For reports on Manchester City and subsequent matches, please scroll down to the link at the end of the page (I can't get the text to link to work at the moment).
An abysmal Charlton crashed to a 5-0 defeat against West Ham United at Upton Park on Boxing Day. Alan Curbishley later said that the first forty-five minutes was the worst he had seen in ten years at Charlton and that the score flattered the Addicks. Charlton's away form has been dismal this season and distance seems to have nothing to do with it: their one away win came on their longest trip so far to Newcastle, suggesting that they should find the trip through the Blackwall Tunnel particularly sapping of their determination and energy. And so it proved. Their sluggish performance suggested that they had eaten too many mince pies. The defence was uncoordinated; they were caught out in possession too many times; movement off the ball seemed to be beyond them; and the attack lacked any bite. Particularly disappointing was the performance of key stalwarts such as Mark Kinsella and Chris Powell.
We had to leave at 8 a.m. to watch this dismal performance, waiting twenty-five minutes for a Jubilee Line train at Stanmore. As we arrived in our seats, the Bloke Behind Me said 'it's an away game, so we're going to lose.' His mate declared that he was not going to cut his hair until we won away, so he may look like a 1960s hippie by the end of the season. In front of me, I caught sight of a very tall, bespectacled spectator wearing a blue and yellow bobble hat and with a Viking warrior motif on his anorak. Could this be the legendary Iceland Addick, Olafur Johansson? If it was, he didn't bring us any luck.
Charlton made a very ragged start to the game and an early attempt at an attack was transformed into a West Ham break, the Addicks being given a respite when the Irons shot wide. Some ten minutes into the game a necessary interception by Steve Brown led to a West Ham corner taken by Carrick. A Graham Stuart header cleared the initial danger, but a poor clearance by Svensson allowed the Irons to play the ball back in again through Pearce. The ball came off Brown and was picked up by Di Canio who trickled the ball in the net to give the first of three relatively soft goals to be conceded to the Irons.
Charlton were soon in trouble again when an error by Brown led to a cross in front of the goal. Then Charlton had a half chance when a Jensen free kick was punched out by Hislop. Kinsella put a shot back in, but it was saved without too much difficulty by the West Ham keeper whom I remember from his days at Reading.
Charlton seemed to be continually exposed on their left (as was the case at Leicester) and six minutes after di Canio's goal, the Irons advanced down their right, starting with a move by Sinclair which was continued by Kanoute. Taking advantage of a deflection off Brown, Kanoute put the ball in the net to make it 2-0.
A West Ham corner taken by Stuart Pearce (it was interesting to see how the Irons varied their corner takers) was headed out by Kishishev. Things looked worse for Charlton after twenty minutes when the combative Svensson had to be replaced because of injury by Pringle who deserved an immediate yellow card for bad taste in haircuts. With space opening up again on the Charlton left, Deano had to make a save. The normally mild Alan Curbishley was seen to do a Mervyn Day like dance on the touchline as a Charlton free kick was somehow converted into a throw in for the Irons. This was the first of a number of times in the match when Charlton possession was turned into a throw in for the opposition. Charlton then had two corners in succession. The first was taken short with Robbo taking the ball off Jensen. Somehow Charlton won a second from this usually ineffective move, but the attempt ended with an offside flag. A Steve Brown header was then required to clear the danger in front of goal. West Ham then had two corners in sucession with Pringle called into action as a defender. A shot from Jensen produced a Charlton corner which was played out, but Kinsella returned the ball with a shot that was not too far over. Deano was then called on to make a couple of saves. A break by Camara was only stopped by good work by Richard Rufus. As the half headed into stoppage time, good work by di Canio set up in Lampard in an excellent position with Kiely seeming to turn the ball into his own net to make it 3-0. The danger was not over yet, however, as Kanoute put a shot wide and Camara drew a good save from Kiely. The Hamerettes appeared on the pitch and appeared to be about to do a strip tease, but clearly thought better of it in the biting wind and did one desultory dance before milking the applause of the home crowd.
Charlton came out two minutes after West Ham, still brushing shards of broken crockery from their kit. Although the manoeuvre from their kick off was redolent of their lack of quality, ending up with Kiely kicking the ball into touch, they did seem to want to make more of a game of it. Two minutes after the re-start a Jensen free kick produce a header from Richard Rufus, but it was saved with relative ease by Hislop. Charlton won a succession of free kicks, but nothing much came of them. Some ten minutes into the game a Charlton corner was easily cleared. Good work by Jensen saw him power through, but perhaps he should have tried a shot rather than laying the ball off. In what was perhaps the brighest couple of minutes in the game for Charlton, Jensen did then put in a powerful shot which had to be tipped away by Hislop for a Charltn corner. Robbo then put a shot in which the keeper had to save with his feet. Deano had to make a great save from close range. In a rather puzzling move, Kishishev was replaced by Parker.
The fourth West Ham goal which came on 71 minutes was far more impressive than those in the first half with Sinclair make good use of an attempted Charlton clearance to deliver a fierce shot from thirty yards out. Charlton then had a couple of corners in succession, but the ball was cleared. Pringle had a chance to shoot as he bore down on goal, but chose to pass to JJ who was not well positioned. The Irons pulled off Camara in favour of Joe Cole. JJ powered through until he got in a one-on-one with Hislop. I thought the consolation goal was about to be scored, but he shot wide. Robbo was replaced by Konchesky. On 81 minutes the exodus of Addicks which had started at half time received another boost when an accurate through ball by Carrick was taken up by Kanoute who rounded Kiely to make it 5-0. Even Brian and Clare Cole left a couple of minutes before the end. There was still time for the Irons to make it six, but Charlton were spared that humiliation. I had expected us to lose this match, but not by such a margin. Curbs said in a recent webcast that a real pasting away might cure the team's travel sickness: let's hope that this disaster provides the cure.
Match analyst Bob the Dog did consider not awarding the Silver Bone at all, but decided it would go to Claus Jensen who had an excellent work rate, but also put in two promising shots on goal. No goalkeeper who lets in five goals can be happy with his performance, but Curbs specifically exempted Deano from his criticisms of the first half performance. Any keeper needs a defence in front of him and it is not time for 'Come back Sasa, all is forgiven.' I came to the match wearing my '3, Powell' away shirt, but this was a very disappointing performance and one of the principal reasons why West Ham were given so much space on their right. Brown was as stalwart as ever, but sometimes one has doubts about whether he is really Premiership quality. Rufus made some important clearances, but often seem overwhelmed by the strength and penetration of the West Ham attack. I thought that Kishishev did reasonably well and I was surprised to see him substituted. Stuart had quite a good game, making some good defensive moves and also powering forward from time to time. Worries about Kinsella mount. Again there were unforced errors. At the very least he should be rested against Dagenham and Redbridge. Robbo had one or two bright spots, but generally a poor game. Svensson was the kind of player likely to bother the West Ham defence and his enforced departure a quarter of the way through the game did not help. JJ worked hard, but this was not his day: he missed one sitter. Unfortunately, it was not a case of Pringle bells. His performance after he came on was disappointing. The adulation for Parker among some supporters puzzles me. He had very little impact after he came on. Konchesky was not on for long, but did what he had to do. I would rather have seen him replace Powell.
For the first time ever Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the entire team for a very substandard performance.
This was the comment from Steve from Sidcup after Charlton had won a valuable three points in a tense 1-0 victory over Everton. After Charlton had been clearly in charge in the first half, Everton made a determined effort to get back into the game after the break. As their efforts failed to bring an equaliser, their approach became increasing physical, especially after Duncan Ferguson was brought on, and referee Barber from Planet Tring began to lose control of the game. However, Charlton withstood the onslaught and looked at times as if they might score a second. Nevertheless, relief was the feeling of most Addicks after the final whistle blew.
We were unable to get into the Rose of Denmark as it was heaving with Evertonians and had to drink outside. Some of them showed the high state of cultural development achieved on Merseyside by using the ladies' toilets. Nevertheless, the atmosphere between the two groups of fans was good, with a number of Evertonians wearing false moustaches for reasons that remained unclear. Much entertainment was provided by the efforts of a young Everton supporter to pull a local lass. Recovering hangover victim vivacious Sue Allen showed us her new shirt: a 69 with Hunt's name at the top and Tiler's in reverse at the bottom. Later reports reaching the Rose of Denmark suggested that she had been favoured with a kiss on the lips from Tiler. At least he has satisfied someone.
News from the ground confirmed that Bartlett was injured and that Salako was far from happy at not being included in the squad. Most angry of all was Sasa Ilic who was not chosen as No.2 keeper. He left The Valley at some speed, although some suggested that he was heading to Bluewater for some last minute Christmas shopping.
Charlton started with an attack from the kick off. Robbo played in the ball to Svensson who shot at goalkeeper Myhre. Four minutes later Svensson returned the complement with a ball to Robbo. This produced a Charlton corner which was punched out, reclaimed by Robbo, but was then caught by the keeper. JJ then put a fierce ball in which was headed over by the keeper. Jensen's corner was then converted by a Svensson header on nine minutes to put the Addicks ahead.
The Toffeemen tried to power their way back into the game with a shot from Gravesen which went just over after being deflected. The resultant Everton corner was only partially cleared, but Deano was able to catch the ball. There was then a nervous moment when Deano seemed to have difficulty in clearing what should have been a straightforward ball. Stuart powered away and Robbo put in a cross. Everton showed the first signs of their physical approach which led Steve from Sidcup to later compare the game with watching Birmingham or Millwall (whose supporters were busy throwing slices of toast on the pitch at Bournemouth). Jensen was fouled by Gravesen, producing the first of a number of yellow cards for the visitors.
The game then entered the first of a number of nervous periods for Charlton. JJ put in a good cross, but there was no one there to connect with it. Feesh cleared a potentially dangerous attack by intercepting Cadamarteri with real finesse. Charlton then started to pile on the pressure and won a corner which was played back in after being initially cleared. Charlton were displaying some real skill, passing the ball with considerable fluency. Another good cross came in, but a number of players in the vicinity failed to clear. Robbo won another Charlton corner, but it was cleared. Everton won a corner on 22 minutes, but then Charlton won one again. This was followed immediately by a second, Rufus just failing to connect with the ball. Jensen then put in a wild and hopeful shot on goal which sailed away to the right. On the half hour, it seemed as if Chris Powell had won a corner for Charlton, but the first inkling of the likelihood of bizarre decisions from the officials was given when it was ruled to be a goal kick. Another Graham Stuart run released Svensson who put in an impressive bicycle kick. Robbo's follow up was saved by the keeper. Feesh had been doing a number of stretching exercises when play allowed, but it became evident that he had suffered serious fin damage and just after the half hour Steve Brown faced the unusual experience of coming off the bench. Kinsella gave away the ball and Deano was called on to make his first save. Robbo and Chris Powell won Charlton a corner and a second followed shortly afterwards, but it was cleared. Graham Stuart powered in, but the ball was cleared. Robbo displayed some real skill in moving the ball forward, but then gave it away through being over elaborate. 'Play the simple game', bellowed the Bloke Behind Me, although more than simplicity may be required in the Premiership. As the half headed towards an end, Charlton won two corners in succession, but the ball was given away. An Everton free kick gave some cause for concern during the minute of added on time.
During the half time break we were reminded in a song from the three blokes from F Block that 'Santa is a Charlton fan, he wears red and white.' Everton had clearly decided that some kind of new approach was needed and pulled off American Joe-Max Moore for Israeli Idan Tal. Everton looked as if they wanted to get something out of the game and put Charlton under some pressure. Charlton also began to fall for the offside trap, although it was evident that the Toffeemen had an enthusiastic assistant in the form of the East Stand linesman who gave increasingly bizarre decisions on offsides and throw ins as the half went on. On 76 minutes Johansson thought he had scored when he got past Myhre and put the ball into an empty net but the toffee sucking lino had already raised his flag. What is it about East Stand linesmen?
Kishishev won a lucky Charlton corner, but Steve Brown was there to take advantage of it and an Everton defender had to head over his line. Robbo got the ball and then it went to Jensen who blasted in a shot from an awkward angle. Cadamateri was putting it about and was given a warning by the ref. Steve Brown conceded a Charlton corner and Rufus was called on to clear. The Bloke Behind Me was now doing his imitation of a distraught submarine captain, intoning 'too deep, too deep'. An Everton shot from distance was not far off the target and the Bloke Behind Me started to give it large on the subject of Curbishley's supposed failings, demanding his immediate replacement by Keith Peacock. Everton were clearly not completely satisfied, however, as some twenty minutes into the half Cadamateri came off and was replaced by Ferguson to the evident delight of the Everton fans. Unsworth replaced Gravsen.
Ferguson was warned within a minute of coming on the pitch and was lucky not to get a yellow. The referee was losing control and it all went off near the halfway line in front of the East Stand. The referee and his linesman managed to ignore the fact that Kinsella had been throttled and dragged to the ground and gave yellow cards to Stuart and to Tal. This put Stuart on five yellows and means that he will miss an upcoming match. A dubious Everton free kick taken by Unsworth was deflected off the wall (which the Bloke Behind M ehad declared was not needed) for an Everton corner which was blasted across the goalmouth. A dangerous Everton break was intercepted by Kishishev, showing that 'Boris' as the Bloke Behind Me calls him can defend. JJ was seen to hobble after he had been fouled by an Everton player. On the half hour, an Everton free kick was cleared by Rufus but, after a throw in, the visitors won a corner. Ferguson felled Rufus, but the referee was not interested.
What looked as if it might be an own goal from Rufus was saved by Kiely who pushed the ball on the post. Curbs clearly felt some defensive strengthening was needed and Kishishev was pulled off to a standing ovation to be replaced by Konchesky. A break allowed JJ to feed in the ball to Svensson, but he shot well over. A shame it wasn't the other way round. Weir received a yellow card over by the West Stand side. JJ then had a penalty shout when he appeared to be brought down in the box. Watson was the next Evertonan to receive a yellow card. Charlton had a free kick near the corner flag, but were not able to make anything of it. Charlton were, however, taking the game to Everton and won another corner and then a free kick. In what was possibly the best attempt of the half, Kinsella put a powerful header just past the post. Three minutes of time added on were announced and Paul Konchesky cleared well. JJ was pulled off for Pringle. The two Swedish strikers hastily exchanged a few words in their native tongue. After what seemed an age, the referee blew up for a Charlton victory.
The Bloke Behind Me was forecasting home defeat by Dagenham and Redbridge, but most Charlton fans were happy to see the team consolidate their league position with a valuable three points. 25 points halfway through the season is a comfortable figure and we would probably have settled for it at the beginning of the season. As someone remarked, this is the sort of match we would have lost two seasons ago. Indeed, our last three home fixtures with the Toffeemen have ended in defeat and the last time we beat them at 'home' was in 1986. The last win at The Valley was a 5-0 victory which I saw in November 1954. It was back to the Rose of Denmark where listmaster Glynne narrowly escaped being hit by a hail of bottles from the top of a double decker bus from Scouseland as he entered the pub.
Once again the coveted Silver Bone has gone to Matthias Svensson. Match analyst Bob the Dog took into account not just the goal, but the way that Svensson put himself about all over the pitch, often making effective defensive contributions. Deano made one vital save, but didn't have a lot to do the rest of the time. His kicking out still needs work. Chris Powell had a good game, making some effective forays forward. Greg Shields may feel that he has been hard done by in losing the right back spot, but this was another effective performance by Kishishev. It was good to see Rufus performing as effectively as always at centre back. Fish also had an excellent game before he was forced to retire. It was another superb performance by Stuart who often looked dangerous. Jensen put in one powerful shot which troubled the keeper and was generally effective. Robbo had a good game, making an excellent contribution to the Addicks' attacks. Kinsella did make a number of unforced errors and I heard more than one supporter suggest that at some point he might need a rest. Johansson had another excellent game up front. Steve Brown showed once again that he doesn't let you down with a reliable defensive performance. Pringle was confined to a cameo role.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to the completely hopeless East Stand linesman.
It's a grim business being part of Charlton's regular away army this season. Only one win and one draw all season. In all too many matches, the Addicks have done reasonably well until the last quarter of the game and then seen three goals put past them. And so it was today at Filbert Street. The Addicks started brightly with a superb goal from JJ. Leicester pulled one back to make it 1-1 at half time. An elusive away point still seemed possible. But then defensive errors allowed Leicester to go 3-1 ahead in the last quarter of an hour. As Alan Curbishley admitted afterwards, 'we are making bad mistakes.'
Charlton never seem to play well with five across the back, although it is worrying that they appear to be able to play well only with a 4-4-2 formation. Leicester continually seemed to be getting too much space down the right: their first goal was created that way. The formation may have allowed insufficient width in midfield. Moreover, as Vern from Stenying commented after the match, Charlton seem to lack the mental stamina that would enable them to win at least a point away from home.
Charlton started as if they meant business. JJ put in a ball to Svensson who fed to Jensen who put it back into JJ who drew a save from Flowers. There was a worrying moment when Kinsella lost the ball, but Feesh came to the rescue. Stuart then put the ball through to Svensson, but it ended up in the hands of the keeper. Then on five minutes Stuart put through a ball to JJ who did not hesitate to put it in the back of the net.
Two minutes later the impressive Svensson powered in to create a Charlton corner. The ball was punched out by Flowers and Feesh failed to score. A few minutes later Leicester came into the game for the first time, a break leading to a corner which Deano had no difficulty in catching. On fourteen minutes JJ had a go, but should have really played the ball wide. Leicester won another corner which was taken by new wonder man Jones, but all it produced was a throw in on the other side. On 19 minutes Svensson fired in a powerful shot. My wife thought it was going in and jumped up to come down on her broken foot, but Flowers managed to tip it away for a corner. Graham Stuart was brought down. The game then seemed to quieten, although Leicester were awarded a somewhat dubious corner. A Charlton free kick taken by Jensen was played in to Tiler who put the ball well over.
Svensson had been putting himself about in no uncertain terms and the referee decided it was time he had a yellow card. Stuart was continuing to struggle and on 31 minutes had to be pulled off for Robinson. This was something of a turning point in the match for the Addicks. Stuart had started the game superbly and although Robbo did his best, his positional sense seemed less secure. Rowett seemed to be getting a lot of space on the right, often being fed the ball by Flowers without any challenge by Charlton. The Foxes piled on the pressure with a build up that involved twenty passes. Finally, Rowett put in a low centre to Akinbiyi who scored.
A Charlton free kick on 38 minutes led to a goal mouth scramble, but the chance to score was missed. The ref gave a yellow to Eadie. Powell was beaten, but Brown intervened to prevent Leicester going into the lead. As we moved into three minutes timed added on, Flowers was caught off the line, but Feesh could not control the ball quickly enough to take advantage of the opportunity.
Neither side really seemed to establish dominance in the first phase of the second half and I begin to think that we might see another 1-1 which is how the last two games at Leicester I have seen have turned out. Neither team really came anywhere near scoring in the first quarter of an hour. On 56 minutes Charlton won a free kick on the left for a foul on Robbo, but Jensen put the ball well over. A Leicester corner just after 60 minutes gave Charlton a chance to break, but they were far too slow. Guppy was taken off in favour of Benjamin. On 63 minutes a Charlton free kick produced a corner which was comfortably caught by Flowers. On 66 minutes another Charlton free kick led to a corner. The ball came out to Kinsella who had the best chance of the half to score for Charlton. Normally you would back him to do so, but his shot went just right of the post. If Charlton had gone 2-1 ahead then, there might have been a very different result.
Leicester were clearly not happy at the way things were working out and the scorer of their equaliser, Akinbiyi, was pulled off in favour of Gunnlaugsson. JJ won a corner for the Addicks, but it came to nothing. A few minutes later he went for the ball, Taggart rolled around in a convincing display of agony, and the referee yellow carded JJ. Davidson was injured and had to be stretchered off to be replaced by Stefan Oakes who was to turn out to be Charlton's nemesis.
On 75 minutes Kishishev was obliged to concede a corner as the safest course of action. He then cleared the corner with a header. Three minutes later Deano spilled the ball and Tiler played safe by booting the ball out for a corner. Oakes took it and it was intercepted by Elliott who appeared to be unmarked and was able to head it into the back of the net. If Rufus had been playing, would this have happened? It will be interesting to see where Tiler was at the time of the goal. The friendly Leicester supporters who enjoy a reputation for sophistication started chants of 'Let's all laugh at Charlton' and other uncomplementary references to the 'southerners'.
The Leicester fans may give you an earful, but you've got to hand to them - they're a sophisticated lot as this photo from the Leicester programmes shows.
Curbs decided the time had come for a double substitution and pulled Tiler and Svensson off and put Pringle and Salako on, presumably thereby reverting to 4-4-2. Meanwhile, Foxes in the Carling Stand were informed that they could not leave by the usual entrances, but would have to come forward to the 'running track' where they would be 'eskirted' by stewards. Leicester, however, continued to look dangerous. Benjamin put in a ball across the goal which only just went past the far post. As we moved into the four minutes added on, it was no great surprise when Brown failed to intercept the ball and he and Feesh were left running after Gunnlaugsson who had no trouble in putting the ball past Kiely.
Some regular away supporters were so dispirited by the way in which the game had been thrown away that they talked of no longer making the trek up the motorways. Leicester were not really all that good. I reflected that I would be back in Leicester on Wednesday morning for a meeting at which I knew that some of those present would have been at the match. It is going to be difficult to make a coherent defence of Charlton's performance.
Geographically challenged northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch tried to claim that he should cover the match, but the duty fell to Bob the Dog who has made a controversial choice for the coveted Silver Bone, Matthias Svensson. Svensson showed tremedous commitment and was always willing to put himself about, but displayed real skill as well. The anti-Deano camp will have a field day after this result, but Kiely was let down by his defence for all three goals. The formation seemed to leave Chris Powell uncertain about how far back he should be, leading to too many opportunities on the right. I thought that Kishishev had a good game on the whole, making some important challenges and clearances. Brown was stalwart until his last fatal error. Tiler just did not look as if he had sufficient quality to be playing at Premiership level. He made some useful interceptions, but his balls forward were frequently poor. Feesh was also involved in the final goal fiasco, but was otherwise satisfactory. Stuart had a really good game until he was injured and we shall miss him if he cannot play against Everton. Kinsella was really below his best, although still good. The free kicks by Jensen were not his best, but he was seen to put tackles in. It was a great goal by JJ and he was certainly the runner up for the Silver Bone. Whatever our problems were today, it was not down to our forwards. Robbo threw himself into the game with his usual enthusiasm, but did not have many golden moments. Pringle made little contact with the ball after he came on and the same applied to Salako .
Juneau the Soccer Cat has herself been yellow carded after she intercepted my wife on the stairs and caused her to break a bone in her right foot. Her Hiss of the Match goes to the Leicester supporters who are among the worst in the Premiership.
'3-3 to the Londoners' was the chant from the listers' corner in the Rose of Denmark after Charlton had held to the world's No.1 team to a draw. Even the usual suspects on Match of the Day described Charlton's fightback as 'absolutely magnificent ... absolutely awesome.' Alan Curbishley commented that the Addicks had 'played really well today' and could have been 3-0 ahead in the first twenty minutes. Sir Alex Ferguson commented that Charlton deserved a result: 'they fought really hard and played very well'. May I apologise for the non-appearance of a match report last night: this was due to post-match celebrations and the incompetence of Chiltern Railways.
There was a much bigger crowd than usual in the Rose of Denmark pre-match. Zimmer frames were thrown aside and walking sticks dropped following the appearance of vivacious Sue Allen and Trace the Hat who was persuaded to put her Viking hat on for a special photograph. (Scroll to the bottom of the page to see this.) Also there was Andrew ... Mercer and American sports journalist Doug Chapman who once saw Charlton play sixteen consecutive draws and forecast a draw as the day's result. One of the curious aspects of the United support was the fact that they were not wearing colours, but apparently this is because the diehard away supporters do not like to be associated with the club's corporate image.
Zimmer frames are cast aside outside the Rose of Denmark as news spreads of the arrival of Sue Allen and Trace the Hat. Lucky lister Dick Sheppard was kissed by the vivacious Sue.
From the kick off, Charlton looked as if they were really up for it, a clear contrast with their insipid performance against Sunderland. There was an early scare when Salako gave the ball away and Fish missed it, but Deano saved comfortably. Powell released Jensen for a cross, a Johansson header drawing a save from Van der Gouw at the expense of a corner. There was a goalmouth scramble, but the ball was eventually cleared and a United break produced another save from Deano.
Charlton's bright start continued on five minutes when Salako won the ball and JJ played it into Bartlett whose shot hit the inside of the post. On nine minutes good work by Graham Stuart enabled Kishishev to put in a powerful and accurate cross. Bartlett powered between two defenders and put in a header that found the back of the net. It was the first goal conceded by United in 338 minutes of Premiership football. Charlton won a corner on thirteen minutes but it was easily caught by Van der Gouw. A minute later Jensen put the ball into JJ who powered forward with the defence behind him, putting him in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Unfortunately, his shot went past the post. There was then a period of United pressure. A good header by Fish intercepted a ball from Beckham. Shaun Bartlett won another corner for Charlton, but United broke away. A free kick for United awarded against Kinsella came off the wall, but was followed by a corner. Another United free kick on their left followed, leading to a header over. Another United free kick produced a corner. This was taken short and the subsequent shot went well wide.
A Charlton free kick produced a curling shot by Jensen which required a save that produced a corner for the Addicks. Rufus's header went on to the bar. Keane then put the ball into Giggs drawing a great save from Deano. Two United corners followed. The first United goal came three minutes from the break when a long and accurate ball went over the top of Fish. On the United right Solksjaer beat Rufus allowing Giggs to put a measured shot into the back of the net. A minute later United scored a sensational goal. Giggs put in a speculative but accurate shot from nearly the halfway line, which rebounded off the bar, Solksjaer then being able to easily put the ball past the stranded Kiely. It all went off in at the Harvey Gardens end of the West Stand, stewards piling in as a Manure was discovered. Half time and were 1-2 down. I felt gutted.
The second half did not start too well for the Addickted. Jensen blazed a shot over the Covered End goal when he should passed to Graham Stuart who was well placed to the right. Then Giggs beat Fish. Keily was beaten and Giggs gave the ball to Solksjaer to score, but Deano got back to cover and cleared the ball off the line with his feet. JJ then put a powerful shot across the front of goal, but there was no one there to connect with it. A free kick led to a Charlton corner. However, the danger signs were then with Keane just missing. On 59 minutes United pulled off Chadwick for Scholes. Kinsella, making use of a lay off from Bartlett, had a shot on goal, but did not really trouble Van der Gouw. Then on 66 minutes Keane put in a shot which Kiely got a hand to, only to push it into his net. It was a soft goal and one that struck despair into the heart of the Addickted. A change was clearly required and on 69 minutes Robbo was brought on to replace the increasingy ineffective Salako. A minute later, Keane, having done what was required of him, was replaced by Greening.
Charlton's chances of getting back into the game were undermined by the East Stand linesman who made a series of increasingly bizarre offside decisions every time Charlton launched an attack. The crowd resorted to repeated chants of 'Offside, offside' every time a Charlton player got the ball. The stewards piled in to throw out an East Stand Addick for 'abusing the linesman'. United made their final substitution, taking off Beckham in favour of Sheringham. The decisions of the East Stand linesman finally got to Robbo who gave him a piece of his mind, earning a yellow card for his troubles. But an angry Robbo is a dangerous Robbo.
There was still the chance that United might go even further ahead. Giggs showed why he is a world class footballer with a fantastic run. He had no difficulty in beating Rufus, but the ball came off the post and was saved. On 79 minutes Kinsella played in Kishishev who put in a low and powerful cross from the right, allowing Bartlett to head the ball into the net. A Robbo cross was saved. By now the heartened Addickted were chanting 'we support our local team'. The first of two Charlton free kicks taken by Jensen came off the wall, which the referee had some difficulty in moving back. In between the two, Wes Brown was booked for a foul on Kishishev. The second required a fingertip save from Van der Gouw. The resultant Jensen corner was played in by Kinsella to Robbo who on 85 minutes put in a good shot from the edge of the penalty area which evaded the United defenders and went inside the post. Robbo nearly went beserk in his celebrations. This is believed to be the first goal scored against United by a British player since May (or at least by a Welshman born in Zimbabwe). Curbs pulled off Bartlett for Svensson on 87 minutes and Kishishev for Konchesky on 88 minutes.
Another goal was still possible. A United corner was cleared after a scramble. With three minutes added on, a Charlton corner gave momentary hope of a 4-3 victory. Then a late shot across goal from Giggs put Charlton in danger. The referee blew up and delerious sounds of celebration filled The Valley. It was the most exciting match I had seen all year. We headed to the Rose of Denmark where I met the charming Kate who said that she was a fan of this page. Dick Sheppard was photographed with a Charlton supporter who was greeted by United fans as a Solskjaer look alike. Kap and Trace left to chants of 'we can see you creeping out'. Unfortunately, our journey home was prolonged with all Chiltern trains running from West Ruislip. We were told to get on one train which promptly headed for South Ruislip and got back to West Ruislip to see the Birmingham train draw out.
Match analyst Bob the Dog had no hesitation in awarding the Silver Bone to Shaun Bartlett who, apart from scoring two goals, played an effective part throughout the match. Deano made some good saves, but perhaps he could have stopped the third United goal. Kishishev provided the assist for two of the goals. Of itself, this does not resolve the question of whether he is a good right back: some people think he is like an old fashioned wing back. Meanwhile, apparently a disgruntled Greg Shields has asked to be transfer listed. Powell had a generally effective game, although he was not seen going forward as much as usual. Rufus and Fish were severely tested by world class opposition and Fish in particular was beaten more than once. Stuart showed some nice touches and it was excellent work by him that helped create the first goal. Kinsella was once again in the thick of things and it is difficult to think of a Charlton squad without 'the current Irish captain' as Brian Cole introduced him. Jensen has his critics for his failure to tackle, but he played in some marvellous balls and took his corners and free kicks well. Salako was again a disappointment, particularly in the second half. He often seemed to be out of position and was easily evaded. Robbo must now have won his place back. Johanssen created scoring opportunities, but his own ability to score seems to have been temporarily interrupted. Robbo clearly had a great game when he came on. Svensson and Konchesky simply made cameo appearances.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given a very loud hiss to the East Stand linesman who favoured a special Manure version of the offside rule. Indeed, she has threatened to scratch him if she meets him. She is also very annoyed with Chiltern Railways who led to the late return of her tin openers.
The picture below shows in the foreground from left to right, Trace the Hat from Dunton Green; Catford's crazy Kap Varma biting one of the prongs; prizewinning American sports journalist Doug Chapman; and Swindon addick Kevin Hatfield.
The number of Addickted who have visited this page is:
Rose of Denmark
Before home games, Then East Stand Block E
In front of the Bloke Behind Me