often can’t make decisions on offsides, penalties and red cards days after the game. Introducing technology for these kind of decisions would only anger players, managers and fans more as the decision, they might argue, could still be wrong even with the help of a second, third or fourth look.
They may be much cricitised and laughed at for ‘waving their pointy stick’, but the assistants behind the goal areas do work, and these are adequate replacements for the football being unable to host an entire system of technology. Their view from behind the pitch offers an angle that can often be hidden from the sight of both referee and his assistant on the line. A goal mouth scramble will offer various obstacles for the officials to get their heads around, and the more angles that can be covered, the better. It’s a work in process, but with the assistance of goal line technology, their only focus will be fouls in the area. Crucial errors inside the box will decrease significantly.
Finally, I do think the referees need to get their head around certain aspects of the laws. As previously mentioned, we’re in a period where it’s a dive or a foul and no one seems to know what constitutes what. Fans are growing frustrated. This isn’t helped with high profile former referees on TV, as well as pundits who claim to be experts on the law, all singing from different hymn sheets. The Danny Rose decision this weekend was a mistake, but it was a mistake fueled by the climate of confusion. I think fans, as well as players and their managers, would appreciate some consistency in this law. Although what constitutes a foul offers much to the referee’s own interpretation, what constitutes a dive shouldn’t. A dive should be a dive. But is it exaggerating a fall? Is it falling with no contact? Is it ‘looking for it’? Oh if only we knew.
We don’t have a problem with referees. The standard in this country is high. It’s easy to forget one of our own refereed a World Cup Final not too long ago, although it’s easy to forget how he managed that. Mistakes are being made like any other time, but everyone associated with the game has had enough with mistakes that can easily be solved by clearing up the laws or some assistance.
Midway through the first half, the home supporters in the covered end were loud, but not passionate, in their chants of Chrisy Powell’s Red Army. There was an air of resignation that the points were gone, but this was a bold statement. The Charlton fans were well and truly behind their manager, despite being 2-0 down to Cardiff and playing poorly once again. Midway through the second half, all three home sides were rocking, chanting along to the previously mentioned song, as the Addicks unbelievably had a 5-2 lead. The gloss was taken off the victory slightly as the away side grabbed two goals in six minutes of added on time at the end, but the crowd never stopped. After the booing, whispers and disgust of Saturday, Charlton’s 12th man roared the side on to victory.
Defensive frailties showed with all four goals soft, but going forward Charlton were the best they’ve been all season. Unbelievably, they took their chances. If only this had been the case throughout the season; the current position of 19th would be a distant image in the wing mirrors. This could be the game to kick us on, and the late goals could be a blessing in disguise, keeping us on our feet and giving Powell the opportunity to work on the slack defending.
Charlton lined up with two player changes from the weekend’s humiliation against Middlesbrough. Danny Haynes came in on the right flank for his first start of the season to replace the injured the Lawrie Wilson, whilst Dale Stephens replaced Bradley Wright-Phillips as Charlton lined up with a 4-5-1 formation. Kerkar pushed back up to his natural position of left wing, with Solly reverting to left back, Morrison moving to the right and Dervite coming into the centre of defence. Mark Hudson captained the Bluebirds on his first return to the Valley since his one season spell ended with relegation for the Addicks; he lead a team filled with quality that, on paper, justified their top of the table position.
It took just three minutes for Cardiff to take the lead. Hamer pulled off a decent save from Craig Noone, only to see the resulting corner headed past him by Heidar Helguson. An early goal is the worst possible start to a game as it is, but on the back of the defeat on Saturday, it felt like this was going to be the first of many. The Charlton fans sang without stop for the first ten minutes; you’d have thought they had taken the lead.
But Charlton didn’t look at the races. No real chances were created and you couldn’t see any forthcoming. Cardiff had their chances to double the lead, especially through the lively Noone, whose shot across goal looked to be heading in with Hamer flatfooted, only for Joe Mason to connect with the ball in an offside position. It was only a matter of time, and the second goal game 25 minutes in from another corner.
A looping header from Turner hit the bar, only for the ball to be scooped back across goal on the rebound. Hamer flapped and Mason pounced. 2-0 and seemingly game over. For the first time in the game, there was a lull in the atmosphere. Dejected Charlton fans feared the worst. This mood wasn’t helped when Stephens broke and pressed towards goal, only to lay off a poor pass and waste the chance.
By now, Charlton had changed to a 4-4-2 formation, with Haynes moving upfront and Pritchard moving out to the wing. It was to be an inspired move by Powell, as Charlton soon got a goal back. Rob Hulse and Cardiff keeper David Marshall challenged for an aerial ball, with Marshall fumbling and the ball falling to Salim Kerkar, who teed up Johnnie Jackson who finished well. There was hope. Hope, however, that almost vanished straight away when Helguson headed wide when it seemed easier to score, but Charlton were growing in confidence and didn’t want the half to end.
Two minutes of stoppage time were signalled and it looked like Cardiff would go in at the break ahead. That was until Hulse, in a one-on-one, rounded the keeper, only to see his shot cleared off the line and away from a corner. From Kerkar’s corner, the skipper jumped highest and headed home to draw the Addicks level. Cue pandemonium in the stands that continued after the referee blew his whistle for half time. Deflation had turned to hope, and hope and turned to belief.
The second half began in open fashion. Cardiff had their chances, and their corners continued to cause problems, directly hitting the bar from one, but Charlton certainly weren’t on the back foot. Hulse was winning his balls up top, Haynes was getting a chance to reach top speed and the midfield was working tirelessly. Chris Solly, not to be kept away from positive reviews, showed unbelievable desire and strength to knock the ball past two Cardiff players in a tight position just inside their half and win Charlton a free-kick ten minutes into the half. Stephens took the free-kick, hitting it long into the box, but it evaded everyone and Marshall could only get fingertips to it. Somehow, the Addicks were in front, and in the most remarkable fashion.
Just five minutes later and Charlton had a fourth. Pritchard didn’t stop running all night, and his movement and control at the back post after collecting a Solly cross allowed him to set up Haynes, who headed home past a desperate Marshall. It still didn’t feel like the points were the Addicks despite their domination, so thankfully Kerkar claimed yet another assist, sending in a delightful whipped cross into the box which was headed home clinically by Hulse. Midweek games at the Valley tend to be quiet affairs, but not this one; the home support was sensational. Loud and passionate was exactly want the players were looking for, and they responded and then some.
Haynes pulled up with what appeared to be hamstring injury, but turned out to be cramp, with 20 minutes left and was replaced by Wright-Phillips. Haynes had been sensational, linking up excellently with Hulse and adding some much needed pace to the Charlton side. Leon Cort almost added a sixth, volleying on the spin from a Marshall save after a Jackson effort from a corner, only to see Marshall get his body behind the attempt.
Despite Charlton’s lead, Cardiff controlled the closing stages. No real chances were created though, not until Noone scored in the second minute of six added on, calmly taking the ball round Hamer, who possibly went down to early, when one-on-one. The home fans still weren’t nervous and half-hearted cheers could be heard from the away end. That was until Aron Gunnarsson tapped home a ball played across goal to bring the score back to 5-4. A nervy few minutes followed, with Cardiff having all the possession, but no real chances were created. Noone hit the ball wide and referee Stroud blew his whistle for full time. Relief at first, followed by sheer delight; Charlton had finally recorded a home win, their first since August, and in some style.
It goes without saying, but wow, what a game. One that will live long in the memory of every Charlton fan, not just for pure excitement, but the range of emotions from despair to joy to relief. An unbelievable performance from every player, there’s no one that can be criticised. As a team, it was one of those spirited Chris Powell performance; a complete contrast to Saturday. The support for Powell too was incredibly. He’s backed by every single fan, the board must understand that.
Special mentions must go to Kerkar, who warranted his three assists and then some, Pritchard, who had the game of his life and Stephens, who looked like that lad Aston Villa wanted in the summer. The front two were unplayable at times and keeping Haynes fit is a must; both deserved their goals. Finally, the skipper, he gets stick from left, right and centre. Not a left winger, a League One player, only playing because he’s captain, but tonight was a captain’s performance of the highest magnitude.
The Defensive issues need to be addressed. Eight goals in four days isn’t good enough, but let’s not dwell on that. Bristol City on Sunday is a six pointer and a win in that could see us move well away from the relegation zone. How quickly things can change in the world of football.
I take you back to the first week of January 2011. A lacklustre display against relegation threatened Swindon in a 4-2 defeat was the final nail in the coffin for then Charlton manager Phil Parkinson. The performance was summed up by the back four continuously hoofing the ball forward to no one in particular, the midfield giving the ball away on the few occasions it was played on the deck and a team completely void of ideas. The last 30 minutes of today’s embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough had similar characteristics; heads were down and it felt like the players themselves knew there was no way back. Gone was the never say die attitude Charlton fans have been accustomed to under Chris Powell, to be replaced by a deflated performance akin to his predecessors.
In fairness, the first half, and even the opening stages of the second half were looking positive for Charlton. Whilst not having the best of the game in turns of possession, the Addicks had numerous chances to add to their goal from Rob Hulse that put them ahead, whilst Middlesbrough weren’t creating any real chances baring their equaliser which came from a free kick headed home by Jonathan Woodgate. Once again though, as I feel I’ve written every game this season, a failure to take our chances, in addition to individual mistakes, hurt the home side.
The Addicks were again hit by injury, as Cedric Evina was absent after injuring a knee in training. The obvious thing would have been to bring Danny Green back into the side, move Chris Solly to left back and drop Lawrie Wilson into right back. However, after his excellent performance on the right wing last time out against Wolves, Powell decided to keep both Solly and Wilson in their preferred positions and strangely decided to play winger Salim Kerkar at left back. Bradley Wright-Phillips came into the team replacing Evina as Charlton revered to a 4-4-2. For the opposition, Nicky Bailey lined up against his club for the first time since ‘that’ penalty miss and leaving the Valley. Despite being the heartbeat of Parkinson’s Charlton side, the tough tackling midfielder was given a mixed reception, with some fans clearly still bitter over his penalty miss.
It took just one minute after kick-off for the first chance, and the Addicks really should have gone in front. Bradley Wright-Phillips was played in out wide and his floating cross was headed over from just a few yards out my Bradley Pritchard. A real guilt edge chance that should have been taken, and possibly would have had the chance fallen to any other red shirt pitch, but Pritchard has never been confident in front goal. Thankfully for the Zimbabwean, Charlton took the lead 10 minutes later. Both Bradleys were again involved as Wright-Phillips won the ball from Parnaby and worked it into the patch of Pritchard, who found Hulse moving towards goal. The loanee had plenty of time to pick his spot and fire home a sweet drive from just outside the area and get his first goal for the Addicks. After a frustrating time in front of goal last week, it would have done the confidence of the forward a world of good.
Soon after, Middlesbrough lost the ball in defence again as Andre Bikey gave it away to Pritchard, but despite what looked like a clear run on goal, he ran into a dead end and no real chance was created. Several half chances followed, including a spectacular overhead kick effort from Michael Morrison that in reality was well high and wide. Middlesbrough were growing into the game though, and Bailey had a half chance for the away side, but Hamer saved his driven shot on the angle comfortably. It was the last reprieve the Addicks were to have, as moments later a long free kick found the unchallenged Woodgate, who was given a free roam of the area to head home Middlesbrough’s leveller.
Charlton continued to threaten, with Hulse missing a great chance to retake the lead after his header from Lawrie Wilson’s cross went over the bar. Morrison almost scored from a Johnnie Jackson free kick, but failed to connect properly, and the skipper himself almost scored as another free kick went narrowly over the bar, but it was beginning to look like a similar story for the Addicks. It was also a similar story on the injury front, as Wilson pulled up with no one around him in the closing stages of the first half. He tried to run it off, but was replaced at half time with Dale Stephens and Pritchard went out to the right.
A slow opening period to the second half saw few chances, that was until a Charlton corner led to a Morrison and a Wright-Phillips effort blocked at close range, whilst the less said about Stephen’s follow up effort from the edge of the box, the better. The hosts were again made to pay for their lack of composure in front of goal as Middlesbrough took the lead 10 minutes into the half. Morrison took too much time on the ball coming out of defence and passed it straight to Scott McDonald, who was given a clear run on goal and finished clinically into the far corner. Middlesbrough were dominating the game in midfield, and despite Charlton’s chances, they looked worthy of their lead.
Half chances followed for the Addicks, Wright-Phillips especially had a very good chance inside the area on the turn but hit his weak shot straight at goalkeeper Jason Steele, but the first half performance was now a distant memory as the ball was given away too softly in midfield and the hit and hope punts from the back were seen time and time again. It was only a matter of time, and dully the away side extended their lead. A gap in the defence saw Paulo Ledesma break free after a ball over the top and his expertly taken chip lobbed the stranded Hamer. Game Over with 25 minutes still left to play.
Danny Haynes and Jordan Cook came on for the Addicks but they failed to make any difference. Haynes’ whipped cross that escaped the stretching legs of Hulse was the last real chance for the Addicks, as long ball after long ball, weak pass after weak pass and continuously over hit crosses from the now further forward Kerkar littered the closing stages. Middlesbrough could have scored as many as they liked in the last 5 minutes, Hamer pulled off a couple of good saves and they were narrowly wide on another occasion, but the away side got their fourth in stoppage time. There didn’t seem to be a Charlton player in sight as a low ball was driven across the box for sub Richard Smallwood to finish and put the icing on the cake for Middlesbrough. As the fantastic away support cheered their success, the home stands emptied and the boo boys were doing what they did best. Whilst some may disagree with booing the players, it’s difficult to argue it wasn’t justified after such a horrific display.
You can’t take anything away from Middleormances this season. Finishing has been an issue since day one and that needs to be solved quickly. We’re never going to dominate teams in this league, our midfield is too weak, but when we get chances we must take, but time and time again we’re wasting guilt edge opportunities. The scoreline today could have been so different if a second was scored whilst at 1-0 or 1-1 with the added confidence that would have given the players. I also feel Powell is unsure of how to set his team up tactically, or who to play where. This of course isn’t helped by injuries and the fact our squad just isn’t strong enough for this league, but it’s his job to solve the issues we currently face. The ‘r’ word is yet to be translated into the Charlton dictionary, and for now, the hope must remain that the reintroduction of injured players like Wiggins and Kermorgant will have a real impact on the team’s chance of picking up points.sbrough, who really were superb, but Chris Powell and his Charlton side have a lot of work to do to put right the wrongs of today and other perf