In many a history essay, the main them is turning points; specific events have more importance than any person, period or regime. In Charlton’s 1-1 draw with Derby at The Valley, a specific turning point completely changed the game. With the home side 1-0 up well and truly on top, a break down the right by Chris Solly in the 65th minute climaxed in Bradley Pritchard finding himself with a golden chance to double the lead. With no one around him, just eight yards from goal and in line with the centre of it, there was surely no doubt the net was about to ripple. The Charlton fans began to cheer in earnest as the Zimbabwean lifted the ball, or so it seemed, into the net. Unbelievably the ball crashed against the ball, spun onto the line and was cleared away. Just a matter of minutes later, Derby had levelled through a Jamie Ward penalty and Michael Morrison had been sent off for the Addicks. The tide of the game changed and for the closing stages, Charlton found themselves on the back foot after looking set for a certain three points.
Danny Haynes had given the Addicks the lead in the first half through a goal of the season contender, cutting across to the wing, coming back inside and smashing the ball into the far top corner. Putting in another fantastic performance, Charlton fans will be hoping the hamstring pull that saw him hobble off towards the end of the first 45 minutes isn’t too serious. The lead could have so easily been doubled on numerous occasions, but as has happened so many times this season, the luck was out and the finishing was poor. Derby had their best chances before and just after the Charlton goal, Ben Hamer making a number of remarkable saves, and after the equaliser as Charlton were pushed back by Derby’s numerical advantage, Hamer and the width of the post helping save the point for the Addicks. Both fans will feel frustrated, but Charlton’s will be more aggrieved following some awful refereeing from Carl Boyeson. Yellow cards were dished out at apparent random, fouls were given in Derby’s favour when similar offences were let off when committed by Derby players and the game changing penalty, therefore the red card too, was a scandalous decision.
Following three defeats in a row, Charlton manager Chris Powell rung the changes in order to stop the rot. Out came Dan Seaborne and Emmanuel Frimpong from the team altogether after two disappointing displays by the pair, in came Cedric Evina, making his first appearance since injury in October, and Bradley Pritchard, who sparked the Charlton fight back on Boxing Day against Ipswich. There were also changes up top with both Rob Hulse and Ricardo Fuller dropped to the bench, Yann Kermorgant coming in to start and Haynes moving further forward. Captain Johnnie Jackson returned to fill the gap on the left, whilst Lawrie Wilson returned from his suspension to replace Danny Green. However, one constant has been Solly, and the young right back made his 100th appearance for the club.
For the away side, the stand out name on the team sheet was wonderkid Will Hughes. The 17 year old midfielder had earned a number of rave reviews for his performances this season, attracting the attention of a number of Premier League clubs. He was partnered in the centre of midfield by one time Charlton target Paul Coutts, whilst another former target of the Addicks, Michael Jacobs, was on the bench.
As seems to be the trend at The Valley, the game failed to kick start into life from the off. Misplaced passes and scrappy play was the order of the day as Derby camped themselves in Charlton’s half without threatening. Straight away it was clear the hype about Hughes was justified; his touch, calmness and ability to look up and make a pass belonged to a man of more years. On several occasions his passes to the wings created excellent opportunities for Derby to create Chances, but the Charlton defence did well in preventing them from finding their targets. Hughes then took matters into his own hands, jinking in and out like a slalom skier round red shirts, only to be brought down my Morrison on the edge of the area as the youngster attempted to dart pass him. A yellow card was awarded to the centre back, on another occasion he might have avoided such punishment, but it could have been worse, such was the proximity to goal and lack of red shirts for Hughes to still go past. Free-kick specialist Ben Davies stepped up, but Hamer was equal to his effort, tipping it over the bar.
Derby continued to control the game, coming close from two separate free-kicks from the flanks, especially another effort from Davies, that somehow evaded everyone before running wide of the far post. With Charlton barely getting it out of their half, a lead for the home side looked completely out of the question. That was until a moment of pure brilliance from Haynes just under midway through the half. Breaking away, Kermorgant played the ball to Haynes 30 yards from goal and, seemingly going nowhere, found himself pushed out to the wing with the ball still at his feet. Instead of using the option of Jackson asking for the ball back, Haynes opted to turn towards goal, beat his man and unleash a rocket of a shot that rifled into the back of the net. Haynes clearly enjoyed it as much as the home fans, running half the pitch to celebrate. After all the pressure, Charlton had somehow pulled in front.
The away side were still pressing though, and Hamer made his first of many wonder saves shortly after the goal. Hamer, Morrison and Evina exchanged passes around the Charlton goal mouth, only for Evina to take a heavy touch and give the ball away to Coutts. His cross found Theo Robinson, but his side footed effort was clawed away by diving Hamer. After Haynes suffered his injury, Wright-Phillips came on to replace him and immediately looked up for it, fighting for every ball and putting in some strong challenges. But a strong challenge from Morrison on the edge of the area somehow resulted in a free-kick and an unjust final warning from the referee. Hughes fired the dead ball way over the bar. Derby then had arguably their best chance of the half, as the dangerous Robinson got through one-on-one with Hamer, but he got down well to save with his legs.
In the final five minutes of the half, Charlton began to create some chance, and two in particular were guilt edge. Substitute Wright-Philips was played through by a fantastic ball from the midfield, but he opted to take one touch too many and his attempt was well blocked by Adam Legzdins in the Derby goal, and just before half time, Wilson cut into the box from the right and fired across the face of goal when he really should have made more of his chance. Unlike just a few days earlier, a round of applause met the Charlton players as they walked off the pitch for half time, with the boos being saved for the referee, whose performance was already angering Charlton fans.
Charlton started the second half well, but failed to create anything of note. They were almost made to pay when Hamer’s clearance was blocked by Robinson, but his shot was turned away by Cort. Evina was impressing despite the early error and almost had a goal to his name when his long range effort was tipped over by Legzdins, but the resulting corner was wasted. With Charlton starting to take control, it didn’t take long for another opportunity to arise, and Solly’s cross was only headed away as far as Stephens on the edge of the box, but he couldn’t keep down his scissor kick volley. A similar story of a failure to take chances was developing.
The best two chances were saved for a period between the 60th and 70th minute, and both involved Pritchard. The first one saw his hard work earn Charlton a free-kick; hauled down by Roberts after the diminutive centre midfield robbed him of the ball right by the corner flag. Stephens’ free-kick was pulled back to Jackson in the centre and his deflected effort was somehow kept out by Legzdins; a truly remarkable save considering the bodies the ball had come through and bounced off. It was then followed by that decisive miss by Pritchard. Solly broke down the right hand flank, out pacing his man, and played a brilliant cross field ball into Wright-Phillips. He held the ball up long enough to knock the ball into the bath of Kermorgant, whose side footed ball across goal found Pritchard who somehow conspired not to score. Kermorgant was visibly furious, and he and the rest of the Charlton players had more reason to be just five minutes later.
A Derby corner was swung into the box, only for Morrison to slide in, win the ball from John Brayford and get it clear. However, the referee deemed it to be worthy of a penalty and a second yellow, suddenly the game seemed to be in Derby’s hands. Substitute Jamie Ward confidently put the penalty away and the scores were back level. Charlton had 20 minutes to survive the Derby onslaught. It looked a winner could come at any moment, especially with the growing amount of corners the visitors were getting, but Hamer was equal to everything being thrown at him. This was especially the case when his brilliant double save from Robinson and Sammon, both from a small number of yards away, kept the scores level when all seemed lost.
With the pressure, and corner count, rising, Derby headed wide on a number of occasions, as well as hitting the post. It seemed to be getting all too much for the referee to deal with, as Hamer was ludicrously booked for kicking the ball away in the direction of the corner flag for a corner to be taken. Charlton failed to get out of their half, only mustering a tame header that was easily picked up by Legzdins, but the defence held strong and the draw seemed a fair result. Once again the Charlton fans should their pride in the performance, and utter disliking towards the match officials, who may have cost Charlton all three points.
After a number of disappointing displays, it was wonderful to see Charlton play like we all know they can once again. Despite his miss, Pritchard was excellent in the middle, and stood out along with Solly, Wilson and Jackson, whilst a special mention must go to Evina, who played fantastically and is definitely a huge step up from Seaborne. Kermorgant battled well and both Haynes and Wright-Phillips did excellently whilst on the pitch. But without doubt, man of the match was Hamer. Countless saves, 4 of them world class, got Charlton something out of the match. He still has his critics, mainly because he’s a little eccentric, but I doubt there is a better shot stopped in this division. Again, as I’ve said many times this season, failing to take our chances is a huge problem. With better finishing of 100% clear cut chances, we’d be far higher up this division. Ifs and buts, of course, but the ifs and buts are realistic.
Inconsistency is often a problem for Championship clubs, especially those who have just entered the division. It may be a cliché but it’s nothing short of the truth: this league is so competitive that anyone can beat anyone. Competition, however, has proved difficult for Charlton over the month of December. Seven unbeaten has quickly become five without a win, including three defeats on the bounce, and poor performances have matched the poor results, highlighted by today’s abysmal display against Ipswich Town in a 2-1 defeat. Little has changed, for the most part it’s the same players, obviously the same coaching staff and their same tactics, but suddenly the Charlton cogs aren’t turning. Individual errors are occurring time and time again, the defence is being broken with ease and there’s little cohesion going forward.
Despite Danny Haynes’ emphatic penalty, part of a second half mini revival for the Addicks that saw Ipswich at least troubled, the damage had already been done in the first half. DJ Campbell, after earlier missing a penalty, gave the visitors the lead after some pinball and poor defending in the Charlton box. The lead was doubled just before half time as Dale Stephens was caught in possession, as he was on countless occasions throughout the game, on the edge of the area allowing Lee Martin to have a shot that was palmed by Hamer and tapped home by Darryl Murphy. A Boxing Day to forget for the home fans, who made the feelings clear at both half and full time.
Charlton made several changes following the tame defeat away at Sheffield Wednesday at the weekend. The suspended Lawrie Wilson was replaced by Danny Green, who made an impact after coming on at Hillsborough, and Stephens came back into the side following his suspension, replacing Johnnie Jackson who passed skippering duties onto Michael Morrison. There were also two changes to the forward line as Ricardo Fuller and Rob Hulse came in for Yann Kermorgant and Salim Kerkar with Haynes moving to the left wing. The bench threw a couple of shocks with youngster Callum Harriot rewarded for a series of fine displays for the development squad and given a place in the 18, which couldn’t be said for last season’s top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips who was missing altogether.
The away side had a squad that, on paper, didn’t look reflective of Ipswich’s league position in the relegation dog fight. Proven Championship quality could be found throughout the team with Luke Chambers and Bradley Orr at the back, Adam Drury and Carlos Edwards in midfield along with a front two of Campbell and Murphy. They were joined by former Addick Martin and a bench that contained Nigel Reo-Coker, who trained with Charlton earlier on in the season.
Referee Russell set his intentions for how he wanted the game to be played early on by given Ipswich a soft free-kick in a dangerous area in the first minute. Martin brushed past Morrison, hit the floor and the referee blew his whistle. As Russell had done when refereeing at the Valley earlier on in the season against Barnsley, he took over a minute to sort the wall and such like for the free-kick to be taken, only for Aaron Cresswell see his attempt sail harmlessly wide. Down the other end, Haynes created Charlton’s first chance, with his run down the left flank resulting in an over hit cross being tipped over by Stephen Henderson in the Ipswich goal.
Despite not being the purest game of football, it was end to end, with several half chances being created. Ricardo Fuller had a run on goal but failed to get any power behind his shot and Ipswich, in the shape of Martin and Murphy, hit wide on a couple of occasions. But with the game fairly even, the away side were gifted the opportunity to take the lead thanks to some criminal Charlton defending. Under no pressure, Dan Seaborne lumped a cross field ball straight into the path of Martin, who ran down the wing and cut across into the box, only for Emmanuel Frimpong to lunge in and chop him down. A rash challenge from the Arsenal loanee gave the referee no choice but to immediately point to the spot. DJ Campbell stepped up and blasted wide. Relief for the Charlton fans but it wasn’t to last.
Ipswich almost took the lead again a few minutes later as Campbell ran onto a ball played in behind the Charlton defence but Hamer came off his line well to save with his feet. Fuller got forward for Charlton again but saw his shot saved, and Stephens came agonisingly close from a free-kick that hit the post, but there were too many misplaced passes, too many lost headers and too many times were players caught in possession; it was only a matter of a time before Ipswich capitalised. With ten minutes to go in the half, Martin knocked the ball around Solly on the left and crossed the ball into the box, only for Edwards to miss hit. But with the ball not out of play, Murphy was the only play to react, and his hook back found Campbell who finished well. The awful defending got what it deserved as Morrison and Seaborne began blaming each other.
With the poor general play continuing, the Addicks would have been counting down the seconds until half time. The interval didn’t come quick enough though, as Stephens’ error led to Murphy pouncing on Martin’s saved shot. Once again the Charlton defence failed to react, once again Seaborne and Morrison held court to put the blame on one another with Seaborne looking to hold more guilt. Boos rang out from the home ends as the players trudged off for half time; the reaction to a performance of the lowest possible quality.
Chris Powell made two changes at half time, taking off the diabolical Frimpong and the ineffectual Green, replacing them with Pritchard and Jackson. Charlton started the stronger, a goal scoring opportunity was missed out on after Fuller and Jackson challenged each other from a Haynes cross and Hulse had a header saved, but no real chances were created. Thankfully for the Addicks, Ipswich never looked like extending their lead and Charlton were given a chance to make a game of it with 20 minutes remaining. Solly and Haynes linked up well on the right, allowing the former to dart into the box, only for him to be brought down by Martin. Haynes sprinted to collect the ball before Hulse and Fuller could have any say, and the former Ipswich man confidently smashed home the spot kick to half the deficit.
The remaining period saw Charlton carve out chance after chance but never really look like scoring. The best chances fell to Hulse, after a deflected shot from Stephens fell into his path and the frontman somehow conspired to miss from no more than 5 years, and Stephens who volleyed wide late on, but anything out of the game would have been undeserved. Substitute Kermorgant had the final say, as his overhead kick from the corner landed on the roof of the net and Charlton were confined to no points yet again.
The positives first, and yes there are some. Danny Haynes was outstanding, out pacing his man time and time again and delivering some fantastic balls into the box, whilst Pritchard was brilliant after coming on in the second half, running his socks off, winning almost every ball and playing accurate passes unlike the rest of them. Apart from those two individual performances, I struggle to think of much else.
There’s only one place to start with the long list of negatives from the game, and that’s Dan Seaborne. His awful performance was summed up by thrice attempting to let the ball run out of play and then allowing the ball to deflect off his body. He did little but smash the ball long to no one in particular and struggled to cope defensively. Poor at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday too, Wiggins can’t come back soon enough. Frimpong was just as bad, poor passing and laziness went hand in hand with the poor challenge to give away the penalty. It’s difficult to see him having a future at Arsenal on the back of several shocking displays. His partner in midfield, Stephens, also had a below par performance. His passing was off radar and the ball was lost far too many times. The team performance, as has been expressed, was not up to scratch and Powell has to sort it out. He’s done it before and he’ll do it again.
The British Empire has crumbled once more. No, we haven’t given up the Falklands or any other sheep filled isle, but our football clubs appear to be losing ground in Europe. Following today’s Champions League last 16 draw, the sensible punter would place his cash on all three British teams being knocked out. Manchester United have Real Madrid, faltering in the league and runners up in their Champions League group but Ronaldo and co. will be up for this one, Arsenal face last year’s losing finalists Bayern Munich and Celtic are met with the unenviable task of run away Serie A leaders Juventus. When you add the Europa League draw into the equation: Liverpool against Zenit, Newcastle travelling to Eastern Europe to play FC Metalist Kharkiv, Spurs playing regular Champions League participants Lyon and Chelsea, with arguably the easiest tie of all seven clubs, facing Sparta Prague, the outlook for British clubs is more bleak than that of a Mayan Calendar.
It’s reached the stage where this is almost accepted; British clubs aren’t expected to dominate in Europe anymore. Not like the good old days, although these days were still going strong just 4 years ago. Europe belonged to England in 2008 and 2009. Four English teams, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United, in the last 16 in both years, four in the quarter finals in both years, three in the semi-finals in both years and two in the final in 08 with one in 09. When the fact two English teams, Arsenal and Liverpool in 08 and Chelsea and Liverpool in 09, played each other in the quarters in both seasons, this truly was a remarkable achievement. There was no denying it, the Premier League was the best league in the world. England’s clubs ruled supreme.
But things have changed. England still produces finalists, and even winners. In fact, between 2005 and 2012 only one final has been without an English club; seven finalists and three winners in that period makes for impressive reading. The current champions of Europe are English, as Chelsea fans continue to kindly remind us, but they were knocked out in the group stage this season, along with Man City, the champions of England. One team might find be able to graft its way through, but the dominance has vanished. It’s become so desperate we’re no longer talking about four English clubs in the quarter finals of the Champions League, but three British clubs through the group stage. Depending on who you listen to, either Spain’s league of superstars or Germany’s fan friendly league is now the best in the world. It certainly isn’t the Premier League.
Based on pure quality of football, I personally believe La Liga to be the best. First of all it has the players: Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Ronaldo, Di Maria, Ozil, Falcao, Llorente, Muniain, the list could go on and on. The league is littered with world class players. When you compare that list to the Matas, Silvas and Rooneys of the Premier League, they don’t even come close. The league also contains arguably the two biggest clubs in the world. The players, the staff, and the commercial aspects of Barcelona and Real Madrid are matched by few, if any at all. It’s also more competitive than it’s made out to be. Athelitco Madrid seem to have slotted themselves in between the Barcelona/Real Madrid monopoly and, whilst there’s no denying the excessive gaps between 1st and 2nd and 2nd and 3rd aren’t what you’d expect in a competitive league, the fact that Valencia, Bilbao and Sevilla currently sit 11th, 12th and 13th respectively suggests the also-rans of the league aren’t just there to make up the numbers. This season, La Liga provides four Champions League finalists: Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia and Malaga. You would fancy all bar Valencia, who play PSG, to progress. Spain’s clubs have snatched the title from the English as the dominant nation in Europe. They’ve not even unleashed Athelitco Madrid on the Champions League, with the inform side attempting to defend their Europa League title, won in an all Spanish final against Athelitco Madrid, who aren’t playing in Europe this season. Quality in abundance.
Germany aren’t far behind though. Three teams, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke have made it through the group stage. Bayern are 9 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, Dortmund finishing top of the ‘Group of Champions’ that contained Madrid, Man City and Ajax, whilst Schalke have a habit or reaching this stage of the competition year in year out. Whilst not possessing the talents the Spanish, or even the English clubs (UEFA agrees, placing Germany third in its coefficient table), have, the quality is still world class, Bayern Munich have reached two finals in the past three years for example, and Germany’s time to dominate will come. The finances of German clubs are second to none and they’ll hold an advantage when UEFA fair play rules start to bite on the bigger spenders in the coming seasons. As a league itself, the much talked about fan experience is its trademark. Safe standing, cheap tickets and unbelievable atmospheres, they’re a model to top flight leagues around the world. It’s surely only a matter of time before this efficient management translates into European success.
I’d like to be proved wrong. I’d love for the British teams to progress, I’d love to see another English, or even British, winner of the Champions League this season. I can’t see it happening though. The quality of the competition is far too high and I can’t picture Manchester United or Arsenal pulling off several gritty victories in the style Chelsea did, whilst Celtic aren’t up to this level. It’s not as if the quality overall in the Premier League itself has got worse. It hasn’t. Nor has its competitiveness and entertainment value, which remain high. It’s just teams from Spain, Germany and even Eastern Europe like Shakhtar have improved hugely, whilst the big boys of the Premier League have lost some of their better players to age and foreign leagues and are yet to replace them to the same standard. Francis Coquelin is no Alex Song.
There’s always a danger that special football related occasions will fail to live up to the pre-game expectations. Cup finals, derby days and, like today, special anniversaries often end in disappointment amongst both sets of fans and the neutrals with uninspiring 0-0 draws or scrappy ‘we’ve got a goal let’s spend the next 87 minutes with eleven men behind the ball’ victories. Despite Charlton marking their 20th year back at The Valley, the game against Brighton was far from dull and suited such a special occasion. Whilst frustrating for the two sets of fans, a game arguably both will feel they could have one, any neutral taking in the game would have been more than pleased with what they saw; an exciting end to end game that saw both sides create and waste chances in a 2-2 draw.
The Addicks took the lead twice, first of all through the returning Lawrie Wilson and then an emotional Bradley Pritchard with his first league goal, but strikes from Craig Mackail-Smith and Luzenga Lua-Lua respectively cancelled out the Charlton goals. It could have easily ended up with any score line in any team’s favour; such were the chances both teams had. Away from the action on the pitch, a collection of highly esteemed personal associated with the Addicks return to The Valley took to the pitch before kick-off and released a set of balloons to celebrate the 20 year return. An emotional video was played on the big screen and an inspiring speech from former chairman Richard Murray highlighted just how special Charlton Athletic Football Club is. No matter what the result, today, next week or in a year’s time, Charlton fans have every reason to love their club.
To the football though, and Charlton sprung a number of surprises with their team selection. Despite not having featured in a match day 18 since Middlesbrough at the beginning of November, Wilson was thrown straight in at right back, replacing Dan Seaborne with Chris Solly heading to left back. After an impressive display against Millwall, Dorian Dervite kept his place in the starting XI, partnering Michael Morrison, who sat out the derby through suspension, in the centre of defence. Leon Cort, despite rarely putting a foot wrong all season, strangely was dropped to the bench. Arsenal loanee Emmanuel Frimpong came into midfield, replacing Salim Kerkar and skipper Johnnie Jackson taking up duties on the left flank. Danny Haynes was also back into the starting line-up, replacing Yann Kermorgant.
Brighton lined up with a team that would cause problems to anyone in this division. Premier League quality in the shape of Tomasz Kuszczak and Wayne Bridge, exciting young players including Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley and one of the best goal scorers in the Championship, Mackail-Smith. With the side being led by Gus Poyet, father of Charlton academy player Diego, any result in the favour of either team would have made for some awkward conversations at Sparrows Lane and the Poyet family dinner table.
The game sprung into life inside the first thirty seconds as Brighton appealed for a penalty after Dervite used an element of force to win an aerial challenge against Stephen Dobbie. There was nothing in it, but it set the tone for the rest of the game. With the following few minutes mainly contested in midfield, there was little to talk about before the atmosphere lifted up a notch amongst the home fans as the clock ticked over to 3:07PM: the same time 20 years ago on December 5th that Colin Walsh scored the only goal in a 1-0 win against Portsmouth in the first game home. The Charlton fans stood and clapped for a minute, following that up with a passionate rendition of ‘Valley Floyd Road’.
The crowd were alive and so were Charlton as they began a spell of dominance. Excellent power and pace from Frimpong forced a corner, which was executed with an interesting short lay off technique. It came to nothing, but the next corner just two minutes later, after a Bruno slice and Kuszczak’s attempts to keep the ball in play failed, delivered rewards for the Addicks. Stephens touched the ball to Jackson, who set it back to Stephens and his cross was flicked in from close range by Wilson. Such was the beauty of the ball in, the goal was originally credited to Stephens himself, but the smallest touch from the right back had given Charlton the lead.
A fantastic cross from Jackson moments later almost resulted in the Addicks stretching their lead as Haynes’ header was dramatically tipped over the bar by Kuszczak. The resulting corner, taken short once again, saw a chance for Morrison but he headed well over. Brighton had failed to muster a single opportunity of any note whatsoever in the first 20; that was until their first corner of the game resulted in a golden opportunity from Gordan Greer, but he fluffed his lines from close range. This near miss signalled a change in the game as Brighton began to get going, and they forced Ben Hamer into an unbelievable save just minutes later. Dobbie was played clean through and had only Hamer in his path to goal, but the striker’s effort was blocked away by a combination of face and hand as Charlton’s number one made himself big.
Despite Brighton’s spell of pressure, Charlton were still playing incredibly well. A cross from Solly somehow evaded everyone in the middle, only for the ball to Pritchard but his effort was closed down and blocked away. It was the last chance Charlton were to have to double their lead, as Brighton went down the other end and equalised. A seemingly innocuous ball over the top was misjudged by Morrison as he could only head backwards, straight into the path of Mackail-Smith, who finished well past Hamer. It was deserved, but the manner of the goal made it hard to take for the Charlton fans.
Charlton didn’t let their heads drop and were straight back down the Brighton end. Wilson’s pace was causing problems for the Brighton defence down the right, and he set up a chance for Haynes, who could only hit the side netting. That was to be the last meaningful chance for the Addicks of the half as Brighton took control of the final period of the second half. Their signature quick yet calm passing style was on display, but they failed to carve out any significant openings with the two teams going in level at the break.
Brighton continued to play their passing game at the start of the second half, this time managing to create a couple of half chances. Buckley was starting to live up to his hype and tested Hamer, whilst Dobbie was in the thick of a lot of Brighton’s best stuff, going wide on a couple of occasions. A quick Charlton break saw Hulse hammer an effort at goal from a tight angle but it was beaten away with ease by Kuszczak in the Brighton goal. It seemed Charlton’s only opportunities would come on the break, and Hamer sent Haynes racing down the right flank, being fouled as he went but maintaining balance to send a cross into Pritchard. His header had no pace on it and the ball fell nicely into the hands of Kuszczak.
With Brighton on top, their best chance game on the hour mark. Bruno found Buckley with no one around him just inside the box but his powerful shot lacked accuracy, ending up clipping the stanchion behind the goal. An awful pass across the halfway line from Frimpong saw Hoskins break away, leaving Wilson no choice but to scenically bring him down just outside the area and earn a yellow card for his troubles. The Seagulls brought on free-kick specialist Lua-Lua in the hope he’d give them the lead, but his effort hit the wall, falling into the path Mackail-Smith but his effort was blocked away for a corner. After soaking up so much pressure, it was remarkable to see Charlton take the lead just moments later through Pritchard. A ball along the ground into the box by Jackson was fantastically held up by the diminutive Zimbabwean, who managed to stick a foot out just as it looked like the ball was getting away from him and poke it into the back of the net. He didn’t know what to do, putting his head into his hands before being bundled by his team mates. The former non-league man’s first ever league goal, and his hard work throughout the last two seasons has more than merited it.
The lead didn’t last long though, as Brighton won another free-kick right on the edge of the area as Barnes was brought down. Lua-Lua stood over the ball again, the ball hit the wall again but this time it rolled into the net. The trademark acrobatic celebration followed. Both teams attempted to go for the winner in the final 15 minutes, but neither created any real opening except for a Barnes header that was just put over the bar and a similar effort from Hulse that was saved comfortably. A fantastic game and a fair result.
An outstanding performance from the Charlton players, everyone included, even Morrison, guilty of a costly error, was solid before and thereafter. Frimpong showed his class with some great strength, pace and passing, as did Stephens, whilst Solly dealt well with the threat of Buckley and Hamer picked up the pieces on a number of occasions. However, man of the match was Lawrie Wilson. Returning from injury you may have expected a slightly rusty performance, but he stood out above the rest at the back and going forward. He’s going to be a crucial player for the remainder of the season and one we need to keep fit. Now just four points from the play-offs and unbeaten in seven games, the rest of the season may well be an exciting one for the Addicks. Whatever happens, today showed what a wonderful club we have. Charlton Athletic might not be the most successful club, or the richest, but we have a special kind of gold that can’t be measured.
The 5th day of the 12th month. It’s a very special day for anyone associated with Charlton Athletic Football Club. It’s the date, in 1992, that Charlton returned back home to The Valley after seven years in exile. Today marks twenty years since that historic moment and, more than ever, those connected with the club having a reason to proud. There’s been some memorable moments in the 20 years since the return, and here’s my list of the top 20.
3:07 – 5/12/92
The first game back at The Valley, it was a game Charlton were destined to win. Seven minutes into the game Darren Pitcher played in Colin Walsh who smashed home the winner as a sell-out crowd saw the Addicks beat Portsmouth 1-0. Delirium, relief, pride. Chartlon were home.
Ipswich Play-Off – 13/5/98
Without this result, Wembley and the penalties would never have happened. Leading 1-0 from the first leg, Charlton knew a draw would see them through, but a Shaun Newton goal just past the half hour mark sealed the victory in the leg and on aggregate. I don’t need to tell you what happened next.
Premier League Welcomes and Returns
The combined total of Charlton’s first home games upon promotion to the Premier League makes happy reading. Played 2, won 2, scored 9, and conceded 0. A 5-0 win over Southampton in 1998, including a Clive Mendonca hat-trick, and a 4-0 win over Man City in 2000 made this Premier League malarkey look all too easy.
It may have been a poor end to the season, and a defeat to Ipswich in the final game, but Charlton had bounced straight back to the Premier League and as champions. A fantastic season prior to the bad run saw the Addicks amass a total of 91 points, and only that was being thought about as Mark Kinsella lifted the Division One Trophy.
United Comeback – 9/12/2000
3-1 down to Manchester United with 15 minutes to go, game over surely? Not in the mind of a John Robinson inspired Charlton. The legend epitomised everything the club is about with fight and desire to snatch a late equaliser after Shaun Bartlett got Charlton’s second. Beckham et al embarrassed on the Valley turf, how beautiful.
Bartlett Banger And The RVP Rocket
There are not many better sights on a football pitch than an unbelievable volley. The Valley has had its fair share of world class strikes, but two goal of the season winners stand out. First of all, a goal for the Addicks in the 2000/2001 season. Reminiscent of the Song to Van Persie goals of last season, a long ball from Gary Rowett is played forward to Shaun Bartlett, who somehow volleys home on the full from a seemingly ever widening angle. The second goal physically involved Van Persie. A ball through to Eboue saw him cross to the edge of the box, which Van Persie somehow flew onto and volleyed into the back of the net. The reactions of Luke Young and Talal El Karkouri say it all. There was nothing anyone could do.
Brown Red Card – 29/9/01
One of the more light hearted moments came in 2001 when Steve Brown was sent off for a deliberate handball. The card was shown to him whilst he was carried off on a stretcher which didn’t please the Charlton fans. Putting to use the club shop brochures that were handed out before kick-off, the home fans littered the pitch in them. A strange sight indeed.
10 years on – 7/12/02
Two days after the ten year anniversary of the return to The Valley, one of Charlton’s 21st century legends kicked started a 2-0 win against Liverpool. A close range finish from Jason Euell and a second from Paul Konchesky gave Charlton the three points and another sentimental victory. I presume it will be 3-0 on Saturday then?
Boxing Day Bashing – 26/12/04
It was the season were Roman’s millions first started to show. Chelsea finished second in the league, but they also lots emphatically to Charlton. Goals from Hriedarsson, Holland, Johansson and Euell gave the Addicks a remarkable 4-2 win in a season that saw their highest ever Premier League Finish. Days like that always seemed to come into a conversation after an embarrassing defeat to Exeter or Hartlepool.
Claus and the keeper – 21/2/04
Another remarkable game from the 2003/04 season against Blackburn saw Charlton throw away a 2-0 lead with a keeper equalising in injury time, only for the Addicks to go down the other end and grab the winner. Carlton Cole and Euell put Charlton ahead, only for Andy Cole to get a goal back with 15 minutes to go. With Blackburn getting a corner late on, Brad Friedel went up and unbelievably scored. Thankfully for Charlton, legend Claus Jensen volleyed home from 25 yards to give Charlton three points. Brilliant.
We Sent The Palace Down – 15/5/05
It’s the final day of the 2004/05 season and there’s nothing to play for, for Charlton at least. They’ve already sealed a comfortable mid table position. The visitors, Crystal Palace, on the other hand are fighting for their lives. Three of four teams will go down, Palace needing to win and hope other results go their way. With 15 minutes to go it looked like the Eagles were safe; 2-1 up and Norwich and Southampton losing meant they were staying in the Premier League. That was until big Jon Fortune popped up with a header 8 minutes from time to level the match and relegate Palace. ‘Tralalalalalalala we sent the Palace down’ became a Covered End classic for the next few seasons.
Thanks Curbs – 29/4/06
The first time I’ve ever cried at a football stadium for footballing reasons was when Alan Curbishley resigned as Charlton manager. A flat 2-0 defeat to Blackburn meant nothing as the hero of Charlton’s rise to the Premier League announced his decision to leave. It all went downhill from there.
You’re not fit to wear the shirt – 19/12/06
The 2006/07 was full of embarrassing displays and defeats, and one of the worst was Wycombe in the League Cup. Les Reed’s men, facing the League Two side, looked destined for a semi-final tie and the chance of a shot at a final appearance. But such was the inadequacy of Reed’s sides, Charlton put in one of their worst ever performances to lose 1-0 to a Jermaine Easter goal. ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ sang the angered Addicks fans.
Premier League relegation – 7/5/07
A 4-1 defeat away at Blackburn the previous week had left Charlton on the verge of relegation to the Championship. Tottenham were the visitors for a Monday night fixture in a must win game. After just 10 minutes Berbatov had turned El Karkouri and finished past Carson. Former Charlton academy player Jermaine Defoe rounded off a 2-0 win, heartbreak. Cue tears from the fans and an image of a downbeat Matt Holland; one that always stays in my mind.
Pardew’s Final Act – 22/10/08
Respected as a player and a respectable battle against Premier League relegation meant to begin with, the Charlton fans were happy to have Alan Pardew as their manager. But an 11th place finish in the first season back in the Championship and an awful start to the following season that saw the Addicks bottom of the league. The final nail in the coffin was an awful display against Sheffield United that saw Charlton lose 5-2. He was sacked later that day and immediately became a villain.
Penalty Heart Ache -17/5/10
In my life time, Charlton haven’t really done penalties. Apart from a shootout win over Chelsea in 2005 in the League Cup at Stamford Bridge, I struggle to think of any real success. The worst one of all though, by far, was the shootout defeat to Swindon in the 2009/10 play-off semi-final. Going into the second leg 2-1 down, Charlton were 3-2 ahead by half time. With 30 minutes to go Gordan Greer was sent off and it looked like Charlton were in control, but a goal from Danny Ward with 15 minutes to go and a period of extra time that saw Charlton come close on countless occasions without scoring saw the game go to penalties. Regular penalty taker, captain and player of the year Nicky Bailey stepped up and picked out the corner flag. Every other penalty was scored. Swindon were through. Despair and resignation to another season in the Micky Mouse division followed.
Powell’s First game
Nothing too remarkable about the game itself, a 2-0 win against Plymouth, and an embarrassing run followed shortly after, but that’s not the point. Chris Powell’s first game was the start of something magic. The legend had returned as a leader and my word has he led us well.
CHAMPIONSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS – 21/4/12
With the final whistle sounding on the penultimate home game of the 2011/12 season, Charlton looked to have secured the title with a 2-1 win over Wycombe. There was an agonising wait though as fans waited for the end of MK Dons v Sheffield United, which saw the Dons lead 1-0. The wait seemed to last forever, until over the loud speaker system a cry of ‘CHAMPIONSSSSSSSSSSSS’ was sounded by pitch side announcer Dave Lockwood. The perfect reaction to the perfect moment as fantastic moments of celebration followed.
Yann Basten – 5/5/12
‘We all dream of a team of Kermorgants was sung by the home crowd on mass up to the 70s; the perfect salute for cult hero who’d inspired the Addick’s promotion. He had one more piece of magic for the home fans though. A looping ball from Bradley Pritchard looked like it was heading out of play, put some how the Frenchman kept it in and flicked the ball over the keeper from an impossible angle. Pure class. The day was also remembered for the red devils parachute display team, the lifting of the League One trophy and a heart-warming rendition of ‘we’ve got our Charlton back’ as Chris Powell gave a speech to the Covered End.
Cardiff Madness – 13/11/12
One game was needed from this season, and what a game. On the back of an awful run of results and a 4-1 defeat to Middlesbrough, an embarrassing start saw Charlton go 2-0 goals down to Cardiff. I’m sure every Charlton fan was beginning to get a little concerned with the thought of a struggle and relegation, but the crowd sang ‘Chrissy Powell’s red army’ non-stop for a good 20 minutes. Two fantastic goals from Johnnie Jackson saw the Addicks go in level at half time and then, inspired by the crowd, raced into a 5-2 lead with a fluke free-kick from Dale Stephens and two headers from Danny Haynes and Rob Hulse respectively. Two goals for Cardiff in stoppage time tested the nerves but three valuable points were Charlton’s.