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.