That old cliché really is true; the first game you look for when the fixture list is released is the first derby of the season. Anticipation and excitement has been building for fans of Premier League and Football League clubs since June and, with several rivalries being contested over the course of this weekend, those bottled up emotions are about to be released in a surge of frantic derby action.
However, for Charlton fans, those emotions are replaced by anxiety, fear and dread. The statistics don’t make for pretty reading; three defeats and a draw from four South East London derbies last season and no win since 1996 in any fixture involving today’s opponents Millwall. A week ago, with Charlton coming back to form and Millwall’s performances causing fans to turn against their side, there was genuine hope the Addicks could come away three points richer from a match with the Lions for the first time in 17 years, but a win for Millwall and a Charlton defeat in midweek grounded those hopes and the familiar worry returned. By full time those worries had been realised as a lacklustre Charlton were completely void of ideas in a demoralising and depressing 1-0 defeat to their South London neighbours.
A dire game that must have motivated the Sky Sports viewers watching from their sofas to turn off their televisions and do something a bit more productive with their weekends saw both sides play out a scrappy first half. Neither keeper was tested as the two sides exchanged optimistic long range efforts, but Millwall were dominant in the air, both at the back, where Joe Pigott had a torrid time, and up top, and controlling the play in midfield. It came as no surprise that the visitors were the side to take the lead, and did so through a goal that had more than just an element of good fortune about it. Scott McDonald’s unthreatening effort from the edge of the area took a wicked deflection off Dorian Dervite, wrong footing Ben Hamer and leaving him motionless as the ball trickled into the net. Despite the manner of the goal, there was no excuse for it as McDonald was gifted the chance to shoot after Pritchard inexcusably misplaced a pass in midfield. The goal came with 38 minutes on the clock and Charlton’s players trudged off at half-time to a chorus of boos from a disgruntled set of home fans.
The second half was slightly better, but in the same way having your weaker leg amputated is slightly better than losing your favoured one; it was still ugly, still full of pain and still nowhere near as good enough as it should have been. Dale Stephens had a glorious opportunity to pull Charlton level, but he couldn’t keep his effort below the bar after the ball popped up perfectly for him just outside the box. That was as good as it got for Charlton in the opening passages of play in the second half as they continued to punt unimaginative long balls up field in the direction of no one in particular. In fact it was Millwall who looked more the likely scorer of the next goal as Steve Morison’s introduction gave the visitors significant aerial dominance, with the Welshman carving out a chance for Martyn Woolford that was spurned and Liam Trotter forced Hamer into a fine save.
Charlton managed something of a late surge, but their decision making let them down at the crucial moments. Simon Church opted to shoot from an angle Millwall keeper David Forde had covered with Stephens and Callum Harriott free in the centre, whilst Harriott himself failed to spot Cameron Stewart free and instead misplaced a through ball to Marvin Sordell. There was still a flickering glimmer of hope on Charlton’s candle with four minutes of added time singled, but Forde’s save from Stewart’s effort after he wriggled free inside the box extinguished that flame. A hostile atmosphere of boos and groans serenaded the players off the pitch; Charlton’s fans had once again been let down by their heroes not performing in a derby match.
Those pre-match worries turned to fear and panic with the news of Charlton’s starting XI. Talismanic figure Yann Kermorgant, despite being declared fit in midweek, failed a late fitness, missing out on the squad for a second consecutive game after being absent in the midweek defeat at Huddersfield. Sordell was given the unenviable task of filling the Frenchman’s boots in Yorkshire, but a poor performance from the Bolton loanee saw him dropped and youngster Pigott come in for his first league start. With Chris Solly keeping Kermorgant company in Charlton’s medical department, Pigott’s inclusion was the only change from the Huddersfield fixture, meaning Powell kept with the 3-5-2 formation and goal scorer in the 2-1 defeat Cameron Stewart had to settle for a place on the bench.
The Millwall line up contained several familiar faces to Charlton fans. Nicky Bailey, who was clapped whilst playing at The Valley for Middlesbrough, was booed heavily when his name was read out over the PA system, whilst fellow starter Martyn Waghorn and substitute Lee Martin completed a trio of former Charlton players in the visitors’ line up. After their win over Blackpool in midweek, manager Steve Lomas named an unchanged side, with Alan Dunne, Paul Robinson, Mark Beevers and Scott Malone lining up in a back four in front of ‘keeper Forde. A five man midfield saw Nadjim Abdou, Bailey and Trotter flanked by Woolford and Waghorn, whilst McDonald led the line on his own.
The atmosphere inside The Valley was tense with both sides anxious to get off to a bright start. There’s no brighter start than an early goal and Bailey, who was booed every time he touched the ball in the opening stages, tried his luck from 30 yards out but it trickled well wide, much to the delight of the Charlton fans who now despise their former captain. In Charlton’s first meaningful attack, Lawrie Wilson disposed Malone by the corner flag and swung in a delivery that couldn’t evade the clutches of Forde.
The frantic opening period of play continued as Hamer collected a loose ball under pressure from Waghorn, only to slide outside the area, forcing him to release possession at the Leicester loanee’s feet, but the ‘keeper recovered well to reclaim the ball back inside his penalty area with a collective sigh of relief from the home ends as he did so. Down the other end, a characteristically scrappy exchange in midfield culminated in Pritchard poking through to Jackson, but the skipper’s effort from distance cleared the bar by a considerable margin. Charlton created another opening moments later as a threatening cross from Rhoys Wiggins had to be headed behind by Beevers with Pigott ready to pounce. Jackson’s following corner evaded everyone, but Charlton had made a bright start to the contest.
However, that bright start was as good as it got for Charlton as they began to fade, with Pigott’s horribly over hit pass to Wiggins the catalyst, whilst Millwall took control of the game. Malone burst forward from left back and fired in yet another shot from range that ballooned over the bar, whilst Waghorn stung Hamer’s palms with the game’s first effort on goal, which was well saved. Charlton were struggling to clear their lines, losing possession when they did, and seriously missing the outlet that Kermorgant provided. The long balls pumped up to Church and Pigott were not being won and Millwall were able to regain possession quickly after losing it. Worrying signs for the home side.
Bailey fired in another shot from range that was comfortably saved by Hamer whilst Woolford produced yet another shot that soared over the bar and McDonald dragged an effort wide of the post from outside the area; Millwall were certainly dominating the poor Addicks but couldn’t muster any serious chances from their control of the game. It was going to take a piece of magic of a slice of good fortune to open the scoring in this one; the Lions got the latter with seven first half minutes to play.
Pritchard, wayward and struggling to contend with the physical nature of Bailey and Trotter in the centre of midfield, misplaced a pass straight into the path of McDonald. He exchanged passes with Woolford before getting his shot away when 20 yards from goal. It looked a tame one, Hamer certainly had it covered, but a deflection off the body of Dervite changed the destination of the ball from one corner of the goal to the other and the ball bounced in with Hamer already committed. It was no less than Charlton deserved for their abysmal first half showing and exactly what was needed to kick both them and the game into life.
Unfortunately for the home fans the goal didn’t have the desired effect. Jackson had the chance to pick out an unmarked Church in Millwall’s box but took too long to pull back the back and a soft shout for a penalty after the skipper fell under pressure from Abdou fell on death ears as the game petered out into half time. Without a shot on target, riddled with individual errors and deploying a brand of long ball football that caused no concern to the Millwall back line, Charlton’s performance warranted the boos that met the half time whistle.
A quick response from Charlton in the second half would have changed the atmosphere in The Valley and the course of the game, and they came so close to levelling after just a minute of the second 45. Wilson’s low cross to the edge of the area found Stephens, whose touch set the ball up nicely for him to fire a shot away, but he couldn’t keep the ball down and the fans in the Lower North had another wayward shot sent their way. Stephens really should have done better with his effort and at least tested the ‘keeper with a clear sight of goal but his execution was poor.
The home fans were getting more and more disgruntled by the minute and Pigott running the ball out of play under little pressure did little to help that, whilst Hamer’s rushed clearance fell to feet of McDonald, allowing him to play in Woolford and only an excellent block from Dervite prevented a second Millwall goal. The calls for Harriott to come off the bench produced the loudest noise from the home ends for quite some time. Powell, although not Harriott, did make a change shortly after as Stewart came off the bench for his first Valley appearance in place of Wood with the Addicks reverting to a 4-4-2 formation.
Millwall made a change of their own at the hour mark, taking off goal scorer McDonald and bringing on Morison, and the Leeds loanee immediately sent through Woolford, but his first time shot was off-target from a promising position. Trotter, after being allowed to travel through midfield, then came closer still to doubling Millwall’s lead with a superb effort from distance that forced Hamer into a superb stop with Wiggins picking up the pieces and clearing the ball to safety. This, like so many other moments, led to a roar of encouragement from the home fans, but it was having little to no effect.
However, Stewart had looked lively since coming on and wasn’t afraid to take on his markers with the ball at his feet and had delivered a couple of crosses that had at least made Robinson and Beevers work to defend their lead. One such delivery forced Beevers to turn the ball behind for a corner, and there were shouts for a penalty as both Dervite and Morrison had their shirts pulled as the ball came in, but you rarely see them given. The assertiveness with which Charlton appealed was a sign of their desperation for a way back into this game.
Martin replaced Waghorn but the Charlton fans were too busy cursing their own side to bother booing the former Addick whilst Pigott and Pritchard made way for Sordell and Harriott. Harriott immediately deployed some trademark trickery but struggled to progress forward, but it was a sign the winger could potentially make a difference in the game. Sordell was then involved in Charlton’s best chance of the game so far as his excellent through ball played in Church, but the striker opted to shoot with men free in the box. Stephens and Harriott gave an impressive display of synchronised moaning as Forde gathered Church’s weak effort; Charlton’s first shot on target after 77 minutes. Harriott was involved again moments later as he broke quickly from a Millwall corner but lost possession after misplacing a through ball to Sordell when Stewart looked the better option to his left. Both quality and decision making was nowhere to be seen in a red shirt.
Malone should have put the game to bed after Chaplow went unchallenged and was able to pull the ball back to him inside the box, but the defender could only find the side netting and bit his shirt in disappointment. With the miss giving Charlton some sort of hope, Sordell came close to connecting with a deflected Church cross, but it was the sort of chance I wouldn’t bother to write about in normal circumstances in a performance that was above pathetic. With four minutes added on, the home fans gave one last rallying cry, and Stewart almost responded, but Frode save well from the winger’s shot and received a pat on the back from Bailey; he was enjoying this.
The atmosphere at full time is something I’ve never experienced inside The Valley before. It was more hostile than any words can describe. As the players came over to clap the North Stand they were rejected by a lord and continuous chorus of boos. Chris Powell’s side had not only let down the fans in an important derby fixture, they’d been embarrassing.
I think before I run the riot act on Charlton, Millwall deserve some credit. They may not have been particularly inventive or creative, but they didn’t need to be, they stuck to the task incredibly well and deserved their three points. Lomas had his side very well organised, they won absolutely every battle in midfield and were solid at the back. Trotter and Bailey were especially impressive in the centre, not giving any Charlton a player a moment to think before they pounced and launched a counter attack.
By contrast, today’s performance was up there with the worst I’ve witnessed in my ten seasons as a Charlton fan and almost certainly the worst display at The Valley. Only the defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in the 2006/07 League Cup Quarter Final comes close, but this feels incomparably worse. The humiliation of putting such a disgusting performance in a game that matters so much to me and every other Charlton fan is indescribable.
Powell got it horribly wrong. His first big mistake was playing Pigott; a youngster who clearly isn’t ready yet. I felt sorry for Pigott, playing completely out of his depth, but it’s a worrying portrayal of the lack of depth and quality within this squad that Powell felt he had to turn to the youngster in such an important fixture. His second mistake was not having a sufficient plan B to deal with Kermorgant’s absence. 3-5-2 has been working as we’ve had an outlet up front; Kermorgant has been able to collect long balls and attacks have started from higher up the pitch. Without Kermorgant, our long balls weren’t being won whilst the midfield was unable to collect the ball from defence and create an attack. A 4-4-2 formation with out and out wingers would have provided a better source of moving the ball forward with a full back and winger linking up down either flank to develop attacks as appose to long balls or Wilson and Wiggins struggling out wide on their own. I hate to criticise Powell, but a tactical change was needed today.
Missing Kermorgant, Solly and even Cort is of course disastrous for a club like Charlton in this division, but it’s not an excuse. We have to get on with what we’ve got and it’s the players’ and manager’s responsibility to put in a performance in any circumstance. That didn’t happen today.
Powell’s set up wasn’t helped by players underperforming dramatically both individually and as a team. The defence and midfield took too long on the ball, there was no urgency to get the ball forward or win it back and the hit long and hope method deployed by the defenders to front men who couldn’t win a header was reminiscent of Miguel Llera pumping long to Paul Benson to lose in the Phil Parkinson days. It was horrible viewing.
Pritchard had his worst game for Charlton by far and looked a little boy competing in midfield with Bailey and Trotter; the blue shirt one the battle every single time. Stephens played one fantastic ball to Wiggins early but was far too slow on the ball after that and struggled to create anything whilst Jackson huffed and puffed, showing the effort you’d want from every single player, but lacked quality in his passing. Church, like Church does, tried hard, but it wasn’t enough in these circumstances. There needed to be more from the senior striker with Pigott struggling alongside him but he shied away; it was easy to forget he was playing in the first half.
The defence, despite Millwall’s dominance, didn’t have much to deal with, and they dealt with it reasonably well, but Millwall’s chances game from a failure to close them down, both in the sense of long range efforts and shots from inside the box that resulted from the Lions’ midfield having the time to play the ball in. Hamer, although making a couple of good saves, struggled to distribute the ball and caused several problems with poor goal kicks. Harriott, Sordell and Stewart all did well in very short bursts but it was never going to be enough.
What do we put this down to? A bad day at the office or something that will be a regular occurrence? I hope with everything I have it’s the former, because the performances can’t get any worse than what was on display today. Hopefully the players are aware of that, and Powell too, and they can bounce back in a run of very, very tough fixtures.
If I was wearing a Charlton shirt on the pitch at full time today, the atmosphere itself would stick with me for the rest of my career. The players have something to prove to us in the coming weeks.
After a two week international-break-enforced gap between fixtures, there was always a danger Charlton would lose both the confidence and momentum created by their fantastic performance in the 2-1 victory over Leicester City a fortnight ago. But, to those with a glass half full, the break was also an opportunity for Chris Powell and his side to fine-tune the 3-5-2 formation that had its first run-out in the league against Leicester and helped bring about the Addicks’ first win of the Championship season. Thankfully for the Charlton fans that travelled in number to Vicarage Road this Saturday, the upturn in form continued as an excellent performance was rewarded with a gritty 1-1 draw against Watford.
The first half was an even affair, characterised by wastefulness in the final third. Watford’s pace in attack meant they were able to break free and create openings on a number of occasions, but Fernando Forestieri and Diego Fabbrini couldn’t find the target when shooting opportunities were presented to them. For Charlton, wonderful passing play was the order of the day, a far cry from the dismal displays against Middlesbrough and Doncaster Rovers, but they couldn’t finish off their flowing moves as a final ball evaded them time and time again. When the away side finally got it right, the assistant’s flag denied them the opening goal as Richard Wood was judged offside after poking home following a goal mouth melee following a Dale Stephens set-piece.
After some handbags in Watford’s box from a corner, the result of which saw Simon Church and Davide Faraoni booked, the two sides shared their best legitimate openings of the half just before the break, but neither could apply the finishing touch needed to take the lead. Church’s acrobatic effort to make contact with Kermorgant’s volleyed ball across goal wasn’t quite enough and Lawrie Wilson was on hand to prevent Forestieri from getting his shot away after he latched onto a long ball.
All Charlton needed to do in the second half was find some cutting edge, and they did just that after a matter of seconds. Michael Morrison drove forward and picked out Bradley Pritchard, who fed the ball through to Wilson, allowing him to break into the box and get away from Essaid Belkalem before the defender cynically brought him down; penalty given and the defender fortunate to get away without a second booking after he was shown a yellow card in the first half. Kermorgant stepped and rifled his kick into the top corner of the net to put the Addicks in front. The goal sparked Watford into life and the Hornets wasted a number of opportunities to draw level as a mixture of poor finishing and Hamer’s brilliance between the sticks preventing them from scoring. However, they finally drew level with 19 minutes left to play as Hamer could only parry Fabbrini’s powerful effort from a half cleared corner and Daniel Pudil pounced to put the ball beyond a stranded Hamer. Watford dominated the closing stages of play but, despite having plenty of the ball, never really looked like grabbing the winner and Charlton held on for a valuable point.
For Charlton, their star player was once again missing from the team sheet. After Powell had made it clear Chris Solly would be in contention for the game in his Thursday press conference, the full back was again forced to miss out after failing to fully recover from injury. Also missing was defender Leon Cort, who was also missing through injury, meaning Wood came for his league debut for Charlton. Wood’s inclusion was the only change for Charlton as Powell continued with the highly praised 3-5-2 formation that has sparked an upturn in Charlton’s fortunes. With Hamer in goal, Morrison and Dorian Dervite started alongside Wood at the back, whilst Solly’s absence meant Wilson continued at right wing-back with Wiggins on the left. Pritchard, Stephens and skipper Johnnie Jackson made up the midfield, whilst Kermorgant and Church continued their promising partnership in attack. There was also a pair of new names in the Charlton squad as ‘keeper Ben Alnwick and winger Cameron Stewart were included in the 18 for the first time following their moves from Barnsley and Hull respectively.
Watford made several changes following their defeat to Blackpool a fortnight ago. The Hornets handed a debut to Belkalem, who replaced the absent Joel Ekstrand as part of a trio of central defenders, completed by Marco Cassetti and Gabriele Angella, in their attack minded 3-4-2-1 formation. Despite making his debut for Scotland in the week, Ikechi Anya had to settle for a place on the bench with Forestieri, infamously sent off after receiving a second yellow for diving at The Valley last season, coming in to replace him on the left wing, whilst Pudil started in midfield in place of the injured Alman Abdi. McGugan started on the right, whilst Marco Faraoni, Iriney and Fabbrini completed the midfield. Top goal scorer Troy Deeney led the line on his own for the home side.
The trip to Watford is one of the away games I look forward to most. A slightly shorter journey, meaning I don’t have to suffer through the M25, the atmosphere created from the hundereds if not thousands of Charlton fans and memories of last season’s 4-3 victory all make the trip to Vicarage Road an excellent one. Just like in that 7-goal thriller in the campaign prior to this one, Watford started the brighter of the two sides. Forestieri really should have done better after breaking free down the left and cutting inside, but his curling effort flashed wide of the opposite post. His miss might have proved even more costly just moments later as Pritchard played in Wilson down the right flank, but his ball in the box evaded a red shirt and was gathered by Manuel Aluminia in goal for Watford.
If the first 15 or so minutes were anything to go by, it looked like being a long afternoon for the Addicks. Stephens lost possession in midfield and received a yellow card after pulling back Forestieri in desperation. The resulting free-kick eventually fell to McGugan, who hit a powerful shot plumb into the face of Wood, but the centre back lived up to his name and remained solid, focusing on defending Watford’s throw-in rather than whether he had lost any teeth. But Wood and his fellow centre backs were being caught out by the pace of Watford’s attacks as Fabbrini mustered an effort from the edge of the area that cleared the bar by a considerable margin before Forestieri had a chance not to dissimilar to his first but again curled wide.
Despite coming under heavy pressure from Watford, Charlton hadn’t made a poor start to the game. In fact, they were passing the ball around neatly, with Pritchard and Stephens dominant in midfield, but were struggling to carve out any real openings. So it was somewhat against the run of play, or at least against the tally of chances created, when the Addicks were the first to put the ball into the net. Stephens’ free-kick was headed back across goal by the towering Kermorgant, causing chaos in Watford’s goal area. The melee was resolved when Wood appeared to bundle the ball in, but his and Charlton’s celebrations were cut short by the sight of the assistant referee’s flag signalling for offside.
With Watford’s attacking threat quelled for the time being, the disallowed goal was the catalyst for Charlton to build their presence in the game as they continued to pass the ball around from back to front in a very promising manner. One such passing move ended in an excellent delivery from Kermorgant skipping off the head of Church before Jackson looped a headed effort towards goal, but Almunia claimed it with ease; barely a half-chance, but the Addicks were at least beginning to turn possession into chances. That was shown in Charlton’s next attack as Kermorgant, whose balls through had been off target thus far, slid Church through before the Welshman was brought down on the edge of the area by Belkalem and received a yellow. This was Kermorgant territory, and he placed the ball down, but Jackson took the kick, winning a corner after blasting the ball against the feet of the wall. The resulting set-piece came to nothing for Charlton, but some pulling and tugging in the six-yard box produced a highly unnecessary mini-brawl with players from both sides circling each other. Church and Faraoni were booked for their involvement, much to the displeasure of the Watford fans behind the goal who felt the Charlton striker was deserving of harsher punishment.
From the free-kick that followed the untidy end to Charlton’s corner, Cassetti hit a first time shot way off-target before Church, who was teed up by Kermorgant’s scissor kicked volley from Wiggins’ deep cross, struggled to make meaningful contact with the ball across goal before seeing his follow up effort blocked and cleared as half time loomed. The last chance of the half fell to Watford as Forestieri went down in characteristic fashion to win a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Lewis McGugan fired his effort against the wall, only for Belkalem to pump the ball back into the box, allowing Forestieri to get in behind Charlton’s back line. But, with the Argentinian just yards from goal, Lawrie Wilson came across to fantastically block him off and prevent him from getting his shot away.
Stephens’ optimistic effort from a free-kick 35 yards from goal that that cleared the bar in height by the same distance preluded referee Wolmer’s whistle as the sides went in level after a competitive first half. However, it didn’t take much of the second half to produce the game’s first goal.
Almost straight from kick-off Morrison travelled with the ball down the right flank before knocking the ball forward to Pritchard, who was at the heart of everything Charlton did right in the first half. The Zimbabwean saw the run of Wilson over his shoulder and played the curly haired winger through into the box with Church waiting in the centre. But before Wilson could release the ball, Belkalem came across and recklessly took him to the ground. Referee Wolmer’s view was obstructed, but his assistant on the near side gave the decision and Charlton had their first penalty of the season. It seemed only Wolmer’s inability to see the foul had kept Belkalem on the pitch, with the cynical challenge worthy of a yellow, but the mattered little as Kermorgant stepped up and blasted the ball beyond Almunia to give Charlton the lead with 47 minutes on the clock.
This sent the already vocal travelling support into overdrive as the briefest of homages to Kermorgant was followed by a prolonged sounding of the ‘since I was young’ chant. Back on the pitch, Watford had a golden opportunity to equalise just minutes after falling behind. Deeney knocked the ball down into the path of McGugan but, somehow, the former Forest man blasted well over when it looked easier to find the target. McGugan’s miss had come after several half chances for the home side and they were certainly making Charlton fight to hold onto the lead.
Watford’s attacking threat was bolstered further as Anya entered the fray, with your writer helpfully reminding those around him that ‘this lad is rather fast’ or words to that effect. But his threat wouldn’t have mattered as much had Stephens 25 yard vicious volley swayed either side of Almunia, but the keeper was able to palm the effort up and collect the rebound ahead of Church. Down the other end, Deeney tried a shot from similar range, flashing wide of Hamer’s far post with hearts in mouths amongst the visiting supporters.
With Charlton now clinging on desperately to their lead, their cause wasn’t helped when Kermorgant hobbled off with an injury 25 minutes from time. The Frenchman, who had been excellent in addition to his goal, received a standing ovation from the Charlton fans as Joe Piggott came onto replace him. Big boots for the youngster to fill, and Piggott struggled from the off to win his headers against the strong centre back trio.
Wood left Hamer wrong footed after poking the ball away from Deeney, but the ball crept comfortably wide of the post. However, the Addicks weren’t to be so fortunate from the resulting corner. The ball in was only half cleared and picked up by Fabbrini on the edge of the box. He jinked along the perimeter of the area before finally creating space to shoot, forcing Hamer into an excellent save from a shot that the ‘keeper saw through a number of bodies. Unfortunately for Hamer, he could only parry the effort and Pudil was there to smash home an equaliser for the Hornets. It was no less than they deserved and, with 20 minutes still left to play, they had a very real chance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
The Addicks understandably dropped deeper, but didn’t completely give up on victory as Stephens was allowed to travel unchallenged and play through Piggott, but Cassetti cut out the cross with Church waiting to pounce at the far post. The Italian failed to deal quite so successfully with Charlton’s next attack as Wiggins’ driven delivery was sliced up by Cassetti and into Jackson’s path, but the skipper too sliced a difficult chance well wide of goal.
In Charlton’s half, Watford were being restricted to long range efforts thanks to some solid defending from the Addicks’ back line who dealt well with the constant threat from Anya down the right and several free-kicks and long balls that were pumped into the box. However, a break from Anya gave Watford their best chance of winning the match at the start of five minutes of added on time. The Scot skipped past all in front of him, breaking into the box from the right wing and passing the ball across goal to Deeney. The striker had been wasteful all afternoon and he continued that trend, blasting the ball over the bar from little more than 10 yards out.
The home side had late claims for a penalty turned down as the ball was fired against Stephens and Iriney’s protests earned himself a yellow card, but there didn’t seem to be anything in it and Chartlon held on valiantly for the draw.
Although in the end it was a case of clinging on for dear life, the performance from Charlton was once again superb against a very strong Watford side. For all the wonderful passing play they are capable of, they’re a thuggish side off the ball and the Addicks did well to stand up to the physical challenge as well as defending strongly against Watford’s considerable attacking threat.
Hamer can’t be blamed at all for the goal, he did well to save the initial effort, and whilst most of his afternoon was spent watching balls sail over his crossbar, he did what he had to do well. Up the other end of the pitch, Church ran himself into the floor once again and held the ball up well whilst Kermorgant was superb in his time on the pitch and every Charlton prayer will be asking for the Frenchman to be fit enough to take the field in next week’s derby at Millwall, as well as Tuesday night’s game against Huddersfield Town.
Wilson and Wiggins did well on either flank, defending solidly when needed to and involving themselves in the excellent passing play that dominated the first 70 minutes of Charlton’s performance before a less attractive side to Charlton’s game needed to be shown. The trio of central midfielders were all excellent, Stephens and Pritchard especially with the former having his best game in a Charlton shirt for quite some time. But man of the match has to be shared between the three at the back, who, after being caught a few times to begin with, were superb in keeping Watford’s threat to a minimum. Wood deserves special praise for coming into the side and performing so well.
However, the most promising factor of the performance was the way in which Charlton passed the ball around fantastically well whilst in the lead. To go to a place like Watford and out pass them was fantastic to see. Repeating that, along with the solid defensive display, against Huddersfield and Millwall will surely produce a pair of wins.
In a week that new FA chairman Greg Dyke ‘revealed’ some startling information about the amount of Englishmen in the Premier League and made it seem like a brand new phenomenon by talking in a forewarning tone, the release of the 25 man squads made for yet more panic.
The likes of Arsenal, although Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain didn’t need to be registered as under 21s, and Chelsea failed to name the eight ‘home-grown’ players required, meaning they were forced to submit squads with under 25 names registered, whilst Liverpool’s and Manchester City’s ‘home-grown’ lists were bolstered by several players who, despite matching the qualifying criteria to be a ‘home-grown’ player, aren’t qualified to play for the English national team.
Whilst the bigger clubs in the Premier League are always going to attract the best of the best from around the world, you would like to think it isn’t a pipedream for them to provide a larger pool of talent for Roy Hodgson’s side.
However, some clubs managed to fill their 25 squads with at least eight home-grown players who can represent England. If Dyke’s plans are anything to go by, it won’t be too long before every Premier League club can submit squads filled in similar ways.
With some clubs filling their squads, there are always a handful of players who miss out on selection. With all this talk about the lack of English qualified players in the Premier League, it’s almost ironic that of the six high profile players not to be selected, two of them are ‘home-grown’ players that don’t qualify to play for England, whilst two others are Scottish players who don’t qualify for ‘home-grown’ status. Of the other two players who will have to find something else to do on a Saturday until at least January, one is an English ‘home-grown’ player, whilst the other isn’t home-grown’ at all.
One thing the forgotten six might choose to do/be forced into against their will is to join a Football League club on loan until the New Year. With each player more than capable of doing a job for a Championship club, expect them to be ‘proving a point’ (other clichéd motivational phrases are available) in England’s second tier shortly. Here’s a look at the six in detail; Burnley is that way, Federico.
Age: 28/Position: Winger/Current club: Cardiff City
With 56 league appearances over two seasons for the Re…Bluebirds and a respected player amongst the club’s fans, Conway is simply a victim of Cardiff having one too many players to choose from. It could have been Tommy Smith, it could have been Joe Mason, but Conway was the unfortunate one to miss out.
Conway expressed a desire to leave the club in November last year, but was immediately given some game time and showed what an excellent performer he is at Championship level, putting a number of impressive displays in his 25 games, which merited two goals. The fact he scored the goal against Burnley the sealed the title for the Welsh club makes his exclusion from the squad all the more sour tasting.
The Scotland international, who has five caps to his name, would be an excellent addition to the squad of any Championship club who are aiming to emulate the success of Cardiff last season. Not only is he a steady, hard-working performer, but his ability to play on either side of the midfield makes him the perfect emergency loan signing; talented and versatile.
Age: 22/Position: Striker/Current club: Manchester United
The former Italian under 21 international hasn’t scored a league goal since November 2010, a time when Southampton were a League One club, the idea of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher being chummy on TV seemed laughable as they played for rival clubs and England were definitely going to be hosting a World Cup in 2018, but one strike five seasons ago will give the fans of whatever club Macheda ends up that he is actually a relatively decent footballer.
With Manchester United losing 2-1 and needing a win in a very competitive title race, Sir Alex Ferguson throws on a reserve team striker with too much gel in his hair for his first team debut. Come the 90th minute, the scores are level, and Ryan Giggs passes the ball to the feet of Macheda who, with his back to goal, turns his man and curls the ball beautifully into the far corner to win the game and send Martin Tyler into hysteria. A legend akin to David Nugent’s goal snatching appearance for England and Ali Dia’s game for Southampton was born.
Yes, Macheda has added a handful of goals since that game and played for the likes of QPR, Stuggart and Sampdoria on loan, but he’s never lived up to the hype. Whilst those loans have failed to kick-start his career, a move to a Football League club might be just what he needs. He’s performed well over the years in the League Cup for Manchester United against Championship opposition, including the likes of Barnsley, Leeds and Crystal Palace, and spending time on loan in the second tier might well bring his eye for goal back.
Age: 27/Position: Left and centre back/Current club: Crystal Palace
Ian Holloway is quite a forgetful creature. He often forgets referees are human beings who sometimes make mistakes, not robots programmed by the FA to make sure his poor, defenceless little sides lose. He forgot that fans of football clubs like to see their team win, and not go into a League Cup tie hoping for it to be over quickly so he can get back into the office and make signings he forgot to make earlier on in the summer. He also, seemingly, forgot that the 25 man squad system exists as two of his new summer signings have failed to make the cut, along with a player who recently signed a new deal and another who started the play-off final in May. Don’t worry Ian; I’ve done it on ‘Football Manager’ several times.
The first player of four is former France U21 international defender Florian Marange. In addition to having a rather delicious sounding name, he’s also a very experienced player, racking up 83 Ligue 1 appearances for Bordeaux over nine years with the club.
The left back was clearly rated highly by Holloway, who gave the Frenchman the number 3 shirt, but has strangely opted to leave him out of the 25 man squad. Although a relative unknown to English football fans, including myself, his years of top flight experience suggest he’d make for an excellent addition to Football League sides. Now who’s going to tell him The Valley and Oakwell are just like The Emirates and Old Trafford?
Age: 30/Position: Centre midfield, winger and striker/Current club: Crystal Palace
Four Championship play-off campaigns, four finals, three promotions; Stephen Dobbie is to play-off campaigns what Herman Hreidarsson is to Premier League relegation. And where Hreidarsson quickly found a move back to the Premier League four out of the five times he suffered relegation, Dobbie doesn’t seem to hang around long in the top flight, often finding himself back in the Championship. In fact, Dobbie has just eight Premier League appearances to his name despite three separate promotions with three different clubs. A strange fact considering he is much, much more than just a talismanic figure.
But yet again it would seem Dobbie won’t be playing Premier League football this season, that’s despite signing for Palace permanently in the summer after helping to guide them into the top flight via the play-offs during a loan spell last season. You would think by now he deserves a chance.
But Palace’s loss is a Championship clubs gain, with Dobbie earning praise from every club he’s played for. I saw with my own eyes the impact the Scotsman can have last season as he came own with Palace a goal down to Charlton and played a significant part in changing the course of a game that the Eagles went on to win 2-1.
The versatile forwarded minded player can play in a number of positions, but he’s best suited to an attacking midfield role, where his creativity can be best utilised. All manner of Championship clubs will be enquiring into the services of Dobbie.
Age: 33/Position: Striker/Current club: Crystal Palace
Did you hear the one about the club that had Aaron Wilbraham in their starting XI for a Championship play-off final and won it? It’s no joke; it actually happened. With Glenn Murray injured, Wilbraham led the line for the Eagles at Wembley and has even played a part in two of Palace’s first three league games.
But, despite some Premier League experience for Norwich City, it’s hard to argue the top flight is Wilbraham’s level. In fact, after not scoring a single goal in 21 games for Palace last season, you’ll be hard pressed to find many fans of Championship clubs who would be totally won over if he were to join their club.
But he does have an excellent record in League One and in League Two, especially for MK Dons, who he scored 50 league goals for in 178 appearances. By no means prolific, the forward is excellent in the air, can hold the ball up well and brings others into the game; attributes that won him praise during a stint in the starting XI for Norwich two seasons ago.
Signing Wilbraham would certainly go down as a punt, but to clubs outside of England’s top two divisions, it’s a punt worth taking.
Age: 25/Position: Centre midfield/Current club: Crystal Palace
Just in case Holloway thought he hadn’t made enough mistakes in the opening weeks of the season, he decided to make one more, if the rumours are to be believed/Tweets are to be decoded in certain ways.
‘I’ll be here longer then (sic) he will…trust me’ and ‘It’s amazing what you can find out online these days’ were the Tweets made by Owen Garvan after, it would appear, he found out about being left out of Palace’s 25 man squad via the internet. It also seems he isn’t very impressed with Mr Holloway; trouble is brewing at Selhurst Park.
In the meantime, a Championship club is going to get themselves an excellent player should Garvan go out on loan. 164 games for Ipswich were followed by 76 games for Palace over a three season spell that was marred by injury before adding two Premier League games to his tally this season. The former Republic of Ireland U21 international is an excellent passer of the ball, won’t shy away from a tackle and chips in with the odd goal; a consistent performer in the Championship whose work often goes unnoticed.
Palace often missed the midfielder when he was injured during the last campaign, and he too started the play-off final. Garvan will have little difficulty in gaining a starting spot for whichever Championship side he joins on loan. With the Irishman firmly in the category of ‘point to prove’, he could be the best signing of the six.