Rarely have events on the pitch at Brighton’s AMEX Stadium been anything short of painful for Charlton supporters.
Never have the Addicks celebrated a goal in the ground’s away end; the plush seats often sunk into by sombre or worried souls in red. Never has the mood while waiting for a train out of Falmer been celebratory; a hard fought goalless draw as close as the Addicks have got to basking in positivity while shuffling away from the arena. Never is the trip to the South Coast an easy one; the entire division can vouch for that.
However, when Igor Vetokele’s struck past David Stockdale with 15 minutes left to play, regaining a lead the Angolan had given the Addicks early on, it looked as if this was going to be a joyous occasion for the vocal 1,992 supporters in the away end.
But it was always going to be the case that, to some extent, Charlton fans’ trips back away from Sussex would be tampered by some sort of suffering inflicted upon them by the Seagulls. Centre back Lewis Dunk made sure of that, heading past Stephen Henderson from Kazenga Lua Lua’s cross in stoppage time to rescue a point for the hosts.
It hadn’t been the only time in the game that Dunk had put a dampener on the atmosphere in the away end, having previously leaped highest from a Danny Holla corner to score the Albion’s first equaliser.
But, as gut-wrenching as the manner of Brighton’s late leveller was, it wasn’t a regular day at the AMEX for the Addicks.
In a game that was largely dominated by Sami Hyypia’s side, their passing and forward play as classy and penetrative as ever, a share of the spoils was not only testament to Charlton’s determined display at the back but to their predatory powers of their forward.
A point gained, rather than two lost.
At some point at the AMEX on Saturday, possibly after the home fans have allowed themselves to be excited by the appearance of a seagull, a chant of ‘if you all hate Palace clap your hands’ will emerge from all four corners of the ground.
It’s factors like that shared rivalry with the Croydon club, any foe of Crystal Palace is a friend of mine, that have drawn Charlton Athletic and Brighton and Hove Albion close. It’s fair to say that both clubs have a reasonable amount of respect for the other.
Away from the somewhat juvenile hating of Palace, there’s also the substantial pain of being without a ground to properly call home for several years that both clubs have suffered. Both know how important it is to have a ground to be proud of – whether that be the plush new AMEX or a cleaned up Valley.
This season, both have shared the experience of seeing a new head coach pull together a new side. Charlton have recruited nine players for boss Bob Peeters, while Sami Hyypia and Brighton took their tally up to 12 this week.
And, resultantly, there’s also a degree of uncertainty among both sets of supporters as to just how good their new sides are. For Brighton, a worrying beginning has been followed by three creditable results, while Charlton’s blistering start has slowed down in the past week.
It’s with all that in mind that Charlton’s trip to the South Coast is as highly anticipated as ever. The right amount of excitement, positivity and worry occupies the thoughts of those on both sides.
The goalie. The stopper. The goalkeeper. Whatever you want to call the unfortunate glove-wearer who stands between the posts, most will agree that his position is tougher than any other.
In victory, the saves he makes will often play second fiddle as the goalscorer soaks up the plaudits. In defeat, there will always be questions over whether the stopper should have stopped the unstoppable, completely ignoring the ten other saves he made has his hapless teammates allowed the opposition a sight on goal with regularity.
It’s therefore incredibly tough to be a young goalkeeper coming into the game. Where a young outfield player can make an errant pass, fail to trap a ball with his a touch or mistime a tackle and still put in the sort of a performance that can see him labelled as wonderkid, an inexperienced ‘keeper can make one mistake, no matter how small, and see the praise he was set to be given quickly turn to criticism.
And that was the case for Charlton’s Nick Pope as his side crashed out of the Capital One Cup following a 1-0 defeat to Derby County at Pride Park.
Pope, making only his third start for the Addicks, had crucially intercepted a number of crosses and pulled off a string of superb saves before stepping outside of his area with ball in hand with just three minutes left. In fact, the 22-year-old only had possession after making a fine stop from Ivan Calero’s close range poke towards goal.
It was carless; the mistake not of an inexperienced professional but an amateur. From the resulting set-piece, Pope paid the price for his error in the cruellest of ways. Jeff Hendrick’s initial effort was blocked by a resolute Charlton defence, but there was little resistance on offer as Chris Martin collected the rebound and drove into the box before teeing up Calero for his first Derby goal.
The instillation of a Go-Go Gadget arm aside, there was absolutely nothing Pope could have done about the later winner. In fact, Calero’s strike was so sweetly struck and accurately placed that no ‘keeper would have been able to keep it out.
And the ‘keeper would have left been frustrated by the woeful efforts of his defence as they failed to deal with Martin and left Spaniard Calero with the space to execute such a shot. It was not the first time the Addicks had let Derby come forward and shoot without much of a contest, and nor would it be the last.
Nonetheless, such is the life of a goalkeeper, Pope will have to stomach the blame for a split second and marginal error of judgement.
The costly mistake count for the stopper contains two incidents, and you can throw in a couple of poor clearances that were largely the fault of his defence at Huddersfield if you want to be extra harsh, while the fantastic save tally has moved into double figures after tonight. Yet, still the ‘error prone’ stopper will be scrutinised.
I don’t envy those poor souls that try on a pair of gloves as a kid, make a few saves and think a lifetime of microscopic examination would be enjoyable. (more…)
The sign of a good team, or so they say, is that they can pick up points when not at their best. Regardless of the overall performance, they can find a way to steal an undeserved point or three.
Charlton were far from their best at the John Smith’s Stadium; a horrible lack of organisation at the back and a constant failure to maintain possession making for a performance a far cry from the one produced to beat Derby in midweek. In fact, it would be quite some achievement if Bob Peeters’ side were able to perform any worse.
But the Addicks, who had allowed Nahki Wells to put ten-man Huddersfield Town ahead in the fifth minute of the second half, found a way right at the last to claim a point they scarcely deserved and continue their unbeaten start to the season. The predatory instinct of Igor Vetokele, latching onto a knock down by Andre Bikey following Johnnie Jackson’s hoick forward, proved vital as the forward bundled the ball past Alex Smithies in stoppage time.
It was a cruel blow for the Terriers, who had been a man light since Murray Wallace hauled back a seemingly clean through Vetokele at the end of the first period. They’d worked incredibly hard to have the better chances throughout and the game and would have felt aggrieved not to have been awarded a penalty moments before they conceded.
Nonetheless, you can now add character to the list of attributes this Charlton side possess. Oh, and a healthy slice of good fortune. (more…)
If you say the words ‘Huddersfield’ and ‘Town’ in front of a Charlton Athletic fan, studies show that there’s a 97.8% chance they’ll respond with a look of fear on their face. There have even been 227 cases cited of an Addick fainting upon hearing those two phrases strung together.
227 is also the amount of times Charlton and Huddersfield will probably end up playing each other this season, to go with the 454 games that were contested between the two sides in the last campaign.
Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but the Addicks and the Terriers do play each other more than either club would like. In fact, since October 2009, the two sides have meant on 13 occasions – two league games every season and three cup ties thrown in for good measure. You can probably claim a badge if you’ve been to all 13, or psychiatric help.
But, far from being a game that Charlton fans are dreading, this Saturday’s trip to the John Smith’s Stadium is viewed with an unnatural amount of excitement.
After two impressive victories over promotion chasing Wigan Athletic and Derby County, this contest is seen as a chance for Bob Peeters’ side to strut their stuff without testing opposition making life difficult for them and taking something away from the attractive football they’re trying to play.
If Charlton’s win over Wigan was the perfect demonstration that a new, potent attacking threat had been added to the side, this was the perfect demonstration that the old resilience and fight is supplementing it superbly.
If Charlton’s win over Wigan was a confidence boost for those inside The Valley, this had Addicks believing they’ll be real force this season.
If Charlton’s win over Wigan was largely ignored by the rest of the division, the Championship are now taking notice.
Because you don’t beat Derby County without putting in an excellent team performance; you don’t beat Derby County if you’re not an excellent team. This was an excellent all-round team performance.
There were three moments of real quality going forward, countless times when extraordinary effort at the back kept the Rams at bay and even a good old fashioned heart in mouth scrap when the visitors found a way back into the game – it wouldn’t be Charlton if they didn’t make it hard for themselves.
But, even when Nick Pope let Jamie Ward’s soft shot through his legs to leave the hosts needing to cling onto a 3-2 lead for five minutes, this just felt like Charlton’s night. The young goalkeeper may have been shaky on debut, more full of holes than holy, but the sheer determination to maintain their lead meant the Addicks would still be holding off Derby’s threat if they were doing battle on The Valley’s luscious turf as you read this.
One of those special Tuesday evenings where the atmosphere, the effort and the performance could only ever warrant a positive result. A positive result that has left Addicks positive that they’ll enjoy more nights like this in the coming months. (more…)
It’s a universal truth that the league table is irrelevant at this stage of the season. You’re not even allowed to look at it. I certainly haven’t.
I certainly haven’t flicked over to a website displaying the Championship table every other minute to see the Addicks lying in a play-off position and two places above 8th place Derby – Charlton’s opponents on Tuesday night.
And I certainly haven’t decided that the current state of the league table is justification to call this contest a top-six six-pointer.
Because, as much as we’d like to believe it will, this probably won’t last. Charlton won’t spend the season above Derby, and it will take a monumental effort for such a small squad to occupy a play-off place come May.
But, for now, there’s just about enough evidence to suggest it’s not completely irrational to go into a game against the side who will probably win the division with positivity and hope. (more…)