Our Leeds report will appear at Volume 7
After the game at Manure, I had to travel to Brussels for a week so I did not post my usual match report. Before the match, I hoped, but did not expect, that Charlton might come out of with something. As usual, Charlton raised their game against better opposition. But the gap in class was still evident. United managed to find where the gaps were in the Charlton's defence. And they took their chances well. If they had had the chances that Charlton had, they would have scored from them. But the Addicks did not take their chances well, Euell notably heading wide from a good opportunity in the second half created by a Bart-Williams corner. If their disallowed goal had been allowed, the match might have turned out differently, but the ruling was probably justified. Last season the conventional wisdom was that there were three divisions in the Premiership: the top six clubs competing for European places, a relegation league of six clubs; and a middle group of clubs with the best of them having an outside chance of getting into Europe. This year the top six are still there, but it sometimes seems as if the rest of the clubs constitute a relegation league. If that is the case, it raises serious issues about the competition's future.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to Scott Parker for a tireless effort in midfield which could have turned the game. Deano could not have been expected to stop the two goals that went past him. Fish was out of position for the first goal. A Bolton fan I know who was glad to see the back of him reckons that he is a great recovery tackler, but with a poor sense of position: if was where he should be in the first place, he wouldn't need to make the recovery. Costa was on good form and enjoying mixing it with the Manure. Perhaps he hates them rather than Millwall? Powell was generally sound, but had drifted out of the game at the time of the second goal. Young made some good runs down the touchline which posed a few questions for Manure. Robbo was as energetic as ever, but a wild shot into the North Stand said something about his contribution. Stuart was not pleased to be subbed, but I thought that his contribution was inconsistent, as it often is these days. Bart-Williams has already been written off by a section of the Addickted so that any mistake is seized open while those of other players are ignored and any moment of skill is seen as a fluke. However, his well delivered corners do give us options we haven't had in the past. Lisbie looked out of his class against Manure. Euell missed one chance to score, but there is no doubt that he is our classiest forward. Svensson was busy and energetic when he came on, but did not change the game. Konchesky was effective while he was on, but JJ again looked out of sorts.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the idiot somewhere behind me who shouted out 'You're stupid, Curbishley.'
Crowd rating: The Addickted relished the occasion. There were some great choruses of 'You only live round the corner' and 'We support our local team' towards the end. 8/10.
That was the chant most frequently heard from the Addickted as Charlton held 'Boro to a 0-0 draw at the Riverside which put the Addicks 8th in the Premiership. In part it was a tribute to one of the most admired players in Charlton's recent history, in part it was a relief from the tedium of the match. 'Bore Draw at the 'Boro' would have been an alternative headline, but that would have failed to recognise the way in which Charlton battled away for the point on a poor pitch with a swirling wind making high quality play difficult. After a particularly tedious first half which seemed to be played at a slow pace, Charlton stepped up their game in the second half, but neither side came close to scoring.
We decided to use the opportunity of the match to visit a friend in Hull we had not seen since our wedding. Shortly after our arrival we met her cat and asked its name. 'Charlton!' It turned out that her former partner was an 'obsessive' Addick. After visiting bracing Bridlington with our 'Southern Softies on Tour' banner on Saturday, we motored up the coast, noting that Whitby had named one of its streets 'Charlton Avenue'. As we approached 'Boro, geographically challenged Hooch the Pooch (who had come equipped with sunglasses) stuck his nose out of the window, but we could not tell whether he could smell the ground or whether it was the fumes of Sulphur City that intrigued him.
It was nice of Keith Peacock to come across and appluad the Addickted before the match. I was concerned to see that JJ was starting, given his recent form. I would have prepared Svensson up front for this game. The programme contained a mystery photo of someone identified as Sasa Ilic and also listed 'United's recent transfers'.
I don't think that I have ever taken as few notes as I did in the first half, such was the lack of incident. Referee Reilly was determined to reward every 'Boro dive with a free kick and an early one in a direct line from the Charlton goal came off the wall. As time moved slowly on, Charlton started to put on some pressure and won a corner, but the ball from Bart-Williams was punched out. Scott Parker broke through and won a corner but Costa's header went past the post. With 'Boro continuing to win free kicks, Costa picked up a yellow card. The free kick went off the Charlton wall. The energetic Parker won Charton a corner, followed by a second. The ball was played out, but Bart-Williams put in a shot which was collected by Crossley. Feesh had been looking increasingly green around the gills and was replaced by Konchesky. Fortune conceded a corner, but it was cleared. Charlton put on some pressure as the half came to an end, but an effort from Stuart went spiralling over the goal. A Konchesky free kick was accurate, but collected by Crossley. With two minutes of time added on, another 'Boro free kick offered a moment of danger, but Deano tipped the ball over for a last gasp corner.
An early corner gave 'Boro a chance, but the hapless Gareth Southgate put the ball well wide. Queudrue then put in a shot that was so wild that it would have been an excellent teaser for a 'Spot the Ball' competition. Charlton put on a bit of pressure, but a 'Boro player fell over for the free kick. A free kick gave the Addicks a half chance, but Bart-Williams shot at the keeper. 'Boro brought on Marinelli to try and spice up their game. A Charlton corner was cleared, but was played back in with Bart-Williams winning the Addicks another chance. Unfortunately the King of Cool's corner was overhit. Deano dealt well with a dangerous cross. Costa somewhat needlessly conceded a corner. 'Boro were given a free kick on the edge of the box for a foul by Costa on Ince. The ball was cleared by Chris Powell.
The off form JJ was replaced by Lisbie for whom the Addickted had been chanting. Scott Parker provided some good defensive work. Lisbie went on one of his trademark runs, but his effort went straight to the keeper. Curbs used up his last substitution with Svensson coming on for Euell who received warm applause from the small band of Addickted. The Addicks won a free kick in a promising position, but it went off the wall and 'Boro had the chance of a break which was stopped well by Costa.
A rare Konchesky error meant that Deano had to come out and kick the ball clear. 'Boro mounted an attack, but Fortune cleared well. There was a moment of excitement when the loudspeakers announced 'This is Operation Echo' and lines of police and stewards formed up to confront the bemused Addickted. Bart-Williams turned provided for Svensson, but his effort went at the keeper. 'Boro had possibly their best chance to score when a shot from the unmarked Whelan was well saved by Deano. 'Boro saved their most spectacular dive of the afternoon for the dying minutes, earning Robbo a yellow card in the process, but the free kick went well over. It had been a scrappy game in which both sides had been bereft of ideas. But it is no indication of what will happen against United or Leeds as Charlton lift their game against better opposition.
There were no really outstanding players for Charlton, but northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to Scott Parker for a performance that was energetic, committed and often skilled. Deano made some good saves but had a relatively quiet game. Fortune had a good game, displaying real skill. Feesh was somewhat subdued until he was pulled off. Costa made some good interventions but also one or two errors. Powell started rather slowly like the rest of the side, but stepped up a gear in the second half. Stuart at least avoided giving the ball away needlessly and had a competent game. Bart-Williams delivered his corner and free kicks well and came as close to scoring as anyone. Robbo was as energetic as ever and, leaving aside one or two errors, contributed well. JJ tried hard, but the sparkle that was there last year is still lacking. Euell was a major presence, but the pitch hardly encouraged skilled play. Konchesky played well when he came on and I can only assume that he was left out of the starting line up because of the shape of the side. Lisbie showed his pace when he came on, but to no great effect. Svensson did not really have enough time to show what he can do. This could have been a match in which to start him.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given a loud hiss to all three officials. Mr Reilly must swim as a hobby. Certainly, he appreciates diving skills because 'Boro got a free kick every time they hit the deck. The linos were afflicted with a peculiar kind of blindeness which meant that they could recognise white lines and see when the ball had crossed them.
Crowd rating: Given the distance, the timing of the match and the fact that it was on television, it was no surprise that the smallest band of Addicks this season made the journey. They did their best and they often dominated, given the silence of the home crowd. 7/10.
On the basis of one error in the game against Walsall, he was already reviled by some sections of the Charlton crowd. One fan has already threatened not to renew his season ticket because he has been signed. But Chris Bart-Williams answered his critics with a well-taken free kick in the 79th minute which gave Charlton a 1-0 victory over Derby and a much needed three points.
It was hardly an inspiring Charlton performance. Derby were a very poor side, but Charlton seemed incapable of getting the goal that their possession justified. All too often their build up was too slow and their approach to goal too crab like. There seemed to be a reluctance to take a shot. Indeed, the Addicks only started to sparkle when Lisbie was brought on as a sub and started to peel open the Derby defence. Nevertheless, Charlton's defending was sound and their passing methodical. And we got the result we needed. As Brian Cole put it afterwards, 'A dynamic performance which took us one step closer to European domination.'
Charlton decided to change ends at the beginning of the match, perhaps hoping that playing towards the Covered End in the first half would give them better fortune. An early moment of potential danger at the Jimmy Seed end worried those who were looking at their watches to check when five and then ten minites had elapsed. Jason Euell put in a good ball to Robbo, but a defender headed over for a Charlton corner. There were screams of 'No!' as Bart-Williams went to take the corner, despite the fact that he is well known as an accomplished handler of the dead ball. His ball was well placed in front of the goal, but was cleared. Then a shot came in from 30 yards which was well saved by Deano: I think the attempt was by Ducroq (or 'De Crock' as Brian Cole called him when reading out the teams).
The Addicks were awarded a free kick in a promising position. Konchesky was clearly trying to place the ball so that it could be headed into the goal, but his effort was overhit. Stuart then put in a decent cross, but it was caught by the keeper. Parker burst through and there was a scramble in front of goal. A good move in which Parker had a key role won Charlton a corner and the keeper fumbled the ball to give the Addicks a throw in. Robbo won Charlton a free kick, but Konchesky's effort was overhit again. Charlton continued to keep on the pressure, but a Konchesky free kick was collected by the keeper. With JJ fouled, Chris Riggott received a yellow.
As the half hour approached, the Rams seemed to be getting in the game a bit more. Jase had an attempt which went not too far wide of the post. Stuart picked up a yellow for a needless foul. With former supermarket shelf stacker Christie powering in, Kiely fumbled the ball but it was cleared. Once again the Charlton midfield seemed to have gone awol and Euell and JJ were left with the ball in acres of space but with no one in support. JJ won a Charlton corner, the keeper spilled the ball and Robbo got involved but it all ended with a header over by Euell. A Charlton corner was played out. Scott Parker had a go, but the ball could not have fallen well for him as his shot went way over the bar. Mr Useless, Chris Bart-Williams, took the ball off Ravanelli. Then a rare error by Konchesky allowed former Nuneaton Borough player Stuart Christie to bear down on Deano and have the chance of scoring a goal against the run of play. However, Deano made a great save with his feet, kicked the ball out of play. With one minute of time added on, JJ won a Charlton corner. It was played out, Chris Powell put a poor ball back in and then the half was over with the Addickted left wondering when Charlton would be able to turn domination into a goal.
Brian Cole found a new role at half time as a male model. He announced that the white shirts were now available at reduced prices. Wearing one, he declared, 'As you can see they are available in all sizes.'
A good run by Stuart saw the ball played into Chris Powell who won a Charlton corner. The ball was played out, but Bart-Williams played it in again and the somewhat dodgy Andy Oakes fumbled the ball again for a Charlton throw in. Good work by Konchesky set up an attack which allowed Robbo to put a flashing cross in front of the goal. JJ managed to get through and his shot was not far over the bar, although it was the sort of position he would have scored from last season. JJ shot at the keeper and the time had clearly come to pull him off and bring on Kevin Lisbie. Konchesky had to put in some good defensive work. As Lisbie burst through, he was manhandled and a more stringent referee might have given Mawene a red rather than a yellow. Before the free kick could be taken, Scott Parker, who had not been much in evidence in the second half, was replaced by Svensson. As Bart-Williams lined up to take the kick, groans were head from the crowd. One 'supporter' in the North is reported to have shouted, 'Get away from the ball, Bart-Williams you t*****.' The King of Cool stepped up, the Derby wall parted and his shot went into the net just inside the near post. His critic in the North buried his head in his hands while everyone else celebrated.
Charlton now needed to make sure they retained their lead and Jase was pulled off in favour of Kishishev. Charlton managed to put in some more attacking moves, but never really came close to scoring a second. As the North Stand launched into a rarely heard chorus of 'Alan C's Barmy Army', the whistle blew to confirm the vital victory. Moaners have pointed out that this form will not defeat Manchester United, but I would be confident that we can raise our game against them, particularly if some injured players (Fish, Jensen, Kinsella). And I will be making the trek up to the Riverside with some confidence.
It was not an easy choice for the Silver Bone, but match analyst Bob the Dog finally awarded the coveted artifact to a somewhat bemused Chris Bart-Williams who had clearly not been briefed on this aspect of Charlton tradition. It was not just for the goal, but also for some superb long-distance passes which found their man. Deano made a vital save at the end of the first half and rightly celebrated another clean sheet. I thought that Fortune looked very capable at the back and did his work well on a number of occasions. Costa also looked more impressive that on Saturday. Konchesky played very well, only making one significant error and was another candidate for the Silver Bone. Chris Powell looked a little uneasy out of position, but generally contributed well. His memory is still cherished at Derby as is shown by the exchange of applause with the Derby fans at the end of the game. Stuart had a much better game that on Saturday (although that would not be difficult), but he was continually and usefully involved. Robbo was also much more effective, frequently threatening the Rams down the wings. Parker was much less in evidence and it is not a surprise that he was substituted. JJ was better than on Saturday, but he still seems to lack something compared with last season and I would have started with Lisbie. Euell was tireless and full of skill which he exhibited all over the pitch. As someone commented, he must be a favourite for Player of the Year. Lisbie made a real difference when he came on and Svensson was also troublesome to the Derby defence. Kishishev was on for too short a period to make a major contribution.
Juneau the Soccer Cat had difficulty in awarding the Hiss of the Match. Referee Mr Pugh ran the match well and the linos actually seemed to understand the offside rule. None of the opposition players was particularly dirty. She decided to give it to the moaners and groaners who called for Curbs to go on the basis of three results and has asked for a special version of the table to be produced with 9th marked off as a relegation position.
Crowd rating: Views on this differed and I still think it is too dependent on peformance on the pitch. The crowd was particularly subdued after half time and got frustrated as the half wore on. 6/10.
Demotivated, out of form players, playing out of position provided the basic recipe for the Addick's humiliating defeat 1-2 at home to Walsall in the FA Cup. Walsall played with commitment and no little skill, well above their lowly standing in Division 1, and secured a deserved victory. For Charlton it was all very reminiscent of the defeat at Watford against Division 1 opposition. There seemed to be a lack of will to win, an enervated complacency and a lack of penetration and pace. Was it really worth using the 'Whale' to get ten thousand gallons of water off the pitch so that the game could go ahead?
As seems to be inevitable these days, errors by the home side led to Walsall going 1-0 ahead after five minutes. A one-on-one situation with Deano, marginally offside, allowed the visitors to make it 2-0 in the second half. A penalty won by Robbo gave the Addicks the chance to get back into things. Walsall keeper James Walker has won plenty of plaudits for saving it, but the blame must rest for a poor kick with Graham Stuart. This time he was unable to score a follow up goal as he did on Monday, although he did go on to score one from open play. By this time it was almost too late, although the Addicks had been spiced up by the introduction of Matt Svensson and Radostin Kishishev who looked as if they wanted to get something out of the game. However, it required a great save by Deano to stop the Saddlers going 3-1 ahead.
On arrival at the R*se of D**mark, I was greeted by someone asking me 'Are you Walsall?', an odd question giving that I was wear CAFC colours. The pub had plenty of Walsall supporters there, but unfortunately the promised translator never arrived. Both groups of supporters were able to join in cheering Boro's goals against United. In fact that turned out to be the high point of the day.
Before the match, I had speculated whether Walsall would put ten men behind the ball and go for a replay, but their evident strategy was to go out and attack. Within thirty seconds they had won a corner off Steve Brown which Deano had to punch out, Carbon then putting in a shot and the keeper having to make a save. Leitato took the ball off Bart-Williams near the centre circle, evaded a tackle from the lumbering Costa and put in a lob over the stranded Kiely. Some minutes later a good cross from Konchesky gave Charlton the chance to get back in the game, but Euell was unable to connect. A free kick for a foul on Chris Powell was taken by Bart-Williams and sent over the bar. Euell put in a shot but it was saved for a corner, taken by Bart-Williams and cleared. Euell managed to get through the defence, but hesitated and the opportunity was lost. Euell got through again, but JJ shot straight at the keeper. JJ put in a decent cross, but there was no one there. Then Konchesky put a ball across the mouth of the goal, but no Charlton player was there to take advantage.
Jase put in a good cross from the left, but the on form Walker managed to tip Stuart's header over the bar for a Charlton corner. Poor and hesitant defending by Fortune at the other end nearly gave the Saddlers a chance. Walsall won a free kick in a potentially dangerous position near the edge of the area, but Deano was able to make a save. A good ball in from Bart-Williams, who was increasingly becoming the target of the crowd's frustration, was collected by Robbo, but his shot was saved by Walker with his legs. Charlton left the pitch to a chorus of boos.
Any hope that the Addicks might revive after a half time talking to was dashed when Matias put in a good shot soon after the break, but Deano collected the ball with a low dive. Fortune was then called on to rescue the Addicks from another moment of danger. It was clear that things were not working and surely this would have been the time to make the first substitution, rather than waiting until 60 minutes. Steve Brown thought he might as well have a go and put in a terrible shot which was well wide of the target. Charlton did manage to win a corner after about ten minutes, but this simply gave Walsall another chance to break. Another break fortunately ended with a goal kick. Charlton won a free kick, but Walsall were crowding the box at set pieces and nothing came of it. A corner was taken by Bart-Williams and Robbo had a go, winning a second corner, taken this time by Konchesky, but it was unproductive. On 59 minutes Leitao stormed through a static Charlton defence and rounded Deano to make it 2-0 to the Saddlers.
Almost immediately JJ and, perhaps more suprisingly, Chris Powell were pulled off in favour of Svensson and Lisbie. One consequence was that Euell had to be pulled back into midfield when he would have been more useful up front, although he did improve the quality of the midfield play. On 64 minutes Robbo was tripped in the box and, after taking a deep whiff of methane, referee Graham Barber awarded the penalty. Stuart seemed to have too long a run in and the effort was saved by Walker, later to be named as keeper in the Sport First Team of the Round. However, on 69 minutes a Bart-Williams corner was not cleared by the Saddlers and Stuart was able to thread the ball through the crowded box into the back of the net. On 75 minutes the tiring Costa was replaced by Radostin Kishishev who received a warm burst of applause from the Addickted. Robbo won Charlton a corner taken by Konchesky and Fortune had a chance, but his effort went wide. Kishishev lost the ball, giving Walsall a chance to attack, but their effort went across the front of the goal. On 81 minutes Carlos Andre was replaced by Dean Keates. Euell received a yellow card for a trip. Keates put in a twenty-five yard effort, but Deano was able to make a good save. A Charlton corner delivered by Bart-Williams led to a second. There was a scramble in the crowded goalmouth, but eventually the ball was cleared. The hero of the day, Leitao, was replaced by the old warhorse Brett Angell. With four minutes of time added on, Kishishev put a good ball in, but Lisbie's shot went wide. There was time for Svensson to get booked and for Darren Byfield to be replaced by Herivelto, but then it was all over and Charlton left the field to a loud chorus of boos. Even Robbo received only a smattering of appluase when he attempted to salute the crowd. Walsall might be a 'interesting mix of journeymen and Bosman foreigners' as the programme described them, but they had seen off Premiership Charlton.
The usual suspects were seen on the E mail list calling for Curbishley's head but, as always, they had no credible alternative to suggest. The team may be inclined to panic, but the supporters shouldn't. The most likely outcome at the end of the season is Charlton still in the Premiership and Walsall in Division 2. Unfortunately, an increasing section of Charlton support regard the Addicks as a Premiership club by 'divine right' (to quote from Curbs in the programme) whereas a close examination of their resources would show that they are a natural Division 1 club punching above their weight. The transition to a permanent Premiership team can be made if we remain steady under pressure. Matches start 0-0, but unfortunately for Charlton they have been going 0-1 after five minutes. This problem has to be dealt with, then the team could settle to its fluent passing game instead of the helter skelter, long ball effort we saw on Saturday.
This particular volume now records three defeats. Three defeats in a row are worrying to say the least and the game against Derby on Tuesday now assumes huge significance as we concentrate on the league and seek to avoid relegation. The only consolation I can take is that I made arrangements some time ago for the fifth round date (and for Cup Final day) on the assumption that Charlton would not get that far.
At the suggestion of Tracy from Dartford, match analyst Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to the drummers who kept on going throughout the match despite the fact that all seemed lost. Whether Deano could have saved either of the goals is open to question, but he has now conceded eight goals in the last three matches. Costa started off playing on the right and looked uncomfortable there, something which may have contributed to the first Walsall goal. Steve Brown was not really at the races. Chris Powell was below par and was eventually replaced. Fortune was involved in one potentially dangerous defensive error produced by a failure to clear the ball quickly enough and also failed to take advantage of one good chance to score. The midfield was possibly the biggest deficiency in Charlton's play. Robbo seemed to spend the game chasing around after the player who happened to have the ball, but rarely getting it for himself. Konchesky looked quite bright in the first half, but faded as the much went on. Bart-Williams was a great disappointment, far too cautious and hesitant. It looks as if he is going to sign for Charlton, but we shouldn't write him off. Remember all the criticism that was heaped at Euell after his early games? Stuart seems to specialise in giving away the ball. His game was summed up by his managing to put the ball out for a goal kick when he was in a promising position on the wing. Is he really an inspirational captain? The lacklustre JJ had a terrible game and it was no surprise to see him taken off: it should have been done at half time. I would have started with Lisbie , but he did not contribute as much as I had hoped when he came on. He missed one great chance to score. Svensson at least put himself about a bit and might have intimidated the Walsall defence if he had been given more time. Kishishev was one of the most inspirational and committed players on the pitch, not that that is saying much.
Juneau the Soccer Cat is consoling a shocked Bob the Dog and has been rendered temporarily unable to hiss by the poor display by Charlton. If she was able to hiss, she might break our usual rules and direct it at a Charlton player.
Crowd rating: No wonder the crowd was stunned into silence for much of the time. There is a limit to what they can be expected to do to lift poor play on the pitch. 5/10.
There were plenty of excuses on offer for Charlton's 1-2 defeat by Villa at The Valley on Monday night. Villa went ahead after eight minutes from a fluke goal which seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Addicks. Referee R Styles was going to give Charlton no favours, not even awarding a free kick for a two footed tackle on Luke Young who had to go off injured. And, of course, Charlton have not beaten Villa at The Valley since 1970 (at Selhurst in 1987).
All these excuses would overlook the unpalatable truth that Charlton were outplayed at a crucial time in the season when six points separate them from the relegation zone. After Villa's opening goal, Charlton lost their composure and their play became increasingly ragged and frantic. There was no fluke about Villa's second goal which put them 2-0 ahead before half time, Angel evading Costa and then slotting the ball neatly past Kiely. Charlton made a big effort to get back into the match after the break, but they did not really force a save from Schmeichel until Graham Stuart's penalty in the closing minutes was saved by Mr Humility, only for Stuart to nod the rebound into the net. Although Villa's play was generally fluent, they were by no means the best team we have seen at The Valley this season. Charlton now need to revive their spirits by giving Walsall a pasting to restore our reputation in the Midlands and then win the crucial match against Derby next Tuesday.
Over lunch on Monday I confessed to a Burnley supporting colleague that I had an ominous feeling about the evening's match and I even suggested 1-2 as a possible result on the Rodsters' list. Travelling to the match on the Jubilee Line I suddenly saw the grinning face of Pam from Sidcup opposite me. The irrepressible Addick game me her views about Claus Jensen, rumour having it that as a mate of Todd he was upset by the way the latter was treated by the club following the training ground incident. Perhaps it is not a good omen to see Pam before a game. Entering the ground, I encountered fanzine editor Kevin Portch who was being regaled by a 'born again' Christian professing his faith with the aid of a megaphone. 'Why are there no dinosaurs in the bible?', shouted the fanzine editor, raising a question to which he had not received an answer in the recent theological discussions on the Addicks E-mail list. Once inside the ground, we met the Stoke-on-Trent Addick who was making one of his necessarily infrequent visits to home games. 'When were you last here?' we asked. 'The 0-2 defeat by Blackburn' was the reply. Not a confidence booster. Then we discovered that pitch announcer Brian Cole had succumbed to the 'I know we are going to lose tonight and I'm not coming up from Portsmouth' virus. (Get better soon, Brian).
Charlton started brightly enough with John Robinson playng a leading role. He started one move which, after a further contribution by him, led to a throw in by the corner flag. All this led to was an overhit Powell cross, but then Robbo displayed his skill with a lovely back flick and after that he won the Addicks a free kick when he was fouled. A portent of what was to come was a Costa error. Then Feesh gave away the ball to the traitor Samuel. Vassell put in a looping ball which deflected off Costa and into the back of the net, although no doubt the Dubious Goals Committee will have to rule on who should get the credit. I could not believe that the ball was in the back of the net and Steve from Sidcup had to assure me that it was. It was the oddest goal I have seen at The Valley for a long time.
Charlton tried to get back into things, but kept falling foul of the offside trap. Scott Parker put in a good ball to Graham Stuart, but the captain's cross was hopeless. Then Samuel's two footed tackle finished the match for Luke Young, but all the referee thought it was worth was a throw in. Graham Stuart then had one of the best chances of the match for the Addicks, but managed to miss. Jensen had a go and at least his shot was only just wide. After some hesitation on the bench, the limping Young was replaced by Konchesky.
With the referee giving an extraordinary decision about a throw in and ignoring a blatant handball, the crowd launched into a chant of 'You've only got twelve men'. The Addicks looked as if they might have a chance of their first corner of the match, but fell victim to a dubious offside decision. Charlton then did win their first corner, but Jensen's effort was poor and ended in an offside decision. Juan Pablo Angel then managed to get past Costa and, advancing on goal, put the ball along the ground into the far corner of Deano's net. A few moments later, he threatened to score again, but Deano came out bravely to make an important interception. Play was then held up just before the break as Schmeichel received treatment for an injury to his little finger.
The team had clearly received a talking to during the break and showed a determination to get back into the match. JJ managed to beat Samuel, but the move ended with a Robbo header straight at Schmeichel. There appeared to be a real chance of getting back into the game when CJ won a free kick on the edge of the area, but his shot came straight off the wall. Stuart won Charlton a corner, but Konchesky's effort was easily collected by Schmeichel. (One thing that Bart-Williams is good at is corners). Villa were still going for the third goal. One shot ended up in the side netting. Then Deano had to make a good save from an effort from a Villa corner. With Villa piling on the pressure, Konchesky displayed his defensive skills in working the ball safely back to Deano. With the pressure getting to the Addicks, the tank picked up a yellow card for a foul. A mistake by Scott Parker led to a Villa corner which was cleared by a Costa header.
Clearly the time had come to change things around and the less than impressive Jensen was pulled off. He was replaced by Kevin Lisbie with Euell pulled back to midfield (where he admittedly brightened things up). But wouldn't a double substitution have been better? Lisbie could have replaced the lacklustre JJ with Bart-Williams coming on in place of Jensen.
Robbo put in a decent cross, but no one was there to connect. Charlton won a corner but it was another occasion for the 'Charlton corner - nothing' sticker with Konchesky's ball comfortably collected by the keeper. Lisbie made a good solo run which broke down the Villa defence, but instead of giving the ball to the unmarked Stuart on the right, he passed it to the less well positioned Parker who blasted it over. Lisbie had an effort which went into the side netting. Then as Lisbie powered through again, he was brought down for the penalty. The ref failed to give a red to Samuel (to compare with Parker's treatment at Blackburn), but did give the indignant Schmeichel a yellow for some afters with Lisbie. Stuart's effort was saved by the keeper, but his experience allowed him to ensure that the rebound found the back if the net.
Scott Parker was pulled off for Fortune who was given an odd forward role. But it was too late for Charlton to get back in the match. Somehow or other we will have to stop conceding soft early goals. This match might have suited Svensson, but despite hints on the web page that he might partner Euell, he wasn't even on the bench.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to John Robinson. He may not have his face in a mosaic at the bottom of his pool, but he showed energy, commitment and no little skill. Despite being presented with a salver by Sven Goran Eriksson to mark the completion of five hundred matches in goal, it was not Deano's night. Nevertheless, Kiely made one vital save stop it going to a humiliating 0-3 before half time. Costa was below his best and must share some of the blame for both goals. Feesh was also below par, giving the ball away at the start of the move that led to the first Villa goal. Young had little chance to show what he could do, before being injured and led to the dressing room. Powell was competent enough, but somehow lacked tha extra sparkle. Jensen still seems to be below his best and was eventually substituted. Stuart scored the goal, but was one of the main culprits when it came to giving the ball away. Parker tried his best, but it seemed to be a night when he was also below his top form. Euell showed some real skill with his ball control and was involved all over the pitch, but was unable to continue his goal scoring run. JJ seemed a shadow of his old self earlier in the match, but came into it more as the game went on. Konchesky came on for the injured Young and had a superb game, contributing well in attack and defence and generally getting the better of the 'look at me' Angel. Lisbie's pace bothered the Villa defence when he came on and he created the penalty. Fortune was on for a short while and seemed to be being played out of position.
Juneau the Soccer Cat had no hesitation in giving the Hiss of the Match to referee Robert Styles who must have been suffering from piles, so bizarre were his decisions. His assistants weren't much better.
Crowd rating: The crowd did their best to lift the team, justifying 7/10. A bad outbreak of Early Leaver Syndrome drew a chant of 'Cheerio' from the Villains, but they don't know it's always like that at The Valley.
With Wyn away in the states watching the Miami Muppets or San Francisco Frogs, it fell to me both to drive the team bus and compile this week's match report. Sad to say, in common with their previous three performances before my expert(?) eye, Charlton suffered a downturn in form and an away defeat (hint to all Addicks: I have no objections whatsoever to accepting bribes to stay away.)
The day started well enough with the drive from Leamington taking little more than 2 hours, parking located easily and an excellent pie located, purchased and scoffed. Homer the Cherryhound was pleased to see Blackburn in their home colours, so no loyalties divided by Rovers playing in their Bournemouth hand-me-down away strip. Program acquired and shoved in back pocket in case a quick name check is required for my reporting debut and we're ready for action.
Charlton started brightly and, after a bit of midfield tooing and froing, pressed forward for the first few minutes, without ever really threatening to disturb Friedel with a call to action. Blackburn, by contrast, saw little of the ball until the sixth minute, but used their first meaningful possession since kick off to devastating effect. Gaining the ball in the home penalty area, Rovers moved it quickly forward to Cole on the edge of the Addick's box. Cole laid the ball off to Tugay, who struck an unstoppable shot beyond Kiely's left hand into the top corner.
Charlton responded to this early set back and Euell could have levelled things up a couple of minutes later, but first directed a weak shot straight at Friedel and then failed to control the ball on the edge of the box when presented with a pretty much clear run on goal. The next ten minutes saw sustained pressure from the visitors produce nothing to excite the travelling fans and when a chance did arise, it was again the home side to whom it fell. Damien Duff seized possession just inside the Rovers half and, watched by a Charlton side who seemed loath to chance an attempt to tackle, sprinted half the length of the field, playing a neat one-two with Cole before seeing his low shot touched wide by Kiely. The resulting corner was quickly cleared and Charlton again pushed up in their search for an equaliser, without ever looking likely to score. Both Jensen and Robinson exposed the Blackburn defence on occasion, but both Euell and Lisbie failed to connect positively with the chances created. Scott Parker had a decent effort saved by Friedel on 37 minutes and then put a shot wide on 38, but other than these two moments, the Charlton faithful remained firmly seated for much of the first half and it was no surprise, given the acres of space allowed Rovers, when they added to Charlton's misery in first half stoppage time. This time, a neat cross-field passing move ended with Cole on the edge of the D, who struck a curling shot first time to leave Kiely stranded and stretch the top right netting at the home supporters end for the second time today. The half time whistle a few seconds later came as a relief to the somewhat bewildered travelling Addicks.
On the re-start, Charlton again started positively, with Euell firing just over after 5 minutes, then Parker being brought down after a lively run through the middle. However, possession was lost from the resulting free kick and Kiely was called upon for not the first time to meet an unmarked striker and save at the feet of Jansen on the edge of the box to prevent a third. Clearing the resulting corner, Charlton pushed forward and, on 52 minutes, pulled a goal back, albeit in rather bizarre fashion. The ball having been cleared back to the Rover's half, a miscued clearance hung in the air for a few seconds before landing at the feet of an unmarked Euell on the edge of the box. Euell wasted no time in firing past Friedel to bring Charlton back into the game.
A few minutes later, Charlton could well have been level, but a rare shot on goal from Jensen cannoned off the crossbar, before Rovers cleared the danger. The resulting counter was, for the umpteenth time in the match, swift and met with little resistance from a team seemingly content to leave defensive responsibility to the number 1. A desperate attempt by Parker to halt Jansen's explosive run saw the Blackburn striker brought down on the edge of the D with only Kiely to beat and the Charlton number 17 received an instant red card from the referee. Although the free kick just outside the area bounced harmlessly off the wall and out for a throw, the sending off increased the pressure on a below par Charlton.
The introduction of Bart-Williams, Johansson and Svenssson in the last 15 minutes did little to revive the ten-man visiting side. Jansen first got the better of Kiely in a sliding challenge, only to see the ball run just beyond his boot and into touch, then on 83 minutes was put through with only Kiely to save Charlton's blushes but fell foul of the lino's flag. A minute later, though, Blackburn fulfilled their threat to increase the lead when Tugay threaded a pass to Hignett who managed to shrug off the atttentions of three Charlton players to slot home their third of the game. With one minute to go, Charlton's misery was made worse when a quickly taken Rovers kick found Jansen, who had a simple shot past a stranded Kiely to give the home side a 4 - 1 lead. As many Addicks headed for the gates, Jansen looked certain to add a fifth until another offside decision pulled him up with Kiely again alone in defending the Visitor's goal.
All in all, a poor display by Charlton and one which makes the award of the Golden Bone particularly difficult for an impartial observer like Homer the Cherryhound. In the first half, Scott Parker looked likely to get the woof of approval, but his rash challenge and sending off rule him out. Graham Stuart performed well, but was replaced in the second half and never really caught the eye despite working hard throughout the first. Overall, despite the scoreline, Dean Kiely has to be this week's winner as, if not for his bravery in saving at the feet of Blackburn's players some five or six times, as well as some timely saves, Charlton's deficit could easily have doubled, making this trip to a chilly north west headline news on the back pages tomorrow.
Hiss of the week is a bit simpler to choose, as the candidates were many and more obvious,though unfortunately this week it cannot go to anyone from Blackburn or the officials. The ground was ok, as was the catering both inside and outside the stadium. Both the referee and his assistants were passable and not decidedly partisan in either direction. A police horse did look at me a bit funny as we left, but otherwise policing was unobtrusive. So I'm afriad this week's hiss has to be awarded in the direction of the Addicks. Euell was lining up for the vote in the first half as his attempts to control or strike the ball for the entire 45 minutes had all the conviction of a ball-shy five year old, but he did get the Addicks' only goal so I suppose we'll let him off. Likewise, Lisbie failed to impress other than his one shot and an occasional appearance around goal, but his replacement on 80 minutes narrowly saved him from this week's dishonour. Parker was briefly considered for the Hiss, but his sterling work in the first 45 overshadowed his later faux-pas, even though it had been looking like Charlton could be back in it before his red. No, Hiss of the week for this display is hereby awarded to a man whose idea of attacking football today was to leave only the keeper in his own half, even when the opposition regained the ball and pushed forward at a speed his own team couldn't match, who stuck to his "plan" despite the number of scares Blackburn inflicted, only to be denied by the bravery of Charlton's number 1; and for continuing to employ tactics more suited to the Subbuteo pitch after losing the only player on his team thus far to threaten a goal or display any passion. Congratulations MR Alan Curbishley, you win Hiss of the Week.
DISCLAIMER: The above report in no way reflects the opinion of Wyn Grant, who may well disown me as son in law after reading it. Still, power of the free press and all that: beware of independant match analysts! So long and thanks for all the Fish (who was woeful, incidentally.) Andy
The postcard below is a tribute to returning captain Mark Kinsella who should be back in the midfield soon. He does, of course, live in Billericay, a place name that has an Irish tinge to it.
The number of Addickted who have visited this page is:
East Stand, Block E
and at the, Rose of Denmark