Please note that because of travel times from London, our West Ham report will not appear until Tuesday. Will it be a scoreless draw as the pools panel forecast? Visit Volume 8
Charlton are hardly goalless draw specialists. I eventually remembered a tense 0-0 at Loftus Road in December 1999, but before that our last goalless draw away in league competition was against Bury at Giggs Lane on 23 August 1997. On that day the Bury keeper's shirt was worn by a certain Dean Kiely. And it was Dean Kiely who can take a lot of the credit for allowing Charlton to come away from The Dell with a valuable point. As Joe the Saint commented afterwards, 'You got what you came for.'
It was a dour and scrappy match. It was probably the worst Premiership game I have seen with Charlton this season. But as Joe the Saint commented when we were walking down Hythe Pier before the match, 'I didn't think football was about entertainment.' With a depleted strikeforce, Alan Curbishley's options were limited. He chose to go for a 5-3-2 formation, although Joe the Saint suggested that it was the old flat back ten. As the Pink put it later, 'Saints Hit Wall of Resistance ... Saints found Charlton's central defensive trio of Mark Fish, Richard Rufus and Andy Todd as difficult to shift as a stubborn stain'. Not the best of analogies, but the point is taken. But then if that was the case, one has to explain why the Saints failed to break them down. One reason why the Saints failed to score for the only second time at home this season was often woeful finishing. Given Charlton's away record this season, which Sky had been emphasising before the game, a draw is welcome relief.
It had been an odd week for me as I had rather unusually had to take time off work to cope with a virus, a period at least enlivened by a discussion with a doctor about whether illness was socially constructed. Nevertheless a brilliant sunny day on Saturday found us walking down Hythe Pier. I have been to matches this year by rail, by car, by minibus and by plane, but this was the first time I had travelled by boat. Trainspotters among Addicks may wish to note that it is in the Guinness Book of Records as having the publicly used pier railway which has operated continuously for the longest period of time (since 1922). Our party was six in total: Joe the Saint, godfather to my granddaughter, and her father, Andy Candelent, who would be joining Joe in the Southampton end. Myself, Maggie and youngest daugher Milly Candelent. And not forgetting south coast match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound out to enjoy his big day. Homer is responsible for all matches involving league clubs in cities or towns on tidal water on the south coast (seven in all). So he doesn't get many chances to exercise his analytical skills.
What looked like a converted fishing boat arrived and we chugged across the water. Somehow I did think that headlines like 'Charlton Walk on Water' would be likely given our bad track record at The Dell. Our defeat there the last time we were in the Premiership was one of the heaviest blows we suffered. Having found a bus to the ground, a grandmother supporting the Saints attached herself to us. She told us her footballing life history: bombed out in Penge in 1944, then a Palace supporter, but converted to the Saints.
The nautical theme continued when I found myself sitting next to the Ancient Mariner, although I expect that in reality his day job is on the Woolwich Free Ferry. My immediate concern was that I had fallen into a time warp: the plummy tones of the announcer and the standard of the accommodation led me to believe that I was in the Southern League in the 1950s. The linesman on our side seemed as ancient as the mariner next to me. The low sun made it difficult to see the action in the first twenty minutes. Time to say goodbye to The Dell: Joe had pointed out with pride the outline of the Saints' new stadium in the distance, although if it is modelled on Pride Park as suggested, then generating an atmosphere may be their first problem.
The Saints started brightly and there were worries among the Addickted that an early goal would lead to the usual convincing away defeat. Four minutes into the match, Tessem put in a cross to the near post, leaving Deano exposed. However, Beattie found sleepwalker Kevin Davies getting in his way and the header went wide. Moreover, it quickly became apparent that Rufus was working very effectively with Fish, the repeated cries of 'Feesh' during the afternoon emphasising the marine theme. After eight minutes the Addicks mounted their first attack with Jensen attempting to play in Konchesky. There was then danger in front of the Charlton goal when Bridge easily evaded Kishishev and put in a cross which Beattie nodded down for Davies. However, they had reckoned without the attentions of the increasingly impressive Andy Todd who calmly took the ball away. Saints then powered through again but a twenty-five yarder from Tessem went about a metre wide of the post. Scott Parker then set Jones his first task of the afternoon with a 25-yard shot that was not easy to deal with. A throw in looked as if it might lead to something with Stuart coming in, but the ball simply bounced off a bemused Svensson who looked as if his mind was focussed on some difficult problem of Swedish pronounciation. With 16 minutes gone, good work by Konchesky won the first corner of the game, but Andy Todd's header went over.
The Saints fans had by this time tired of singing about Pompey and asked 'What's it like in the Nationwide?' Good work by Scott Parker won another Charlton corner on eighteen minutes, but it ended in failure. Kishishev then saw that Jones was off his line and put in a shot from the half way line which gave the Saints keeper some exercise in back pedalling, but achieved nothing. The lino on our side, who had his wits about him despite his advancing years, attempted to flag for an offside in Charlton's favour, but was initially ignored by self important referee Steve Lodge. On 22 minutes danger man Beattie had the ball twelve yards out, but Deano used his leg to get rid of the ball at the expense of a corner. A foul on Svensson gave Charlton a free kick, but Jensen's shot came off the Saints wall. The Saints then launched another fierce attack, but once again their strike (this time from Oakley) lacked any real accuracy. For their part, Charlton were exhibiting a familiar failing, an inability to hold on to the ball once they had got it.
Nevertheless, Charlton were showing an ability to get forward, although they were often then hit by a Saints counter attack. Jensen was much in evidence in a build up as the half hour approached and the Addicks won their third corner. However, Rufus headed over from the great Dane's corner. Charlton were looking a little weak on their right and it was an onslaught down this channel that produced the first Saints corner on 31 minutes. This was cleared efficiently enough by Charlton's moving sea wall. Southampton had won of their best chances of the half on 36 minutes when a Beattie free kick penetrated a Charlton wall that seemed au useful as one ravaged by recent floods, but Graham Stuart was on hand to clear the ball off the line. On 41 minutes Graham Stuart was fouled, leading to a free kick in a useful position to the left of the Southampton goal as seen from the Charlton end. Jensen put in a good shot, but it was collected by the capable Jones. Beattie won the Saints a corner as the half drew to a close, but a header from Richards went over.
Sussex coaster Roland Silcox commented at half time, 'it's obvious what we are here for.' Unfortunately, we had failed to bring a fashion correspondent with us, although I could report that Milly Candelent had wisely chosen a CAFC dark blue sweatshirt which matched well with the Inter Milan kit being worn by the team. The Saints staged a parade of possible shirt designs for next season during the interval. A couple of the designs looked quite odd, and might well attract support from mischievous Pompey fans. The Addickted showed their appreciation of this effort by chanting 'number four, number four' while others shouted, 'tell your friends about it.' I am informed by Joe the Saint that the harlequin design is in fact the original one worn by players of the St.Mary's club. Meanwhile, a Charlton fan was ejected for using foul language. The reappearance of the fat dog mascots for the Saints led to renewed chants of 'who let the dogs out', further confusing Homer who had been greeted by such a chant in the press box.
Scott Parker caused early danger for the Saints when he powered in a cross that put Bartlett in a potentially threatening position, but the ball was kicked out for a Charlton corner. This was cleared easily, and a period of pressure from Southampton followed, although 'Mr Composure', Andy Todd, showed no signs of wilting under the pressure. Dodd put in a shot which Deano had to save. For a moment, it looked as if there might be an own goal with Todd playing the ball back to Deano from six yards, the keeper clearing with some difficulty (an incident that will no doubt be seized on by his critics). A couple of Southampton corners produced no real problems for the Addicks. On 58 minutes Parker put in a cross which might have created something for Bartlett. With the Springbok getting in between Lundekvam and Bridge, an own goal seemed one possibility, but Bartlett's shot ended up going over the bar. A Saints corner on 61 minutes saw the ball go across the front of the goal. On 64 minutes Jensen turned supplier for Parker but his shot was hopelessly wide. Bartlett broke through, but a goal scoring opportunity was lost when he slipped.
Whether or not Hoddle had found the time to consult the club's sport psychologists about the team's interactions, on 66 minutes he decided to pull off Mark Draper and replace him by Chris Marsden. On 71 minutes it looked as if Saints might score. For once, the Saints were able to get the ball past Rufus and Oakley put in a shot from 25 yards out. Those at that end assure me that Kiely actually tipped the ball up on to the bar. A foul on Kalchoul by Rufus gave the Saints a free kick twenty-five yards out and somewhat to the right of Kiely's goal. Once again Andy Todd was on hand to clear the ball as things started to look dangerous.
Wonder man Kevin Davies found himself replaced by new signing Dan Petrescu on 78 minutes, a signing not greeted with unreserved favour by Saints fans. Petrescu immediately won a corner for the Saints, but resilient Charlton defending saw that it was cleared. A renewed Saints attack saw Oakley put in an excellent low drive from some twenty yards, but Kiely made a fingertip save on the line. Joe the Saint, sitting behind the goal, was impressed, but no doubt Deano's critics will see it as the luck of the Irish. Relentless Southampton pressure continued, but another Saints corner ended in a throw in for the Addicks.
On 82 minutes Curbs took off Scott Parker, who had been down with an injury a few minutes before, and replaced him with Mr Dependable, Steve Brown. Sean Bartlett was replaced by Kevin Lisbie. Petrescu blazed over. Salako replaced Jensen on 86 minutes. Time was now of the essence and Kevin Lisbie managed to get in the way of what should have been an easy Saints clearance. Deano was called on to make one save. Lisbie looked as if might be through and in a position to score his first Premiership goal, but lost the ball. There was great relief when the referee blew the whistle and Charlton remained a comfortable 8th in the table. We had some drinks in a modish city centre bar where Superman, Batman and Robin walked in. The scoreline meant that Saints and Addicks could spend a convivial evening together without the result casting any shadow, but in truth it was the Addicks who had more to be satisfied about. It was a poor game with a satisfactory outcome.
South coast match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound had no hesitation in awarding the Silver Bone to Deano . It was another clean sheet for the keeper who accepted the plaudits of the Addickted after the game. Homer was surprised to learn that some Charlton fans were critical of him. It was the first time that Homer had seen Kihsishev and this was one of his less good games in which he was beaten on a few occasions. Rufus , Feesh and Todd were all excellent, especially the latter (he recieves a special set of 'Hythe: where the forest meets the sea' coasters). It's odd to think that Chris Powell is now resident on the subs' bench, but Konchesky continues to do a good job at left back. Graham Stuart started well and was hailed with chants of 'There's only one Graham Stuart', but seemed less prominent as the game went on. Jensen received considerable criticism from the Addicks around me, particularly from those who prefer third division physical force football to skill. It is therefore worth noting that Sport First singled him out for praise. Svensson also received a lot of criticism and in his case it was more justified. He never looked like scoring, but then neither did Bartlett . Indeed, if anyone was going to score my money would have been on Scott Parker whose aggression level has clearly benefitted from his spell at Norwich. Of the subs, I still have to be convinced that Lisbie's pace is matched by real finishing skills. Brown was on hand to make some forceful defensive interventions while Salako looked for a moment as if he might be in position to score another key goal, but was closed down by Dodd.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has dismissed as unprofessional Homer's complaint that Mark Mansfield's 'cans' prevented him from nuzzling him. (We do take more seriously his complaints about lack of room and the fact that when he went out at half time to lift a leg he had to get back in again through a different entrance). We have let Joe the Saint nominate the Hiss of the Match which goes to sleepy Kevin Davies.
A match analyst slightly confused by competing allegiances waits to depart for the Hythe Ferry.
A 86th minute equaliser by John Salako spared Charlton complete humiliation at the hands of Conference outfit Dagenham and Redbridge. Charlton will get the chance of a replay to show that there is a real difference between Premiership and Conference football. Unfortunately, in the first half in particular, the Addicks played like a Conference team. Johansson, Kinsella and Stuart were clearly missed. Nevertheless, many of the team did not seem to be up for it, while the Daggers clearly were and played with considerable harmony. They received a standing ovation from Charlton supporters at the end of the match and it was a pity that the game was marred by trouble both inside and outside the ground.
Travel difficulties meant that we arrived too late for a pre-match drink, perhaps a bad omen in itself. Charlton won the toss and decided to change ends to attack the Covered End which is usually lucky for them. They might as well not have bothered, as they did not really create a shooting chance in the first half. At least some of the blame for this failure must be put on Pringle who did not seem to be really interested. However, the Addicks were also apparently playing a 3-5-2 formation which rarely works well for them.
Dagenham looked lively from the start and an early break saw the impressive Junior McDougald fire over the bar. Rufus was to have quite a tussle with him throughout the match. Robbo then put in a wild shot which would have disgraced a side well down the non-league pyramid. McDougald broke through, but Todd was able to clear. Charlton won a corner on twelve minutes, but Jensen's ball was easily caught by Roberts in the Daggers goal. A run by Scott Parker, who was the best Charlton player in the early part of the match, was deflected by the keeper for a Charlton corner. Then McDougald broke through but was out run by Rufus with a goal kick resulting. A Charlton free kick was played out, then in again and it seemed as if Pringle was tripped on the edge of the box. Kishishev played the ball through to Scott Parker, but he was ruled offside by the fat linesman patrolling the East Stand who ran true to form for officials in this position. Almost immediately Charlton fell into the offside trap again and this time the decision was probably correct.
Dagenham showed an ability to press forward and a free kick by them was converted into a header which was just past the post. As the game approached the half hour mark, Deano had to make a save from a deflected ball from a shot by Shipp, something which Roberts had not yet been called on to do. Dagenham were adopting a physical approach and Heffer received a yellow card for a foul. Scott Parker made a good run but instead of having a shot put the ball into Robbo who lost it. Todd conceded a Charlton corner which was taken by Lee Matthews. The shot was a dangerous one and Kiely had to push it out.
Charlton supporters had been largely silent throughout the half. The Bloke Behind Me justified this on the grounds that Charlton's standard of play had been poor, as indeed it had, but this is just when the crowd needs to get behind them and give them a lift. The vociferous away support started to chant 'We're going to score in a minute' and indeed they did and, of course, it was the danger man McDougald who used a Janney cross from the right to put the ball in the net from six yards.
Charlton had the chance to get back into the game with a Jensen free kick but it sailed over. As in the West Ham game, Charlton had showed in the first half that they can be absymal. They should have been putting more balls into the box and generally putting the Conference side under more pressure and tiring them in a way which would have allowed Charlton's superior fitness to start to show earlier. There was too much neat football being played in build ups from the back which is not how you deal with a Conference side.
Charlton certainly came out for the second half more fired up. They also apparently reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. An early free kick from Jensen was picked up by Pringle whose header came off the post and then across the front of the goal. Kishishev put in a hopeful shot which was collected easily enough by Roberts. Good work by Konchesky produced a Charlton corner but, as is so often the case, this came to nothing. Then Jensen just missed. For a moment it looked as if Kishishev could be in trouble after he had exchanged blows with a Dagenham player on the West Stand side, but referee Alan Wiley, who had a reasonable game, gave both players a talking to.
Although Charlton had made a promising start to the half, Dagenham were still finding plenty of space to make attacks into Charlton territory. Charlton were losing possession in a way which suggested that they were up against a Premiership side not a collection of part-timers. From time to time the game degenerated into head tennis in midfield of the kind characteristic of the Conference games I have watched. One Dagenham break involved a three on one, but fortunately they missed.
Curbs had decided that the time have come to try something different. On 61 minutes Feesh, who had been one of the more committed players, was replaced by Salako. The hapless Pringle was replaced by Svensson, returning from injury and the kind of player who would take on the Daggers at their own physical game. That physical game was still very much in evidence with Janney being booked for a nasty foul on Konchesky. Not long afterwards Goodwin received a yellow card, but it was evident that the referee was not going to show red however nasty the foul.
A free kick led to a Charlton corner which was (surpise, surprise) cleared, but Svensson put in a shot which was not that far off target. At least he was having a go. On 73 minutes Kishishev was pulled off for Newts, making his seventh appearance from the bench of the season. Dagenham made the first of their substitutions, taking off former Charlton trainee Terry. Six minutes later thet pulled off McDougald for Haworth. The substitute made a quick impression, bearing down on Deano's goal from a narrow and difficult angle and putting in a shot which went only just over. Then the action switched to the other end with Shaun Bartlett breaking through and forcing a Charlton corner. This was delayed while a Dagenham player received treatment, but was cleared.
However, Dagenham were beginning to tire with some players showing the effects of cramp. Salako powered through with a well hit shot to equalise, even if it did take a deflection. With six minutes of time added on, there was plenty of time for further incidents. Robbo unnecessarily conceded a corner. At the other end Roberts showed why he had won two international caps, saving well when under pressure from Robbo and Bartlett. Robbo ran through and played the ball into Salako, who had the chance to make himself a Valley hero but missed. There was still time for Dagenham to pull off Janney and bring on Hamsher, so I had the odd experience of seeing a player from my non-league side (Hamsher is on loan from Rushden and Diamonds) on the Valley turf. But then the referee blew up and Dagenham and Redbridge had won their giant killing headlines with some excellent football. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that we will give them a stuffing in the replay. Or, as Brian Cole, put it philosophically afterwards 'another ground, another badge' (although it seems that the game will be played at Upton Park).
When Dagenham scored their goal, it was evident that a number of away supporters were in the East Stand and they were identified to stewards who seemed disinclined to do anything. Admittedly, one of the Charlton supporters who was identifying them did not make himself popular and reference was made to the fact that he was horizontally challenged and to his alleged onanistic habits. I did not see any of the fighting in the ground which was referred to by one Charlton supporter who said on Radio 5 that he had never been so frightened at a match. He also referred to stepping over three people fighting outside the ground. There were also other reports of fighting. Perhaps the club needs to take the segregation issue more seriously.
Match analyst Bob the Dog normally does not give the Silver Bone to a substitute, but has awarded it to Salako for saving Charlton from being the first Premiership club to be beaten by a team from the Conference. Deano did not have that much to do, but was furious at letting in what was nevertheless a well taken goal. Feesh played with more commitment than most of the side, although sometimes he seemed to be coming too far forward. Kishishev played with determination and some skill. Rufus had his work cut out, which says something about the game, but played with his usual skill and was a candidate for the Silver Bone. Konchesky was another player who showed real commitment. Todd was not greatly involved, but made one or two key interventions. The midfield missed Kinsella and Stuart. Parker was excellent in the first half, but faded as the game went on. This was not really the sort of game for Jensen who carried out his assigned work at set pieces, but was not prepared to get involved in the rough and tumble. Robbo had a poor game, losing the ball too often. Bartlett was anonymous for much of the game and Pringle was hopeless. Svensson was more effective when he came on. Newts showed plenty of pace, but does he have anything else to offer?
The Bloke Behind Me seismograph showed a surprisingly low reading of 3 out of 5 on its first outing (general grumbling about Curbishley's ineptness and tactical naivety).
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to supposed Dagenham fans (more likely West Ham fans) who infilitrated the home stands and caused trouble.
When I last saw Charlton beat Arsenal at The Valley I was a lad of nine and today I am a grandfather. The wait of forty-four years has been a long one, but it's been worth it. A 39th minute header from Jonatan Johansson, which was actually Charlton's first shot on goal, gave the Addicks a 1-0 lead at half time. Then Deano saved a second half penalty and Charlton held out to take all three points. The victory was achieved despite the determination of referee Graham Poll to give every decision to the big boys. My heart sank when I arrived at the game and saw methane breathing apparatus ready at the side of the pitch for the thing from Planet Tring. But Charlton's new look side were more than a match for both the Gunners and the referee.
The match started in a relatively subdued fashion, with neither side clearly dominant. Charlton had plenty of possession, but good build ups came to nothing. Five minutes into the match Kanu shot wide. Paul Konchesky put in a nice ball to Graham Stuart, but the Gooners won it back. On ten minutes referee Poll, still recovering from shaking Vieira's hand awarded Arsenal a free kick just outside the box for an alleged foul, but the shot went wide. Kiely was experiencing his usual problem of putting goal kicks between the white lines. Sixteen minutes into the game Poll gave the Gooners a free kick out on the left, but Rufus cleared for a corner. Arsenal were then somewhat dubiously awarded a second corner, but it was caught comfortably by Deano. Another Arsenal corner two minutes later was punched out by Deano and the shot that came in was well over. By this time referee Poll was even contriving to give throw in decisions against us. There was a worrying moment when Jensen lost possession, but the situation was recovered by Konchesky and Stuart. Following yet another Arsenal free kick, Scott Parker made one of his trademark runs with the ball, but he had no one with him. Parlour then committed a nasty foul on Scott Parker and received a yellow card.
Parlour and Kanu combined effectively to win Arsenal a corner. This was only partly cleared and Ljungberg put in a header which Deano tipped over. Following the Arsenal corner, there was a worrying moment when Deano appeared to be hurt, possibly through colliding with the post, but he was able to continue after treatment. Just after the half hour, Rufus, who was getting the better of Kanu, put in a block which led to an Arsenal corner which was hit off for a goal kick. After JJ lost possession at the other end, a fierce twenty yard strike by Parlour led Deano to make a good diving save. This was followed by another Arsenal corner which Stuart cleared, only for the ball to come back in again, calling on Deano to make another save, an experience he had not had at Maine Road. By this time the Bloke Behind Me was in full spate denouncing Curbishley's tactical naivety.
On 39 minutes super Radostan Kishishev put in an excellent ball to Graham Stuart who hooked it to the far post. JJ was able to rise about the defenders and head the ball into the back of the net for his thirteenth goal of the season. Charlton kept up with the pressure with a corner, Rufus came in, but missed. Parlour was through but was closed down by Konchesky at the expense of a corner which Vieira utilised to put the ball over the top of the goal.
Any worries that Arsenal might come out firing on all guns were laid to rest by a bright Charlton start. A collison between the tireless Rufus and Ljungberg left both players requiring treatment. JJ powered in and won a Charlton corner. Shortly afterwards two Charlton corners in succession put Arsenal under pressure. First Manninger had to tip the ball over to deny an excellent header from Andy Todd. After the second corner, the keeper was called on to save a header from Bartlett. The action then switched to the other end with Parlour playing in Ljungberg who found himself in a one-on-one with Deano, but his shot was saved. Arsenal started to put on some pressure, but Charlton's defending was excellent. JJ powered in again and won a Charlton corner but this move ended with a wild ball from Jensen. More excellent work culminated in Jensen playing in JJ, but his header was wide. It was worrying that a series of chances to make it 2-0 and put the game largely beyond doubt were being missed. The best of these came when JJ set up Bartlett who had an open goal at his mercy, but his shot went wide, perhaps because he slipped at the vital moment. Kihsishev played in JJ, but he shot at the goalkeeper. Silvinho had a chance at the other end, but blasted over. Good defensive work by Todd helped to protect Charlton's lead.
Eighteen minutes into the half Wenger decided to try a new combination of the dazzling talents at his disposal. Off went Pires and Silvinho and on came Tomas Danilevicius (Brian Cole had made his name sound like a skin disease when he was reading out the teams) and Ashley Cole. These changes were not greeted with much enthusiasm by the Gooners in the Jimmy Seed stand. Arsenal won a couple more corners and by the end of the game must have felt frustrated at their inability to turn them into anything. CJ made a break and played the ball into Stuart but his shot was well over. The action switched to the Jimmy Seed stand end. Excellent work by Feesh saw him collect the ball in front of goal, circle round Arsenal players and move the ball up the wing. Wenger decided to play his last substitution card and bring off Grimandi for Malz.
With Feesh apparently bringing down Tomas Danilevicus in the box (I thought it was Kish at first, but it was such a melee you couldn't really see), referee Poll pointed with deep satisfaction to the penalty spot. Vivas struck his kick effectively, but Deano judged where it was coming and tipped the ball away to his left. This was clearly a decisive point in the match. If Arsenal had equalised, they might have gone on to score a second. A few minutes later Curbs decided to ring the changes. Scott Parker was replaced by Robbo and a minute later Pringle came on in place of the tiring Bartlett. Graham Stuart tackled Vieira, going for the ball, but the mere fact that an attempt had been made to tackle him was enough for Poll to reach for the yellow card. Charlton managed to win a corner, but it was kicked out of play by Jensen. Stuart was limping by now and had to be taken off in favour of Chris Powell. An Arsenal free kick produced a scramble in front of goal, but the Addicks had sufficient composure to ride out the three minutes of time added on without too much difficulty. '1-0 but not to the Arsenal' was one delighted chant.
As we made our way to the Rose of Denmark we were passed by some very disgruntled Gooners. 'We come down here and play against poor teams like Charlton and go down to their level. Charlton have a very poor team, their ground is crap and (the clinching argument), the area is very poor.' Unfortunately for these gooners, what matters is the football played on the day. As we entered the Rose of Denmark, a grim faced Wenger (on the television, not at the bar) was seeking to explain away the latest stumble by the so-called championship challengers. Someone said to me, 'make sure your passport is up to date.' That may well be too optimistic, but a second Premiership season is now within the Addicks' grasp.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has awarded the covered Silver Bone to Dean Kiely. His penalty save was the defining moment of the match. The outfield defence also worked well. On a number of occasions the cry of Feesh could be heard around the ground as the Springbok demonstrated his defensive qualities. However, the often criticised Andy Todd added composure and authority to the back four. Rufus was superb, making a number of excellent interceptions. Konchesky justified his selection on the left. Kishishev is becoming increasingly popular with the Addicketd, even if not all of them have yet mastered the chant of 'Raddy, Raddy Kishishev'. Even the Bloke Behind Me was forced to concede that 'Boris' (as he calls him) had 'positioned himself once or twice so that the ball glanced off him in a useful way.' Kish's pace is a great asset. Stuart had another good game, providing an excellent assist for the goal. Scott Parker put in a sterling performance, despite being the target of a succession of early fouls from the Gooners and received a standing ovation when he was substituted. Jensen continues to be criticised for not tackling enough, but Bob felt that he added skill and flair to the midfield. JJ was simply superb, running back in defence as well as powering forward. Bartlett missed a great chance to score and is yet to match his performance against Manure. Robbo showed commitment and passion when he came on. Pringle did not make a great impression. In the short time he was on, Powell had no contact with the ball.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to referee Graham Poll. She also is upset with the person who said that our match analyst 'smelt like an old dog.'
Charlton's run of poor away form was ended in spectacular fashion at Maine Road with a 4-1 win over Manchester City which gave the Addicks an aggregate of 8-1 over the season. Alan Curbishley had made five changes in the side that lost to West Ham, three of them unenforced, and the result was a sparkling display by the Addicks with two goals from Jonathan Johansson, a penalty from Graham Stuart and a bizarre goal from Claus Jensen. City got one back with a late penalty. It was a great day for chants from the Addickted as well. 'It's just like watching Man U' particularly annoyed the City supporters, while 'Can you hear us in Floyd Road?' can only be sung rarely. And a new chant for the faithful was 'Raddy, Raddy Kishishev'.
Just before leaving, I decided that I needed to do something to change my luck at away games. So instead of my usual Redbus shirt, I pulled on an old Mesh shirt with '15, Keith Jones' on the back. It was the midfield measto's own shirt and I hoped that it might do the trick. Heavy traffic on the M6 delayed us and we arrived at the ground minutes before kick off. Rumours had been circulating beforehand that Mark Kinsella was out because of a knee operation and these were confirmed by his absence from the team. The Springboks, Feesh and Shaun Bartlett, were back. Paul Konchesky replaced Chris Powell, who has been below his best in recent games, while Scott Parker appeared in midfield and Andy Todd fortified the defence.
Charlton started as if they meant business and also looked solid defensively. Fish was provider for an early shot by JJ but it went wide. An early potential threat was dealt with effectively by Todd who was well up in a clearance. Bartlett put in a useful ball to Stuart, but the City defence were able to recover the situation. Jensen put in a curling shot from a free kick which was just saved by popular keeper Nick Weaver, but the subsequent Charlton corner was poor. City won a free kick about thirty yards out to the left of Deano's goal, but Rufus intervened effectively and the Addicks won a free kick. Jensen put in a good ball to JJ, but he lost it. Charlton effectively built up across the centre, but the move ended with a poor ball by Scott Parker that was easily gathered by the keeper. Dickov then knocked Rufus into the hoardings. The referee expressed some concern to Rufus, but did not book Dickov. However, two minutes late he did receive a yellow card for a blatant foul on Jensen. Fish had a half chance, but blasted over way off target. Rufus was booked for a foul on Dickov.
On 25 minutes Charlton won a corner. For a moment it looked as if it was going to come to nothing when Rufus failed to connect, but poor defending gave JJ the chance to slot the ball into the net. Fish then conceded a corner. The injured Horlock was replaced by Bishop who ran over to the corner flag and took the kick. It was intially cleared by Bartlett with a header and then by the cool and authoritative Andy Todd. A threatening break by the home side was dealt with effectively by Rufus at the expense of a throw in. In a reminder that we were up against quality opposition, Wright-Phillips blasted the ball way over the top of the goal. A Manchester City corner was cleared by Feesh and he repeated the task a couple of minutes later. The second goal for the Addicks came on 37 minutes when Kishishev won the ball off a poor clearance by Weaver and put in a great cross to JJ who was able to take advantage of poor positioning by the keeper. This was all too much for Royle and on 40 minutes he took off Charvet to deploy his new hope, Darren Huckerby. Kishishev then put in a beautiful accurate diagnol long ball to JJ who won a corner. Minutes later JJ powered through was but was not able to make it 3-0, his weak shot being collected by Weaver. Huckerby won City a corner and then Kishishev put in a long shot which Weaver had to backtrack to collect. As the delighted Addickted chanted 'Raddy, Raddy, Kishishev', the half time whistle was blown, but the scoreboard obstinately showed a score of only 0-1 to Charlton.
City had their brighest spell of the match in the opening phase of the second half. Nevertheless, JJ was able to win a corner for Charlton which was saved by Weaver. The humble and engaging goalkeeper was increasingly taunted with shouts of 'Weaver, Weaver, what's the score?' by the Addickted. City got a break, but Feesh cleared. Then a City free kick flashed across the front of Deano's goal. Pressure required Feesh to clear again, but then a shot from Wright Phillips went just past Deano's post. Dickov's third foul of the day, a kick administered to Paul Konchesky, received a talking to from the referee, but Royle could see that sooner or later he would be off and on 57 minutes he was substituted by Granville. Captain Graham Stuart received a yellow card for a foul.
Manchester City were able to string together a series of passes, but for all their possession, they were unable to penetrate the composed and well organised Charlton defence. Scott Parker made a break and the ball was played in to Bartlett and then to JJ whose shot was just over. On 72 minutes Curbs decided that the time had come for some changes. Parker was replaced by Robbo and the relatively subdued Bartlett by Pringle. A few minutes after he came on, Pringle won the ball in a promising position, but he hesitated and put in a poor ball which was neither a shot nor a cross, but drifted past Weaver's right hand post. On 79 minutes Robbo was brought down in the box. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot and captain Graham Stuart cooly slotted the ball past Weaver. With Charlton comfortably in commmand, JJ was pulled off in favour of Steve Brown.
Appeals were made over the public address system for the match electrician and those City fans who had not left started up a chant of 'Put the lights out'. Robbo put in a useful ball to Graham Stuart, but he looped the ball over the goal. Jensen was some thirty yards out, when he was tackled by Dunne. The ball bounced off his knee and looped over the hapless Weaver to the Dane's evident delight. However, the score at The Valley was not to be repeated. Kishishev unnecessarily brought down Huckerby in the area and Maine Road's bright new hope put the ball past Deano.
The win put Charlton into tenth place, while City slumped into the bottom three. Four more wins should give Charlton enough points to escape relegation, but clearly a good mid-table position is within their grasp. Nevertheless on the radio, a Boro fan insisted that we were relegation certainties. The journey back was delayed by a number of stops as Brian Cole took on extra snow to feed the windscreen washer. Perhaps there should have been a sticker on the back: 'This vehicle is powered by snow'.
Northern match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to JJ for two goals that effectively put the match beyond City's reach. Deano did not have to make a save all game, although no doubt his critics will denounce his failure to save the penalty. Konchesky was calm and authoritative as Chris Powell's replacement: this was a good shout by Curbs. Kishishev had an outstanding game in his new right midfield role, his contribution recognised by acclamation through his own chant by the Addickted. Rufus was a rock at the heart of the defence. Feesh made a welcome return and effected a number of good clearances, particularly at corners. Todd was less prominent, but carried out his task effectively. The midfield survived the absence of Mark Kinsella. Scott Parker put in a much better performance than when he came on as a sub at West Ham. Graham Stuart had another good game. Jensen played with intelligence and insight and had a substantial influence on Charlton's performance. Bartlett was less impressive than he was against the other Manchester club. Pringle contrived to disappoint when he came on. Robbo made an effective contribution, not least by winning the penalty. Brown had little time to shine, but performed his cameo substitute's role with his usual reliability.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the weather which prevented the windscreen washers on the West Sussex minibus from working properly. That's all we've got to complain about!
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