Due to recent technical problems at Tripod, the reports of the match against Leeds and Leicester are to be found at: Volume 11 .
With no Charlton action, and with Rushden and Leamington both playing away, it was decided to visit the home of two of our daughters, Didcot, and sample some action in the Premier Division of the Cherry Red Records Hellenic League. The party was made up by son-in-law Andy Candelent and Joe the Saint who had travelled up from Hampshire.
After driving through a new housing estate and with the road ahead of us apparently blocked off for construction, a sudden left turn revealed a modern stadium with stand and social club. Joe tested one of the burgers, far cheaper than in the Premiership, and gave it nine out of ten. Reading the programme which came with our £3.50 admission fee, we learnt that second placed Didcot had recently visited table toppng Swindon Supermarine. Among the chants used on that occasion were 'There's only one "Did" in Didcot' and 'Did you come in a Honda?' We also discovered that a player could be sponsored for a season for £25: for example, Rod Dorrian was sposored by Alan Dorrian. As kick off approached, it looked as if the average home attendance of 112 might be achieved. However, two freeloaders managed to evade the admission fee by sitting on an artificial hill overlooking the ground, while it was possible for kids to watched from a climbing frame strategically positioned by the fence.
Didcot came out wearing a complete Arsenal JVC kit, even down to the socks with 'Arsenal' on them, although the colour photo on the front of the programme showed two of the players wearing 'Dreamcast' gear. One player's kit had obviously had a close encounter with his mum's washing machine, leading to a shout of 'That's a very pink kit. Are you a faggot?' What also quickly became apparent was that the movement to kick racism out of football had not reached Loop Meadow Stadium. Opponents Shortwood United had one black player who was the subject of a series of remarks about bananas. When he received a yellow card, the shout went up, 'make that a black one'.
Given the relative position of the two teams in the table, it looked like an easy win for the home side. However, this did not take account of the fact that first choice keeper Alex Deadman was out of action and was replaced by Simon Reeve, possibly the worst keeper I have ever seen. The inevitable happened and in a goalmouths scramble with the midget Reeve out of sight, the felicitously named Andy Boot put the visitors ahead. Didcot tried to get back into things and a sizzling twenty-five drive ended up in the left hand corner of the net to make it 1-1.
The referee displayed a classic level of incompetence, awarding a yellow card when a Didcot player through on goal was brought down. The lino on the stand side got into a discussion with the crowd about various errors, leading to a shout of 'You've got more excuses than my missus, lino. In fact, you look like her.'
Didcot seemed even worse when they come out for the second half and seemed completely incapable of finding one of their own players with a pass, if that is what one calls hoofing the ball up the park. The Nailsworth side were able to keep the ball on the ground and eventually more confusion in front of the goal saw the hapless Reeve beaten to make it 2-1 to the visitors. With some good team work, they held on to their lead and it has to be said that they deserved to win. Our verdict: worth £3.50 for the action off the pitch.
Charlton preserved their unbeaten 2001 record in the Premiership with the third 0-0 draw of the year away from home, this time against Middlesbrough. Earlier in the season we would have been more than happy with a succession of away draws. However, a little more imagination and ambition from the Addicks might have seen them beat a poor Middlesbrough side. Not enough was made of those attacking opportunities that were created, with insufficient movement off the ball. And, although it may seem a strange thing to say, the suspended battling Swede, Matthias Svensson was missed with a disappointing performance from Shaun Bartlett. The first half was so dull that the Addickted felt obliged to break the prevailing silence with a series of chants honouring Charlton's substitutes. The second half was livelier, although the closing quarter of an hour raised fears that the home side might sneak a 1-0 victory. But the Addicks came away with their record intact and with their eighth position in the table maintained.
Pausing to offload a disgruntled Bob the Dog and replace him with Hooch the Pooch, we left Leamington at 9.30 and were in Middlesbrough by 12.30. A local came running up to me in the car park, but instead of wanting to clock me, he offered me his car park ticket as he was just leaving. A car park attendant then appeared saying 'You are the enemy, but the friendly enemy.' He then insisted on escorting us into town and showing us a cafe where we got a very good lunch at a very low price. Thus fortified, we walked to the Riverside. It is as well that Hooch the Pooch is a long legged dog as the press box is situated at the top of the highest stand. Hooch was touched that they played 'his tune' just before the game, 'Who let the dogs out?'
A promising early attack by Charlton ended in a free kick for the home side. Excellent work by Kishishev then played the ball in from the right, but JJ sent his shot wide from close range. Scott Parker was already demonstrating the contribution he was going to make to the match with good work in midfield. Retard then blatantly dived in the box and received a yellow card for his trouble from referee Dean. More good work by Kish led to a save from Schwarzer in the 'Boro goal. Rufus was then called on for some good defensive work to foil a Boro attack. Stuart played in the ball to Bartlett, but his shot at the keeper was saved easily enough. Scott Parker put in a hopeful shot that went over. Seventeen minutes into the game Ilic had to make his first save. A good run by Jensen came to nothing. 'Boro then won the first corner of the game taken by Dean Gordon, but it was punched out by Ilic. Parker took the ball all the way, but his shot went over. With Boksic down, Ilic also needed attention, leading to one of the most entertaining incidents of the afternoon when our trainer, greeted by a chant of 'Who ate all the pies?', tossed one into the crowd. With little action of note on the pitch, the Addickted broke into a series of chants for the substitutes, receiving a wave from Tony Caig.
On 28 minutes, JJ won the first Charlton corner, but it was cleared. On 31 minutes Boksic showed why he is 'Boro's leading goal scorer with a shot that went just wide. A Charlton free kick saw the ball bobbling around in the area to no avail. 'Boro then utilised this situation to make a break, but, like the match, it ended up in nothing. Scott Parker and then Shaun Bartlett went down and needed treatment, suggesting that 'Boro might be battling more than their somewhat feeble attacks suggested. 'Boro won a free kick in front of the Charlton goal, but it went over. The ref then gave the home side a free kick not far from the left-hand edge of the Charlton box. With Rufus cynically fouled and injured, Feesh had to leap into action to clear the ball off the line. With four minutes time added on, Charlton did have the possibility of creating something if they had pressed forward instead of holdng back. Instead, 'Boro were able to win a corner which was cleared through a Shaun Bartlett header. With the home crowd finding its voice for the first time in the match, 'Boro went off to a chorus of boos.
Charlton had one of their brightest spells in the opening minutes of the second half. With JJ supplying him with a cross, Bartlett's shot from a few yards out was just over. Stuart, urged on by the Addickted, decided to go all the way, but spoilt a penetrating run with a tame shot at the keeper. JJ played in Kishishev, but his shot was just over. A Charlton corner was not productive. Jensen turned provider for JJ, but his shot flashed across the front of the goal. Another Charlton corner was cleared off the line by Karembu. This led to a Charlton throw in which 'Boro converted into a break, but the shot was wide. Kishishev received a yellow card for a trip. The impressive Rufus put in a good pass to JJ, but the striker's shot was over.
El Tel decided to weave his magic by pulling off Okon and Ricard and bringing on Noel Whelan and Mark Hudson. They had the chance to participate in an immediate 'Boro corner, but nothing came of it. JJ won Charlton a corner at the other end, but the refree judged that Schwarzer had been fouled. 'Boro then won another corner, but Ilic calmly caught the ball from a deflection. Karembu then had a break and appeared to be about to create a one-on-one with Charlton's No.13, but Rufus made a heroic interception to save the day. 'Boro pulled off the hapless Gordon and replaced him by Robbie Mustoe. A dangerous ball from JJ flashed across the front of the goal, but it was ruled offside anyway. A shot by Kishishev bounced off the astonished Schwarzer's hand for a corner which was taken short and led to a 'Boro throw in. Kishishev was pulled off for Robinson whose leg was still bandaged. Ilic had to make a good save from the always dangerous Boksic. Bartlett gave the ball away, the situation ending in a potentially dangerous free kick which went straight to Ilic. Two late substitutions for Charlton saw Lisbie on for Bartlett and Kinsella on for Jensen. If this match had been scheduled for Match of the Day , I was left wondering what it would have been possible to show that displayed real skill. (Having seen it later, all the incidents involved Charlton).
Northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch (who has asked why he can't have a sponsored Vauxhall Astra like Mark Mansfield) has awarded the Silver Bone to Scott Parker who showed skill and commitment throughout the match, leaving Curbishley with some difficult choices for the Leeds game. Ilic was not called on to do a lot by the half-hearted 'Boro attack, but what he did have to do, he did well. Rufus was another contestant for the Silver Bone. I have rarely seen him the subject of so much cynical and generally unnoticed fouling, but he must surely join Chris Powell in the England squad before long. Powell was announced before the match as 'England's Chris Powell', but Charlton's lack of invention in attack failed to give him a chance to shine. Kishishev had another excellent game in defence and attack. With Todd absent, dependable Steve Brown stepped into the breach and delivered a number of his trademark defensive headers. Feesh made one vital clearance off the line. Graham Stuart had a rather disappointing game that was below his usual standards, giving the ball away more than once in potentially dangerous situations. Claus Jensen was calm and collected and provided some good balls, also showing more enthusiasm for attack than some of his team mates. Bartlett had a poor game, missing one golden chance to score. If anyone was going to score it was JJ , but he too missed an early chance to score for Charlton. Robbo did his best to get involved in his short period on. Lisbie and Kinsella had cameo appearances.Juneau the Soccer Cat has awarded the Hiss of the Match to Gianluca Festa for his cynical attentions on Rufus. Scroll down for a photo of Juneau in pensive mood. Juneau is sponsored by Walker, Duffin and Daniels, the vets too professional to appear on Vets in Practice.
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Block E, Row Q, In front of the Bloke