Your man on the terraces
For your report on Sheffield Utd. at home and subsequent matches please go to Volume 10
Charlton fans had the unusual experience of defeat when they went down 1-0 to Bolton Wanderers in the quarter finals of the FA Cup at the Reebok Stadium. The Addicks started with Mark Kinsella on the bench. With Irish recruit Tony Shields still injured following his move from Peterborough (if one believes the programme), replacement 'Tony' Barness moved around the field with all the positional sense of an asteroid with an unpredictable orbit and with as much utility. As the Sunday Times commented, 'Shaun Newton, Charlton's dynamic right-sided midfielder ... was so heavily occupied in helping his full-back Anthony Barness that he enjoyed little attacking scope.'
Bolton were clearly more up for it than the Addicks, nearly scoring in the opening minute, and Charlton's first half performance was very poor. It seemed as if the team was still affected by the gruelling midweek clash with Fulham. Despite wave after wave of attacks, the Addicks managed to hold on, and even made some promising attacks in the last few minutes of the half. But in the opening minute of the second half, Charlton revealed the same vulnerability that plagued them during their autumn blip, letting in an early goal. Despite a physical Bolton side being reduced to ten men, and despite Charlton taking command after they went behind, the Addicks were unable to get the ball in the back of the net. Quite how Robbo missed a couple of minutes before the end of normal time defied belief while I was watching a match, but having seen it on Match of the Day it was evident that it was a great stop by sauna fresh Finnish keeper Jaaskelainen. Exiting the cup was a disappointment, but I would rather have lost at Bolton in the cup than at home to Fulham in the league.
Having arrived at the Reebok with the West Sussex coach, we were able to admire the splendour of the stadium and what the Sunday Times called the 'Stone Age rutted pitch.' I got odds of 40-1 on Charlton to win 2-1 with Hunt scoring the first goal. I never win these bets. Robbo was out last for the warm up to ironic applause from his fellow players. The apperance of Bolton president Nat Lofthouse drew warm applause from older Addicks. The stadium was some 5,000 short of capacity, but even so the ratio against us was far less favourable than at Coventry and it has to be admitted that a rather subdued Charlton contingent were often out sung by the Bolton. A bloke in the row in front of me was forced to stand up, turn round and shout 'What's the matter with you lot?' The Bolton contingent booed Andy Todd ever time he touched the ball, at least provoking a chorus of 'Andy Todd' from the Charlton end.
Deano looked unusually tense as he waited for the match to begin and well he might as Gudjohnsen delivered a superb strike from the edge of the area that hit the top of the crossbar. Kiely must have quickly drawn on his memory of his famous computer database of players as he cleared a second attack. Robbo was then brought down, the first of many attacks on the winger (a nasty tackle from behind by Whitlow in the second half went unpunished) producing a free kick for Steve Brown to take (a real hero as one E mailer to the site stated this week). On eight minutes a Bolton attack was well blocked by Barness. A nasty attempt on Steve Brown led Mr Poll to talk to the offender. On ten minutes there was a Charlton corner produced by good work by Barness (this is true: also if you read some reports we didn't get a corner until 43 minutes. They are wrong). A second corner followed but it was collected easily by the keeper. Wanderers then put in an angled shot which went wide. On 13 minutes Taylor hit the post and Johansen blazed over from the follow up. At the training ground Steve Brown practices putting himself between the goal and the ball and he made an excellent block of this type on fifteen minutes.
The game was largely being played in Charlton's half. Bolton were playing a direct style of game with considerable pace and the Addicks had difficulty in retaining any possession. Their passing was unusually inaccurate. Bolton were let down by the inaccuracy of some of their shooting, but there were also good blocks by the Charlton defenders - Barness on 26 minutes and Brown a few minutes later with a last ditch tackle which probably stopped Gudjohnsen from scoring. Meanwhile, Taylor had attempted to stop Kiely kicking the ball out, leading Mr Poll to have a word. Elliott shot just over the bar from 25 yards out and then Rufus intervened to get rid of a cross from Taylor. Bolton had a succession of corners in the last quarter of an hour of the half (although the final tally was 7-5 to Charlton), but Kiely was able to deal with them calmly and effectively. Then in the last few minutes Charlton had a mini revival. Good work by Chris Powell produced a corner (although perhaps a more effective attacking player would have scored) but the ball from the kick flashed across the Bolton goal with no one connecting with it. Then just on half time Newts put in a cross, but it all ended with a Charlton throw in near the goal line. Shell shocked Addicks fans did not have to watch the mangy Lofty the Lion but, if they were male, could occupy themselves with the worst struggle to get into the gents I can remember for a many a season, showing the good design features of the new stadium.
Bolton's goal started with the loss of the ball by Barness. Gudjohnsen played in Johansen on the wing and then taking the ball back easily evaded Chris Powell and Steve Brown, leaving Kiely exposed by his defence. No keeper could have stopped the ball that Gudjohnsen put in the corner of the net. Holden then decided to give Robbo a head butt (there having been a tangle between the two immediately beforehand) just in front of the referee. Although it was not a particularly strong one, even a methane breather like Mr Poll from Planet Tring had no option but to send the offender off. Curbs was, unusually for him, going totally ballistic on the touchline, and had to be forcibly held back from going on the pitch before submitting himself to the soothing words of Mervyn Day. Allardyce put on defender Ritchie in place of Taylor before Charlton took the free kick.
Pringle was given a chance by being played in by Rufus, but showed his usual weakness in front of goal with a feeble shot. It then looked as if Barness might achieve immortality when he 'went close with a spectacular 25-yarder.' I use the words of Sport First here, but I did think it was a good shot from my vantage point directly behind the goal. Robbo shot over and was then denied by another great diving save by the flying Finn at the expense of a Charlton corner.
The pleas of the faithful were answered when Barness went off in favour of Kinsella on 58 minutes. Newts shot just over shortly afterwards. Kinsella went close with a long range shot. There was still danger at the other end, however, and a Bolton corner produced a good save from Kiely. On 69 minutes Todd was pulled off for Salako, but although he managed to find space down the wings, and benefitted from some accurate balls to him from Charlton players, he seemed to be able to do little with them. Meanwhile, Gardner was brought on for Bolton in place of Johnston on 74 minutes and soon looked a real danger man, nearly scoring from a counter attack. Kinsella shot just wide on 77 minutes. Elliott was booked on 78 minutes for a foul on Rufus who was down for a while and eventually had to be substituted by Tiler.
Kinsella produced another great save from Jaaskelanien (in Finnish this means 'man who can stop a falling tree with his own hands'). Deano was called on to make another save on 80 minutes. Jaaskelanien knows as many ways of saving goals as there are case endings in the Finnish language and on 88 minutes he saved superbly from Kinsella. Robbo followed up, but the keeper got his legs in the way. After that, it was really over. The mood was naturally one of disappointment, but Charlton's second half play was good and they equalled the number of shots on target put in Bolton in the match as a whole.
On the way back we spotted super stalwart Neal Target at Knutsford services. Neal is an advocate of the view that it is the league that really matters and I am sure he is right. A replay might have further drained our strength and perhaps produced injuries or a tenth booking for Rufus. We just have to bounce back from this setback.
It was decided that this tough northern match was a job for Hooch the Pooch, Bob the Dog seen heading in the other direction for the beamback at The Valley.
Following insults directed from the men from northern parts at the maestro with the mike Mark Mansfield at Stockport, it was decided to send assistant match analyst Hooch the Pooch to Bolton. Hooch who looks as if he might be a police dog came in useful after the match when there was a certain amount of tension between the two sets of fans, Wanderers fans being sent for some inexplicable reason through the Charlton car park. Hooch is a great fan of large logs and wanted to give the Silver Bone to the man with the ample supply of birch twigs, Jaaskelaninen. Although Bob the Dog likes a roll in the snow as much as any Finn, he had to inform Hooch that he was barking and gave the award from the beamback at The Valley to super sub Mark Kinsella. Bob is of the view that Curbs made one of his rare mistakes in not starting Kinsella: it would have been better to take him off after 70 minutes if he was not fully match fit. No doubt the anti-Curbs crowd will seize on this error to argue that he is not up to the job. The Sunday Times says of Dean Kiely that he 'demonstrated just why he is such a highly-rated young goalkeeper.' Deano cannot be faulted for the goal. Barness simply isn't up to it, despite a couple of good bloks and one good shot on goal. He just has no positional sense: it was probably only the gravitational pull of Planet Tring that kept him on the pitch at all. The question is, if no loan is available to replace him, what does one do? Brown is superb in his present position in central defence. If one takes Newts to right back one would lose his attacking power. We could play 3-5-2 using Tiler but we are much more comfortable with 4-4-2. Could Todd play at right back? Chris Powell has not been at his very best recently and to some extent he was at fault for the Bolton goal. He also lost possession on 12 minutes, Taylor then only being denied by the woodwork. On the other hand, he did make a vital header off the line at one point. I just think that Steve Brown is magic and I'm delighted to see him playing so well. Rufus was superb again and I just hope he didn't get injured when he was fouled. Stuart was not as prominent as in some matches, and one is left with question marks about whether he was outplayed by the Bolton midfield. The relative lack of impact of Newton on the game is a measure of the effectiveness of Bolton, although until Barness went off he had to spend a lot of time checking where the right back was - usually nowhere near the man he was meant to be marking and often looking totally bemused. I thought that Todd did the business despite being a marked man, but he is no Mark Kinsella. I thought that Robbo had a great game and came as close to anyone as scoring. Pringle was again a disappointment. He had a chance to score in the first half when a cross from Andy Hunt put him through, but his confidence in front of goal let him down again. Hunt showed some good on the ball skills, but never looked like scoring, but that was in part because he did not get the usual service from Newts. Salako was very disappointing when he came on. Tiler did an effective job in the short while he was on, but missed one half chance to score with a header, putting the ball over.
Juneau the Soccer Cat thinks that several Bolton players deserve the hiss of the match, but has singled out the dimunitive Michael Johansen who might have been sent off for dissent if it was not for the way in which Mr Poll's methane breathing apparatus distorts his hearing.
'You don't know what you're doing' chanted the Craven Cottagers at The Valley on Tuesday February 15th. But in fact Charlton do know what they're doing: going straight back to the Premiership. It was subsequently reported on the list that Fulham supporters were claiming that we may have won the battle, but they have won the war and they will always be a bigger club than we are. Apart from having a bigger owner (in most departments) and more money, it is difficult to see how they can justify such a claim either in terms of the state of their ground or their league position.
Charlton's 1-0 victory over Fulham through a second half goal by John Robinson put them eight points clear of Ipswich. In my view beating Fulham was a tough test of whether the Addicks would be able to secure the championship in the style of Sunderland last year. Charlton started rather hesitantly and the match was 'a real nail biter' as Steve from Sidcup put it. Curbishley must, however, have listened to the Bloke Behind Me because he pulled off the hapless Barness in the second half, bringing on Tiler and switching to a 5-3-2 formation. Shortly afterwards, the winning goal was scored. Moreover, two great interventions by Richard Rufus and two great saves by Dean Kiely helped to ensure victory. It was a great welcome back for Steve's brother Pete returning via Fiji after a long period working in New Zealand.
The victory was even sweeter given that certain lucky talismans were missing. The CAFC socks I have won throughout the run of unbeaten matches were in the wash. And, instead of my usual note taker, I was using an (admittedly superior) House of Lords jotter. I thought that might not be lucky, however, as my noble colleague often rebukes me on a Monday morning for my 'terrible obsession with football'. However, he has retreated to his seat in Sussex (I often speculate about the meeting of minds that might occur between him and Brian Cole).
Rarely have I taken so few notes in the first half of a match as I did at the Fulham fixture. Neither side really had a strike on goal for the first thirty minutes. Of the Charlton players, Pringle seemed out of sorts. Barness did his best, but seemed like an accident waiting to happen. On seven minutes Robbo picked up a booking for a quite unnecessary foul near the halfway line when he pulled Lee back, although admittedly the situation had been set up by a poor pass by Barness. Fulham won a corner after thirteen minutes and delivered a wild shot over the bar shortly afterwards. A cross from Barness was collected by the keeper. Charlton won their first corner after eighteen minutes, but Todd blazed over. There was a dangerous moment four minutes later when it looked as if Kiely was beaten. Hunt was regularly being fouled, but the young referee thought that this merited nothing more than a talking to for the offender. Barness had a go on 33 minutes with a strong drive off his left foot and then Pringle found himself one-on-one with the keeper after an assist from Newts but hesitated and fluffed the shot to the rage of the anti-Pringle group in front of me who gestured at an apparent pro-Pringle group nearby. Then Fulham broke through and only a great block by Rufus denied Horsfield and saved the day. As the half came to a nervous close, Pringle put a good ball through to Robbo, but with no result.
The rain was pouring down as the teams came out again and the slippery conditions were not ideal for Charlton's style of play. Fulham were clearly out for an early goal to break the deadlock and Rufus made a brilliant saving tackle to prevent the Harrods boys scoring. A couple of minutes later Newts had a great run and cross which was unfortunately unproductive. Phelan then shot well wide. Seven minutes into the half Curbs threw caution to the winds and one Swede was swapped for another with Svensson replacing Pringle who received a standing ovation from the West Stand as he trooped off looking down in the dumps. Curbs's next move was to take off Barness for Tiler, returning from injury, and switch the formation. This worked well and a Stuart cross was headed down by Hunt, spilled by the keeper and put in the back of the net by Robinson. It wasn't a great goal, but it was a very important one. Within minutes Kiely had to make a great diving save to deny Fulham. The referee, having been informed of some great bargains at Harrods, gave Fulham a series of free kicks, including one when Svensson had broken through, Coleman pretending that the battling Swede had brought him down. There was then a highly dangerous moment when Kiely came out of his goal, but fortunately Fulham were unable to connect with the ball and Brown and Rufus combined to get it away. An increasingly desperate Fulham made a single (Riedle for Goldbaek) and then a double substitution (Davis for Clark and Hayward for Ball). The referee finally decided to book a Fulham player (Finnan) for bringing down Rufus. In injury time, Deano made another great save from Finnan to ensure that Charlton got all three points. The referee blew up immediately afterwards, his shopping expedition to Harrods in ruins. Curbs described the match as the toughest game at home this season. I think Fulham have tested us more than any other side over two matches, although we await the away fixture at Maine Road.
We didn't have a good journey home. We arrived at the bus stop as a 161 came along, but it didn't stop. The next one came twenty minutes later and then we got caught up in match traffic. We got a train at the Dome, but it stopped for a long time in the tunnel and then at Canada Water while mysterious adjustments were made to its equipment. I didn't get to bed until 2 a.m. and felt next morning like the famous Mr Akin Head for whom a taxi once arrived at Plumstead Common Working Men's Club.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has given his verdict from under the computer table. The Silver Bone goes to Dean Kiely for two brilliant saves that secured the points for Charlton. Barness did make a few good moves, but these more than offset by the potentially disastrous ones. He has no positional sense and is not comfortable playing at this level. Curbs had the good sense not to leave him on too long. Brown was once again a tower of strength and not a man to be messed with. Rufus once again used his pace and skill to good effect at vital moments in the game. Powell made some good runs forward and generally performed with his usual efficiency and consistency: it may not get him votes in POTM or POTY, but he is a key member of the side. The midfield partnership of Todd and Stuart looked less effective than it had against Wolves and reminds us how vital Kinsella is to our success. Of the two, Stuart had the better game, although it is easier for an attacking midfielder to be prominent than a defensive one. Although Robinson deserves our thanks for scoring the goal, I do not think he was at his best. Newton made some great runs forward and is seen by some as a player of the year candidate for the way in which he has recovered his old form. Hunt is now seen as the number one danger man by the opposition and gets marked heavily. But he was able to display his skill at turning and controlling the ball and provided the assist for the goal. Even apart from the missed scoring opportunity, Pringle had a disappointing game. Was he carrying a knock? It was great to see Tiler in the team again. Hailed as a donkey by some when Curbs originally bought him, he reminded us last night that he is a man who can be relied on at the back. Svensson's impact was reduced by some fouling by Fulham players which the ref chose to ignore, but he certainly puts himself about.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given her Hiss of the Match to the obnoxious Chris Coleman from Fulham who got roundly booed every time he touched the ball once his cheating ways had been exposed.
Charlton's 2-0 victory over Wolves at The Valley was their tenth league match unbeaten in a row (ten wins counting cup games)and kept them four points clear at the top of Division 1. There were some anxious moments for the Addicks in the first half with Wolves threatening to score from a succession of corners. The physical approach of the Wolves defenders and the 4-5-1 formation the visitors used prevented the Addicks from breaking through, although two good chances were missed. Referee David Laws had a penchant for giving useless advantages when a free kick was deserved. However, in the second half the Addicks stepped up the tempo, Graham Stuart scoring the opener a few minutes after the break. The Addicks played some sweet football in this half, dispossessing Wolves again and again, and after Steve Brown made it 2-0 with a precision drive into the left-hand side of the net, the result never looked in doubt. The score could well have been 4-0 if it had not been for some great work by Wolves keeper Michael Oakes. The statistic that the Addicks had nine shots on target from thirteen efforts compared with two out of eleven for Wolves tells the whole story. At the end of the match I saw fourteen month old Natasha Everitt with her mother: what a season to start one's Addicktion.
As usual we came via the Dome where it was Gay Pride day, but we could only see the usual boring mix of Domernauts. We arrived at the Rose of Denmark to find plenty of Wolves fans in attendance. It was good to see lister Robin back again after a period of illness, although Swindon Addick Kevin has to go into hospital and will miss quite a few matches while he is recuperating. Cat food connoisseur David Hatch was greeted with enquiries about what was in his lunch box.
The opening phase of the match was rather tentative as if both sides were sizing each other up. One thing was not in doubt was the contempt the home crowd held for Kevin Muscat who was booed every time he got the ball. Wolves got a corner after a minute or two of play, but the resultant shot went well past the post. Charlton won a corner shortly after five minutes, taken by Robbo in the continued absence of virus victim Mark Kinsella, but the offside flag went up before anything effective could be done with the ball. Then on quarter of an hour, Pringle was through on goal, but instead of shooting chose to lay the ball off to the right to Stuart who was not well placed to make use of it. A couple of minutes later Rufus was called into action to head over his own bar from Emblen, but the Wolves corner was easily cleared. Stuart was booked for a foul on Sinton, while Bazeley was booked for pulling Robbo's shirt (similar shirt pulling against Hunt went unnoticed). On twenty-two minutes, Robbo shot rather tamely at the keeper. A minute later another chance was thrown away when a loose ball in front of the Wolves goal was bizarrely allowed to slip away over the line with no one having a go at it.
Wolves had to pull off the hobbling Sinton for Paul Simpson. A Charlton corner shortly before the half hour was easily saved by Oakes. A period of Wolves pressure followed. First of all there was a Wolves corner won from a throw in, and then a mistake by Barness led to a desperate scramble in front of the Charlton goal with the enusing corner taken by the substitute Simpson. With Wolves making quite a lot of use of the long ball, a Wolves and a Charlton corner followed in quick succession in exciting end to end play. Kiely then had a rush of blood to the head and charged 35 yards down the field to intercept a Wolves attack by Branch, fortunately successfully. A Charlton corner went straight to the keeper, and then Hunt put a good shot which the capable Oakes successfully blocked. The referee finally awarded a free kick to Charlton for Hunt being held. The ball went in the net off Curle, but even Robbo did not contest the goal being disallowed for an infringement in the box by Hunt. A good run by Newton led to a Stuart cross, but the ball went just past the post. Wolves had a break just before the whistle went which looked as if it might produce a goal. Carl Robinson put through Emblen in a one-on-one with Kiely, but he hit the ball quickly and sent it well wide, suggesting that his skills are not that much greater than his ex-Addick brother. It was an evenly contested first half which Charlton had edged, but were let down by their old fault of failing to take their chances and frustrated by the skill of Oakes.
Whatever Charlton put in their half time tea, it usually does the trick and the Addicks came out with a new determination. Hunt was almost through in the opening minute of the game. But it was great ball skills by Pringle that allowed him to put the ball into Stuart who made no mistake about putting it in the back of the net. Good work by Barness won Charlton a corner, followed by a second, and there was another a couple of minutes later. The corner routine was that Newts accompanied Robbo to the corner flag, drawing two Wolves players with him, usually then speeding away, but occasionally taking a short corner from Robbo.
Hunt shot at the goalkeeper on ten minutes and there was a worrying moment when super Steve Brown went down. While he was being attended to, Wolves made a substitution, bringing on Scott Taylor. Pringle shot wide on fifteen minutes. Good work by the impressive Andy Todd won Charlton a corner a few minutes later which was followed by a second. Wolves showed they still had some fight in them when they had a break. Wolves pulled off Branch who had hamstring trouble for Flo, but Charlton replied with two more corners. Then it was good work by Barness on the right that produced a cross knocked down by the calm and collected Rufus to set up Steve Brown for a powerful and crisply hit belter of a shot that gave Oakes no chance.
Although Wolves won a couple of corners immediately afterwards, both the team and their fans seemed to give up from this point. Previously even a free kick on the halfway line had been enough to excite them. They felt that they had a shout for a penalty on the half hour. Pringle was pulled off to heartfelt applause in favour of Svensson. The one remaining worrying moment for the Addicks was when a free kick from Simpson hit the bar. None of the Wolves players seemed to be able to take advantage of the situation, with Kiely seeming to know that he was beaten, and he was allowed time to palm the ball over the bar. Three minutes injury time seemed to be doubled by the self-satisfied referee, but eventually the Addickted were able to celebrate another three points and only their third double over Wolves. But as Curbs stated in his post-match press conference, another week could see Charlton out of the cup and 3rd in the table.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has been joined by Homer the Cherry Hound . This led to a dispute over the award of the Silver Bone. Bob was torn between Shaun Newton for his consistency throughout the match and Steve Brown for a superb clinching goal and a good all round contribution, perhaps marred by one or two errors. Homer favoured a fellow south coaster and so it is the popular Sussex coaster who is the deserving recipient. Kiely was not really challenged by the poor finishing of Wolves, but his decision to rush down the field could have ended badly. Rufus effectively neutralised the main Wolves threat in the form of Akinbiyi without gaining a tenth yellow card. He made a number of crucial interventions in the first half. Barness had a good game, making some threatening runs forward and setting up the second goal and can be forgiven a couple of errors. Powell has seemed a little below par in the last couple of matches, but even when he is not at his best, he is still very good. Stuart took his goal, his sixth of the season, very well and was in the thick of things generally, pushing forward while Todd occupied the defensive midfield position. Doubts about Todd persist, but I thought he had a good game. We needed some answer to the physical approach of the Wolves players, and Todd gave it, but he also made some good lay offs. It's a sign of our strength that we didn't miss Kinsella. Robbo made some good runs down the wing, including one right along the touchline after breaking away from a Wolves corner. He tried one long range shot which didn't work in the way it had at Huddersfield. Hunt was not able to score, but was heavily marked for much of the game. He might well have got past a less accomplished keeper. What does one say about Pringle ? His ball skills are excellent: he totally outwitted Wolves on a number of occasions. But he needs more confidence in front of goal. If he could score one or two goals, he might start to score a lot. Svensson showed excellent ball control when he came on and looks like a good acquisition.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the shameless scummer Muscat. However, she has given a second hiss to the East Stand linesman who looked like a public school prefect on a day out and needs to mug up on the offside rule.
For the second away league match in succession, Andy Hunt scored a hat trick against Stockport County to give the Addicks a 3-1 victory. As is their custom, the Addicks let the home side score a consolation goal before stepping up a gear to go 2-1 ahead by half time. The victory left Charlton four points clear at the top of Division 1.
Because of problems with our car, the West Sussex minibus had to pick us up from home at Leamington. Juneau the Soccer Cat was initially slightly indignant at so many visitors arriving, while fans of Bob the Dog were disappointed to learn that he had already left to meet up with assistant match analyst Hooch the Pooch before heading for Edgeley Park (and no Stockport fan near the press box dared call them a 'twat' or threaten to hit them as happened to Millennium Radio's Mark Mansfield). A bemused Watford fan wished us well after suddenly seeing a group of Charlton fans appear on the pavement in the middle of Leamington.
After encountering some traffic delays on the M6, we arrived in good time at Edgeley Park. The Railway End offers the most basic of terracing and the atmosphere hardly compared with Coventry last week, although Stockport must have been pleased at an above average attendance of over 8,000. The question of the back of some Charlton fans' minds was, 'will this be the day the bubble bursts?' A first in the programme was an analysis of the Charlton team coach, no doubt by some sad bus anorak, it being claimed 'the jewel in the crown is without doubt, the demountable sunken toilet which must be one of the finest examples in the country.' One hopes it doesn't sink without trace when Mervyn Day lowers himself on it. The deliberate mistake in the programme took a little finding until it was discovered that Chris Powell has scored a mysterious goal this season.
In the opening phase of the game, it was not just the ground which made one think one had travelled back in time to an encounter between two teams in the Third Division North. For Charlton it seemed to be a case of 'Do we really have to take on and beat this lot?', while for County it was a case of 'Let's find out if this lot are as good as they are supposed to be.' Like many northern teams, County have some big lads which means that their approach can be physical (although not unfairly so). They proved to have quite a lot of pace and, if all else failed, would resort to head tennis in midfield.
The first minutes of the game were played largely in the Stockport half and first a Newton break and then a Stuart cross won Charlton a couple of corners taken by Robbo. County then started to apply some pressure, but Charlton were able to clear their lines after a break on seven minutes. Stockport won a corner on nine minutes, but the delivery was cleared by Rufus and then by Barness standing in or the injured 'Paddy' Shields. Brown put in a great long pass to Newton, but unfortunately nothing came of it. Stockport were piling on the pressure and Charlton were losing possession too much. A County header went just wide of the post. Given the run of play, it was not surprise when Dinning beat Rufus to the left (as seen from the Charlton end) of the Charlton goal and put a ball across the front of the goal, stranding Keily at the post and allowing Karim Fradin [who he? ed] to tap the ball into the back of the net.
Stuart picked up a yellow card for a foul on Bennett. Charlton were getting caught by the offside trap too often and Stockport still looked threatening with a shot that went just wide of Deano's left hand post just after the half hour. County had a corner on 35 minutes. At this stage the Addickted were discussing whether we were any good without Kinsella. Such is football that by the end of the match they were discussing how Curbs would face up to the difficult decision of who to drop when the Irsh international returned. The first stage in the recovery of spirits occurred on 41 minutes Steve Brown put a superb long ball down to Hunt who did not hesitate to volley it in the back of the net. Charlton's second goal on 45 minutes started with good work by Stuart who enabled Newton to put in a cross that was picked up by Hunt who got past the Stockport defence and headed the ball home.
Half time saw the appearance of David Blunkett, without his dog to the disappointment of some. The on message minister found time to mention the plight of Wednesday. His appearance may explain the later chant of 'Send Red Ken to County Hall' to the tune of the Red Flag from the Covered End group in front of me. Legendary macsot Vernon the Bear appeared and pretended to urinate against what would be the Stockport goal in the next half. Toilet humour seems to be the way of relieving the tedium of life in Stockport.
The standard of football was better in the second half. County made a determined effort to get back into the game and there was some exciting end to end play. This was stimulated by Curbs's decision to switch a 4-3-3 formation ten minutes into the half with Newts moving up front.
Hunt had a chance to make it three just after the break with a header that went just over the bar. Stockport then had two corners in succession in front of their only decent stand at the far end. Stuart then found himself one on one with Gray in the Stockport goal, but failed to make use of the chance, shooting straight at the keeper. On 53 minutes a Stockport corner flashed across the front of the Charlton goal. Shortly afterwards Deano made the first of a number of good saves. Pringle was down for a while and he may still have been feeling the effects a few minutes later when he missed a great chance by shooting straight at the keeper who did not look as if he could save a tricky shot.
Stockport is the sort of club where the home fans get excited if their team wins two throw ins in succession. Increasingly, they made use of their long throw specialist Mike Flynn if they managed to win anything near the goal. Twenty minutes into the half they pulled off Rob Matthews (evidently no relation of Stanley) and brought on Chris Allen (perhaps one of the more obscure members of that great 'footballing family'?) Shortly afterwards, Charlton took off Pringle and gave Mathias Svensson his first chance with the Addicks. As some wag asked, is he the first Mathias to play for Charlton?
Just after 70 minutes punctilious referee Mr Parkes (assisted by Mr Penn and Mr Pollock, so it was a right p up) gave the Addicks a free kick in a dangerous position. It was taken by Stuart but came off the Stockport wall which certainly looked impenetrable from behind the goal. Robbo then drew a diving save near the post from Gray. Stockport still showed a capability to break and to win corners. Robbo was pulled off for Salako, although some of the Addickted thought that Newton was tiring more. Todd was given a yellow card by the referee for becoming too vigorous in his tackling, greeted with shouts of 'deck him' from near where I was standing. A Stockport corner led to a shot which Deano palmed over the goal in a brilliant save to stop the match ending in a draw. Stockport won two more corners. But then Hunt put things beyond doubt. He burst through on the right on 88 minutes and put a superb angled ball into the corner of the Stockport net. After that, it was all over, although the referee kept play going as long as he could to shouts of 'We've got a train to catch ref.' But then it was all over and Chris Powell led the Addickted in the customary three cheers. As we stopped at a filling station outside Stockport we were greeted by an ebullient Pam from Sidcup.
Match analyst Bob the Dog is clear that Andy Hunt has to receive the Silver Bone. But he is presenting miniature statuettes of Vern the Bear to Deano and Steve Brown . Dean Kiely made a number of excellent saves, including one that stopped the match going to 2-2. Steve Brown created the first goal with a beautiful ball down the inside left channel and made a number of decisive interventions throughout the pitch, particularly through headers. Barness made some worrying errors, particularly in the first half, but was not the disaster I feared he might be. Rufus was as always calm and authoritative and escaped the yellow card that would earn him a ban once again. Chris Powell may not get many votes in Player of the Month, but perhaps this is because he is so consistently reliable and so much a fixture in the team that we take him for granted. Perhaps we need another award for 'best supporting player'. Todd is now fitting into the team much better and is doing the business in a no nonsense fashion. Stuart missed a golden chance to score, but helped to create one of the goals. Newton was not as brilliant as at Coventry, but he was still very good and his pace gave a lot of problems to the man mountains of the borough of Stockport. Robbo also showed an ability to get behind the County defence. Perhaps Pringle should be more selfish when he has the ball and then he might score more goals. But he does put himself about and he has a knack for unsettling the opposition. It's early days with Svensson who needs to build up a partnership with his teammates, but he showed that he was up for it. Salako had his usual cameo appearance.
Controversial Juneau the Soccer Cat has awarded the Hiss of the Match to your man on the terraces. She has complained to Bob that her male tin opener failed to get her female tin opener one of the famous Holland's pies from Baxenden at half time. 'David Hatch wouldn't have made that mistake,' she claims.
So says Juneau the Soccer Cat who has set up a fan club for the Addick and feline culinary expert.
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