What a choker! This was the reaction of a gutted Steve from Sidcup and all Charlton fans after the Addicks went down 0-1 in the 89th minute to Manchester United after a battling and committed performance that merited a share of the points. The goal came after Yorke headed in a Scholes cross from the right. The shot was deflected in off the post with Royce appearing to think (as I did at the time) that it was going to go outside. Charlton fans gave their team warm applause at the end of the game, but the mood was as subdued as I have known it as people left the East Stand. The announcer's parting shot to Manchester United fans, 'see you again next year' rang hollow indeed.
The Addicks had started the game brightly as they so often do, but it was always unclear who would score for them, although Robinson putting crosses through from the wing to Pringle in the centre may have been the best hope. Royce showed his worth on 23 minutes when he stretched and tipped a twenty yard volley by Giggs across the line. Kinsella nearly put the ball into his own net with a header back to Royce. United's finishing was curiously poor, with shots going well wide or ballooning over the goal. Although they had sixteen corners to Charlton's two, they often seemed to be able to make little of them, with one shot going high over the goal. Charlton's best chance to go ahead came just before half time when Redfearn failed to put a shot in past the stranded Schmeichel from near the penalty spot. There were also two penalty appeals for the Addicks in first half injury time, one for holding back Pringle. In the other case, the referee took the view that, even if Kinsella was inside the area when Schmeichel brought him down, he was not heading for goal.
United stepped up the pressure after the break, but Charlton displayed some controlled passing and a commendable ability to dispossess United. On 58 minutes, Hunt missed a golden chance by shooting straight at the keeper rather than passing to the unmarked Pringle. The Heathens were becoming increasingly worried with Schmeichel in particular showing signs of impatience. Two substitutions probably helped United's victory: Beckham was replaced by Solksjaer at 70 minutes, and at 82 miutes Scholes came on for Butt. For the Addicks, Bright replaced Hunt at 77 minutes, but was not able to work any miracles. The tiring Pringle was replaced by Parker at 82 minutes. Unusually playing in a forward position, Parker harried the United defence in a way that might have paid dividends earlier in the match. However, the Addicks were increasingly forced back into the last quarter of the field and any hopeful balls forward had no red shirts to collect them. They say you make your own luck in football and Charlton only had two shots on target compared from five put in by United. Charlton fans could at least console themselves that their team had once again given their all and had displayed much higher levels of skill than against poorer opposition. The good quality football was e nhanced by the fact that there were no bookings and Mr Willard from Goring ran the game well, although the East Stand linesman made some marginal offside decisions. Sadly, it now looks increasingly unlikely that we will enjoy the atmosphere and skill of the Premiership next year.
Bob the Dog has awarded the silver bone to Steve Brown. Those of us who remember his stalwart performance at Highbury at the beginning of the season were not surprised by the skill and determination that he showed against United. Royce made some good saves and seems to inspire more confidence in his defence than Sasa, although arguably he should have come for the ball that produced the United goal. It was good to see Rufus tidying everything up again, and the much maligned Tiler had one of his best matches in the Addicks colours, making a crucial intervention to stop one threatening United attack. Keith Jones displayed his usual deft touches, but was too inclined to go sideways or backwards when he could forwards, and was perhaps disadvantaged by his height. He also seemed to tire towards the end. Redfearn was not in it much at all and was disappointing, not least for missing a great chance to score. Powell had another good game, tidying things up at the back and pushing things forward when an opportunity presented itself. Kinsella was involved everywhere as always, although he made a few errors towards the end, incurring the wrath of the Bloke Behind Me who was unable to direct his usual venom against Tiler. Robinson had a better game than usual in his right wing back position and was very much involved, although Mills is clearly far better at throw ins. Hunt had a reasonable game, but needs to work on his partnership with Pringle. Pringle showed flashes of real brilliance, outfoxing the United players, but seemed to be either knackered or injured when he was taken off. Bright made little impact, with his lack of speed showing. Parker displayed plenty of energy, but might have been more useful in midfield. I give this match three woofs.
It was far from Charlton's best performance of the season, but as the snow swirled down the chant of 'The Reds Are Staying Up' could be heard round The Valley as Charlton secured a 2-0 victory over Wimbledon. Martin Pringle scored after a superb run on the Dons goal in the first half and a mix up led to a Wimbledon own goal in the second half.
It was snowing quite hard in Coventry early on Monday morning and lister Robin reported two hours of snow in Tunbridge Wells. However, an enquiry of Tom Morris produced the report 'cold, but no precipitation' in SE18. I set out for The Valley wearing what my noble friend Lord Skidelsky had that morning termed my 'colourful' clothes with high hopes which were raised further by the news that John Barnes is signing for Charlton - a case of experience being more important than age.
Charlton did not start well and the players' nervousness spread to the crowd who started to show signs of frustration. Too many passes were poor and at one time Wimbledon progressed up the pitch through a series of throw ins. However, Hartson did not seem worth £7 million and the one threatening attack by Wimbledon was broken up by a decisive intervention by Tiler. Wimbledon seemed to be able to conjure corners out of nothing, however, producing a final tally of ten to Charlton's five. They were not able to do much with them, however, producing only one shot on target in the whole game to six from Charlton. Then on 37 minutes Pringle took advantage of a return pass from Redfearn near the halfway line and set off on an individual sortie towards the Jimmy Seed stand. He evaded tackles by three defenders (including the hapless Blackwell) and just kept going until he was able to deliver a right footed shot, possibly aided by a touch off Perry's toe, through Sullivan's legs from eight yards. The fear then was that Wimbledon would quickly equalise as they did at Sellout Park, but Charlton managed to survive with ease until half time.
The Dons kept the Addicks pressed back in their own half for the first five minutes of the second half, but Charlton began to take command of the game. Eleven minutes into the half a free kick from Kinsella was picked up by the impressive Steve Brown who put in a great header which required Sullivan to fling himself to the left to make the save. Mills then put in a long throw which was picked up by Andy Hunt and put across the goal, but Pringle was unable to make contact. In the 69th minute Chris Powell put an angled cross into the box, Blackwell and Sullivan got in a right old mix up on the edge of the box, the ball bounced off the keeper's body and then went off the defender's heel into the back of the empty net, followed by the hapless Blackwell. Robinson who had a poor game was substituted by Newton on 71 minutes. Redfearn picked up a booking on 77 minutes for a blatant and unne cessary foul.
Charlton looked as if they might have a chance to go 3-0 up when it appeared 'keeper Sullivan had handled a back pass. Redfearn prepared himself to put the ball in the back of the net, but referee Elleray, who had had a fairer game than earlier in the season against Leicester, looked as if he might be about to give the award, but realising that he was dealing with a small club, decided to consult his head boy, the East Stand linesman. This balding coot had been giving a series of decisions against Charlton throughout the match and advised Elleray against the indirect fee kick (which would have been in an advantageous position). Instead, Hunt was only allowed to take the free kick as a pass back to Sullivan. One lister argued, however, that this was the correct decision as the back pass rule only applies to back passes below the thigh and this one was chested down. In my view, it was very marginal, but it would have been nice to have an even more decisive scoreline.
Steve from Sidcup had feared that with Charlton's luck the weather might have forced the abandonment of the match. But even Elleray had to accept the outcome. At the station the small band of Wimbledon fans suddenly found their voices, shouting 'Back to school tomorrow' to the Addicks on the opposite platform. Because of surprise engineering works, I had to get off at Rugby and complete my journey by bus, arriving home after 2 a.m. But it was worth it!
Bob the Dog has had a hard choice to make for the Silver Bone award, but has decided to award it to Martin Pringle not just for the goal, but for a number of superb pieces of play which completely outmamoeuvred the Wombles throughout the match. He is a real class player. The other person in the frame was Simon Royce who commanded his area with authority and was not afraid to punch the ball if that was the best option. The returning Mills had a generally good game, making a couple of his trademark runs forward. Konchesky was the outstanding player in the opening phase of the game, delivering some sublime long passes of great accuracy, but faded a little towards the end. Powell looked uncomfortable playing out of position, as he said himself later to the Master of the Horse in the business club, but he did provide the assist that led to the own goal. The much maligned Tiler did his job very effectively and stopped Wimbledon going 1-0 ahead. Brown once again showed outstanding commitment, going for 20% chances that others would leave and sometimes winning them - and he nearly scored. Redfearn lacked mobility and must be a candidate for a spell on the bench. Robinson had an appalling game, failing to pass accurately time after time, and should have been brought off earlier. Kinsella did not have his best game of the season, but does not deserve to be the new target for the Bloke Behind Me. As far as Hunt is concerned, I agree with the lister who commented in an E mail 'I thought his overall performance was superb last night. He won everything in the air and was very strong on the ground, refusing to be shoved off the ball. There also seemed to be the beginnings of a useful partnership with Pringle.' Newton showed plenty of pace, but the question is always what will he do with it when he gets to the other end of the pitch? I give this match three woofs. The master tells me that one of the first matches he saw as a puppy was when Charlton beat Liverpool 6-0. Bring 'em on!
This was a question posed by an animated Steve from Sidcup as three minutes of added on time ticked away as the Addicks headed towards their second victory in a week. The 1-0 defeat of Liverpool secured by a 70th minute goal by midfielder Keith Jones helped to edge the Addicks away from the relegation zone. The Jones goal came two minutes after Carragherr had been sent off for using the elbow on Pringle and the view taken by Houllier was that it turned the match. However, after a worrying first half in which they seemed unable to find a way through an indifferent Liverpool defence, the Addicks stepped up a gear after half time with Andy Hunt missing a great chance just after the break. The extent to which the Addicks turned the game is shown by the fact that wonder boy Michael Owen had to be withdrawn on 81 minutes. If it hadn't been for some stalwart work by David James in the Liverpool goal, the Addicks might have won by a bigger margin.
I was in optimistic mood on Saturday morning. Perhaps it was because our 6-0 defeat of Liverpool is the first match I saw at The Valley that I can still clearly remember. As we drew into Charlton station, the driver announced over the intercom, 'What's the score going to be today? The sun says 2-0, but if you look some more, it says 2-4. I hope Charlton stay up and Chelsea win the premiership.' There was a full turnout of listers in the Rose of Denmark, although Susan didn't come swinging in on a vine. Lister Robin pointed out that he did not like being characterised as part of a group of 'slightly boring middle aged men.'
The floodlights blazed against a clear blue sky, alleged efforts to disrupt the match by a betting syndicate having been thwarted. Charlton kicked off, but the flow of the game was soon disrupted by the Premiership's strictest referee, Mike Reed, who blew for a foul at every opportunity. By the end of the day, apart from the red card, three Liverpool players were to get themselves yellow carded, along with Danny Mills from Charlton.
The game saw six shots on target from Charlton to two from Liverpool. The first promising Charlton move came early on when Pringle took the ball off Staunton and got round Matteo, but was finally blocked by Carragher. Redknapp then managed to break clear of the midfield, where most of the action was happening, but Robbie Fowler delivered a poor cross. Liverpool showed some good touches in the midfield contest, and the Addicks were often dispossessed too easily, but made up for any deficiencies with their fighting spirit. The pace of the game slowed and it was difficult to see where a goal was going to come from.
However, the ten minutes before the break saw some interesting action. McManaman had largely been marked out of the game by Keith Jones. However, on 35 minutes he collected a loose ball from a Redknapp free kick, requiring a good save from the impressive Royce to deflect a strong shot for a corner. Charlton had six corners to two for Liverpool. A good chance from a corner occurred when Pringle picked up the ball from Robinson, but with James in front of him, his shot went over the crossbar. Despite this spirited performance, the half time mood in the ground was nervous.
Both teams were clearly looking for a goal after the break. Fowler, who failed to impress, sent a shot high over the goal and then Hunt ballooned his shot when he was one on one with James. The game started to get more petulant with Mills booked for a foul on 51 minutes, followed by Ince on 52 minutes and Staunton on 54 minutes. Bjornebeye took so long to take a throw on 63 minutes that the referee interviewed and his reaction got him booked for unsporting conduct, although the throw was still given to Liverpool. Barnes made his first appearance for Charlton on 67 minutes to a great welcome from both sets of supporters and soon began to show that he is a player of consummate skill. On 68 minutes, as Pringle raced back to join the action, Carragher gave him the elbow and the strict but fair Reed had no hesitation in showing the red card. The free kick led to pressure on the Liverpool goal. Their defence failed to clear a cross from Robinson and Keith Jones put the ball in the back of the net from four yards out.
1-0 against Liverpool is a worrying score, hence the increasing agitation of Steve from Sidcup. But Charlton looked in control of the game and Pringle could have made it 2-0 in the closing minutes if it had not been for a decisive intervention by Liverpool substitute Song. As a banner in the crowd proclaimed, 'We don't need Viagra to stay up.' It was a good day for the husband of lister Maggie Whiston who was celebrating his 50th birthday and also for Steve's brother Pete who is heading back to New Zealand.
On Connex we got into conversation with an Addick who turned out to be from Washington DC. His normal team are DC United, but he is following Charlton while he is in London.
Bob the Dog is thrilled to announce that he has awarded the Silver Bone to the player whose home kit is sponsored by his master, Keith Jones . The award is not just for the goal, but the way he dealt with McManaman, snapping at his heels just like Bob who is also vertically challenged. Bob is so excited that he has agreed to have his picture taken in Charlton colours for posting on the net.
Bob the Dog's favourite player, Keith Jones, wheels away after scoring for Charlton.
Royce did not have a great deal to do, but he made one first class save and all his interventions were authoritative. He really seems to command his area and has the confidence of the defenders. Brown put in another great performance and surely has to be preferred to Youds (who may have been the source of some of our problems when others were being blamed). Tiler did all that he had to do calmly and competently. Mills faded a bit during our trough, but seems to be coming back into form. Powell was much more comfortable back in his normal position and contributed well. Redfearn did put in one good shot towards goal, but there was no one there to collect it. But I remain worried about his pace and mobility. Kinsella has been named as the new Public Enemy Number One by the Bloke Behind Me now that Tiler is playing too well to justify a torrent of abuse. Kinsella has been below par in the last couple of games which is not surprising considering the number of games he has played. But even below par, he is very good and got in one strong shot on goal. Robinson had a better game of late, providing the assist for the goal, and showing some pace in moving things forward. Hunt was totally reliable, but it is difficult to see him retaining his place alongside Pringle once Mendonca is fully fit. Barnes showed superb positioning and distribution and a great ability to read the game. The other players will benefit by his presence. One excellent moment when he put Pringle through. Bright came on in the 83rd minute and did not make a great impression. I give this match four woofs.
I've been wanting to use this headline for some time. Although it was Andy Hunt who put Charlton 1-0 ahead after 64 minutes, it was Martin Pringle who made the three points secure for the Addicks at Pride Park against Derby County by making it 2-0 five minutes before the game ended. Making it the third victory in a row for Charlton, each with a clean sheet, the three points lifted the Addicks out of the relegation places, putting them 16th on goal difference.
We joined the West Sussex minibus at Watford Gap, driven by the capable and genial Brian Cole. I thought we might be in for a good day when I won the scratchcard contest. Although the surroundings were not properly developed, I must say that I liked Derby's stadium and I thought the idea of electric buggies taking the older generation to the car park was a good one. Full marks also to the Derby mascot for inviting a couple of young Charlton fans on to the pitch with him for a kickabout.
Charlton started as I had hoped they would be taking the game to Derby. Derby for their part did not really seem up to it and they often looked more like Darby and Joan than Rams. However, their defence was solid enough and it was difficult to see how the Addicks would break it down. An early corner for Charlton came to nothing, as was true for all but one of their set pieces. After seven minutes a cross from Robinson was collected by Hunt, but the Derby defence stopped him getting his shot in. Kinsella fell heavily and subsequently had to be replaced by Barnes in the 19th minute. There were fears that Charlton's ever present captain might have broken his collar bone, but it now looks as if it is only severe bruising and that he will be in contention for the Forest game.
Dean Sturridge looked the main Derby threat and he shot wide from twelve yards after fifteen minutes under pressure from Kinsella (shooting wide was a curious affliction of the Derby players throughout the game) and then repeated the feat from the same distance sending the ball into the side netting. Referee Uriah Rennie was not going to give any decisions Charlton's way if he could avoid it and he was abetted by a linesman who was unable to see when the ball had gone over the line for a throw in. However, he turned down an appeal for a penalty on 38 minutes after the ball had struck Mills's hand, instead giving the Addicks a free kick for Sturridge's challenge. It could not be said, however, that the first half was a feast of football and a 0-0 draw looked like one possible outcome.
Both sides started the second half with determination, but few signs of skill on Derby's part. The home crowd started to get restive. On 57 minutes Sturridge directed a header straight at Royce. Derby, however, began to force the Addicks back, but the Addicks defence held up well. Then a corner was created by Mills which Derby failed to clear, and after a deflected shot which may have been by Jones or Redferan, Hunt put the ball in the back of the net. In his effort to repeat his feat of the preceding week, Keith Jones, who had taken over the captaincy from Kinsella, knackered himself and had to be withdrawn in favour of Anthony Barness. Some nervous moments followed as Derby tried to get back in the game, pinning Charlton down in their own half. The Addicks often had to put the ball out of play for a throw in as their best option. Robinson, who had been yellow carded, picked up a knee injury and had to be taken off to be replaced by Sir Clive Mendonca who was greeted with rapturous appluase by the 2,500 Addicks. As the minutes ticked anxiously away on the electronic scoreboard, Pringle used his pace to run on to a long ball from Steve Brown (although some accounts attribute it to Redfearn) and defeated Hoult in a one on one by firing under him. The Charlton faithful went delirious as Pringles were showered over the stand. At the end of the game, the whole Charlton team came forward to salute the fans with a smiling Pringle out in front as Addicks bowed their appreciation.
Bob the Dog has been joined this evening by Hootch the Pootch as an assistant match analyst. The Silver Bone has been awarded to Martin Pringle for a goal which put the match beyond doubt, but also for the way in which he used his pace throughout. He may well be Charlton's saviour. However, a close contender was Andy Hunt who was often in the thick of the action and scored the first goal. After Sir Clive came on he had to be pulled back into a more defensive role which he handled with aplomb. Simon Royce , he's first choice was one song heard from the Charlton fans. Although Derby never put him under serious pressure, he commanded his area with authority. OK, he punched the ball out once, but if that's the best option, why not? Chris Powell was clearly determined to put on a good show at his old home ground and he managed to do so in attack as well as defence. Without Eddie Youds to collide with, Carl Tiler played another effective game. It was good to see Danny Mills back to his form of the earlier part of the season, with a couple of great runs forward. Steve Brown was not as outstanding as he has been in the last two games, but did his job efficiently and made some decisive interventions. He always seemed to be reading the game well. Mark Kinsella was in the thick of things until he was taken off and the thought of him being out for the rest of the season was too terrible to contemplate. Keith Jones was his terrier like self, tidying up a number of times when danger threatened. John Robinson made some great runs, but also gave the ball away in a threatening position more than once. Redfearn won a free kick thirty yards out in the first half, but managed to send the ball well wide of the post. He often seemed to lack the necessary pace to intervene when he was needed. Barnes made a good contribution after he came on in place of Kinsella, with some excellent ball control and sublime passes to Pringle in particular. Barness didn't seem to quite know where he was, and when did get the ball, he struck it with little direction. Mendonca was not on long enough to show his skills to any great effect, but may need more time to work himself in. Hootch and Bob give this match four woofs in unison.
For a report of the Forest game and the end of my Premiership season, go to Forest report.
East Stand, Block E, Row Q
In front of the Bloke Behind Me