Manchester United and subsequent reports will appear here: Volume 6
In September Charlton went down 3-0 to Everton; at the beginning of December, they went down 3-0 to Liverpool. In both cases, the referee played a part in the outcome: at Goodison, by sending off Carl Tiler; at Anfield, by failing to send off Emile Heskey who deserved either two yellows or one red.
The margin of the victory did flatter Liverpool, although they did a class outfit compared with Charlton who bore all the hallmarks of Premiership arrivistes. A player commented on the plane home that it was a better performance than at Leeds 'where we didn't give ourselves a chance.' He admitted that 'we gave away a few balls we shouldn't' and one of the defects of the Addicks' game was giving the ball away too easily. Charlton played some nice football at times, retaining possession in a series of fluent moves, but they lacked penetration. As Vern from Stenyning commented, 'we never looked dangerous.' Svensson, who confirmed at Liverpool Airport that he had not been injured, was dropped in favour of Pringle who showed hesitancy in front of goal. When Bartlett came on, he looked quite tasty with a strong physical presence, but it was too late to make a difference. The game had really been decided in the fourth minute when Charlton went behind to an unfortunate own goal from Mark Fish. It is difficult to come back from being one nil down at Anfield that early in the game and by seeking to press forward Charlton exposed themselves to Liverpool counter attacks.
The Addicks are now 13th in the table with some difficult games ahead. Asked about next week's home fixture against United by a young autograph hunter at Liverpool Airport, Curbs replied, 'Someone's got to beat them.' We have to remain optimistic and it would be difficult to recommend any particular change on the basis of the Liverpool performance.
It was an early start for us to catch the 7.50 Easyjet from Luton Airport for which we paid £20 return each. We made a brief stop to drop off a disgruntled Bob the Dog and exchange him for northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch. Hooch was doubly excited because his owner, Erith born Sophia Hands, had given birth to our second granddaughter the day before and it was going to be the first time he had flown to cover a match. We nearly didn't make it after a crash between two lorries closed the M1. Apart from the West Sussex branch, there were many other Addickted on the flight, including members of Charlton Internet Football Club who were staying up for the weekend. Tranmere Rovers fans were also in evidence. We headed for brunch at the Albert Dock ( scroll down to bottom of the page to see the West Sussex contingent enjoying their breakfast) and spent an enjoyable couple of hours at the Maritime Museum.
At the ground members of the Moores family could be seen arriving in cars with personalised number plates, while Michael Grade strode past. Vivacious Sue Allen complained about the absence of Tiler from the squad. The players arrived in their coach looking rather gloomy, or 'like rabbits in the headlights' as one Addick commented. This certainly fitted with their nervous and disastrous start to the match.
Liverpool looked threatening from the first minute with Fowler putting in a cross which was not far in front of Heskey. Kishishev played JJ in, but he gave the ball away and good work by the often criticised right back dealt with Henchoz. Charlton then gave the ball away after a free kick for offside, Heskey got past Kishishev and Ziege put in a powerful cross. Kiely was beaten by the move and a despairing Fish netted an own goal. With other Liverpool players closing in, the ball was probably headed for the back of the net anyway.
The pattern of the day was set when referee Mr Styles gave nothing for a foul on Kishishev. Charlton's first attack came in the eighth minute when Pringle got away, but his ball control let him down and Hyppia was able to sort things out for the home side. Relations between Heskey and the player who should be an England colleague, Richard Rufus, were not of the best. Heskey gave Rufus a strong push. Mindful that he was at the home ground of a top club, Mr Styles gave the miscreant a talking to. Two minutes later he was at it again, knocking Rufus to the ground. Some might think this was a red card offence, and even Mr Styles was forced to give a yellow. Heskey could well have been off at this stage which could well have changed the course of the game. Chris Powell played in JJ, but his shot was way over. Charlton were now putting together some nice moves with some good passing play. Chris Powell forged through and put in an angled shot, but Westerveld punched it out. Rufus was then booked for what was alleged to be a foul on Fowler. This was his fifth yellow which means that he will miss a game, presumably that against Leicester.
Fowler and Heskey then had a couple of wild shots at Kiely's goal. Chris Powell won the ball back fairly in the area, leading to a ludicrous penalty appeal from a couple of Liverpool players. On 33 minutes Pringle put in a good pass to JJ, but the striker's shot went way over. A couple of minutes later Stuart had a chance when he received the ball on the edge of the box. Good work by JJ won a Charlton corner, but Westerveld saved with ease. On 39 minutes a free kick was given after Rufus had the audacity to make a tackle. Ziege took the free kick, but Barmby sent the ball wide. The silence of the Liverpool crowd for much of the match was remarkable. Kinsella put in a shot. A Liverpool break produced a corner. Kiely punched the ball out and Pringle had to clear it from a dangerous position. A second corner followed, and a after a clearing header by Stuart, a third, but Liverpool were unable to capitalise on the situation. Heskey reminded Rufus he was around by pushing him in the back and amazingly Charlton were given a free kick.
There was much excitement at half time when the results of a competition were announced. The first prize was a crate of light ale and the second prize was a six month subscription to the matchday magazine (all in colour and only £3). I was joined during the break by prize winning American sports journalist and soccer specialist Doug Chapman who had flown in that morning. Chapman updated me on the latest developments on his removal as a sports reporter on to general duties by the Providence RI newspaper (now owned by a corporation in Dallas, Tx) which he has worked for for some twenty years. There have been some surprising but encouraging developments. Soccer fans and officials throughout the US have been backing Chapman. Asked for his comments on the match so far, Chapman said that we had been disastrous in the first five minutes, but had looked quite good since then.
My notes on the opening phase of the second half state 'Charlton giving ball away'. The Sports Echo commented in its report, 'The opening ten minutes of the second half were evenly contested although both sides were guilty of giving the ball away far too often.' Another free kick for Liverpool taken by McAllister was headed by Hypia into the Kop. A Liverpool cross was dealt with effectively by Deano with a good catch. JJ beat Henchoz and won a Charlton corner. It was taken short and led to a second which was cleared. Henchoz then went down with a head injury and the game was stopped for five minutes while a concerned referee watched as this valuable player received treatment on the pitch. Incredibly, he was then allowed to play on.
Charlton then had their best chance to level when Stuart played in Pringle from the left, but his shot went across the front of goal and well wide. This was clearly the last straw for Curbs and on 67 minutes was Pringle was taken off with Bartlett making his first appearance in Charlton white. Liverpool ran the changes on 69 minutes with Murphy and Ziege being replaced by Smicer and Fowler. Liverpool make a break through Smicer almost immediately, but 'super Emile' put the ball wide. A cross from Powell reached Kinsella and Westerveld looked his beaten, but the captain's shot missed the target by inches. Scott Parker was then brought on in place of Salako who looked out of his depth. Bartlett then showed excellent control of the ball in front of the goal with his head, then putting in a right footed shot which Westerveld saved second time round. But then the game was put beyond doubt when a cross from Smicer was met by Heskey who headed it home. On 83 minutes Liverpool made their final substitution with Hamaan replacing McAllister. Four minutes later Steve Brown was brought on to replace Kishishev. It was not clear what this was meant to achieve, other than to remind Brown that he was still part of the team. Liverpool won a corner and a second corner was taken short. 'It's going to be 3-0' said my wife and Gerrad's cross was struck forcefully into the net by Babbel. Charlton had a final chance for a consolation goal when a foul led the referee to give a free kick not far from the penalty spot, but Jensen's curling shot went wide. As the Sports Echo commented, 'The final scoreline of 3-0 was somewhat harsh on the Londoners.' Nevertheless, no doubt the relegation doomsters will have a field day.
Brian Cole's arrangement with a Scouse taxi driver to get us to the airport not surprisingly fell through, but alternative arrangements were made. (This is your mention Brian which you can pick up with your word search). Walking through the airport I suddenly found myself interposed between Chris Powell and Richard Rufus. Feeling I had to say something, I said 'well done, lads' which may seem to be a stupid comment, but I felt that both of them had given their all. As a player commented on the plane, 'Apart from the odd individual case, Charlton fans don't get on their players' backs much because they know they give their all.' The two players looked sick as parrots, but politely refrained from commenting on the fact that I was accompanied by a large dog with a 'press' sign attached to his collar.
Leaving the plane at Luton I saw Curbs still sitting his seat. 'You have a nice rest tomorrow,' I said. 'Ah, tomorrow', sighed the weary supremo as if the prospect of any relaxation was uncertain. The manager and players still had to face a journey back to the training ground in a cramped club minibus which one player alleged had a top speed of forty miles an hour. Richard Rufus showed that he was ahead of the game once more as he strode in a stylish blue baseball cap to his motor parked in the car park.
Friendly captain Mark Kinsella walked past tables at Liverpool Airport greeting fans and Hooch the Pooch was able to tell him that he had won the coveted Silver Bone. Kinsella came closest to scoring and made some excellent moves throughout the match, as well as displaying tremendous commitment as always. Any match where you let in three goals can't be a good one for a keeper, but Deano can claim that all of them were pretty well unstoppable. Kishishev's game was sometimes an uncertain one and the right back spot remains a problem for the team. Chris Powell was involved in some good attacking moves and was generally effective defensively. Rufus clearly bothered Heskey and was once again the deserved recipient of 'Rufus for England' chants. Fish was not really to blame for the own goal and made some good clearances. Stuart was less in evidence than in some matches, but made some good moves. Jensen remains a question mark for some fans because of his failure to tackle, but he had a reasonable game. Salako seemed to lack the presence to deal with Liverpool. It was another disappointing performance. It was probably a mistake to start with Pringle who can fail to take chances. Johansson had a good work rate, but never really came close to scoring. Bartlett seems to have good ball control, a strong physical presence and is clearly up for it. His debut was one of the few bright spots. Parker looked as if he had benefitted from the experience of Norwich. Brown only had a couple of touches in the short time he was on.
Juneau the Soccer Cat gives a very loud hiss to referee Mr Styles. 'The referee's a Scouser', one wag shouted. The fact is that he was intimidated by the home crowd and their star players.
One of the most difficult things for football teams to accept is that they were beaten by an opposition team that was better on the day. They tend to look for real or imagined faults in their own side. This is particularly the case at Charlton, dubbed by Radio 5's as 'having the most pessimistic fans in the country.
However, the simple explanation for Charlton's loss of their unbeaten home record to the Black Cats is that Sunderland played better football. Charlton did not play particularly bad football. They put out the same team as they had against Chelsea, a team with a poor away record which continued today. Sunderland came to The Valley on the back of an away win against their ace rivals Newcastle. Before the match they were singing 'We beat the scum 2-0' and 'Shearer'. But I don't accept that Sunderland were more 'up for it' than Charlton. The first half was a competitive and high quality game of football in which Sunderland had the edge. A quality strike by Rae (it would have to be him) gave the Wearsiders the lead. Once a team goes ahead in the Premiership, particularly away from home, the odds are that they are going to win. Curbishley put on two forwards, Lisbie and Pringle, in an attempt to turn things round. But Charlton's play became increasingly frenetic and even panic stricken with some good chances not taken. They could well have lost 0-2 rather than getting an equaliser. Expectations at Charlton are unrealistically high these days, but there was going to be a home defeat in the Premiership sooner or later. And it still left us in the top half of the table - although the pessimists would see us soon sinking to the level of Manchester City and Coventry.
With the last five matches between the two sides ending in a draw, expectations beforehand centred on the likelihood of a draw, although some thought a high scoring draw was possible. Pitchside announcer Brian Cole referred to the special bond between the two clubs after the Wembley final and the applause from the home crowd for the Sunderland fans was especially warm.
Sunderland kicked off and signalled that they were here to take all thre points with a first minute strike from Hutchison which glanced off Deano's post at the Covered End. But then Svensson put in a quality ball across the pitch to Salako who played it into Chris Powell who won a Charlton corner. However, all that came from that was a Charlton throw in. For a moment it looked as if Sunderland might have won a corner, but instead it was a throw in near the flag for Wembley hero Michael Gray. A Sunderland free kick was cleared by Rufus, then a Charlton break gave JJ a chance. He did not really have enough support to make anything of it, a story that was to repeat itself through the game. However, Charlton won a corner which was punched out by the hero from St.James's Park, Thomas Sorensen. A freakish Sunderland corner was cleared by a powerful header from Graham Stuart. All this had happened in the first five minutes or so of a pulsating match.
The rain cloud that fifteen minutes earlier had caused postponement of Watford's game over Burnley now arrived over The Valley, producing conditions almost as bad as those in the cup match against Forest. JJ powered forward and won Charlton a corner. This was well taken by Salako and good work saw the ball played in again and a diving save from Sorensen. Charlton's next effort was a good cross by JJ, but there was no one there. Jensen put in a good ball to Kinsella, but it did not fall in a way that allowed him to control it effectively. Charlton then missed another chance when pushing forward as the ball was played through the middle, ignoring Salako lurking unmarked forward on the left.
Plenty of action at both ends and we were only a quarter of an hour into the match. Sunderland won a corner which was delivered by Rae and cleared somewhat hesitantly by Charlton. The West Stand linesman then made a somewhat odd offside decision when it looked as if Charlton might be through with a chance. The action switched to the other end and Deano had to palm away a forceful shot at the expense of a Sunderland corner which was cleared. The midfield was providing service to the strikers and Stuart played a useful ball into JJ who was not able to convert it.
One of the most promising moments for Charlton came when Jensen played in the ball to Kishishev who put in a great cross which was palmed away for a Charlton corner which Rufus just missed. As the half hour approached, Jensen put in a forceful shot from a distance which went just over. A Sunderland free kick produced a great save from Deano, but Charlton were given a free kick anyway. Fish, who by now had switched to breathing through his gills, made a great clearance and then another one to deal with a Sunderland free kick from thirty yards out. A Charlton free kick taken by Jensen was unproductive. Sunderland then had a break, but were decisively stopped by Rufus who went down injured. Both he and Kiely required treatment. JJ then powered in on Sorensen, colliding with him. A Charlton free kick taken by Jensen led to the unusual sight of the ball being hit right over the Jimmy Seed stand roof by a Sunderland defender. The Charlton corner was taken short, which is usually a mistake, but Charlton were able to keep possession and Jensen put in a shot which went just over. Then came the most dangerous moment of the half for Charlton. Deano made a brilliant save from Kilbane, but the ball bounced off the crossbar, allowing Sunderland to put in a cross across the front of goal, but somehow no one connected with it. Although Sunderland had made it difficult for Charlton to break through, and had created some good chances themselves, 0-0 did not seem an unfair half time score.
Sunderland applied early pressure on Charlton and Rufus was once again called into action to blunt a Sunderland attack, conceding a corner which produced nothing for the visitors. The only Charlton action worthy of note in the first ten minutes was when JJ made a break on its own, but was finally shut down by the attentions of the entire Sunderland back line. Then on 58 minutes Rae put in a fierce left footed shot which left Kiely with no chance. This was a strike of real Premiership quality. After that, of course, all Sunderland had to do was to defend effectively and try and score a second on the break, both tasks being well within their grasp. They made particularly effective use of the offside trap to deny Charlton.
The Bloke Behind Me was screaming 'Sort it out Curbishley' and on 65 minutes he pulled off the disappointing Salako and the largely ineffective Svensson, replacing them with Lisbie and Pringle. It was probably what most fans wanted, but somehow it seemed unlikely to work the required magic. Before the game cat food taster David Hatch congratulated me on my detailed note taking. But after this point, my notes become more sketchy. I just felt it wasn't going to be Charlton's day. JJ was forging forward, but not finishing with his usual accuracy. First he shot over, then placed in a similar position to the one from which he had scored against Chelsea, he shot at Sorensen. A goalmouth scramble seemed to offer hope for Charlton and for Graham Stuart in particular, but nothing came of it. On 77 minutes Curbs pulled off Powell for Konchesky, a somewhat puzzling decision, but perhaps based on a concern that Powell was fading.
Graham Stuart powered through in a threatening fashion and was brought down by Darren Williams who received a yellow card, the only one in the match. Lisbie put in a good cross, but no one connected with it. Sunderland took off Niall Quinn in favour of Danny Dichio. JJ put in a good ball to Lisbie, but instead of playing it into the middle or shooting accurately, he sent the ball well wide. He partially redeemed himself by winning Charlton a corner, but it was headed away.
Although much of the action was now at the Sunderland end, the visitors still had the ability to threaten and won two corners in succession. Kishishev put in a good cross, but it was saved. Then Pringle was through, but instead of shooting, he hesitated and all Charlton got was a corner which was cleared. A Lisbie cross represented one of the last chances to pull back a point. There was no need to sing 'Cheer up Peter Reid.' It was going to be a long journey back home for the visitors, but a happy one.
Match analyst Bob the Dog had to choose between awarding the Silver Bone to Richard Rufus or Feesh , both of whom made some great defensive interventions. It was a difficult choice, but Bob decided that Rufus should receive the award. No goalkeeper could have saved Rae's strike and otherwise Deano had a good game. Kishishev was perceived by some to be the weakest link in the winning side over Chelsea, but he managed to cover a lot of ground and was something of a threat to the Sunderland defence. Powell was generally effective, and his substitution was something of a surprise. Stuart had some effective moments in both attack and defence, but Salako was something of a disappointment compared with his performance against Chelsea. Kinsella was also below his very best. Steve from Sidcup thought that Jensen had an excellent first half, probably his best so far for the club. He was involved throughout the game. JJ did his best, but often seemed to be on his own up front. Svensson put himself about, but was less involved than he has been in some games. Pringle showed his old fault of hesitating in front of goal. Lisbie made some useful contributions, but his finishing is not Premiership class. Konchesky was not on for long, but did not make a great difference and made one quite serious error.
Juneau the Soccer Cat gave the Hiss of the Match to the idiot who pulled the emergency alarm on the returning Jubilee Line train, although she didn't think too much of the assistant referees either whose operating motto seemed to be 'see no evil.'
The Kings Road came to Floyd Road on a mid-November Saturday afternoon. They came, they saw, but they did not conquer. Instead, they returned to their native West London having been shown a sparkling display of football skill by the Addicks. Claudio Ranieri (speaking through an interpreter) admitted after the match that Charlton played as a team whereas Chelsea didn't. He claimed that Chelsea played as if they were afraid after the Addicks went ahead. As well they might be.
This page considers it was one of the best performances by Charlton all season. The Addicks retained their unbeaten home record at Fortress Valley, while the foreign legion confirmed their inability to win away. What a treat for recent birthday girl, lister Sue Allen. Her only disappointment must have been that one of the goals was not scored by virus victim Andy Hunt. Instead, the two goals for the Addicks came in the first half from the fabulous JJ and in the second from super sub Martin Pringle, making his first appearance of the season for the Reds.
Before the match we headed to the Rose of Denmark as usual where Dick ('James Dean') Sheppard revealed that he was making good use of his retirement to learn how to lip read in Icelandic. The general consensus was that a draw would be a good result. When I got to the ground, the Bloke Behind Me was confidently predicting that we wouldn't get a single point from the next four matches. The team contained some surpises. Steve Brown and Robbo were not even on the bench. Following an excellent run of appearances as a sub, John Salako was given a start, while Kishishev was brought back in to the difficult right back role after having disappeared since the first few games of the reason. Mark Fish kept the place he had done so well in at Ipswich. This time he was partnered by Richard Rufus who inspired chants of 'Rufus for England' as the match went on.
Chelsea look more menacing in the first half, one shot hitting the crossbar. Chelsea were at their best building from the back and they managed to find some space down the Charlton left. But Deano was on top form, making a number of excellent saves. Useless referee Paul Durkin came close to losing control of the match on occasions as Chelsea resorted to their full repertoire of diving and cynical fouls.
Having won the toss, Charlton decided to change ends so that they could attack the Covered End goal, a move immediately condemned by the Bloke Behind Me. Charlton started brightly and a free kick by Jensen led to an attacking move by Graham Stuart, but unfortunately no one was able to make use of his cross. While the Addickted were still mulling over this missed opportunity, a powerful shot from John Salako from at least thirty yards out had to be palmed away by De Goey for a Charlton corner. Chelsea had a free kick, but it was authoritatively cleared by Fish who clearly wasn't going to be caught out. Just after ten minutes into the game, Dalla Bona put a shot passed the Charlton post. Then it was the turn of the Addicks to show what they could do. Jensen put a good ball into JJ and De Goey had to save with the palm of his hand.
The mid-period of the first half was the best of the game for Chelsea. Kiely was forced into one save, although the ball may well have gone past the post. Then a shot from Morris went just over. A Chelsea attack was intercepted by Rufus. A Stuart header cleared a Chelsea corner, but then Zola made good use of an excellent crossfield ball from Morris to power in from the left, his shot coming off the crossbar.
The fluent Salako put in a good cross for the Addicks, but there was no one there to connect. A good Salako ball reached JJ, but his dispossession did not produce the corner or free kick that many Addicks felt was justified. Svensson was wrestled down, but the free kick from Jensen came off the Chelsea wall. Popular Marcel Desailly then went down in a blatant piece of cheating that was booed by the East Stand crowd. It was a pity from their point of view that Chelsea did not make use of their expensive talent to play football. What they could do was shown when Hasselbaink put in a shot just past the post. Continuing Chelsea pressure just after the half hour produced a corner, but nothing came of it. Chelsea then powered through after Chris Powell lost the ball, but Rufus intercepted with a fierce clearance into touch. Then suddenly JJ was through with the ball making excellent use of a pass from Graham Stuart. JJ shook off Desailly and put in a fine angled shot on 35 minutes that beat De Goey at the far post to open the account for the Addicks. Kishishev picked up a yellow card for a foul on Poyet. Kinsella powered across the field to win the ball. Excellent work by him fed it through to Svensson who won a corner. This produced nothing, but then JJ was through on goal, only to be cynically fouled by Desailly who got away with a yellow card. The explanation given by Paul Durkin to Curbs afterwards was that he thought he saw a Chelsea player coming into the box to cover. The free kick from Jensen was saved by De Goey. Salako threw the ball away in disgust when a marginal throw in decision went against the Addicks and received a yellow card for his troubles. With only one minute of time added on, Charlton remained confidently in charge until the half time whistle went.
Frantic calls for the cleaning supervisor over the tannoy at half time suggested that there was a need to clean up the mess in the scared Chelsea dressing room. Still, if you've got it, you might as well flaunt it and the boys from the Bates motel decided to open up their display case at half time to bring out some more of their expensive talent. Poyet and Dalla Bona went off and Flo and Gudjohnsen came on. No wonder that Brian Cole said that the names would test any announcer.
The changes didn't seem to do much to inspire Chelsea and De Goey was forced into a decidedly panicky clearance. A free kick was awarded against Svensson after he turned round and gave the slighest of nudges to Lebouef who collapsed in a heap on the ground. Justice was down when the free kick ended up as a throw in on the West Stand side. This early phase of the half saw a fierce battle in midfield with Charlton showing some real skill and not giving the ball away as easily as they did at Ipswich. Chelsea did break with one attack and Chris Powell had to concede a corner. The calm and authoritative Rufus headed the ball out of play and the second Chelsea corner was cleared by Graham Stuart. Deano made a great save from a powerful shot from Gudjohnsen. JJ was fouled and the hapless referee had to chase after popular Frank Lebouef to award him his well deserved yellow card. Stuart powered in on a poor back pass, but missed a chance to score. There was then an amazing scene when the ref at last realised that Chelsea had been making foul throws all afternoon and gave the throw to Charlton.
On 70 minutes Curbs decided that the time had come to change things around. Svensson went off to a standing ovation to make way for his compatriot, Pringle. Chelsea clearly felt that desperate measures were needed and Wise tried a blatant dive. No yellow card was awarded by the ref who merely asked if he could help him to find a taxi after the game. In a further attempt to inspire their attack, Chelsea took off Hasselbaink and put on Jokanovic. Pringle put in a testing shot, but it was saved. Salako had been playing well, but Curbs clearly felt that the defence need reinforcing and the winger was pulled off for Andy Todd, sporting yet another experimental haircut. This was immediately denounced by the Bloke Behind Me as conclusive evidence of Curbishley's tactical ineptness. What was worse, he moaned, England would soon be infected by Curbishley's negativism.
Deano had to make a diving save, followed by another one. Chelsea were staging a little late rally. A Chelsea corner was cleared largely through good work by Fish. Wise blatantly held back Jensen, but received no punishment. Jensen was pulled off for Paul Konchesky. JJ made a good run and then Gudjohnsen out in a shot just past Kiely's post. But then on 90 minutes, JJ won a corner for Charlton and Kinsella's ball was headed home by Pringle. As we went into injury time, and rows of empty seats appeared in the away end, a chorus of 'What a waste of money' went up from the Addickted. I was so excited that I left a fleece I had bought from the club shop under my seat: thanks to the person who handed it in.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has added yet another Silver Bone to the pile accumulated by JJ since he joined the club. It was a superb opening goal, calmly delivered, and an excellent all round performance. Deano has been under attack from some supporters, but it was another clean sheet and another authoritative performance at home. He was the last player to leave the field, justifiably taking in the plaudits of the crowd. But he still needs to work on his kicking out. Before the match Joe from New Eltham observed that it was a long time since the right back position had been filled authoritatively at Charlton. Kishishev played some nice balls forward, but was under pressure once or twice in defence. Chris Powell has made the left back spot his own and, apart from one error, provided another excellent performance. Rufus was the reliable rock at the heart of our defence. Feesh showed real skill. Another good buy by Curbs from Bolton. Kinsella , back from his latest truimph with Ireland, had an excellent game, full of energy, skill and passion. Jensen may not be a great interceptor, but his passing and reading of the game shows real creative skill. 'There's only one Graham Stuart' sang the crowd at one point. The Chelsea fan writing in the programme had predicted an own goal from the on form midfield maestro. The only disappointment was a failure to take a chance to score. Salako had a sparkling game with real touches of inventiveness. Svensson played with determination and commitment, and perhaps one cannot ask for much more. Pringle harried the Chelsea defence once he came on. It was a delight to see him score and at the end of the game he went down on his knees to respond to the bows of the Covered End. Todd was not that much in evidence and Konchesky had less than ten minutes in which to make a contribution.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to referee Paul Durkin for a marvellous mixture of lack of control, officiousness and inconsistency.
Following criticisms on the list by some knowledgeable individuals about tactical ineptitude etc. at Ipswich, consideration was given to bringing in a new management team and a group was invited along from the dartboard at the Rose of Denmark to try out the dugout for size. The group are all great fans of Curbs and declared that it was a sufficient honour to sit there for a moment or two.
Another Saturday afternoon of drenching rain and wind. Another two goals put past Charlton. Another away defeat. However, there the analogies with Villa end. Charlton held on until the 80th minute. But a 0-0 draw was never in prospect. Ipswich had looked the better side with their neat, incisive passing. Once Holland had drilled them ahead with an unstoppable short, Stewart made a chorus of 'to the tractor boys 2-0' possible four mnutes later. At that point Charlton fans started to stream out, not surprisingly given the difficulties of getting away from the ground. The only consolation they could take with them is the ability to say 'I saw Fish and Bagheri on their first appearances for Charlton.'
Before the match we were greeted by vivacious Sue Allen from Thamesmead who was carrying a blow up doll of a Charlton player, designated as Andy Hunt by his number one fan. Sadly, Hunt was not playing for Charlton, nor was injury victim Richard Rufus. I found myself in the company of Rick Everitt and members of his family, as well as supporters' director Wendy Perfect. And just in front of me was Charlie Connelly who told me that his next book project is the story of Charlton's season. Let's hope it's a romance rather than a tragedy. I was feeling optimistic before the match, which my wife tells me is always a bad omen, dreaming of headlines like 'Fish walks on water.'
Ipswich won the toss and got Charlton to play into the blustery wind, something which caused Deano some problems when kicking out. One of the first Charlton players to make contact with the ball was Fish with a good headed clearance. Already, in a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout the match, Ipswich were finding space on the wings, exploited in this case by Jamie Clapham. The resultant corner was completely wasted by the tractors with the ball put out of play. Deano made his first, relatively easy, save on five minutes. On seven minutes good work by Clapham won Ipswich another corner. Another Ipswich attack followed, with Steve Brown clearing the ball at the expense of a throw in. The referee, who was already showing signs of being a homer, gave Ipswich a free kick just to the left of the box, but the result was a wild shot which went over, something that was to turn out be characteristic of Ipswich's play. The referee, who was still hoping for the promised sack of potatoes at the end of the game, awarded Ipswich another free kick but it came off the four man Charlton wall. Charlton then had their first attack of the game with a break which featured good work by JJ. Charlton won their first corner and Fish used Jensen's ball to put a header just past the post, provoking the first of a number of chants of 'Feesh' from the Addickted. Another attack was blocked by Steve Brown, but the ball was not properly cleared, leading to yet another Ipswich corner. A nutmeg on Chris Powell started an Ipswich attack which produced another Ipswich corner (I had lost count by now). Stuart intercepted the ball, giving Ipswich another spin of the wheel. The next Ipswich attack produced an authoritative save from Deano. Back came Ipswich again, and the pressure Charlton were under is revealed by the fact that it required a good defensive tackle from Svensson to sort things out. Another bout of pressure produced the inevitable Ipswich corner but Deano dealt with it firmly with an effective catch.
Jensen put in a ball to JJ which led to a rare Charlton corner. Although it was cleared, Wright was clearly unhappy with his defence. JJ then made a good run which gave him a scoring opportunity but Wright was able to punch the ball out. Svensson was then spoken to by the referee about a perfectly acceptable tackle: for a moment, I thought he was going to be booked. Deano made a good save with a catch. As the game passed the half hour point, an Ipswich free kick was deflected off the Charlton wall of four and just past the post. An Ipswich corner produced a renewed attack which led to a diving save by Deano and yet another Ipswich corner. Graham Stuart was then booked for trying to play the ball in a tackle on Wilnis, while Robbo picked up a yellow card for dissent. Ipswich won a corner off Steve Brown, followed by a second which was just cleared. Robbo had not been very effective in the game, but then he powered in, producing a goalmouth scramble which led to a Charlton corner. Jensen put in a ball to JJ and Wright just saved. But this was followed by another Ipswich corner which was only just cleared off the line by Kinsella. It had been an incident packed half and Charlton went off, reassured by the fact that they were not behind. Looking at the highlights later on Match of the Day we seemed to produce quite a few good chances which unfortunately were not taken, but the balance of play was much uneven in Ipswich's favour than the edited highlights would suggest.
I don't know what they put in the tea at Ipswich, but the home side came out as if they had just been told that a win would mean a year's supply of potatoes and all the red diesel they could use. The pressure on Charlton was relentless and the only reason they didn't score was a lack of accuracy in their shooting which balls going wide and over with monotonous regularity as one Ipswich player after another buried their face in their hands. The only effort by Charlton was a ball from Jensen into Robbo which drew a rare save from England's great hope. After nineteen minutes, Wilnis, who had evidently suffered from his first half clash with Stuart, was pulled off in favour of Titus Bramble, clearly a favourite with the home fans.
Curbs saw the need to change something around and the below par Robbo was pulled off in favour of Salako around twenty minutes. With attacks from Ipswich continuing to besiege the Charlton goal, Curbs pulled off Svensson in favour of the 'Asian Zidane', Karim Bagheri, for the first premiership appearance by an Iranian. Kinsella put in a rare shot on the Ipswich goal. Ipswich pull off Scowcroft in favour of Naylor. Holland got round Kinsella to power in Ipswich's first goal. The second goal was credited to Stewart, although it was accompanied into the net by Steve Brown who was making a desperate last effort to keep it out. Deano then managed to drop the ball, but the tractor gears failed to mesh and Clapham missed a golden opportunity to make it 3-0. Ipswich continued to keep up the pressure and won another corner. As we headed into injury time, Stewart was perplexingly pulled off for Johnson. Deano was called into action to make a save. A free kick allowed Jensen to put in a shot across the front of the Ipswich goal, but no was there to take advantage of it.
Charlie Connelly was heading off to visit old student haunts in Colchester. Let's hope he found some traditional consolations. This was not a very good performance by Charlton. This time it was not a question of the wrong formation or an overly defensive approach. They were simply outplayed by a better side. It will no doubt reawaken the strong sense of pessimism among Charlton fans. The result saw Charlton fall to second from bottom - of the top half of the table. But, as George Burley said afterwards, both teams should stay up.
Geographically challenged northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch tried to claim that this was a match that he should cover, but it fell to Bob the Dog to make the difficult choice about the award of the Silver Bone. In the end he decided to give it to JJ who created some good chances and at least looked as if he might score. Deano had some worrying moments. Could he one day be challenged for his place by Roberts? Brown and Fish teamed up well together and the new signing was in the thick of things and looks like a good acquisition. Nevertheless, we still missed Rufus. Chris Powell did not have one of his best games, although he was more in evidence than Greg Shields who had few opportunities to bring the ball forward. This was not a great day for the midfield. Robbo did not have a good game, being too easily evaded in defence by the advancing tractors and, apart from one occasion, not making much of a contribution to attack. Apart from a few moments, last week's hero Graham Stuart was somewhat anonymous, reflecting Ipswich's control of the match. All too often they went from one end to the another without encountering any serious resistance. Kinsella gave his all as always, but even he could not turn things round for the Addicks, although his good reactions stopped a goal just before half time. My perception of Jensen's contribution was rather negative, but when I looked through my notes, I saw that he had done more than I had realised, creating some of Charlton's best chances. Svensson had some nice lay offs and touches, but never really looked like a threat in front of goal. As it was observed on Match of the Day , JJ was really a lone striker up front. Salako was also a disappointment. He had looked as if he might become a super sub, but he made very little contribution after he came on. Bagheri was a revelation in Bob the Dog's view. He was an accurate passer and had excellent ball control and was very much involved while he was on. It was the one crumb of comfort from the match.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to the referee Steve Bennett. When you look through Jimmy Seed's match notes, you see that he sometimes describes a referee as a 'homer' and the phenomenon is still with us. Shirt pulling and handballs by the home side were frequently ignored.
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