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