For the Birmingham report onwards please go to Birmingham onwards.
The book of football cliches was very appropriate for describing this heart stopping fixture played on a warm October night at The Valley. With Charlton failing to stamp their authority on the game, Tranmere went in for the break with a 2-0 lead. But goals from Brown, Robinson and Rufus in the second half gave Charlton three points which left them separated from league leaders Manchester City only by goal difference.
Warned of long delays on the M25 as we headed down the M40, we decided to go through Central London. Our route took us past the House of Lords where the abolition of the hereditary peers was being discussed. No doubt my noble colleague was inside to abstain in person. Now that they no longer have a home to socialise in, perhaps their lordships could join some other persons of senior years at the Rose of Denmark.
Addicks fans were anxious about how the team would cope without Mark Kinsella for the first time in two-and-a-half years and they were right to be concerned. Tranmere put in a header on goal in the first couple of minutes. After captain Keith Jones had put in a weak shot at the other end, Tranmere won a corner on four minutes. This was not cleared and a second corner followed with Rufus having to clear a header off the line. Tranmere were making full use of the offside trap which the Addicks were finding difficult to beat, possibly because it is a while since it has been used so much at The Valley. Charlton won a corner on twelve minutes and a goalmouth scramble on twenty minutes gave momentary hope. Stuart missed a great chance to score on 27 minutes. Then Shields was given the elbow on the touchline to the fury of Mervyn Day. However, referee Inspector William Jordan, who recently made it to the league list from the Isthmian League, seemed to have forgot to put in his contact lenses.
Where was the goal coming from? We soon found out. The superb Rufus had to clear a Tranmere free kick off the line. Then left back Gareth Roberts evaded a challenge from the hapless Shaun Newton to put the ball in the back of the net and this was followed a minute later by a shot from Parkinson which a bewildered Kiely saw ending up in the back of his net. Kiely had to make a good save to stop it going 3-0 in the wrong direction and Hunt put in a header which went straight at the keeper. With Newton messing up yet another chance, the crowd's anger with him boiled over. A challenge left him on the deck at the end of the half, possibly giving Curbs the excuse to take him off and replace him with Steve Brown.
It was as dismal a half time as I have known at The Valley. The goals had so stunned Charlton that they had not been announced during the match. I could see our automatic promotion hopes disappearing, although I consoled myself with the thought that we had been beaten by another small northern club, Stockport, during the promotion season.
Charlton started with renewed determination and after two minutes Brighton battler Steve Brown came to the rescue of his club once again with a header into the back of the net. The atmosphere in The Valley was now fantastic with a wall of noise coming from the faithful. A second goal did not come quickly, however, although Hunt won a corner. What really made a difference was when Salako came on in place of Konchesky. He quickly showed what a class player he is, often outwitting Tranmere. A couple of minutes later Robinson was able to make use of an assist from Rufus to pop the ball in the back of the net with the aid of the Hand of God, prompting a Covered End chant of 'there's only two Maradonas'. However, the referee was only two yards away, so perhaps we should accept the explanation offered from Rick's eyrie at Morganprint that the goalkeeper bounced the ball out of the net on to Robbo's hands. Henry got booked for time wasting for knocking the ball away and Challinor for dissent. Tranmere then hit on the tactic of having players fall down with agonising injuries which were fully cured after attention from the trainer, although Roberts got the benefit of a ride on the stretcher to receive his treatment. Hunt got booked on 70 minutes for playing on after one of the ludicrous offside decisions by the east stand linesman. An excellent free kick from Salako connected with the head of Richard Raymond Rufus to make it 3-2.
Hunt missed a great chance to make it 4-2 when he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper and Kiely had to make an important save in the closing minutes. Certainly one of the most exciting matches this season, although excitement one could do without. Tranmere in my view looked better than their league position, as was the case when I saw them at Prenton Park. As fans left the ground, they were told that Charlton Station was closed due to a lighting failure. Another great victory for Connex and another reminder of the inadequacies of public transport as a means of getting to the ground.
Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to the tenacious John Robinson . Kiely made a couple of great saves, but in my view he was at least partly to blame for the second Tranmere goal. The Bloke Behind Me is now targetting our 'million pound goalkeeper'. Rufus had a superb game and was a close rival for the Silver Bone to Robinson. Playing his 50th game for the club, Eddie Youds was once again on great form. I thought that Konchesky was reliable and competent, although not as good as Chris Powell. Shields was a little subdued. Stuart missed a couple of chances to score. Newton was very poor and I cannot understand why Curbs continues to start him. Keith Jones who has become a new target for the moaners had a good game in my view, showing some excellent on the ball skills. Mendonca was in the game much more than on Saturday and displayed his ability to turn the ball and evade defenders. Hunt was in the thick of things but missed a great chance to score. Steve Brown is one of Bob's favourite players. Not only did he open the account for the Addicks, but he also did a good job in defence. Salako showed that he is a good signing with excellent footballing judgement and pinpoint accuracy in his passes. He should be in the starting line up.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given her Hiss of the Match to the ginger git of a linesman on the East Stand side who conistently misinterpreted the offside rule.
Played on a heavy pitch made wetter by repeated bursts of torrential rain, this disappointing match saw Charlton draw 0-0 with the Baggies to slip back to third in the table. Mendonca and Kinsella had the best chances to score and their failure to do so reflected a below par performance from both players.
There was a larger group than usual at the Rose of Denmark and walking sticks were raised and zimmer frames thumped as the demise of the Charlton list run by Glynne was discussed. Glynne himself joined the group, but there seems to be little prospect of an immediate return of the popular and much appreciated service (although Glynne subsequently announced a limited service while he took a well earned break).
It seemed as if Charlton might score within thirty seconds with Hunt breaking through but the ball was sent over the goal by Miller for a corner as he tried to score against his former club. Hunt put in a great ball to renew the attack, but to no avail. Shaun Newton was beaten twice, but the Addicks renewed their onslaught with some neat approach work. A break by the Baggies was dealt with very effectively by Richard Rufus, then Shaun Newton put in what even the Bloke Behind Me had to admit was a good cross. Charlton were on their fourth corner a little after twenty minutes, but were not able to make anything of them. The home crowd was as silent and subdued as I have heard them this season, allowing themselves to be out chanted by the Baggies. Shaun Newton picked up a yellow card on 25 minutes. Sneekes then got a yellow card for having a go at Kinsella, with Sean Flynn's repeared dissent then earning him a place in the referee's book. Great play by Hunt produced a corner on 37 minutes and this was followed by a succession of Charlton corners. From one of these a goalbound header from Eddie Youds was only stopped going in the net by an intervention from Flynn. But then it was West Brom who nearly went ahead, with Hughes missing a great chance just before the break after he got past Youds.
West Brom came out reinvigorated after the break, while Charlton looked lacklustre and increasingly lacking in ideas. The home crowd did, however, become more animated, possibly hoping that the Addicks might score at the Covered End. Instead West Brom actually managed to get a couple of corners. A quarter of an hour in to the half, Kiely had to get down at the near post to deal with a Sneekes low cross from the right. Kinsella sent an inswinging cross from Keith Jones over the bar on 62 minutes. An indignant Hughes was given a yellow card for trying to take out Rufus, having petulantly pumped the ball into the net nevertheless. Alan Curbishley was seen descending from his perch in the directors' box and the increasingly hapless Shaun Newton was taken off halfway through the half.
Whether the substitution had to do anything with it or not, Charlton actually managed to create a couple of chances for the first time in the game. With Robinson moving over to the right, he started to contribute more and put in a great cross around the half hour mark, Mendonca just missing the target with a header. Mendonca had clearly not fully recovered from his back injury and three minutes later Stuart came on in his place, while Keith Jones was replaced by Mark McCammon. A header from Robinson gave Kinsella a shooting chance from seven yards on 82 minutes, but he sent the ball wide. Charlton then got a couple of corners and for a fleeting moment it looked as if a goal might be possible. There was a worrying moment when Kinsella went down in the home penalty area, but he was back on for Charlton's last corner. But it was already evident that this was not going to be a day when Charlton would find the back of the net. East Stand season ticket holders were asking for a discount afterwards on the grounds that so much of the game was played on the west side.
This Sports First photo would be a good one for a Spot the Ball comp, although Shaun Newton appears to be pointing helpfully in its general direction.
Bob the Dog considers that the defence was the best part of Charlton's game and he has awarded the Silver Bone to the always involved Richard Rufus . Kiely had relatively little to do in this match given the wayward character of the Baggies' attempts on goals, but he made two good stops. Konchesky showed once again that he is an excellent replacement for Powell, the accuracy of his passing being particularly impressive. Apart from his one error, Youds was as stalwart as ever. Shields was capable, although he delivered one strange free kick which gave the Baggies the chance of a break. Keith Jones ran the midfield in the first half when he was Steve from Sidcup's choice for main man. He showed his usual deft touches, although sometimes he sent the ball sideways or backwards when he could have launched an attack. He faded in the second half. Newton did sometimes use his pace to good effect, but it was a performance riddled with inconsistencies and there must surely be a case for starting Salako. Kinsella was said to be below his usual excellent standards at Ipswich and he seemed to be a little below par today with less involvement than usual. But he was still one of the better players on the pitch. Robinson had a good game, particularly towards the end when he was playing on the right. Hunt showed some good on the ball skills, but, apart from the opening minute, never came close to adding to his total. Mendonca seemed to be afflicted by his injury and made little contribution. Salako made a positive difference when he came on, delivering a stream of dangerous cross but no one seemed to be able to take advantage of them. Stuart did not, wasting one chance he created with a powered run by failing to pass the ball. McCammon saw little of the ball after his appearance.
Keith Jones - deft touches
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given her hiss of the week to the constantly moaning Baggie, Jimmy Quinn.
A 4-2 defeat at Portman Road after being 2-1 ahead against promotion rivals Ipswich was bad enough news for the Addicks as they were toppled off the top of the table. But even more worrying were the injuries to key defenders Chris Powell and Eddie Youds. Powell had to be taken off in the first half after Johnson had had a go at the back half of his calf for which he received a yellow card. And then stalwart Eddie Youds popped a hamstring in the second half, reducing the Addicks to ten men for the last fifteen minutes. When one also takes account of the battering Clive Mendonca received at Portsmouth which kept him out of the Ipswich game, the squad is looking threadbare.
Charlton started well with a free kick coming off the Ipswich wall. After dominating the first part of the half, Charlton suffered a blow when left back Chris Powell had to be taken off for Anthony Barness on 23 minutes. Charlton seemed less in control of the game after the substitution with the tractors able to make progress down the right. And on the half hour Ipswich equalised to make it 2-2 with a header from Venus after the ball had come back off the post following a free kick.
The Addicks had gone 1-0 down three minutes into the game when a shot from Scowcroft took a wicked deflection off Youds's ankle which took it just inside the post with Kiely unable to get across to save. But then three minutes later Charlton got their first corner through neat passing. Youds teed it up for Hunt who was able to put in a neat header from three yards out. A few minutes later it was Hunt again. Robinson intercepted the ball and provided a stunning pass which the glandular fever victim chipped through the keeper's legs.
Rufus made an important block on 20 minutes and Hunt headed clear the first Ipswich corner on 23. After the equaliser, Rufus blocked an Ipswich break. This won Ipswich a corner and then a second after it appeared that Johnson had headed the ball just past the post. On 35 minutes a powerful shot from Kinsella clipped the right hand corner of the Ipswich post. Clapham was booked for time wasting at a throw in and then Rufus was trapped by Johnson into an incident which earned the central defender a yellow card. An Ipswich free kick in a dangerous position produced a shot which was flicked over by Kiely and Rufus cleared the subsequent corner.
There were some nervous moments early in the second half with a wayward clearance from Kiely. Kiely then made a save on four minutes and a Rufus tackle denied Stockwell. Robinson made a move down the left wing, but had little support. He worked the ball into Stuart via Keith Jones, but the stand in striker's shot went over. A shot from Johnson then flashed wide.
There was little penetration from the Addicks who were missing Mendonca, while Hunt showed signs of tiring as the half went on. Newton was often caught out on the right and Barness was finding the transition from reserve football difficult. Neverthless, neither side really had a goal scoring chance in the first twenty minutes.
The impressive Rufus made a superb block on a shot by Holland that was heading for the net. However, Ipswich were dangerous in set pieces and the resulting corner saw them score a rather easy goal after Scowcroft's header was turned in by Johnson. With twenty minutes left, Keith Jones, who had taken a nasty blow to the face earlier in the half, was replaced by Steve Brown while Salako came on for Stuart. On 74 minutes Scowcroft was able to evade Barness and put the ball in for Stockwell to drive it past Kiely. The game was now effectively over with Charlton seeking to avoid a rout. A good tackle by Kinsella denied Johnson who immediately dived for the penalty. An Ipswich shot went just over the top and Kiely then blocked a shot by Holland. Ipswich played keep ball in the closing minutes, leaving Charlton wondering how they could overcome their injury crisis and put their promotion challenge back on track by scooping up the points in the upcoming home games.
We regret that there is not be a report from Portsmouth. It's quite a while since I've missed an away at Pompey, but work took me to Barcelona over the weekend.
A first half strike by right back Greg Shields was enough to give Charlton a 1-0 victory over Birmingham at The Valley on 2 October and replace them at the top of the table, albeit on goal difference. The Birminham side failed to live up to their top of their table position, putting few strikes on target, although Dean Kiely had to stop a powerful free kick late into the second half. The Millwall of the Midlands showing that they are diving specialists, falling over at the slightest tackle.
On the way down we had encountered some Brummies at South Mimms services where they greeted us with shouts of 'Who are you?' They were soon to find out in front of a near capacity crowd at The Valley. Charlton started with disciplined determination and Kinsella put a powerful shot from thirty yards just past the post after three minutes after Parker had served as provider. A minute later a good build up led to a precise cross from Parker, but there was no one there to connect with it. Mendonca had a chance after five minutes, but put the ball over. The first Birmingham corner came after seven minutes, but it wasn't until fourteen minutes that Kiely was called into action to make a stop from a shot by Andrew Johnson. Youds picked up a yellow card for doing his job too vigorously. Play was frequently held up as Birmingham players writhed in agony on the ground at the most innocuous tackles, while Paul Furlong seemed to be under the impression that it was permissible to play football with one's hands. Andrew Johnson got a yellow card at 26 minutes for trying to take out Shields. Gary Rowett then made a nasty attack on Robbo which earned him a yellow card although some Addicks were calling for him to go off. Rowett himself seemed to find the whole incident highly amusing. He was probably less amused when Shields struck sweetly for Charlton on 28 minutes, just after a shot from Kinsella had been saved by Poole. The assist came from Mendonca after a move in which Newton was involved. Kinsella then picked up a harsh yellow card for a tackle from behind. With all the stoppages, the half went on until nearly 3.55.
The Blues came out on to the pitch after half time and looked as if they wanted to make something of the match. Parker, who had been reported earlier to have been injured, was wisely substituted a few minutes after the re-start by Brown who was better equipped to stand up to the Brummie rough stuff and showed some real skill. Indeed, he had one try at goal, making use of a good cross by Robinson headed on by Mendonca. The Brighton battler's 20 yard shot was going in until it deflected off a Purse. Mendonca made a flick on to Hunt who had a run at goal but put the shot over, having been put off his stride by Holdsworth. At 62 minutes Birmingham took off Hughes and Johnson and brought on the artillery in the shape of Adebola and Ndlovu. The Blues looked at their strongest after these two came on.
The below par Mendonca received a low cross from Shaun Newton with what seemed to be an empty net in front of him, but Purse got the faintest of touches to his shot to deflect it wide of the post. After a Kinsella corner, Shaun Newton put in a shot which came off the underside of the crossbar. Mendonca put a ball across the front of the goal, but there was no one there. Furlong's handball antics became too much for the referee and he gave him a yellow card. He had earlier missed the Brummie making a gesture at him behind his back. Birmingham took off Hyde and brought on Eddie Newton at 78 minutes in another attempt to get into the match.
Birmingham's weakness was illustrated when Ndlovu was in a one-on-one with Kiely but sent the ball well wide. By this time the Bloke Behind Me was in full flow, shouting 'You're losing it Charlton' and 'You're throwing the game away Curbishley'. The Bloke Behind Me considered that nothing would be done until we were 2-1 down and indeed Curbishley was to be seen on occasion descending from his perch in the director's box. Birmingham's most dangerous moment came from a 35 yard free kick from Rowett which Kiely had to dive to save at the expense of a corner. With Birmingham looking at their most dangerous in the match, Pringle was brought on to replace the fading Mendonca and in injury time Salako came on for Robinson. Fears of a last minute Birmingham equaliser came to nothing, thanks in part to a saving tackle by Rufus on Ndlovu using a cross from Abedola in the six yard box. The Addicks could celebrate a significant victory. According to Birmingham's Sunday Mercury , 'Blues were sent packing .. by a rampant Charlton side who look already designed for promotion ... Charlton had Blues on the back foot right from the off with a brand of football sure to take them back into the Premiership come next May.'
Bob the Dog's credentials.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has given the Silver Bone to Greg Shields for his first and vital goal for the club. Shields is another signing which confirms Curbs's acumen in the transfer market. Kiely made a vital save, but made some rather risky excursions out of his goal which could have had serious consequences. Youds had a great match, taking no nonsense from the Brummies and make a number of crucial interventions. This time he outshone the nevertheless very competent Richard Rufus . As is so often the case, Powell fulfilled his role so well that one scarcely noticed. Parker started brightly, but faded as the effects of his injury started to show and had to be taken off. He needs to learn how to cope with the physical treatment he will get from some players. Steve from Sidcup thought that he had not fully adjusted from playing reserve team football. Steve was very disappointed with the performance of one of his favourite players, Shaun Newton . He sadly lacks confidence and his dithering in front of goal meant that he lost a chance to chip a Birmingham defender. On the other hand, his volley against the crossbar showed what he can do when he tries. Robinson made some good penetrating runs down the wings. Kinsella again posed the question about what we would do without him which unfortunately may get answered soon with the number of yellow cards he is collecting. Hunt had a great game, showing excellent ball control, but was unable to find the back of the net. Mendonca seemed a little below his best to me, as indeed he was against Stockport. Steve Brown had a superb game when he came on as a sub. He had one shot at goal which could have gone in, but above all he showed excellent on the ball skills, providing some beautiful flick ons which is not what you expect from him. Pringle and Salako were on for very short periods. Salako could have been brought on earlier in place of Newton.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given her Hiss of the Week to Birmigham's Gary Rowett who not only cynically fouled Robbo, but seemed to think it was a huge joke.
Last Saturday I saw 1-0 Charlton victory over Birmingham from a first half goal put them top of Division 1 in place of their opponents. On October 8th I saw a first half goal from Rushden and Diamonds give them a 1-0 victory over Kingstonian to replace them at the top of the Nationwide Conference.
Part of Nene Park, the excellent ground of my non-league club, Rushden and Diamonds.
For the first twenty minutes of the match, neither keeper had anything to do. Kingstonian had a corner on 16 minutes, but it was easily cleared. The referee, Mr D Drysdale, was easily the skinniest I have seen, almost emaciated. He was also rather fussy, although fortunately all the yellow cards he dished out went to Kingstonian. One on 18 minutes went to Derek Allan, followed by Gary Patterson on 23. Rushden's goal was a forceful 20 yard strike into the back of the net by Darren Collins who was left in space to make the best of a good assist from Paul Underwood. As half time approached, news of Sweden's victory over Poland spread round the ground, drawing chants of 'En-ger-land' from both sets of supporters in a total attendance of 3,763.
Rushden hit the bar with a downward header from Ray Warburton a few minutes after the re-start the move starting from a corner. The ref dished out a yellow card to Millwall reject Colin Luckett. On 57 minutes a Kingstonian free kick straight in front of goal gave them a chance to draw level, but the force of the kick was absorbed by the Rushden wall. This was the best part of the game for Kingstonian, with Gary Patterson and Geoff Pitcher in midfield perhaps being allowed too much freedom of manoeuvre by their counterparts. Turley was often called into action, making a good catch on 65 minutes when he was under pressure from Eddie Akuamoah, and then a great stop from a forceful shot on 70 minutes. Surprisingly, no substitutions were made by Rushden with the midfield apparently in need of reinforcement. Kingstonian won a number of corners and these usually gave cause for concern. A shot from Paul Underwood went just over the bar on 85 minutes and Rushden came close a couple of more times in the closing minutes. But one was enough.
Match analyst Bob the Dog rates this a good performance by Rushden against a determined and skilful Kingstonian side who never gave up, although their finishing often let them down. As is often the case at this level, the ball was up in the air too much, although Diamonds made more of an effort to keep it on the ground than in the last match seen against Welling. The performance up front was good, but the defence was also strong with good performances by Jon Brady and Darren Bradshaw. Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to Billy Turley for a couple of interventions that stopped Kingstonian equalising. Having read some of the comments on the Rushden forum about him, this will be a controversial choice!
Block E, Row Q
In front of the Bloke Behind Me