When Charlton’s 2014 is mentioned to me in years to come, my first reaction will be to grimace, before finding a quiet corner to hide and cry in.
In truth, it could have been a lot worse. Half of it could have been spent in League One, there could have been no cup run and the form shown from October onwards could have been replicated in August and September.
But if there is a calendar year more stressful and more emotionally taxing this one, I’m going to do myself a favour and spend my Saturdays at shopping centres.
Popular players departing, before a squad that was adored for three seasons was effectively dismantled, a club legend being sacked as manager in unsavoury circumstances and uncertainty all over the place. All of that without even mentioning a relegation battle, FA Cup heartbreak and a drop in form.
Even the most optimistic and positive of supporters will admit the painful moments have outweighed the enjoyable ones.
Nonetheless, once I’ve checked it’s okay to come out of hiding and wiped away my tears, I’ll also remember 2014 as a year in which some of the best moments I’ve experienced as an Addick occurred.
There’s been incredible last minute goals, barely believable celebrations and a relief filled maintaining of Championship status. Moments I’ll always be able to look back on and feel a buzz when I do.
It means there’s quite a few contenders for Charlton’s moment of the year. Have a read through my take on twelve of those moments, before voting for your favourite three.
(A big thank you to @PlentyOfShots for allowing me to use his excellent Vines.)
Hugging a man dressed as Robin – Johnnie Jackson’s late equaliser at Portman Road
If not the best moment of the year, then Johnnie Jackson’s stoppage-time volley against Ipswich was certainly the most hard to believe.
That Charlton equalised wasn’t particularly surreal in itself, it was a performance from the Addicks that warranted a point, but the manner in which the goal arrived, and the scenes that followed, make it a barely believable moment.
First, the game might well have been out of sight for Chris Powell’s side. Having competed well overall, two lapses in concentration at the back looked to have condemned Charlton to defeat. The first resulted in Richard Wood scoring a comical own goal, the second saw Jordan Cousins concede a penalty.
But Ben Alnwick, diving full-stretch to his right, kept out of David McGoldrick’s spot-kick, giving Charlton the chance to draw level with just over ten minutes to play.
And with ten minutes to play, Powell threw on Jackson, his final substitute. The skipper had been suspended in previous weeks, but was called upon to pull off a piece of magic, as he so often does in moments like this one.
However, stoppage time was reached with the Addicks barely creating a meaningful opening; Jackson rarely touching the ball. Those in the away end were losing hope.
So the pause before celebrations started was a touch longer than it should have been. Their minds having to make sure they really had just seen two of Powell’s subs, with Church controlling a ball into the box and teeing up Jackson, combine to dramatically steal a point for the Addicks.
Chaos followed, with a man dressed as Robin, stood at least four rows below, ended up hugging me, somehow. The trademark knee slide barely noticed below.
An incredible series of events that led to an incredible moment. The New Year off to a sensational start.
Chris Powell attempting to kiss the fourth official – Johnnie Jackson’s late winner against QPR
Eight months on, I’m still yet to work out an adequate way to describe what it felt like to be a part of the Covered End’s roar. A roar so incredible that I had not experienced anything like it before. A roar created by one of the most incredible moments in my time as an Addick.
There was a feeling of pride around The Valley already, with Powell’s hastily assembled side of kids, loans and rejects competing with Harry Redknapp’s quality-filled team. Charlton simply shouldn’t have been able to battle so competitively with QPR.
But for the final twenty minutes, the Addicks dominated. In fact, there was a feeling of despair that all three points hadn’t been snatched after that incredible tackle from Diego Poyet sent the ball into Astrit Ajdarevic’s path, only for Rob Green to pull of an outstanding save to keep out the Swede’s curling effort.
The prematurely celebrating Covered End, however, only allowed the agony provided by Green’s fingertips to last for a second. Immediately they returned to supporting their side, as they had done so valiantly throughout the game. A mini-roar let out as Ajdarevic picked himself up from the floor and ran over to take the corner.
In truth, most were realistic enough to know their cheers would make little difference. The chance of Charlton scoring from this set-piece was slim.
But Ajdarevic’s delivery was testing enough to keep the dream alive. Jackson’s header accurate enough to extended it further. Green’s failure to react enough to make the dream a reality. The ball sneaking in and the net just about rippling enough to spark carnage in the Covered End behind.
Just wow. The celebrations were completely absorbing. It felt like you couldn’t celebrate loudly and passionately enough, but you had to try anyway. Words won’t do it justice, but if you were there, just take a moment to remember it.
And it’s not just among the fans where emotions were running high. Jackson diving into the Lower North, while Powell made it quite clear to the directors’ box this was a bit of a result. His Charlton, ripped apart and patched up with Tesco Value plasters, able to find a level of fight and spirit not even the most optimistic of Addicks thought possible.
I suppose you can almost forgive him for attempting to kiss the fourth official. Besides, I’m not really sure who I jumped on during the same scenes. Incredible.
Simon Church’s heroic elbow, Ben Hamer’s heroic fingertips, Chris Powell’s heroic swing – Charlton’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday
As much as we’d like to pretend it isn’t, supporting Charlton is a slog. A gruelling lifelong commitment that involves endless suffering. The good moments as rare as a Danny Green corner that beats the first man.
But there’s a reason we subject ourselves to such pain. Because those good moments have the potential to be incredible. Unforgettable nights full of barely believable moments that will be retold again and again.
In fact, it was a privilege to be part of a travelling army of over 1,000 Addicks in Hillsborough’s away end for Charlton’s Fifth Round FA Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday. A vocal support on a Monday night at the famous old ground.
And Charlton’s start to the game meant it only got louder. 1,000 making the noise of five times that as persistent and penetrating attacking play, the sort only matched by the opening spell against Derby County in August, resulted in the Addicks taking the lead. Callum Harriott’s first-time strike rifling into the top corner.
Almost immediately, however, that attacking intent vanished, replaced with a focus on keeping Wednesday away from Charlton’s goal. But this wasn’t a case of siting back and hoping for the best. The defensive effort was organised, spirited and determined enough to mean the Addicks remained in control of their own destiny.
But Wednesday, taking little regard for how impressive this Charlton performance was, drew level after half-time. A bit of a scrappy goal, with a free-kick sent into the box eventually tuned in by Leon Best, and very cruel on the visitors.
Nonetheless, there remained a positive feeling in the still vocal away end. The goal hadn’t changed how impressive the Addicks looked at the back, and, such was the effort and determination on display, you felt like Charlton would find some sort of way to score a goal.
And that they did. Jackson’s free-kick attacked and turned in by Simon Church. Replays showed Church had failed to connect with his head, and the ball and gone in off of his elbow, but that mattered little to the Addicks he celebrated in front of. Carnage in the away end.
There was also carnage on the pitch in the game’s closing stages, with Wednesday doing their upmost to find an equaliser and take the game to a reply. But even when they breached the impressive Charlton backline, they were thwarted by an inspired goalkeeper.
Hamer’s diving stop and reaction to claw the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble were good, but nowhere near as impressive as his last minute stop to deny Chris Maguire. The forward’s strike deflected off Michael Morrison, forcing Hamer to somehow change the direction of his dive mid-air and tip the ball over the bar. A save worthy of winning any match.
And yet, there was still one more incredible moment to come. Probably the moment that outdid them all. A suited and booted Powell, in his final celebration as Charlton boss, swinging from the crossbar to the delight of the drained but delirious supporters in the away end.
Just wow. One of the best nights of my life.
Stand up if you love Chris Powell – the third minute applause
So easily this could have been placed into a list of the worst moments of the year, an act that affirmed he had gone, but the third minute tribute to Chris Powell is something I’m glad I was part of.
The need for Powell to be dismissed may have divided supporters, but few were pleased with how he was treated and the manner in which the sacking came about. Even less weren’t appreciative of his efforts as boss in just over three years in charge.
Often managers take struggling sides and give them success, but Powell took an entire club on its knees and fought against an increasingly strong tide to completely transform it.
Under Powell, the culture of failure brought about by two relegations and a struggle to get out of League One was replaced by one of pride and belief. He built a side, a title winning side, that was adored. Adored not just because it won games, but because it had an incredible togetherness and spirit.
Half-hearted performances became a thing of the past, with every Powell player fully committed to the cause. Such commitment and spirit saw incredible results recorded in the Championship, with comebacks and against the odds results a regular occurrence.
And all of that despite two successive ownerships making his job almost impossible. The leftovers from the first combining with the second to eventually force him out of the club he loved.
And to say he loved the club is no understatement. To say most Addicks still love Powell is also true.
Cheers, Chris. The very least you deserved was a minute’s applause from three sides of The Valley.
Yann Kermorgant ducking to allow Dorian Dervite to score – the last minute winner against Bournemouth
It wasn’t just the departure of Powell that broke Charlton hearts in 2014. Losing talismanic forward Yann Kermorgant not only weakened the Addicks on the pitch, but strained supporters emotionally.
So there were mixed feelings when the Frenchman returned to The Valley in March with Bournemouth. There was an excitement to welcome him back, but also a reluctance to see him in another club’s shirt and a fear that he could dent his former club’s survival hopes quite severely.
Alas, the game against the Cherries proved to be the night that disillusioned Charlton fans regained hope that their club could maintain its Championship status.
If not as impressive, the game followed a similar pattern to the QPR victory. The Addick competed superbly with an in-form side, before going for it in the final twenty minutes.
The visitors, however, chucked on Kermorgant as Charlton started to push forward. Thoughts of stealing all three points turned to worry; the Frenchman bound to score at his former club.
And Kermorgant did play an important part in the deciding goal, but at the other end of the pitch. Failing to challenge Dorian Dervite, his good friend, Charlton’s Frenchman nodded home from Johnnie Jackson’s corner to give Charlton a dramatic last minute victory.
There was still time for Kermorgant to waste a chance from a Bournemouth corner, and for the forward to get a superb reception from his former supporters following the full-time whistle, but Kermorgant’s return had been overshadowed by Charlton’s survival bid sparking into life.
Ben Hamer breaking several bones in his foot – the last minute penalty save against Leeds
When Ben Hamer left the club in the summer, Charlton not only lost an outstanding goalkeeper but also a charismatic and determined individual. A constant star of Chris Powell’s Charlton, and one of the likable characters that made that squad so adored.
And it’s those sort of characteristics that meant Hamer’s efforts to break a post were hardly surprising. Why simply celebrate a crucial penalty save with a fist pump and a few hugs when you can absolutely leather the frame of the goal?
Having taken the lead through Reza Ghoochannejhad’s stunning second-half effort, as surprising as anything else that has happened in the past year, Charlton held off a tame Leeds side with minimal fuss for much of the period.
But as stoppage-time was entered, Jose Riga’s side were breached. Diego Poyet bringing down Aidan White inside the box.
Ross McCormack placed the ball on the spot as Charlton supporters there in the crowd and listening at home simultaneously hid behind hands and prepared themselves for heartbreak. The Scottish striker had scored four against the Addicks earlier on in the season; this was only going one way.
But Hamer’s sensational save, just as good as a last minute winner, earned the Addicks an incredible three points. Hamer’s volley and Riga’s double fist-pump said it all. Get in.
Marvin Sordell of 2014 playing like Marvin Sordell of 2012 – the Sheffield Wednesday comeback
There was a time, probably with the giddy excitement a new season brings going to our heads, when supporters of Charlton were genuinely excited about the prospect of Marvin Sordell playing for their club. The same Marvin Sordell that, but for a decent performance for Bolton at The Valley a few months prior, had done very little for 18 months.
We were all guilty of it, guilty of believing Marvellous Marv would be the perfect partner for Kermorgant. The goalscorer that would fire the Addicks back to the Premier League.
Alas, come April, the sight of Sordell’s name on the teamsheet led to moans and groans. Quite simply, he was not the goalscorer Charlton needed. Nor did he have the effort and determination to fit into that Charlton side. Three goals in all competitions before April told the story.
So when the Addicks were 2-0 down eight minutes into a game they realistically needed to win against Sheffield Wednesday, having Sordell leading the line effectively meant game over. The couple of hundred Charlton fans in the away end planning for League One and working out if they could get back to South East London earlier than they anticipated.
Even when Sordell, taking a fantastic touch to control Harriott’s through ball and finishing clinically, halved Charlton’s deficit before ten minutes had been played, there was little more than a few sarcastic cheers. Hope not yet restored; faith in Sordell still lacking.
But Sordell was inspired, performing like the pre-season expectation suggested he would. Having held up the ball well throughout the half, a similar classy finish brought the Addicks level just before the break. Having accepted relegation 35 minutes before, the comeback had not only convinced Charlton supporters their side had the inner steel to survive, but also to go onto win this game.
And that they did. Via the helpfulness of Miguel Llera, Sordell gained possession and raced through on goal, tucking past Chris Kirkland with a calmness and composure he had lacked all season. Those groaning before kick-off couldn’t have predicted they would be singing Sordell’s name for much of the second half.
You could question why Sordell hadn’t performed to a standard he was clearly capable of throughout the campaign, but the forward had found his best level when it mattered most. It was that comeback that gave the Addicks the momentum to survive.
The final act of the most spirited Charlton side we’ll see – survival
Sometimes it’s said that a team is too good to go down. The quality within the squad more than enough to make sure a side that’s fighting relegation sees itself to safety.
But that was not true of Charlton’s squad last season. It was poor, made poorer still by talismanic figures being sold and weak signings coming in to replace them.
The signings also impacted upon the tight nature of Charlton’s group of players, and effectively led to Chris Powell’s dismissal.
But, despite all the signs suggesting otherwise, the Addicks were never going to go down. Never has a side, even one partially ripped apart and without its leader, possessed so much spirit and determination. They were always going to find a way.
And it says a lot about that spirit that when the game arrived that offered Charlton the chance to confirm their survival, they put in one of their best performances of the year. An XI made up of those players who had been injected by the incredible spirit of Chris Powell’s Charlton, now led by Jose Riga, dug deep to beat Watford 3-1 at The Valley.
An incredible save from Ben Hamer to deny Troy Deeney was the catalyst for an unforgettable night in SE7. A save that meant Callum Harriott, who had endured a torrid campaign, was able to put the Addicks ahead with a fine strike moments later.
Even when Deeney, lobbying Hamer with a stunning volley, pulled Watford level just after the break, the energy and effort on show suggested this was just a blip, and Charlton would still go onto secure their survival.
And that they did. Jackson, the figure from which such spirit is built around, fittingly put the Addicks back in front, before Harriott secured victory, and survival, with a superb volley. I expected relief, but staying up was an experience full of pride and pure enjoyment.
We are staying up say we are staying up!
Bob Peeters making a decent fist of things – the last minute winner against Wigan
With 15 minutes to go in Charlton’s first game of the season at The Valley, you’d have done well to find an unhappy Addick. Against a Wigan side who, at the time, were tipped for promotion, competing well with them and heading for a 1-1 draw was seen as a decent performance and result for Bob Peeters’ new look Addicks.
However, there was one Addick who wasn’t quite happy. Peeters wanted more.
Instead of playing pragmatically, not risking one point for three, Charlton went for it. The final period of the game seeing some excellent attacking play from the hosts, with Igor Vetokele particularly unlucky not to score. Scott Carson the only thing standing in the way of the Addicks and victory.
But Charlton continued to come forward as stoppage time was entered. Vetokele and Franck Moussa linked up for the latter to volley goalwards. Via a big deflection, the Belgian’s strike looped over Carson to give Peeters’ a dramatic first win.
And he certainly enjoyed it. His celebrations angering Uwe Rosler, the pair coming together and neither too complementary of each other in the post-match press conference. The comedy value of the incident, not to mention the win, immediately putting Peeters on side.
It may have been a somewhat fortunate winner, but one Charlton’s, and Peeters’, drive and bravery deserved.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s turn – the explosive start against Derby
I have a horrible habit of laughing at things that impress so much I struggle to believe they’re actually happening. For much of the first half against Derby in August, I was laughing.
For Charlton were simply breath-taking. The passing slick, the threat while running with the ball frightening and the movement outstanding.
And a big part of that was the pure class of Johann Berg Gudmundsson. For years Charlton have lacked a winger with the ability to beat a man, and here it seemed like they had found what they were missing. The Iceland international’s stunning turn and subsequent switch of play to Jordan Cousins resulting in George Tucudean’s opener.
Even after Derby, the division’s promotion favourites, drew level through Jamie Ward, there was still a class about Charlton’s play. Tucudean’s superb run earning his side a penalty on the stroke of half-time, coolly converted by Yoni Buyens. Last season’s losing play-off finalists being outplayed.
Of course, the Addicks went on to win the game 3-2, with some gritty defensive work making sure a mightily impressive victory was recorded, but it was that style of attacking play on show in the opening period of the game that possibly wowed The Valley crowd more than the result itself.
Johnnie Jackson proving that he’s past it, again – the last minute winner at Carrow Road
There’s a thread on CharltonLife entitled ‘Come in No 4 your time is up’. It’s regularly commented on, with supporters vigorously suggesting Jackson is past it. “I love Jackson but…” is seen a great deal throughout, is if that makes it okay to irrationally slate the skipper.
And following Charlton’s goalless draw against Middlesbrough, the thread saw a lot more activity than either goalmouth in that game. In truth Jackson was not at his best, but one below par performance had seemingly meant a solid start to the campaign from the skipper had been forgotten.
You would think, however, that those who want Jackson out of the side the moment he misplaces a pass by half an inch would have learnt their lesson by now.
For each time Jackson’s place in the side is questioned, each time it’s suggested he’s past it, the skipper silences the doubters emphatically. A captain’s performance, a stunning goal or a memorable moment normally have those who were questioning him a few days earlier singing the Charlton legend’s praises once again.
But even by Jackson’s standards, this was special.
Against a Norwich side, then top of the league and the division’s in-form side, Charlton had to withstand a barrage of pressure. It was horrible, horrible viewing. Those in Carrow Road’s away end sweating even more than the men in red attempt to block attack after attack.
And at the heart of that effort was Jackson. For the entirety of the evening, the skipper pressed, pressed and pressed. Norwich’s attacks continuously stifled by the 32-year-old, throwing himself around the pitch with the energy of a much younger man.
Such a performance was enough to prove his worth, but simply doing enough isn’t enough for Jackson. With less than five minutes to play, the skipper found some space on the edge of the box.
With no Norwich defender closing him down, Jackson took a touch and, with Charlton’s first meaningful shot of the game, fired past John Ruddy.
Pandemonium in the stands; knee slides on the pitch. On the back foot for the entire game, Charlton’s leader had somehow won the game for the Addicks.
A proper Charlton man and a Charlton man who still has plenty of offer.
(Sorry, I had to include that somewhere)
Ruining the referee’s accumulator – Gudmundsson’s late equaliser against Cardiff
Excuses can be found for a poor performance, but to play without effort, determination and fight is simply unacceptable. It’s why there was anger and disappointment as Charlton trudged off the pitch at half-time in their game against Cardiff.
Tom Adeyemi’s header and Callum Harriott’s red card had meant the Addicks were a goal and a man down at the break, but the more pressing issue was the lack of spirit on show. With a poor run of results and performances leading up to the Boxing Day clash, heads were down.
To make matters worse, referee Mick Russell seemingly had Cardiff on his accumulator. The red card fair, but his other decision often bizarre. Ignoring the Bluebirds timewasting particularly frustrating the Addicks.
So the response after half-time was both unexpected and incredible. A real classy attacking threat mixed with the sort of fight needed to overcome difficult circumstances.
And those circumstances were made more difficult by the fact that Charlton just couldn’t turn their newly found dominance into a goal. Chances missed, posts hit and David Marshall’s fingers tips turning shots away.
But they kept on going, the effort on show a complete contrast from the first period, and finally Bob Peeters’ side got the reward they deserved.
It was a reward worth waiting for. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s stunning strike from 30 yards flying into the top corner and sending The Valley into chaotic scenes of celebrations for the final time in 2014.
The second-half turnaround a timely reminder that this side can play football, and 2015 might be slightly bearable.
A huge thank you to anyone who has wasted several minutes of their life to read anything I’ve posted this year. With 49 out of the 52 competitive games in this calendar year attended, not to mention endless rants, I’ve produced a lot of content.
I’ve had an amount of views this year that I’m very happy with, and got some recognition that I’m pretty proud of, not least from the skipper himself.
But all recognition is as good as the skipper’s. Okay, that’s a huge lie, but thank you nonetheless for those of you have given me words of praise or encouragement.
A testing year to be an Addick ended in a fitting manner at Portman Road. A routine victory for Ipswich Town left Bob Peeters’ side with just one win in eleven as Charlton dropped into the bottom-half for the first time this season.
While the visitors’ effort and endeavour couldn’t be faulted for much of the evening, a three goal defeat was arguably a fair reflection of the difference in quality between the two sides in the areas where it really mattered.
For Ipswich were ruthless in capitalising upon Charlton’s defensive mistakes. Charlton toothless and tame the few times they got themselves into good positions in and around Ipswich’s box.
So too is the scoreline a reflection of just how much Peeters has to put right in 2015. Dealing with corners, Tommy Smith and Daryl Murphy putting Mick McCarthy’s men two goals to the good from set-pieces before David McGoldrick added a third late on, and finding some cutting edge in the final third, with George Tucudean and Johann Berg Gudmundsson wasting good chances for the Addicks, among the priorities.
And although there is no shame in losing Ipswich, well-organised and likely to maintain their position in the Championship table for much of the season, Charlton supporters go into the New Year carrying worry with them.
The first time the Addicks have slipped into the bottom-half this season it may be, and arguably better than many expected back in August, but the form at the start of the campaign that has kept Charlton in the top-half for so long is now seemingly a distant memory.
The same mistakes being made; the same faults visible. A long list of resolutions is needed to stop this poor run of form becoming an unstoppable slide down the table.
Regardless of Ipswich’s considerable quality, the Tractor Boys having lost just once at Portman Road all season, there was some positivity going into the game. The second-half performance against Cardiff City on Boxing Day allowed Charlton supporters to believe the attacking threat seen at the start of the season had returned.
Peeters, too, was evidently caught up in the positivity. It would have been justifiable to play a solid 4-5-1 and frustrate the home side, but the Belgian boss set his side up in a fluid 3-5-2, similar to the formation ten-man Charlton excelled in against the Bluebirds.
It meant a recall for Igor Vetokele, replacing the suspended Callum Harriott, while Joe Gomez was forced to step in at the last minute to cover for Oguchi Onyewu, who suffered an injury in the warm-up.
And in the game’s opening minutes, the late disruption to Charlton’s XI didn’t appear to be hindering the side. In fact, Peeters’ bravery in his selection appeared to be paying off.
With over 1,000 vocal away supporters cheering the side, it was the Addicks who had the game’s first opening. A fantastic passing move concluded with Gudmundsson crossing to Jordan Cousins, but the makeshift wing-back was never likely to convert from a tight angle, poking into the side-netting.
Nonetheless, it was encouraging for those Charlton supporters, freezing to death in the away end. Their side had seemingly come to Suffolk to have a go.
But Ipswich, unbeaten in ten and never likely to allow their opposition to control the game, quickly settled. Having dealt comfortably with Charlton’s attempts to get forward, the Tractor Boys came close to scoring with their first meaningful effort on goal.
Only the width of the post denied McGoldrick from scoring a stunning free-kick, while Tal Ben Haim’s desperate hack away prevented the rebound from being turned in. A let-off for the Addicks, and a reminder of the quality the hosts possessed.
Charlton, however, were dealing well enough with Ipswich’s threat. Andre Bikey and Ben Ham seemingly back to their resolute best, winning almost every ball sent forward. Chris Solly and Gomez preventing anything from materialising down either flank as they pressed and jockeyed well. Yoni Buyens and Johnnie Jackson putting in a shift and a half in the centre, with both breaking up attacks and starting new ones.
In fact, the only other meaningful effort Ipswich could muster before the half hour saw McGoldrick tamely stab wide. Charlton, too, were restricted, with Gudmundsson’s cross-cum-shot curling wide, but such resilience from the Addicks was encouraging.
So to concede with 31 minutes played in the manner Charlton did was made doubly frustrating. A soft, entirely avoidable, goal.
Again, a weakness from set-pieces was exposed. The initial delivery met by a blue head and falling kindly in the six-yard box, but McGoldrick couldn’t connect. The ball was there for a Charlton man to clear, but no one stepped up, allowing Smith to eventually pounce and send 26,000 home supporters into celebration.
The visiting supporters, attempting to mask the celebrations by paying homage to Peeters’ bald head, were not too downbeat, however. Charlton hadn’t looked like capitulating before the goal, and, if not threat, there was still a drive to get forward.
And that drive was summed up by Jackson. Rolling back the years by playing in a box-to-box role, the skipper’s effort was unrelenting. Inches away from connecting with Cousins’ cross soon after the goal, there was hope for the Addicks.
In fact, they probably should have been level as half-time approached with two excellent openings passed up. First, alert goalkeeping from Bartosz Bialkowski meant the Polish stopper was able to race of his line and deny Tucudean, who had been played through on goal by Buyens.
With Bialkowski well off his line, the block came straight to Gudmundsson. The Iceland international curled an effort towards the empty goal, but pace on the shot was lacking, allowing Christophe Berra to get back and head off the line.
And before Charlton had fans had finishing cursing their luck, another swift counter attack produced a chance for the Addicks. Solly’s low delivery met by Tucudean but sent well over the bar by the big Romanian, who was earning little reward for his efforts.
There was evidently still life in Charlton, the Addicks not keeling over like they had in recent away games, but those missed chances almost proved costly on the stroke of half-time. Another McGoldrick free-kick hit the post, came back off Neil Etheridge’s head, and trickled just wide. Inches from game over.
Nonetheless, Peeters’ side still just about had a route back into the game. Some ruthlessness in the final third was seemingly all that was needed on the basis of the first period.
But, in truth, Charlton merely started the second period how they ended the first. All bark and no bite.
A lovely turn from Gudmundsson presented a fantastic opening, but the playmaker’s effort was tame and comfortable saved. Tame, too, was Tucudean having received the ball clean through on goal after yet more good work from Gudmundsson. With time and space, the forward dithered, and was disposed without getting a shot away.
For all their determination and effort, both on the pitch and in the stands, Charlton’s failure to find the back of the net, as it has done both in recent weeks and throughout the calendar year, was again haunting them. Jackson flinging himself at Tucudean’s cross but heading over.
It meant there was both a feeling that Ipswich’s second goal just before the hour was cruel on the Addicks and deserved. Cruel as Charlton’s efforts were going to count for nothing; deserved as punishment for wasting openings and failing to deal with yet another corner.
McGoldrick, constantly involved and giving all sorts of problems to Charlton’s backline, initially hit the bar with his header, but his fellow prolific forward, Murphy, was there to nod home the easiest of chances as the ball ricocheted back to him.
Game over, and game over from the faults seen so many times this season. The away end full of grumpy Addicks, the attitude on the pitch quickly turning from determined to flat.
And if that wasn’t already it for Charlton, the withdrawal of Jackson, replaced by Frederic Bulot, confirmed it. Possibly a leg-saving exercise for the skipper, whose unrelenting effort matched the class in his performance, but the shape that was supporting the Addicks both as they attacked and when Ipswich came forward disintegrated.
There was possession, and even a couple of efforts on goal, for Charlton as Ipswich sat back and settled for a 2-0 victory in the closing stages.
But much of it wasn’t threatening; Teddy Bishop’s wayward drive for the hosts about as likely to find the back of the net as Vetokele’s header over the bar and Tucudean’s tame strike straight at Bialkowski.
With nothing at all on show to motivate you into believing a comeback was about to occur, Tucudean’s pathetic attempt to win a penalty summed the final period of the game up. A booking followed for the desperate dive.
And pathetic also describes perfectly Charlton’s defensive efforts in stoppage time. Seemingly packing it in like a Sunday League desperate to get in the bar, substitute Stephen Hunt was able to feed McGoldrick to finish with class beyond Etheridge.
Immediately a hoard of Addicks got up to leave Portman Road, but they would have missed Charlton’s attempts to allow Ipswich a fourth. McGoldrick danced past Ben Haim, only for Etheridge to save, before Kevin Bru’s follow-up was just about cleared off the line by the Israeli centre-back.
There was one last chance for the Tractor Boys, with Stephen’s free-kick being headed wide by Noel Hunt, but Charlton’s misery and Ipswich’s jubilation had long been confirmed.
One club ending the year on a high, anticipating success in 2015. Another ending the year on quite a low, finding it difficult to predict what the next year will bring.
The soundtrack of celebrating home fans heard for the final time and the final away ground walked away from in misery in 2014.
Evidently, this was by no means the worst performance of the last year. Ipswich were kept honest by Charlton’s energy and endeavour for much of the evening, Jackson, Buyens and Gudmundsson all put in excellent individual performances and, with a bit of luck, the scoreline could have been at least a bit less brutal on the Addicks
The issues isn’t the performance in its entirety, nor is it that losing to a quality side is a desperate situation. I didn’t expect to win tonight; I’m sure the majority of you thought similar.
The problem is that during this run of just one win in eleven, and two since the start of October, the same mistakes and faults have cost Charlton. Soft goals conceded, largely from set-pieces, and a lack of threat in the final third, with finishing woeful, have seen the Addicks consistently drop points.
When the sort of factors that are prohibiting Charlton happen once or twice, that’s just bad fortune. The fine margins of Championship football working against the Addicks.
But as the same sort of events have been costly for so long, it’s difficult to put it down to bad luck. The poor defending and wasted chances are errors; errors that have not been addressed.
It’s become tedious and frustrating. A play-off push, that although was always unlikely did at least seem plausible early on, blown by completely avoidable mistakes.
Peeters and Charlton, refusing to sign players in the loan market and reinforcing how good the start to the season was, seemingly got complacent. Believing things would eventually sort themselves out.
But no longer is that start to the season a platform from which a play-off push can be made, nor a barrier to protect from criticism after poor performances. The relegation zone now nearer than the top six.
I don’t realistically believe we are in any sort of trouble. There is still quality in this side, and the issues can be addressed. Dealing with set-pieces can be taught and improving finishing can be addressed by finding the confidence in Vetokele, who once again struggled tonight, again and finding a forward of quality in the transfer market.
The crucial word there, however, is confidence. Peeters’ task not only to solve the issues within his side’s set-up, but also get each man playing with the confidence they had at the start of the season.
The longer this poor run goes on for, the harder it will be to restore that confidence. It’s no disaster, but victories are needed from the off in the New Year.
#4 – Michael Morrison
I would like to think I celebrate goals as enthusiastically as anyone. Applauding and appreciating simply not enough; jumping on a fellow Charlton supporter you’ve not spoken to before more appropriate.
But, over the past three seasons, jumping down 20 flights of stairs and picking up 73 bruises wouldn’t be enough for any Addick to declare themselves the most passionate celebrator of any goal. There was always one man who looked to have enjoyed it more.
For Michael Morrison, whether he’d scored the goal or not, time after time found himself in the midst of goal celebrations. One of the focal points of the fully-committed and passionate group of players Chris Powell put together, who evidently loved playing for the Addicks.
In certain circumstances, showing commitment to the Charlton cause is enough. Determination, enthusiasm and, in Morrison’s case, leadership are all qualities that endear a player towards a supporter.
But to suggest Morrison was purely an on-the-pitch cheerleader during his three-year stint in SE7 couldn’t be further from the truth. His clear delight at Charlton goals, and his passionate attitude in general, merely a rather welcome bonus to an excellent centre-back. A centre-back who, during his three-year stint in SE7, played a vital part in the successes the group of Addicks enjoyed.
In fact, Morrison was an almost instant hit among The Valley crowd. An instant hit who became a consistent performer; rarely, if at all, was his place in Charlton’s starting XI questioned.
And possibly a huge factor in the former Sheffield Wednesday man, signed from the Owls during Powell’s signing spree in 2011, becoming a fan favourite in his first few games in Charlton red was what had come before.
Towards the end of the 2010/11 season, Charlton’s centre-back options were horrendous. The legs completely gone on Christian Dailly, Jon Fortune and Gary Doherty, while Miguel Llera was, well, Miguel Llera. Shudder.
But Morrison was a class above. A class above not only the deadwood barely floating along Charlton’s back line the previous season, but easily one of the best defenders in England’s third tier.
Forming a formidable partnership with Matthew Taylor, the central pairing played as important role in Powell’s side picking up 101 points and claiming the League One title. The aerial ability, timing in the tackle and overall calmness and composure of Morrison especially made it incredibly difficult for opposition forwards to find a way.
In fact, Morrison struggled on just two occasions in that incredible campaign. The away game at Stevenage showed he was as suited to playing at right-back as Frank Nouble to playing football; the capitulation at home to Notts County a day he, Taylor and Ben Hamer probably haven’t bothered to remember.
Such consistent brilliance meant there was little doubt about whether Morrison would be able to make the step up to the Championship. He was far too good for League One; his qualities made for dealing with opposition of better quality.
So it came as little surprise to most that Morrison lost little in terms of consistency in the Championship. An excellent defensive display against his former club Leicester City in Charlton’s second game of the season showed immediately this was the division he belonged in.
There were, of course, a few more days Morrison, and Charlton supporters, won’t remember fondly. The centre-back uncharacteristically poor in the run of poor results before the eight game unbeaten run.
But once that excellent run of performances was underway, Morrison was faultless. The Morrison/Dervite partnership impassable; I’ll do well to see a pair of centre-backs perform so incredibly well for such an extended period of time.
Regardless of the old-fashioned nature of Morrison’s play, with the fact his first thought was always to punt up pitch both frustrating to some, it was a joy to watch.
And so too was he vital as last season reached its climax.
At times, like all Addicks, Morrison struggled as the Addicks flirted with relegation. The fully-committed performances still occurred more often than not, another superb display against Leicester and a heroic effort in the FA Cup run stood out, but in a season where few things went right for Powell’s side, individual mistakes became somewhat more frequent.
But with a quality centre-back pairing, in the form of Morrison and Dervite, Charlton’s fight for survival under Powell and then Riga might well have been unsuccessful. Come the final few weeks of the season, it was arguably those two, along with Diego Poyet, who were the best performing players.
It reinforced just how vital it was to keep Morrison at the club. With every other out of contract departing, keeping the defender would not only keep a core of important players who knew the club, had leadership abilities and would be able to inject their unquestionable spirit into any new signings, but also meant the Addicks would have a very good Championship defender to call upon.
So when Morrison agreed to remain in SE7, there was excitement from supporters and the man himself. An almost ever-present in the three previous seasons, missing just five games in total, he spoke passionately about playing every game in the 2014/15 season.
However, while there was a general view that Morrison was one of the players from which Bob Peeters should build his new Charlton side around, that hasn’t been the case.
The success of Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey keeping him out of the side; Morrison adding just four appearances to the 146 made in the previous three season.
And while there is a difference in opinion over whether moving Morrison on was right or wrong, there is not an ounce of animosity towards the 26-year-old.
The quality and commitment shown by Morro throughout his time in SE7 means that every Addick, even those most disappointed to see him leave, wished for him to get first-team football and continue to impress in Birmingham.
He’s sure to get an excellent reception when Charlton head to St. Andrews for their penultimate game of this campaign. As a loyal servant who always gave his all for the Addicks, he deserves nothing less.
Deserved even if he does raise both his arms and run off in celebration should the Blues score against us.
Had Charlton travelled to Portman Road straight after the lifeless defeat to Blackburn Rovers just over a week ago, then only the misguided would have felt positive. Most Addicks wouldn’t have been against conceding the game to avoid embarrassment.
In fact, there would have been similar feelings at half-time of the Boxing Day game with Cardiff. Bob Peeters’ side lacking the energy and determination we have come to expect from the Addicks in previous, while Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich led 3-0 at fellow promotion challengers Brentford. Gulp.
And yet, there’s renewed confidence among supports of the Addicks. Whisper it quietly, but there’s almost a feeling Charlton could cause a bit of an upset.
Because, although Ipswich eventually went onto record a 4-2 victory at Griffin Park, Charlton displayed great character and fight to put in a stunning second-half performance against the Bluebirds. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s stunning late equaliser the very least their efforts deserved.
Of course, no one is underestimating the challenge facing the Addicks. Second place Ipswich are currently unbeaten in ten and have lost just once at home all season.
But such was the level of performance shown in the latter period of the Cardiff encounter, there’s a feeling that replicating such a standard will see Charlton give their opponents a test at the very least.
LAST MEETING – CHARLTON ATHLETIC 0-1 IPSWICH TOWN
We’ve reached the stage of the season now where each side has already played each other. In fact, these two met barely a month ago.
Having offered a very strong threat in the game’s half hour, the Addicks eventually lost their spark, allowing Ipswich to take control at The Valley.
A goalless draw, however, would have probably been about fair. Each side could claim their spell of dominance was enough to win them the game.
But Charlton were eventually punished for not taking their earlier chances. Some pretty average defending allowed Noel Hunt, scoring his first goal since 1938, to grab a last minute winner for the Tractor Boys.
Mick McCarthy is absolutely incredible. In fact, I’d go as far to say he’s the best manager in England outside of the Premier League.
Because this is no fluke. It’s no fluke that his Ipswich side, put together in exchange for three bottle tops and a shiny Pokemon card, are on an incredible run of form and looking likely to achieve promotion come May.
McCarthy has done this before. Sunderland and Wolves may have spent money, but their squads were similar. Few players that made you go ‘wow’, but the charismatic boss was able to get the very best out of a group of hardworking players.
The record now reads just one win in ten, or two wins in 13 since October. Whatever way you want to dress up Charlton’s poor run of late, it’s not pretty.
For all the signs of promise in certain moments of those games, the lack of wins means they’ve counted for very little. Excellent first halves followed by poor seconds; a decent performance and a well-earned point followed by an effortless display in defeat.
So it’s absolutely vital that Charlton’s second half performance against Cardiff is replicated. Not just as Portman Road, but thereafter. Wins will soon be needed.
Given Ipswich’s outstanding run of form, McCarthy is likely to name an unchanged side for the third consecutive game.
But should talented full-back Tyrone Mings (infected toe) recover in time to face the Addicks, then the Arsenal target will replace Jonathan Parr at left-back.
There could also be an appearance for former Addick Darren Ambrose, who has appeared from the bench on several occasions in recent weeks. An unpopular figure among Charlton fans, Ambrose is unlikely to get a pleasant reception from the visiting Addicks.
Charlton will be without Callum Harriott, who starts his three-match ban following his dismissal against Cardiff on Boxing Day.
If fully fit, Igor Vetokele will replace Harriott in attack, partnering George Tucudean, who impressed against the Bluebirds.
Also impressive was Charlton’s three at the back formation used in the second-half, and Peeters may be tempted to go with an attacking 3-5-2 at Portman Road. Brave, but countering for the fact the Addicks have a lack of options at left-back.
KEY BATTLE – THE MOST PRESSING MATTER
Charlton seemingly had an impossible task the last time they travelled to East Anglia. Playing top of the table Norwich, whose form at the time was similar to Ipswich’s currently, all the signs suggested the Addicks would lose.
However, against Norwich’s unrelenting attacking threat, Peeters’ side stood firm. In fact, it was constant movement, energy and pressing that allowed Charlton to stand firm.
For Charlton’s pressing was as important to victory as Johnnie Jackson’s late goal. Without out, Norwich would have run riot.
And with Ipswich strong in midfield, the experienced Jay Tabb and youngster Teddy Bishop both able to dictate play, it’s vital the likes of Yoni Buyens and Jackson hassle and press to the extent they did back in September.
Effectively a bonus game. Only three teams have come away from Portman Road with anything this season, and we’ll do well to become the fourth. Show a bit of effort, attempt to have a go at them and make them work for the win and I don’t think you can complain too much. Ipswich Town 2-0 Charlton Athletic
Dreadful, dejected and down to ten. A Charlton side who had offered no uplifting moments to a flat Valley crowd trudged down the tunnel at half-time, seemingly facing the embarrassment of becoming the victims of Cardiff’s second away win of the season.
For this was not only another desperately poor first half performance from the Addicks, one where the ability of players and manager were questioned, but one that lacked any sort of fight or effort.
Heads dropped the moment Aaron Gunnarsson’s long throw was eventually turned in by Tom Adeyemi to give the Bluebirds a 12th minute lead; heads lost when Callum Harriott went in studs up on Craig Noone towards the end of the half and sent off accordingly. Johnnie Jackson’s rallying calls failing to inspire and compose.
But, hindered more by incompetent refereeing than they were Cardiff’s defensive efforts, the second half wasn’t as disastrous as many feared it would be. In fact, after a slow start, Charlton began to realise that the visitors were there for the taking. The confidence that had been lacking suddenly returned, some punch was added to the attacking play and Bob Peeters’ rejuvenated and reshaped ten-man side showed some fight on Boxing Day.
The Valley crowd responded, acting as the eleventh man, but the equaliser still wouldn’t come. Hesitation, poor finishing and an inspired David Marshall meant the attacking moves Referee Russell didn’t bizarrely halt with his often illogical decisions weren’t finished off.
So, given what had gone before, the goal that did draw Charlton level was fitting.
Johann Berg Gudmundsson looked downbeat as he struggled to pick out a pass for the first hour of the afternoon, lacking the confidence to provide the magic he so often does.
But there was a response after the break. He fought hard and his confidence grew; the Iceland international’s ability started to reappear.
It meant Gudmundsson had the self-belief not to hesitate when he was given space to shoot from 30 yards with two minutes to play. The effort deadly accurate and viciously struck. Marshall not in sight as the ball crashed into the back of the net. Carnage followed. In afternoon in which everything went against the Addicks, their fight was finally rewarded.
Not quite the sort of fight shown the last time Cardiff came to The Valley, and there was a feeling of frustration that the game wasn’t won with Igor Vetokele wasting a glorious chance to prevent a 13th draw of the season. But, unlike some of those other drawn games, there was enough determination to feel pride in Charlton’s efforts.
And while a point, just Cardiff’s fifth away from home all season, isn’t ideal, most Addicks would have taken it when the teamsheet was first seen.
Vetokele, evidently struggling for form and fitness in recent weeks, was dropped to the bench, with George Tucudean and Harriott starting up top. If not a toothless attack, then a gumless one, too.
There was also a debut for Neil Etheridge, replacing Nick Pope in goal, while another victim of the shambolic display at Ewood Park last weekend, Morgan Fox, was replaced by the fit again Jackson.
At the very least, the return of Jackson offered hope. With the spirit and fight of the side questioned after recent performances, the skipper’s influence would surely result in constant effort from his men.
But even if there was a desire to improve a run of just one win in nine, individual mistakes meant the Addicks were making things very hard for themselves. A physical and direct Cardiff almost finding their way through on two occasions early on as Yoni Buyens and Gudmundsson cheaply gave possession away.
And, in a scrappy opening played out in front of an unusually quiet Covered End, cheap is also the best way to describe the goal that gave Cardiff a 12th minute lead.
Charlton’s defence had already been exposed to a Gunnarsson long throw before, so there was really no excuse for how they attempted to deal with it. Chris Solly was never going to win an aerial duel with Kenywne Jones, and the giant forward knocked the ball on perfectly for an unmarked Adeyemi. His header superbly looped over a motionless Etheridge.
A silent Valley had now turned to one full of moans and groans, which only increased as the Addicks failed to deal with yet another long throw. Adeyemi firing over on this occasion, but it didn’t stop home supporters thinking they might have been better off staying at home with their families.
Such thoughts only increased each time Charlton attempted to mount an attack. Tucudean throwing himself around but having absolutely no luck, Harriott running into dead-ends while only Jackson in midfield was making the accurate and simple passes the situation needed.
Even when a player in red had a clear sight of goal, Tal Ben Haim instead opted for an overhit pass beyond the run of Tucudean. A centre-back, of course, but the lack of self-belief evident.
And when it wasn’t their side’s lack of organisation and inability to find a way forward frustrating Charlton fans, it was referee Russell’s decision making. A handball given against Tucudean after the ball had smashed him square in the face drew disbelieving laughs from the Covered End.
But the only complaints about Russell’s next decision came from those without a decent view of the incident, or those unwilling to take the dismissal calmly.
A mix of his eagerness to impress and a questionable footballing brain often frustrates Addicks, and that frustration may have reached its peak here. Somewhat stupidly, Harriott went to in a challenge with Noone for a loose ball with his studs showing, catching the Cardiff winger as he did.
There was no real malice and no intent, but such a challenge is always going to result in a sending off. Russell wasting no time in producing his red card and making a disjointed Charlton’s task even harder. With just less than an hour still to play, it felt like game over.
A Tucudean volley, Charlton’s first effort on goal and comfortably parried away by Marshall, offered little hope of a revival, while Jones’ header not long before the break forced Etheridge into action and reminded the Addicks Cardiff remained a serious threat in the air. Throw in some not very well disguised time wasting from the Bluebirds, ignored by Russell, and this was incredibly gruesome viewing.
And the boos that met the half-time whistle may well have been for Russell, but Charlton’s performance deserved at least some of them. Effort, energy and excellence all lacking. Peeters not only needing to change the way his side was playing, but also inject life into a group of players seemingly downbeat and heading for defeat.
With the cries for changes ignored, the same XI returned to the field after the break, offering a very similar level of performance. Just about stopping Cardiff’s barrage of long balls, and failing to keep possession long enough to mount a serious attack.
In fact, with Charlton supporters growing increasingly restless, it was Cardiff who had the half’s first chance. Gunnarsson, trying his luck from distance after a corner was only half-cleared, forcing Etheridge into a decent save
But from the clearance that followed, the pace of the game changed. That Buyens was able to collect a wayward Tucudean header, before feeding Gudmundsson to shoot straight at Marshall, may not have directly drawn Charlton level, but it showed the weakness in Cardiff’s back four. If the Addicks were brave enough to attack, they would be rewarded.
And that’s exactly what they did.
Almost immediately, this tired, desperate and flat side turned into something resembling the one that played some outstanding attack football at the start of the season. It was by no means perfect, but there was a greater composure, a greater desire to pass the ball forward at pace and an overall greater threat about the Addicks.
With Tucudean turning a corner against the near post and Gudmundsson finding space before blasting over, Peeters sensed blood. Oguchi Oneywu and Vetokele on; Joe Gomez and Jackson off. A 3-4-2 formation that allowed for constant attacking in numbers.
And those changes were made even more brave by the fact Jackson had just about been holding the side together throughout the game. Had Jones got a proper connection with Gunnarsson’s cross just a minute after the skipper had left the pitch, Peeters’ gamble wouldn’t have come off.
Alas, with Jones wasting the opportunity to double Cardiff’s lead, the Addicks took control. And they might well have been completely in control had Russell been as brave as Peeters.
Tucudean, at the heart of everything Charlton were doing right in the second period, was played through on goal and a touch away from being in a glorious shooting position. However, Sean Morrison, denying what was arguably an obvious goalscoring opportunity as he did so, opted to haul the Romanian back.
Much to the displeasure of three sides of The Valley, Morrison escaped with a yellow card, before Marshall escaped with his cleansheet intact. Gudmundsson’s strike bent around the wall but only came back far enough to hit the post.
But for all the dominance, and the Covered End finally creating an atmosphere that inspired, there was a growing feeling this wasn’t going to be Charlton’s day. Everything going for them as they approached Cardiff’s box, but the gods against them once inside.
Supporters still positive following Marshall’s superb save to keep out Gudmundsson’s drive across the face of goal and Brayford’s off-the-line clearance to prevent Tucudean from scoring a rather cheeky back heel, but less so once rather desperate blocks kept out Gudmundsson and Vetokele in quick succession and a hand from a Cardiff defender seemed to beat away another effort from Tucudean.
The Romanian falling to the floor agony as his appeals were waved away summed it up. This was excellent from Charlton, so much so that you had to keep reminding yourself there were only ten Addicks on the pitch and not twenty, but that there was no reward made it unbearably frustrating. Time running out for Peeters’ side to get the reward their turnaround in performance deserved.
So with Charlton struggling to get the run of things in the box, Gudmundsson opted to bypass it altogether. A simply audacious strike, goalbound from the moment his left foot made contact with the ball, sent The Valley into frenzied celebrations. There were probably a few ‘up yours’ for the time wasting Cardiff side and Russell, but this was a pure magic moment created by a piece of genius.
And once the dust had settled, there was a rallying cry from the Covered End for more. Such was the fragile nature of Cardiff’s back line and Charlton’s momentum, the Addicks could have realistically set out to snatch a late winner in four minutes of stoppage time.
Instead, much of that time was spent defending long throws. Cardiff still a danger from their only real attacking threat; the point net yet safe while the Covered End dreamt for three.
But with seconds remaining, Charlton were able to break. Buyens winning the ball in midfield, finding Gudmundsson before dummying superbly to allow Vetokele to collect the ball and race through on goal.
With no Cardiff defender in sight, Vetokele had all the time in the word to finish coolly. Vetokele, Charlton’s top goalscorer and the only man you’d want to have such a chance. Vetokele, the man who blasted over and blew Charlton’s chance to win. Heart-breaking.
And no one was more heartbroken than the Angolan. Sinking to the floor as his supporters buried their heads and in their hands, every Addick knew a win should have just been snatched.
But the reception that followed at full-time belonged to a side that had indeed taken all three points. The fight, effort and forward intent shown in the second-half appreciated and then some.
And for a side low on confidence to fight so hard and give everything they had was fantastic to see. A blood and guts performance in terms of the attitude, but a lot more classier than that when the Addicks got the ball done and started to play.
Just as important was the way in which Peeters changed his side up and demanded that it pushed forward. As we have seen on a handful of occasions this season, this Charlton side is more than capable of dominating games and making the opposition sweat. It’s incredibly frustrating that it’s not done on a consistent basis, so hopefully this acts as a reminder to Peeters and his players that they have it within them to play attractive attacking football.
So too is it frustrating that certain players can’t perform on a regular basis, but such frustration is probably worth it for when they do. Buyens at his best in the game’s closing stages, Gudmundsson able to provide a moment of magic and Tucudean’s hold-up and link-up play a part of his best performance in a Charlton shit.
Of course, it’s disappointing that such attacking intent did result in the victory it might well have done, and the Addicks have really only got themselves to blame for that. The first half performance was utterly dreadful, and a failure to perform for ninety minutes has cost us several times this season. A 13th frustrating draw; the second half performance does not completely mask that this was a game Charlton really could have done with a win from.
But, having not been able to predict where that next win was coming from following the Blackburn defeat, there is now hope. Hope that his side will continue to fight, put in determined performances and take the game to the opposition with the attacking potential it so clearly has.
Just the first two will be enough at Portman Road on Tuesday, but beyond on that, the second half performance needs to become a constant and that horrible stat of one win in ten, which is likely to become one win in eleven, needs to be put to bed.
The similarities with the last time Charlton welcomed Cardiff to The Valley are few, and the game itself simply won’t be anything like it, but there’s one thing in common with the lead up to that special night in November 2012.
Just like two seasons ago, fans of the Addicks aren’t entirely sure where their next win is coming from. The defeat to Blackburn Rovers last Saturday not as emphatic as the one to Middlesbrough, but equally as lifeless and demoralising. Cardiff not the threat they were in 2012, and not in the greatest of form themselves, but still a side with enough quality to make you sweat.
But before that famous 5-4 victory over the Bluebirds, there was at least some sort of hope. Seemingly misguided and definitely irrational, but the group of players Chris Powell put together had an incredible spirit and determination that meant they could overcome the toughest of circumstances.
That spirit saw Powell’s side come from two goals down to beat Cardiff, and probably keep Powell in a job. That spirit earned Charlton a ninth place finish. That spirit kept the Addicks in the Championship last season.
But is that sort of spirit, that sort needed to win games when confidence and form is completely lacking as was also shown last Boxing Day in the outstanding victory over Brighton, in this squad?
With the quality of individuals and Bob Peeters’ managerial decisions beginning to be questioned, in addition to injuries hampering an already small squad, you would think such spirit would need to be shown in order to beat the Bluebirds.
At the very least, a group of players lacking confidence must show some sort of response, and some sort of improvement.
LAST MEETING – CARDIFF CITY 0-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
On the night that Cardiff sealed their promotion to the Premier League, Charlton’s performance left those who had travelled to Wales just as proud as the pitch-invading home supporters.
It may not have been a performance that resulted in victory, but that Chris Powell’s side competed and, at times, bettered the champions elect was more than enough. It was largely a solid defensive effort, but there was enough in attack, with Michael Morrison and Ricardo Fuller coming close, to mean the Addicks could realistically claim they had a decent chance to take all three points.
One of the best nights I’ve had supporting Charlton away from The Valley, despite the lack of goals.
Charlton aren’t the only one with a few problems. Two defeats in a row have derailed Cardiff’s play-off push and made Russell Slade’s start to life as manager of the Bluebirds the wrong side of mixed.
And the 3-2 loss at home to Brentford was particularly troubling for supporters of the Welsh side, with the club’s form at the Cardiff City Stadium sustaining their rather dubious challenge for a top six spot.
With just a win and a draw away from home so far this season, their ability to pick up points outside of Wales will have to improve desperately quickly, starting at The Valley, if Cardiff are to successful fight their way into the top six.
With just one win in nine, and performances increasingly uninspiring, a promising start to the season has become something of a slog.
Watching Saturday’s defeat to Blackburn was exactly that. Defensive errors, a failure to retain possession and absolutely no cutting edge made for an incredibly difficult and depressing watch.
It means the challenge facing Charlton’s players now is to pick themselves up from the floor and find the level of performance, and play with the confidence, shown in the early weeks of the season.
Cardiff look set to bring Kenwyne Jones into the starting XI after the forward scored from the bench against Brentford on Saturday.
Jones, who has eight goals this season, is likely to replace Federico Macheda and partner Adam Le Fondre in attack.
But the Bluebirds remain without the injured Anthony Pilkington, with Kim Bo-Kyung and Craig Noone the creative forces within Cardiff’s side.
While the New Year is normally a time for change, Charlton will be making there’s a week early.
The injuries to Johnnie Jackson, Rhoys Wiggins and Stephen Henderson mean changes won’t be numerous, but some have to be made following two desperately disappointing performances.
The most obvious would be moving Chris Solly to left-back. Hardly ideal, with the full-back kept away from the right, but better than the academy graduate playing in midfield and having Morgan Fox struggle once again.
Such a change would see Lawrie Wilson brought into the starting Xi, while Frederic Bulot, George Tucudean and Joe Pigott will also be hoping to start with Callum Harriott’s place under threat.
KEY BATTLE: STAYING STRONG AT THE BACK
A response is needed from every member of Charlton’s side, in addition to Peeters, but it’s most needed at the back.
Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim were given the run around by Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes, while Nick Pope, who offered a response of sorts by pulling off a couple of outstanding saves thereafter, played a rather unfortunate role in both goals conceded by the Addicks.
And while any combination the Bluebirds choose to play up top will be somewhat less threatening than arguably the division’s most impressive forward pair, Charlton will still have a task to deal with the likes of Jones, Le Fondre and Macheda, who scored twice against them last season for Birmingham.
Especially with the chances of Charlton’s toothlessness in attack unlikely to end, it means the back line must return to its resilient self on Boxing Day; a resilience that has played a vital role in the points the Addicks have picked up this season.
Having witnessed what I did last weekend, it’s incredibly difficult to feel positive ahead of this Boxing Day class. I’d quite like to go through the day without feeling incredibly grumpy, though, so I’m desperate to see some sort of response. And against a side with such rotten fortunes away from home, there really has to be one. Charlton Athletic 1-1 Cardiff City
#3 – Talal El Karkouri
Never has a professional footballer, not least a Premier League player with international caps, looked so uncoordinated. His legs seemingly too gangly to be properly controlled; mistakes not necessarily a regular occurrence but never too far away. Clearances were sliced, tackles mistimed and, to make matters worse, he often wore a rather ridiculous moustache.
And yet, Talal El Karkouri made himself quite a popular figure in SE7. The Covered End frequently sung their appreciation for the Moroccan centre-back during his three-year stint at The Valley, and I cheered him on as loudly as anyone else.
Nonetheless, El Karkouri was rarely appreciated for his tough tackling and aerial dominance at the back. As good as his defensive contributions often were, it says something about his character that when El Karkouri’s name is mentioned, his free-kicks and that time he unnecessary wacked the ball from close range into The Jimmy Seed Stand are recalled.
Because, as much as a traditional ‘get the job done’ centre-back El Karkouri was when it came purely to his defensive duties, his charismatic enthusiasm, opposition-frustrating behaviour and his admirable goal scoring ability meant he provided something much more entreating than some hefty punts up field.
In fact, it was his first goal for Charlton that immediately turned me into a huge admirer, rather than his already seen defensive efforts. A header, which proved to be the winner, against Blackburn Rovers on a Monday night in 2004 topped off an exceptional performance from the Moroccan.
But that goal, despite providing three points, is almost irrelevant when compared to some of the other seven he managed in 87 games for the club. The Arsenal free-kick, lashed in from 30 yards, a piece of brilliance, the over-hit set-piece against Birmingham that surprised even El Karkouri as it bounced over Maik Taylor and the winner against Blackburn two years after his first goal that gave Charlton fans misguided hope that they would survive all incredible moments.
That Blackburn winner in December 2006 was particularly special. An absolutely horrendous goal to concede for Rovers, with the wall that stood in the way of El Karkouri’s free-kick a more useless wall than Millwall (pretend that works), but that took nothing away from the celebrations that followed.
A genuine roar from the Covered End only heard to that extent once or twice since, a huge cry of ‘DA DA DA DA EL KARKOURI’ and a buzz walking away from the ground that suggested, despite the fact Les Reed didn’t have a clue what he was doing, the Addicks could and would survive.
Nonetheless, to purely focus on his goals would be misguided. They were an added bonus to a centre-back that, but for a few moments in the season Charlton suffered relegation from the Premier League, offered resilience to Alan Curbishley’s side.
His biggest strength was his ability to read the game; excellent positioning and impeccable timing meant that questionable technique rarely needed to be questioned. Winning aerial duels and putting in last-ditch tackles his specialities.
He also, despite his win-a-tackle-smack-it-clear nature, wasn’t afraid to carry the ball forward and play out from the back. Although your heart was in mouth each time he did, attacks were started by El Karkouri carrying his uncomfortable-looking frame into midfield before picking out a pass for someone more composed in possession.
The absolute peak of such a move came in Charlton’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in February 2006. A through ball slid into the path of Darren Bent, finished with class only second to the ball. Such a goal didn’t deserve to be part of a losing effort.
Of course, there were moments in El Karkouri’s time as an Addick that were less than pleasing. He was loaned out to Al Gharafa in 2006 having struggled for game time in the 2005/06 season, his final campaign in SE7 was filled with more errors than you would like, coming to a head at Vicarage Road where he did his upmost to single-handedly relegate us, and sometimes his play-acting was less hilarious more embarrassing and infuriating.
But that can be overlooked when his ability, his defensive contributions and the charismatic way in which he played are also considered. A combination of all the positives, and in a strange way the comedy value that the negatives brought, made El Karkouri one of my early favourites as a Charlton fan, and one that I have continued to like.
I’ve been known to burst out El Karkouri’s chant, his goal against Arsenal remains worth a watch and, of course, who doesn’t get a laugh out of remembering that time he lashed a ball into the Norwich fans?
Not the best player to ever play for Charlton, but a likable and effective performer.