With the season under way again, read our pre-season tour diary at Pre-Season Diary.
Fluent possession football earned Charlton a well deserved point at Old Trafford on Saturday to end the season on a satisfying note. Indeed, if the Addicks had had a bit more cutting edge in front of goal they could have taken all three points. The Newton Heath club may not have put out their strongest side, but Roland from Goring-on-Sea commented that the first half performance had been one of the brightest he had seen from the Addicks all season. The match summed up the season: some of the better performances have been away from home against stronger sides. Some end-of-season atmosphere was provided by an Elvis Presley look alike and the Addickted were able to bid a fond farewell to Jorge Costa. At least we know that there will always be a small corner of Portugal dedicated to the hatred of Millwall.
Our progress north was impeded by convoys of tractors getting in practice for their forthcoming Nationwide tour. Following the A56 route recommended in the club programme, we encountered no less than twenty-five sets of traffic lights. Our progress was further slowed down by a large tank of methane being driven in for referee Graham Poll (who later look bemused when he was booed as he did his pre-match warm up). Parking up in a school, geographically challenged Hooch the Pooch's sunglasses looked less incongruous than usual in the bright, sunny weather. When we got to the ground, a great fuss was made about a large trophy that had been won by the club: it turned out to be the Pontins League reserve championship which was surely scant consolation for coming 3rd in the Premiership and having to pre-qualify for Europe. More excitement was generated by the appearance of David Beckham who has at last signed his contract at a reputed 90k a week. Even some of the Addickted applauded one of England's few world class players. Meanwhile the Addickted were getting into practice with a chant of 'Stand up if you hate Arsenal.' When the teams were eventually announced, it was clear that the Salford club were giving quite a few members of their 'B' team or even their 'C' team a chance to get some match practice.
The match started rather slowly with both teams looking as if they were playing a pre-season exhibition match in the sunshine, although Graham Stuart made an early advance on goal. Costa dispossessed United when danger loomed. United were managing to find space on Charlton's right, but were failing to exploit it. The home team won their first corner on seven minutes, but it was cleared by Jason Euell, once again demonstrating that he is a player who contributes all over the park. Deano then had to make his first save from a powerful shot for which he was well positioned. The Addickted launched into a chant of 'We support our local team', the rest of the stadium being largely silent apart from the noise caused by the munching of prawn sandwiches.
With Kiely out of his goal, Rufus headed the ball out from just in front of the goalmouth. Deano collected the ball on the edge of the area and held it aloft in his usual manner. As substitute Claus Jensen approached the Charlton fans, a chant of 'There's only one Claus Jensen' started. Good work by Scott Parker eventually enabled Lisbie to burst through. His shot was not too far wide. An excellent Elvis Presley lookalike among the Addickted produced chants of 'There's only one Elvis Presley' and 'Elvis, Elvis, give us a song.' A good move by Charlton ended in an offside decision. Scott Parker made an important block.
The Addicks won their first corner. The attempts by Bart-Williams are always more interesting than the usual Charlton efforts and, after being played out, this effort drew a save from Barthez. United were using long diagonal balls to the Charlton right in an effort to penetrate the Addicks defence. Chris Bart-Williams started a good move, with Graham Stuart putting a good ball to Euell but his effort did not trouble Barthez. As the Addicks continued to pressure, a Scott Parker run created a half chance for Lisbie, but the ball did not fall well for him. More skill from Bart-Williams set up Konchesky who won a Charlton corner. Parker's effort was saved by Barthez.
Kevin Lisbie made a good run on the left, but his effort was deflected at the last minute by Phil Neville for a Charlton corner. Scott Parker made Michael Stewart look foolish. Euell won the ball, but did nothing with it. Some good defensive work was provided by Luke Young. Possession play by Charlton culiminated in an excellent build up, but referee Poll suddenly had problems with his methane-oxygen mix and gave United a free kick. Following a Charlton corner, Bart-Williams provided an excellent ball for Lisbie. He had the goal at his mercy, but we all know that he cannot score the simple goals. Somehow he managed to put the ball wide from a few yards out. Charlton should have been 1-0 ahead. Keane tried to get United into the game by exhibiting his diving skills. Lisbie was fouled by captain Irwin who received a yellow card. Costa provided a good defensive header. A Luke Young run gave an opportunity to Euell, but Barthez made the save.
United made more of an effort in the second half and there was always the risk of a 1-0 rather than an 0-1. Luke Young made another good run. The Salford team won a corner which was cleared by a Costa header, followed by a second effort. Rufus made a good defensive header. However, Charlton started to find their rhythm again and played some good possession football. With matters clearly not going to plan, Michael Stewart was pulled off (to ironic chants of 'There's only one Michael Stewart' - indeed the only one I had heard of before was a former foreign secretary) and replaced by Ryan Giggs who certainly added to the penetration of the United attack. Lisbie was cynically fouled twice by Phil Neville. Forlan came close to scoring his first goal for the Newton Heath club, but Deano tipped his attempt over the bar. Forlan then put in a drive which flashed across the front of the goal.
The majority of the Addickted applauded as Irwin was taken off, making the last of over five hundred appearances for the Salford club. He was replaced by reserve team star John O'Shea. Deano had to make a diving save, but the United corner was unproductive. The moment the Addickted had been waiting for came when Graham Stuart was replaced by long-term injury victim Claus Jensen. Charlton's midfield has lacked creativity in his absence. Barthez was taken off so that van der Gouw could make a last appearance. As the game went into its last ten minutes, Konchesky was replaced by JJ. United's loyal supporters started to leave in droves. An attempt to make a one man pitch invasion by a disgruntled Surrey resident was dealt with forcibly by the stewards, although he put up quite a fight and was greeted with an ironic chant of 'We can see you sneaking out' by the Addickted as he was carried away. Poll at last got his methane-oxygen mix right and gave Phil Neville the yellow card he had been asking for throughout the match. Svensson came on in place of Lisbie in time added on, only to fail to clear the ball out of danger. Keane was able to put in a last minute shot which would have given United an undeserved victory but Deano was able to deal with it.
The players received warm applause from the Addickted, especially Costa, Deano and Scottie Parker. Pitch announcer Brian Cole commented that we should have won the match by three or four goals. But it was not a bad result to force the first goalless draw at Old Trafford in the Premiership since November 1998. When I was in Brussels during the week, I told someone in Kitty O'Shea's that I was going to get back for the match and he said it would be dull and meaningless. I didn't find it so: it rounded the season off nicely. If we had taken the trouble to beat Bolton at home, which we could have done, we would have ended up 10th, just one place below last season. But we have stayed up in a respectable position. One new signing has already been made and I hear rumours of one from Eastern Europe. We will back with more reports next season (starting, we hope, with some of the pre-season fixtures).
Northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to Player of the Year Dean Kiely. Deano made some great saves which kept the Addicks in the game, including one brilliant one which involved tipping the ball over the bar. Rufus was cool and collected and very much in command at the back. The solidity of Costa was also once again in evidence. He has done a good job for us and we wish him well back at Porto. He appreciated the support he was given and blew kisses to the Addickted at the end of the game. Chris Powell will not be going to Japan and his game has faded a little towards the end of the season. However, this was a solid performance. Luke Young had a good game, particularly in terms of making some excellent runs forward. Konchesky linked up well with Powell and made some effective attacking runs. Stuart did his best to contribute and received warm applause when he was substituted. This was probably the last appearance for Charlton of Bart-Williams whose wage demands are rumoured to be excessive. He is not a favourite with the Addickted who leap on the smallest error. However, his passing was fluent today and his corners pose more questions than the usual Charlton efforts. Scott Parker had some brilliant moments outwitting United players, but he always seems to hesitate when he approaches goal. Euell was skilled and industrious, but never came close to scoring. Lisbie was strong coming forward, but his final touch deserted him. Jensen's return was warmly applauded and he did see something of the ball, but did not make a decisive contribution. JJ was on for a relatively short period, and his only contribution came through an attack created by Costa. Svensson had a cameo appearance in time added on.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to all the supporters of their local team seen heading to Caerphilly, Guildford, Taunton etc.
Crowd rating: The Addickted were in fine voice and innovative in their choice of chants. They certainly managed to wind up many of the considerable number of early leavers who directed gestures at them. 8/10.
One point earned in a tense 2-2 draw with Sunderland at The Valley was enough to put Charlton's Premiership survival beyond doubt. Even if Charlton hadn't won, it would have taken an amazing chain of coincidences to see the Addicks relegated. Indeed, even if the Addicks hadn't won the point, survival would have been assured by the 0-1 defeat of the Tractors by a Manure 'B' side later in the day. However, as Charlie Connelly (now the undisputed world expert on Liechtenstein's international side) pointed out in the programme, dour pessimism, no doubt induced by the club's history, is a Charlton characteristic.
The sense of anti-climax and disappointment about the season was evident when relatively few fans remained behind to see the team take their 'lap of honour', although not everyone seemed to know that it was going to happen and the team took a long time to emerge. The theme from the club these days is 'excessive expectations' and they have a point. Most of us would have settled for 14th or 15th at the beginning of the season. It is also worth remembering that only six points separate 10th and 17th place in the Premiership, while there is a thirteen point gap between 6th and 7th. The 'Super League' is starting to emerge. Nevertheless, perhaps what has not been fully grasped by the senior management is that the problem is not that fans were disappointed by away defeats at Anfield and St.James' Park. A perception has developed by fans that the team took their collective foot off the gas (with one or two exceptions like Scotty Parker) once we reached 41 points and supposed safety. This feeling was captured brilliantly by the 'holiday' cartoon in Goodbye Horse. In fairness it should be pointed out that similar complaints have been heard from fans of other teams in the mid-table safety zone, including Southampton and Villa.
We decided to stay over in London for the last home match of the season. Taking advantage of my status as a founder shareholder in Thistle Hotels, a room at the Thistle Tower gave us a superb view down the river. In the distance was Shooters Hill, the scene of many happy childhood memories and we could even see the glint of the sun on cars coming down Shooters Hill Road. We met up with a small group of fellow Addicks at Westminster Pier and headed off down the river on the boat to Greenwich. This at least enabled us to phone people up and say 'I'm on the boat' rather than 'I'm on the train'. A Redwing coach crossing Tower Bridge as we went under it was seen as a good omen. It was equally pleasing that we could not pick out the Rust Bucket, although the Isle of Dogs on our left reminded me of Eastward Ho which I recently saw at Stratford. The villains were shipwrecked there, Ben Jonson choosing the location because it was then a debtors' prison. Given that the Royal Shakespeare Company hung a large 'Cheapside' tube sign round one character, they could have added to the postmodernist irony by giving the 'commentator' on the Isle of Dogs a Millwall scarf.
A short bus ride took us to a well known pub where we were pleased to welcome a visit from John Window of Mount Mascall Stables (can you claim that mention against tax if I bill you, John?) Also there was the sponsor of our women's team, Bath-based entrepreneur and visionary Merc. He started up a chant of 'Mendonca is a cockney' to which an (unusually) obnoxious Mackem objected. It was the first time I had seen the buoyant millionaire shaken out of his stride.
We got to the ground in time to see the Swedish tenor who thankfully this time did not attempt 'Vallay Floyd Rode, the Meest Rolling in from the See'. The moment that everyone had been waiting for was the appearance of the pitch of Sir Clive Mendonca. I am sure that he felt the warmth of the fans. Would we have had a North Stand to open if it had not been for his hattrick at Wembley? A good omen before the game was that Brian Cole attempted (what he tells me is) his customary shot at the Covered End goal, but his first shot stopped dead on the line.
At the start of the game the Wearsiders went into a huddle, but more poignant was the embrace between JJ and the recently bereaved Robbo. Sunderland were clearly really up for it, but no one could have anticipated the sensational start to the game. A quick thrown in by Luke Young released JJ who stormed down the right wing. He put in an excellent cross which was met by Jason Euell and his volley went past Sorensen in the Sunderland goal from some ten yards out just 63 seconds after the start. I had hardly had time to say to the Bloke Beside Me that Charlton were most vulnerable when they had just scored when the Black Cats equalised 51 seconds later. Butler put in a pass to the advancing Kilbane. The Charlton defence was in disarray and Deano advanced off his line, leaving Kilbane with the relatively easy job of slotting past him.
An indication of what was to come from inept referee Eddie Wolstenholme was when he failed to recognise a clear handball. Graham Stuart then managed to fall over on the admittedly bobbly pitch (does anyone else think our pitch has not been looking too good towards the end of this season? What happened to the plans for a new 'super pitch'?) Scott Parker made a great tackle as Sunderland threatened. 'Calm it down a bit' shouted the Bloke Beside Me. However, the match continued at a frentic pace. Graham Stuart showed that he still knew how to pass the ball when he fed the ball to Scott Parker. He appeared to get round Sorensen, but did not shoot quickly enough and Jensen's compatriot was able to put the ball away for a Charlton corner. Graham Stuart, looking more incisive than of late, was able to force a second corner, but it was, of course, unproductive.
Costa intercepted Kilbane some thirty-five yards out. The Black Cats tried to take the free kick quickly, but the obliging Mr Wolstenholme suggested a more measured approach might be better. McAteer managed to pick out Phillips who was somehow lurking unmarked behind the Charlton wall and he was able to put in a powerful header past Kiely, his first goal since February 2nd. Eleven minutes gone and Sunderland were 2-1 ahead. From the celebrations in the Jimmy Seed stand, one would think that they had heard that aliens had just landed at St James' Park and abducted Shearer.
Charlton responded with more fighting spirit than they have shown for some time. Holiday brochures were forgotten as JJ put in an effort that Sorensen had to punch out from the line. The Charlton corner produced a better than usual attempt which went past the post. Robbo then made an excellent turn, controlling the ball with his right foot and shooting with his left, but failing to beat Denmark's No.1. A Sunderland corner led Deano to save with his palm on the line from what looked like a Costa defensive header, but the offside flag was up anyway. Euell was able to win Charlton a corner, but a header from Rufus went wide. Kinsella was pushed in the face, but this blatant foul was ignored by the referee.
Charlton were then placed in danger of going 1-3 behind which would have made it very difficult for them even to draw level again. For some reason Paul Konchesky played a short back pass to Deano, instead of putting the ball out for a corner. A delighted Mr Wolstenholme was justifiably able to award Sunderland a free kick in a dangerous position yards from the goalmouth, but somehow the ball was cleared to safety. The vicious play of Charlton was by now affecting Sunderland and first McAteer and then Kilbane went down in agony. Quinn, who had been given the referee lots of verbal, got his retaliation in first on Costa. Euell provided Stuart with a half chance, but he blasted the ball over. An advancing Robbo won Charlton a corner which was cleared. JJ then won the Addicks a corner and Stuart required treatment after a goalmouth scramble. With three minutes of time added on, Sunderland managed to win two corners in succession, producing fears that they would manage to go in two goals ahead. The Addicks left the field to a certain amount of booing which is now becoming more customary at The Valley.
Curbs threw caution to the winds and replaced the off form Konchesky by Chris Powell immediately after the break. Thirlwell disrupted any effort by Charlton to make a forceful start by going down, but made a miraculous recovery. A Parker effort was deflected for a Charlton corner. This actually led to an attempt on goal, I think from Robbo, which was saved on the line. JJ won Charlton a corner, but Sunderland were eventually able to break. A foul on Euell was ignored by the referee. A Kinsella corner was very poor, falling well short of the near post. The temperature on the pitch was rising and there was a skirmish between Jase and Robbo and McActeer and Darren Williams. The ref had scrupulously refrained from handing out any cards and when Robbo was brought down on the line by Kilbane, he decided that the appropriate colour was yellow rather than red. To even things up, he booked Stuart for dissent. The referee was serenaded with 'You're not fit to referee'.
With Kinsella evidently slowing, he was replaced on 66 minutes by Kevin Lisbie. The experts behind me questioned the wisdom of this move, but such is the uncertainty of football that it would have been possible to claim later that it was an inspired substitution. A Scott Parker run lost its potential when he passed to Lisbie in a wide position, but at least he was able to win a Charlton corner which was taken by Robbo. With tempers fraying, Costa and then McAteer received the cards, Costa asking the referee if he lived on the Isle of Dogs. On 74 minutes Robbo was replaced by Svensson whose season was blighted by his injury at Roda. Still at least he has the consolation of being selected as the hair stylists' player of the year.
In some recent games Charlton had been unable to create chances. In this game, they created some good chances, but were unable to take advantage on them. JJ managed to burst through and get himself one-on-one with Sorensen. Perhaps he was uncertain whether he was onside, but that can be decided after the ball is in the net. In any event, he failed to take this golden opportunity to equalise and Sorensen was able to make a save.
Sunderland now started to make substitutions with Wembley hero Gray being withdrawn in favour of McCartney. Stuart burst through, but somehow managed to lose possession. Quinn, who had been engaging in cynically dirty play throughout the game was at last booked, ironically for kicking the ball away. Svenson had a go. On 81 minutes Phillips was replaced by Mboma.
Perhaps Sunderland thought that they were now safe. If they did, they were mistaken. A cross from Chris Powell was placed in the middle by Stuart, Thirlwell obligingly headed it on. Lisbie was at the near post and with his back to goal. A brilliant reverse kick saw the ball in the net. The remaining minutes of the game were tense and some fans thought that Charlton were not doing enough to go for the win with Lisbie trying to hold play up by guarding the ball by the corner flag. However, 'safety first' was probably the best policy. The visiting supporters were clearly gutted. However, their task is a relatively easy one: they simply have to get a point at home off Derby, while the Tractors have to plough up Anfield. No doubt we shall be playing Sunderland next season, although it will be interesting to see whether we shall see the cheerful face of Peter Reid on the touchline again.
After the last drink of the season at the R*se of D**mark (which it is rumoured will soon have a new sign featuring Claus Jensen), a small group of us went to eat at The Pilot, including listmaster Glynne, former cat food taster David Hatch and Krazy Kap Varma. The food was certainly not cat food, but was excellent value. Our pleasure was doubled when we were joined at the next table by John Window and his party. John Window revealed that he had earlier seen the Rickster who had confessed that if he was successful in his bid to become Mayor of Welling on Thursday, all horses would be banned from the Borough of Bexley. Eventually we returned to a deserted North Greenwich tube.
In many ways it has been a disappointing season, but we remain a Premier League side. No doubt the gloomsters will be out forecasting our inevitable relegation next year. Something has to be done about the midfield and it would be marvellous to have a goal poacher like Sir Clive again. At least the return of Bartlett from injury should give us more options up front. I think the season would have been unendurable for me if the Bloke Behind Me, who slags off the team even when we are ahead, had not mysteriously disappeared.
Whilst not as draining as the Wembley final, Bob the Dog was exhausted by his last game as match analyst and was grateful to return home and rest with Juneau the Soccer Cat. Bob wishes to thank the following cats for their good wishes: Suki and Coco, Siamese from Old Coulsdon; Penny from Dartford; and Bracken, Sandy and Dreamer from Forest Hill.
The retiring match analyst was pleased to award the Silver Bone to Jason Euell. Although the Player of the Year Award is likely to go to Deano or Scotty Parker, Jason has proved an excellent acquisition for the club. His work rate is tremendous and he has contributed in attack, in midfield and, when required, has made vital clearances in defence. We know that this has been a sad year for Jason personally and we wish him continuing strength on and off the field. His opening goal on Saturday was a superb example of what our leading goal scorer is capable of. It is difficult to see what Deano could have done to deal with either goal. Staying on his line would probably not have made much difference for the first goal. Konchesky , after having a good game at Newcastle was a disaster in the first half and had to be pulled off in favour of Chris Powell. He is undoubtedly a talented player, but more experience is needed to produce the finished article as he gradually moves into Powell's role. Rufus was solid, although not as prominent as he sometimes is. Whether Costa will stay (probably not) and whether we should ask him to is a talking point among fans. He is not called the 'tank' for nothing and it is some time since we have had such a vigorous central defender. His one problem is lack of pace. Luke Young contributed through his long throw ins, but was not generally that prominent. Stuart started the match quite well, but became less impressive as time went on. Kinsella is still a shadow of his former self. His corners rarely create a scoring opportunity for Charlton. It will be interesting to see how well he plays when he is wearing the green shirt. The team has missed Jensen's creativity in midfield: it will also be interesting enough to see if he is fit enough to play for Denmark. We were sorry to hear of Robbo's family bereavement earlier in the week. We have been critical of some of his recent performances, but it has to be said that this was one of his better performances for some time. Scott Parker remains the one consistently good performer in midfield which is Charlton's biggest problem area. However, like the rest of the midfield he needs to score more goals: only one in the League (only Stuart of the midfielders has scored more than one Premiership goal). He should hesitate less in front of goal. JJ contributed well to the opening goal, but throughout the season he has not been the player he was in the last campaign. Last season he would have taken the golden chance he had to score in the second half. Powell performed well enough when he came on, but he lacks that extra something he used to display. Lisbie may not have scored many goals this season, but those that he has scored have been vitally important, e.g., away at Ipswich and Chelsea. One just wishes that he could deal with the simple tap ins as well as he scores difficult goals. Svensson put himself about when he came on. But as there a role for him in the team other than as a substitute? For matches where some aggression is necessary, the answer is yes.
Juneau the Soccer Cat had no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to inept referee Eddie Wolstenholme. He made a good job of refereeing the Wembley final, but he was a disaster on Saturday, particularly in the second half. He came close to losing control of the match. One would think that his main aim was survival for the Black Cats.
Crowd rating: Sunderland were in tremendous voice and out sung the Addickted for much of the match. The home fans started to find their voice in the second half, if in a somewhat frentic fashion, and urged the team on in the closing minutes. 5/10.
Veteran match analyst Bob the Dog has announced that he is to retire after the last home match of the season against Sunderland. The Life President of the Association of Canine Match Analysts will serve as Emeritus Match Analyst and may still cover the occasional big match. The first match he covered was Charlton's first Premiership match, the 0-0 at Newcastle when Richard Rufus was sent off.
Bob the Dog said that he had reached his decision after discussions with Juneau the Soccer Cat who has been urging him to spend more time with her. Bob the Dog has been depressed by the recent performances by Charlton and went to see his vet on Tuesday to take advantage of their 'companion animal behavioural counselling' service. The vet could see the seriousness of the problem and offered Bob Valium, but he has settled for a milder sedative.
Hooch the Pooch becomes senior match analyst. He will continue to cover northern matches, but also some matches at The Valley. He will be assisted by Homer the Cherry Hound. Recently told by his vet that he is a stone overweight, Homer will not take up his duties until the new press facilities are available at The Valley. These should offer enough room for the horizontally challenged labrador. With Bob the Dog's retirement, there will be less coverage of away matches next season.
Bob the Dog looks forward to spending more time with his friend Juneau the Soccer Cat. She will continue with her Hiss of the Match analysis.
The Addickted who made the six hundred mile round trip from London to Newcastle got scant reward for their time and money yesterday with the Addicks going down 3-0. Admittedly, Newcastle scored three superb goals, including Alan Shearer's 200th Premiership goal. But the Addicks failed to provide even 'worthy opposition' to quote Ken Bates' patronising phrase about Charlton (which rather rebounded on him). There was only real attempt on goal, a rather weak effort by Scott Parker. Once Newcastle had gone ahead in the 26th minute, there was no plan B to move forward from the failed 'ten men in our own half tactic'. As Brian Cole commented, 'our final ball has been terrible today'.
Even our journey via Peterborough involved a 9 a.m. start, a 10 p.m. return and the expenditure of some £150. One must not fall into the mistake of thinking that players see the club in the same way as fans. Most fans have a life long 'addicktion' through good and bad, whereas Andy Hunt once pointed out, a player may on average be employed by four clubs during his career. It is the end of the season, the matches are relatively meaningless and I can understand (as one player once told me) that players wish to avoid an injury that will put them out for six months. It is also evident that some players now have their eyes on the World Cup. Mark Kinsella scored for Ireland during the week, but a woefully wide 'shot' that ended up in a throw in summed up his contribution to this match.
For the first time ever, I left a Charlton match early. As I descended the endless flight of stairs, I heard some fans questioning whether Alan Curbishley still had the same zest for the job and could still motivate the players. The 'Curbs out' crowd are never really able to suggest a plausible substitute and everyone was very anxious to keep him at the end of last season. One does, however, wonder about the quality of the coaching at Sparrows Lane. Someone told me yesterday that we had the worst record at scoring from corners in the Premiership. I haven't seen the stats, but I can well believe it. Mark Kinsella's corners which fall short of the near post are invariably the same and are no threat to anyone. Newcastle's first goal was a superb example of how one can profit from a corner. Why doesn't our coaching on corners work (or on penalties for that matter)? We have suffered from injuries this season, but Prague's Richard Hunt has raised a good and unanswered point on the E mail list about whether our medical facilities are good enough.
Newcastle quickly found space down the wings and Deano had to make an early save from Shearer with his hand. With the home side keeping up the pressure from their corner, Rufus had to head over at the expense of a second. Soon Shearer had won the Magpies a third corner, followed immediately by a fourth which was cleared by Stuart. A JJ run won the Addicks a free kick, but Konchesky's effort was caught by Given. Under pressure Jorge Costa had to give the ball off his thigh to Deano, leading the Geordies to scream that it was a back pass. This provoked a chant of 'Do your pigeons know you're here?
With Newcastle continuing to pressure, Luke Young made a good clearance under pressure. With a threatening shot coming in Deano had to collect right on the line and hold the ball in the air to show that it was not over. It was a close call. Deano then had to make a good save from a free kick. Rufus was in good form in dealing with the pressure. Jason Euell did some good work in mounting a rare Charlton attack, but the cross was saved on the ground by Given. Some imagination was shown in supplying JJ on the wing with a long and precise diagnol ball from which he won a Charlton corner (Charlton corner = nothing). A Luke Young run gave Robbo a half chance, but the ball went past the post. As the twenty minute mark approached, a deflected Newcastle free kick was efficiently saved by Deano. With Newcastle threatening with another attack, they were stopped in their tracks by Costa.
Shearer won Newcastle a corner off Konchesky. Solano manage to place the ball well in a crowded box, Speed ran forward, evading Luke Young and put one of his trademark headers into the back of the net. Deano had no chance.
Stuart won the Addicks a corner. A Charlton throw in was followed by an effort by Parker which was saved on the line. Charlton managed to win another corner, but they were not taking opportunities to break because they were too hesitant. Another problem was that Scott Parker was not far forward enough. Euell was putting in some good work, but he could not do it all on his own. Inevitably, Newcastle started to press again and Costa had to intervene at the expense of a corner. Potential danger was snuffed out by a Deano save. A shot by Robert dipped dangerously, but eventually went over. A Charlton corner was inevitably unproductive. Parker won the Addicks a free kick, but it led to nothing. In time added on, JJ put in a good cross but there was no one there to meet it.
An unusually subdued Pam from Sidcup shouted 'This is embarrassing Charlton.' A voice from the back shouted 'Don't start on them. Some of us have got to go to Watford tomorrow to watch Gillingham play.' Half time brought the surprising news that Redfearn's Halifax were 1-0 ahead against Rushden at the Shay.
Within the first minute LuaLua turned in the box in a way that completely outsmarted the lumbering Costa and hit a fierce shot past Kiely and inside the far post. His celebration somersaults recalled that here was someone who had started life as a gymnast. There then followed an episode which just about summed up Charlton's approach to the game. The Addicks won a corner. Kinsella's drooping near post effort was put out of play by a defender, giving the Addicks a second chance. The effort was identical with identical results. As a frenetic Robinson ran towards the corner flag, it was evident that a short corner was to be tried. That never works for Charlton and it didn't this time.
Costa was getting niggled by Shearer and received a yellow card. JJ managed to get through, but shot straight at the keeper. The Addickted broke into a chant of 'Super Clive Mendonca' (who hopefully will appear on the pitch on Saturday). The Addicks did manage to pile on some pressure, although the first result was to earn Scott Parker his customary yellow card. The Addickted rose to their feet as the ball went in the Newcastle net, but the effort by Konchesky was judged offside. Jase burst through, but referee Dean ruled that this effort merited a free kick for Newcastle. Newcastle had a goal ruled offside. Graham Stuart put in a wild shot. The home side replaced O'Brien by Dabizas on 70 minutes. An effort by Shearer was wide. On 73 minutes a tiring Parker was replaced by Lisbie to the displeasure of the Addickted. Deano made a brilliant two handed save from a shot that would have otherwise gone in. By 78 minutes Newcastle felt confident enough to replace Solano by Jenas and Robert by Bernard. Lisbie won the Addicks a free kick, but the ball was given away. Bernard was booked for kicking the ball away. Deano made a great save from Shearer. Konchesky put in a decent cross, but it was saved. Then on 89 minutes Speed turned provider for Shearer and he put in his 200th goal on his 400th apperance in top flight football, leaving Deano with no chance. Many of the Addickted stood and applauded. I then left and did not see a late substitution of Fortune for Euell: what was the point?
Newcastle's second goal meant that they had scored 5000 at St James' Park in their history. Their three goals took them to a century of goals for the season for the first time since 1992/3. Charlton's good record at St.James' Park in the 1990s did them no good. As a Geordie remarked to me at the station, he had seen Newcastle play better than they had today, but Charlton had done very little. The only consolation I had was that Rushden had overcome the Shaymen 4-2 to win their place in the play offs, meaning that I may yet get a trip to the Millennium Stadium. As I drove along the A14, past the turn to Rushden's Nene Park stadium, I reflected that they would be dancing tonight in the streets of Higham Ferrers and Burton Latimer. Channel 4 had earlier in the week described Charlton as 'a trendy and up-and-coming area of Greenwich' but made no mention of the club. It has been a terrible end to the season, although I do not accept that we already relegated next year. The players will be more motivated and it should be possible to make some judicious buys from clubs in trouble.
With the news that Derby now faces administration, we should count our blessings. Relegation is bad, but relegation in even dire financial trouble is worse. My prediction is that eventually the top six (with Leeds ten points ahead of West Ham in seventh place) will eventually break away with Celtic and Rangers (and perhaps Spurs and Villa) to form a super league. It is interesting that the Newcastle programme had a section in (very accurate) Mandarin, reflecting their links with a top Chinese side. Charlton's standing in China, a key football market, will hardly have been helped by the live screening of the match with Newcastle. Charlton needs to be well placed for 'Premiership 2' which would give us competitive matches. Next season I will no longer be making the trek to distant away matches.
Geographically challenged Hooch the Pooch is convinced that sunglasses are essential equipment for a match reporter 'oop north'
Northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to Paul Konchesky who displayed tireless determination and some real skill. Deano let in three goals, but he also made one brilliant save (actually shown on The Premiership) and some other good stops. I heard a Geordie saying after the match, 'He's a canny keeper, that Kiely.' Costa unfortunately was outwitted for Newcastle's second goal which put the match beyond doubt. Rufus was one of the better Charlton players. Young made one good clearance, but was generally lukewarm. There was plenty of commitment and energy from Robbo , but I don't think he looks like a Premiership calibre player, certainly not against sides of the calibre of Newcastle. Stuart did make an effort, but it rarely led to anything. Kinsella seemed out of it after his mid-week efforts for Ireland, despite the big write up he was given in the programme which had lots of Charlton content. There were boos when Parker was taken off, but he has been looking tired. He will also have to watch his disciplinary record next season, especially if he does move to Leeds. JJ actually looked quite effective on the wing and did try and help out in defence. Euell showed some skill, including one beautiful turn, but he was limited in his opportunities, given that for much of the match he was out front on his own and closely marked. When Lisbie came on he made little impression on the game. I found it almost hilarious to watch the close marking he was given by Newcastle.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to referee Mike Dean who made decisions that disadvantaged both sides. All he achieved through his display of self importance was to disrupt the flow of the game.
Crowd rating: Considering the abysmal performance on the pitch, I thought that the Addickted did well. St James' Park is one of those stadiums that is almost silent for much of the time and only comes alive when the home side is on the attack. There was, of course, a tremendous roar when Shearer scored. But the Addickted did well to fill the void of silence which was characteristic of most of the match. 8/10.
A row between dog reporters Hooch the Pooch and Homer the Cherry Hound became more serious when Hooch taunted a grieving Homer about Bournemouth's relegation. Photographic evidence of the resulting fracas will be posted later. With rumours growing that ageing senior match analyst Bob the Dog is to retire so that he can spend more time with Juneau the Soccer Cat, the Association of Canine Match Analysts is in disarray.
What started as an argument about Charlton's poor end-of-season form turned nasty when Hooch the Pooch intruded on Homer the Cherry Hound's grief about the relegation of Bournemouth to Division 3. Like all arguments between the two pals, it was really a case of handbags at six paces.
Before the match Joe the Saint asked me for my forecast of the result and I said that I thought that 1-1 was likely. What I didn't anticipate was that Richard Rufus would score at both ends. The odds on that would have been astronomical. As it was, pitch announcer Brian Cole made a nice profit on his £2 stake at 50-1 and entertainer Jim Davidson did even better with a £50 stake.
A Rufus header, taking advantage of Jason Euell's latest party trick, the long throw in, put Charlton ahead in the 17th minute. But it was never clear where the second goal was going to come from, and after a spectacular miss by Kevin Lisbie in the second half it was pretty clear that it wasn't going to come. Southampton had started the second half with renewed determination and verve and it was really just a question of waiting for the equaliser. It came in the 85th minute and was initially attributed to Tahar El-Khalej. However, announcer Dave Lockwood said at the end of the match that he had his own views about who has scored, but he wasn't saying anything and the television evidence did confirm that it was Rufus.
The moaners behind me greeted the result with cries of 'rubbish'. I thought, however, that it was a reasonably good performance by Charlton in quite an entertaining fixture given that there was really little at stake. Before anyone mentions 'pride' let's remember that the players are hired hands who are not generally supporters. One moaner behind me was predicting that Charlton would do a Leicester next season. This ignores the fact that the motivation for matches in a new season will be different and that, although funds will be limited, one can expect some reinforcement of the squad through foreign Bosmans and opportunistic purchases. Perhaps the club ought to spend some of the money on consultants in expectation management. Charlton may not be a small club any more, but they are a medium-sized one. The top six have drawn well away from the rest this season. Any decline in television revenues is not going to make much difference, because clubs like Manchester United get their largest slice of money from the gate.
Charlton kicked off, but managed to deliver the ball to Paul Jones in the Saints goal. Robbo managed to fall over and gave Southampton a throw in. Oakley was down for a long time and shortly afterwards had to be replaced by Tessem. Meanwhile the Saints entertained themselves by singing a song about shooting the Portsmouth scum which I last heard at Leamington in relation to Rugby Town. A run on the right by Stuart gave JJ a half chance but he delivered the ball to Jones. Mr Dowd's 'Teach Yourself to Referee' course had taught him to get his retaliation in early and Robbo received a yellow card for a foul. Mr Dowd thought about a career in refereeing when he learnt that deficient eyesight was a key qualification and he ignored a late tackle on Rufus. He was surrounded by protesting Charlton players and for a moment it looked as if he was going to book someone for dissent.
Jason Euell prepared to take a long throw in and one of the experts asked, 'Why's he doing it', not pausing to think that the move might have been worked on at the training ground. Richard Rufus was able to get it just over the line and as Steve from Sidcup commented, 'It was messy, but it's in.'
Southampton won a corner which was partially cleared and then Kinsella hit it off Telfer for a goal kick. JJ burst through and won Charlton a corner but Jones punched the ball out. Costa provided a good defensive header and then won a free kick off Beattie. Taking advantage of a cross from Delap, Beatty put in a good shot from a short distance which was dealt with by Deano with an excellent fingertip save. Kinsella managed to put a 'shot' well wide. Rufus showed what a class player he is with a brilliant flick. Robbo won a Charlton corner, but it was unproductive. A good long ball from the Saints was dealt with effectively by Rufus. A Saints free kick near the halfway line led to a corner for them which was played out and then Stuart made a good interception. Scott Parker put in a good cross, but Euell's attempt went over.
The Saints were managing to find plenty of space on their right and Stuart made another good interception. Deano made a good stop from distance. Good pressure involving a run from Chris Powell won the Addicks a corner. With a long ball delivered to JJ he was brought down on the edge of the area. Whether it was a foul is arguable, but having consulted a plastic laminated card from his course, referee Dowd gave the free kick. With the wall lined up, Kinsella played the ball to his right to the well positioned Robbo. The hapless Robbo skimmed it way over the other side of the pitch. No doubt the move looked good on the training ground and it might have worked if someone else had taken the free kick and the move had not relied on Robbo to complete it. Tessem got a yellow card for fouling Parker. With two minutes of time added on (rather short, but referee Dowd obviously did not know how to stop his watch), Charlton were placed under pressure and Deano had to make a punch out.
The Saints really stepped up the pressure at the start of the second half. Deano had to save on the line from a Saints free kick. Having made an error just before half time, Robbo managed to lose the ball. A Saints free kick from near the corner flag went dangerously across the front of the goal, but fortunately no one connected. Costa dealt effectively with Pahars who was not generally the danger man I had expected him to be. With the pressure continuing, Rufus and then Costa were called on to display their defensive skills. Fortune was brought down and Beattie received a yellow card. With danger threatening with a Southampton break Rufus dealt with the situation at the expense of a Saints corner. This was partially cleared and was followed by a wild shot over. It is probably finishing that stops a useful outfit like Southampton from being better placed.
Chris Powell was given a chance from fifteen yards out and Jones did very well to deal with his drive. Scott Parker received his customary yellow card for a foul: he will have to watch this next season. Charlton forged forward and Parker should have had a shot before the Saints were able to position their defence properly. As it was, Stuart's effort was easily dealt with. Deano had to make another good save.
On 67 minutes Parker was taken off in favour of Lisbie. This move was criticised by the experts behind me, but the midfielder was tiring and he will play an important role in keeping the scoreline down at Newcastle. Southampton took off the below par Pahars and replaced him with Ormerod. With Lisbie on the pitch, Euell was shifted to a midfield role, something I am always uncertain about. A Charlton corner was partially cleared, but Powell played the ball in for a second corner which ended in a Saints free kick. Euell turned provider for Lisbie, but his effort was deflected for a Charlton corner, followed by a second. A great run by JJ provided Lisbie with a golden chance to tap the ball over the net from a few yards out, but somehow he managed to send it way over the goal.
After a period when Charlton had been looking quite bright, this miss turned the pyschological advantage in Southampton's favour. They won a corner and then Costa was called on to make a great intervention at the price of requiring treatment. On 85 minutes Kinsella was taken off in favour of Konchesky. A throw in allowed Dodd to put in a cross and El-Khalej's header richochted off Rufus and into the back of the net. All Strachan's worries about whether he would get a cup of tea disappeared as he jumped up and down. At least a friend of mine doesn't have to open his curtains in the morning any more and see Strachan running round Stoneligh Abbey screaming at the flowers. Jase had a try at a shot and was not too far off. The real danger was that the Saints would score a second and they came very close to it with a shot in two minutes of time added on skimming the crossbar. Rufus came away limping.
From the reaction of the Saints fans you would have thought that they had won a championship or relegation decider rather than got a draw in an end of season mid-table match. When Charlton drew at Leeds, a more considerable feat, the reaction of the Addickted was more one of quiet satisfaction. A draw was a fair result and in line with my expectations. Charlton are on course for a lower mid-table finish which would have seemed perfectly acceptable at the beginning of the season, but the infation of expectations continues.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has awarded the Silver Bone to Jorge Costa for another impeccable performance, not least for his ability to make a foul look like a fair challenge. Unfortunately, even the outside prospect of playing against the club he hates next season is unlikely to prevent him from returning to Portugal. Deano had a good game. We would certainly have problems if he was injured or if Spurs succeed in their attempt to recruit him. If we leave aside the own goal, Rufus had a good game and was runner up for the Silver Bone. I thought that Powell was below par and made some avoidable errors. Fortune was solid enough. Stuart made a reasonable contribution and at least avoided giving the ball away. Kinsella is still a shadow of his former self, but some of his corners did give the Saints defence some problems. Robbo was terrible and I think that he knew it, making error after error. I suppose he starts because we have so few options when it comes to width. Parker had a good game, but was perhaps showing some signs of tiredness which is why Curbs pulled him off. Apart from his cross to Lisbie, JJ made relatively little contribution. Perhaps this would have been a match for Svensson. Euell was one of the few players showing real skill and he displayed it all over the park. Lisbie brought energy to the game, but showed once again why he is known as 'Missbie'. Konchesky was competent when he came on.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to trainee referee P Dowd. Evidently his correspondence course in refereeing told him to blow up at every opportunity, something which disadvantaged both sides and disrupted the flow of the game.
Crowd rating: For much of the game Charlton were outsung by the Saints. The home crowd were relatively subdued, perhaps reflecting a 'we'll sing when we're entertained' attitude. 5/10.
West Ham report: There was no report from West Ham as I had to work in Scotland over the weekend.
Curbs made some changes in the Charlton formation after the defeat at Liverpool, but to no effect. The Addicks showed once again that some of their players are simply not good enough to compete against top Premiership teams and went down 0-3 to Arsenal. Having missed a great chance to score in the first minute, the Addicks then fell behind to an offside goal from Arsenal. However, well within the half hour the visitors had scored three and from then on it was damage limitation. As one wag shouted during the game, 'bring on the women's team'. Arsenal were good, but Charlton were poor. Once they went past the 40 point safety barrier, the fight seemed to go out of them. (NB: Thanks to Bruce for the headline).
It was perhaps a bad omen when we were engaged in conversation by a Glazier on the train down. Also perhaps Brian Cole had better stop putting the ball in net at the Covered End before the match as it didn't help against Bolton either. Charlton started with a great chance created by a cross from JJ. The goal was unguarded, but both Euell and Robbo missed the chance to score. You have to take such chances in the Premiership. It's not like the first division when there's another chance five minutes later. If we had scored then, the outcome could have been completely different. As Steve from Sidcup commented. 'It's the difference between success and failure.'
At that stage things were still looking quite bright. Scott Parker put in an excellent tackle on Wiltord. Robbo was injured, but after treatment was unfortunately able to return. Attempting to take advantage of a Henry corner, Wiltord drove his shot past the post. Ljungberg got clear on the right but was dealt with by Rufus and Robinson. Deano tipped a Henry effort from distance round the post and the Arsenal corner was cleared for a throw in. A marginal offside decision thwarted a promising Charlton attack. Graham Stuart gave the ball away: what's new? Afflicted by a rush of blood to his head, Deano came rushing out of the area to the West Stand side quite unnecessarily as three red shirts were in attendance. Deano went down injured and for a minute visions of Sasa Ilic filled the minds of the Addickted. Immediately afterwards, Deano made a good stop.
A loose ball was pounced on by Henry who stormed forwards. He seemed to be about two yards offside, but the flag stayed down and he scored. Then to add to our sorrows Bergkamp put in a neat short cross to Ljungberg who made it 2-0. Steve from Sidcup commented, 'That sums up the last few weeks.' With Robbo giving the ball away again, Charlton were completely outfoxed in the box and Henry made it 3-0. Ashley Cole, who had received a knock, was taken off for Luzhny.
JJ was brought down as he advanced along the wing and Luzhny got a yellow card. Stuart won Charlton a corner and good work by Costa got Charlton a second, but the ball was cleared. The Addicks won a free kick for a foul on Euell, but Kinsella's limp effort came off the two man Gooners wall. A push on Euell gave Charlton another free kick, but JJ could not connect with Kinsella's looping ball which was far too high. Critics of Chris Bart-Williams might wish to reflect if he would have done better.
Charlton tried to apply some pressure in the opening minutes of the second half. They won an early corner and Robinson played the ball into Rufus. The centre back provided a good cross, but Seaman showed his worth by catching the ball. Robinson turned provider for Scott Parker and his deflected shot earned Charlton a corner but this was cleared all too easily. Robinson managed to give the ball away again. A Parker run won Charlton a corner and a push on Euell in the box was ignored by referee d'Urso, the banker from Billericay. Graham Stuart gave the ball away again, giving Arsenal a period of possession. A shot from Wiltord was well saved by Deano. Viera got a yellow card for a foul on JJ. A free kick by Kinsella was intercepted by Costa, but his effort was held on the line by Seaman. A further free kick by Kinsella was greeted by a shout of 'another quality free kick.'
Curbs bowed to the inevitable and pulled off the hapless Robbo and replaced him by Lisbie. A shot from Euell was spilled by Seaman to earn the Addicks a corner, but it just gave Arsenal a chance to break. George Costa committed himself and earned a yellow card. The Arsenal free kick was advanced ten yards to the edge of the area. Good work by Costa denied the Gooners a corner. Euell burst through and Seaman was forced to tip his shot over the bar. Kinsella delivered another of his quality corners. Stuart managed to win Charlton a corner. Bergkamp was pulled off for Edu. Good work by Graham Stuart set up JJ whose cross won Charlton a corner. With the ground emptying, it was announced that there would be two minutes of time added on. 'Don't bother' was one shout. Lisbie used his pace to get in a position where he could have a shot, but Seaman saved. Charlton's much vaunted position as the unbeaten team in London, proclaimed by someone on a banner in the Covered End, had been lost. Together with our position in the top half of the table, also sacrificed, it had been the one claim left in an increasingly disappointing season.
In the first half two Charlton supporters in front of me had been arguing with each other and at the end of the game a woman supporter, who was red in the face, argued for some five minutes with an older man. Before the match I had heard Arsenal supporters saying that it would have been strange a few years ago to talk of coming to Charlton and facing a tough match. They needn't have worried. The side is going to have been strengthened next year, not just to compete with the top clubs, but in the interests of survival. It is therefore worrying to note supporters' director Wendy Perfect writing in the programme 'as fans we may [have to accept] that we may not be dipping into the transfer market as much as in the last few years.'
It is difficult in such circumstances to award the Silver Bone , but match analyst Bob the Dog thought that Jorge Costa merited the award. He was a formidable force in defence and, despite being a loan player, was one of the few players to show any pride. At one point, with the defence playing the ball around with Charlton 0-3 down, he decided to go on the attack and made good progress halfway up the Arsenal half. Apart from conceding three goals, the greatest number since the defeat at Blackburn, Deano had a rush of blood to the head and nearly got himself injured. Rufus had a reasonable game, making a contribution to keeping the scoreline down. He was fouled in the approach to the second goal. Chris Powell made such a limited contribution, I had to check that he was playing. Leaving aside a couple of wild balls forward, Luke Young had a reasonable game. Stuart is simply not good enough at this level. The return of Kinsella as captain was greeted with warm applause, but the quality of his corners and free kicks was disappointing. Parker was his usual industrious self, doing his best to create something out of nothing. Robinson had a very poor game and on this showing should go to Brighton. JJ has had a poor season and it continued today. Euell was the only Charlton player who came anywhere near scoring. Lisbie was practically invisible after he came on, apart from one late attempt.
Juneau the Soccer Cat had no hesitation in giving a very loud hiss to the East Stand linesman (first half) for his blatant disregard of the offside rule. If he watches his interpretation on television, will he feel that he earned his fee?
Crowd rating:They were in great spirits before the start of the match, engaging in a series of chants before the team came out of the tunnel. No wonder that they got deflated later. And does it really help to have the drummers thudding away when everyone has lost heart? No numerical score will be given in the circumstances.
Charlton went down 4-1 at Woking in the Semi-Final of the AXA F.A. Women's Cup, but our ladies did us proud in front of a crowd of 1,249. Up against a team which trains for sixteen hours a week, and includes two Olympic gold medallists, our players, most of them students, did not disgrace themselves against the professionals. Fulham have an average score of twelve goals per game this season and have only conceded nine goals. There is no doubt that their level of fitness is higher and that showed when they were able to gain an extra yard when running for loose balls. Nevertheless, the Charlton ladies displayed real skill. This is the first time that I have watched a women's football match and I have to say that I was favourably impressed. There was far less hoofing of the ball than you see in a typical 3rd division match.
I went to the game as a guest of Andrew Mercer of Footdown: his company sponsor the ladies team. There was a strange moment outside the Woking directors' lounge when I had gained admittance and the sponsor was denied entry by a Woking official claiming the authority of FA regulations. However, we were soon all inside and able to admire the array of trophies, which included the Surrey Demolition Cup. I should say, however, that the Woking hospitality was excellent and included some very tasty food, better than I have had at Rushden and Diamonds.
One of the pleasures of the afternoon was meeting and talking to Steve Sutherland, star of the recent 'job swapping' television programme featuring Charlton and Plymouth. Steve is an example of the dedication and professionalism of Charlton staff which we perhaps take for granted. He advised us not to compare the game directly with the men's game. It would be slower, but we could expect a high level of skill.
We climbed up into the stand which was erected in the 1921/22 season. Charlton were clearly not daunted by their superior opposition and started brightly with some good paasing. After a Fulham corner, Charlton won two corners in succession with England international Fara Williams putting a ball right across the front of the goal. Fulham won a free kick on the edge of the box and keeper and captain Pauline Cope made a good save from Unitt's effort. England's No.1 then fumbled a ball from a Fulham corner, but it was cleared by the defence. She then ran bravely out of her goal to deny the advancing Kristy Moore with a diving save which Deano would have been proud of. Good build up play by Charlton ended with a weak shot on goal. Then after 26 minutes a Fulham move that started up with Addicks right back Nina Downham being beaten saw gold medallist and Norwegian international Marianne Pettersen put the ball in the back of the net.
Charlton were tending to get rid of the ball too quickly, playing it up in the air too much and not thinking what they were going to do with. Fulham also had more pace. Carmaine Walker had more than a few chances throughout the match, but seemed sluggish in taking advantage of them, perhaps explained by her record of injury this season. Then Fulham won another corner and with Kristy Moore inexplicably unmarked they made it 2-0.
Alexa Hunn won a corner for Charlton which was taken by Susannah Abbott. It was eventually cleared and led to a Fulham break but the danger was eventually cleared. A foul on Carmaine Walker produced a Charlton free kick. Fara Williams put in an effort of the kind one would expect from Chris Bart-Williams. It cleared the Fulham wall and sailed past a bemused Astrid Johannessen (another Norwegian international) and into the net. 2-1: game on. Unfortunately, the cruellest of blows followed. Marianne Pettersen was allowed to turn in the box and the blonde bombshell slotted the ball into the net on 45 minutes. If Charlton had been able to keep it to 2-1 at half time, they might have had a chance. The tactic of crowding the midfield had clearly not worked.
Charlton came out after the break with a fresh determination and won three corners early in the half. Fulham's players, particularly their defenders, were generally taller than the Charlton players and left back Carole Osborne was replaced by Grainne Kierans, a more substantial player and, as it turned out, quite a lively one. Referee Mrs J Frampton ticked off Alexa Hunn for daring to put in a tackle.
Cope made a good save from Rachel Yankey (who has 21 caps for England). 'Macca' (Rachel McArthur) was injured and the Fulham midfielder subsequently had to be stretchered off. She was replaced by Deena Rahman who has been at Fulham since the age of eight. Referee Mrs J Frampton suddenly launched herself into the dugout and gave Charlton coach Keith Boanas a talking to. Charlton had a half chance, but then Kristy Moore made it 4-1 at the other end.
It says much for the spirit of the team that they continued to fight to get another goal. A Charlton free kick produced a scramble in the Fulham goalmouth. Good work by Kierans on the wing set up a chance for one of the Charlton strikers, but the shot was straight at the keeper. Anne Marie Heatherson and Sam Pittuck were brought on at the expense of Abbott and Downham, but it was too late for them to make an impact. The ladies were clearly gutted at the failure of their efforts, but it was an enjoyable match and much more keenly contested than the scoreline suggests.
As befits a ladies match, we asked the only female member of our match reporting team, Juneau the Soccer Cat, to select the recipient of the Silver Salmon. The award went to Alexa Hunn who is a student at the leading sports university, Loughborough. She played with zest, vigour and real skill on the wing. Juneau has given the Hiss of the Match to whoever it was at Woking who played goal celebration music when Woking scored, while there was silence when Charlton scored. Supposedly a neutral venue.
Match analyst Juneau the Soccer Cat is an American national and points out that women's soccer is taken much more seriously in the States.
Block E, Row Q
To my left is the, Bloke Beside Me and
To my right is Steve from Sidcup