Manchester United and subsequent games at Volume 2
One might as well have gone to the boat show in Southampton to watch the sails billowing in the breeze for the action there was in the match between Saints and Addicks at St,Mary's Stadium. Almost as dire as the 0-0 at 'Boro last season, Charlton at least came away from the satisfaction of an away point in this Relegation League encounter. Critics will no doubt call for a more attacking approach, but it was when they attacked that Charlton looked most vulnerable.
We met Joe the Saint before the game and, given the inability of both teams to score goals, I forecast a 0-0. The appearance of the pitch announcer in a penguin suit had our own Brian Cole in stitches. The announcer tried to arouse cheers from each section of the home crowd, but simply got a low mumbling sound except from the group alongside us. Gordon Strachan delivered a pre-match inspirational address to the Saints. It sounded like it had come from some Glaswegian hell. It was mostly incomprehensible but the word 'prroobleemmm' was heard more once and I thought I detected 'relleggattion specialist'. With the announcer back on duty, I learnt that Charlton had a player called 'Ra-chew-ber-ka'.
An early Konchesky free kick found the head of Rufus, but his effort was wide and the offside flag went up in any case. After five minutes Pahars ballooned his effort well over the goal. A Southampton free kick was then wasted by the home side trying to be too clever, allowing Charlton to regain possession. Robbo gave the ball away and Southampton burst forward, but Fortune intervened effectively with the ball going out for a Saints throw in. Konchesky broke away and put in a good cross across goal, but JJ was unable to connect and the effort was deflected for an Addicks corner. JJ gave away a free kick in a dangerous position, but under pressure from Fortune, Lundekvam's effort well wide. Luke Young found himself under pressure but gave away nothing more than a throw in. Charlton won another unproductive corner.
A Charlton free kick awarded in favour of Robbo aroused the indignation of the Southampton faithful. The referee decided to even things up by giving a free kick against Fortune. Euell had to head the ball out for a corner taken by Fernandes. Tessem put in a good header but Chris Powell was there to clear it off the line. The hapless JJ managed to play the ball to the Saints and give them a chance to mount an attack. With Rufus injured, there were fears that his knee trouble had recurred. As the game went into two minutes of time added on, the Addicks were awarded a free kick for a foul on Euell. Jensen put in an impressive curling effort from thirty years out and Niemi, playing his first game for the Saints after Paul Jones was dropped, had to do a 'flying Finn' act to his right to put the ball out for a Charlton corner.
As we reflected on the pulsating excitement of the first half, half time brought another incomprehensible appeal from Gordon Strachan to get behind the team. When he was Coventry manager, he was a neighbour of a friend of mine at Stoneleigh Abbey. Early in the morning he could be seen running round their shared garden, presumably screaming at the flower beds. The announcer stated that someone was in reception waiting for their ticket to get in the ground and a wag shouted, 'You're better off not in here.' Indeed, the attendance was the lowest ever at St.Mary's for a Premiership game.
Bartlett was brought on after the break for JJ, a wise decision. Southampton had one of their best spells early in the second half. Most of the play was in the Charlton half and the Saints won two corners and put in a dangerous cross across the front of goal. However, the Addicks absorbed the pressure and Konchesky was able to apply a little of his own. Jason Euell was booked on 66 minutes and Deano had to save from the Saints free kick. Strachan decided to pull off Matthew Oakley and bring on Anders Svensson. As Charlton started a promising break, Jensen was fouled earning Delap a yellow card. Charlton always looked at risk when they did attack with Southampton often breaking away to the other end. Much of the time the midfield of both teams seemed to be absent or at least badly out of position.
On 74 minutes Strachan pulled off Fernandes and brought on Beattie who had been dropped from the starting line up. Chris Powell inadvertently gave away a corner and received a reassuring pat from Deano. Bartlett put in a good tackle. The much maligned Chris Bart-Williams put in a fierce shot along the ground which tested Niemi who dived to make the save. With Rufus evaded, Chris Powell had to clear. England hopeful Wayne Bridge fouled Robbo and got a yellow card. Konchesky's free kick was well over. The Saints won another corner on 84 minutes and Curbs chose this moment to withdraw Robbo in favour of Lisbie. Lisbie provided one moment of excitement when he was fouled near the goalline. He connected with CJ's free kick, but his header was saved by Niemi. News that Pompey had been defeated at Norwich cheered up the Saints, but made Portsmouth resident Brian Cole look gloomy.
After the game it all went off near the ground by a pub just off the Northam Road. Exactly what happened as unclear, but soon large crowds of young men were running with the police in hot pursuit. We walked to the station escorted by the police. One home fan decided we were in need of a fifty pence coin which landed at my feet.
Assistant match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound was on duty at St.Mary's
South coast match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound bounded off the Hythe Ferry before the game, but his enthusiasm did not last long and a complaint was made before the game ended that there was a dog asleep in the press box. After taking the option of phoning a friend and consulting Steve and Tracy from Dartford, Homer finally decided to give the Silver Bone to Richard Rufus for his defensive efforts, although he was tempted to present it to one of the police dogs in action outside afterwards. Deano once again demonstrated that his distribution when he kicks out is woeful, but otherwise did a satisfactory job. Fortune looked solid and made some key interventions. He made the Sport First Team of the Day. Chris Powell made one key clearance off the line and tried to push forward on the wing. Luke Young was involved and displayed a tolerable level of skill. The return of Konchesky was welcome and he had a good game. Jensen was not a major presence, which could be said of the midfield in general. Bart-Williams had one shot on goal and put in one of his trademark long angled passes to Euell. Robbo was his usual energetic self and put one good ball into the box. JJ was hopeless, contributing nothing to the attack and giving the ball away. No wonder he was withdrawn at half time. Euell showed real skill in controlling the ball. Bartlett did his best, but did not turn the game around. Lisbie tried to make a late impact.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to Virgin Trains for cancelling the train back to Leamington.
Crowd rating: It is not surprising that the Addickted were fairly subdued when they were confronted with such a feast of football. 6/10.
Bob the Dog pioneered canine match analysis. With this report we say farewell to the faithful Addick who was put to sleep this week.
This chant by Arsenal fans towards the end of Charlton's 0-3 defeat at The Valley just about summed up the match. Arsenal looked like champions. It was evident in their ability to create chances and to take them. Whereas Arsenal often had lots of space in which to develop their moves, Charlton seemed to have difficulty in finding any. It was hardly likely that a team that had not been defeated since December was going to be beaten by a team that not had won at home since early March. Charlton did not play badly, especially in the first half, and it was particularly unfortunate that the Gooners were able to score just before half time.
I got to the club shop at 1 p.m. in hope of getting the new kit, but they had already sold out of my size. The tannoy was not working properly in the East Stand so we were not able to hear the pearls of wisdom of weight loss specialist Brian Cole (its failure to work properly might also be a safety issue). The teams changed ends at the start of the match, always a bad omen. Referee Steve Dunn had a good game, at any rate he wound up the visitors from the Library, but he missed an early elbow by Henry on Robbo. JJ was unlucky to slip in the area and missed a promising ball. Lisbie put a header over and then Rufus had to made a decisive clearance at the expense of a throw in. A completely unnecessary foul by Keown on Euell earned him a yellow card. Lisbie guarded the ball well in defence. Chris Powell was beaten and Deano had to make his first save of the match. Arsenal were starting to build up their rhythm and control the game. After a move down the wing, Luke Young had to clear at the expense of an Arsenal corner which was dealt with by Chris Bart-Williams. Friction between Luke Young and Ashley Cole led to words from Steve Dunn, but Cole could not resist the temptation to take a petulant kick at Young and earned himself a yellow card.
Rufus turned provider for JJ who put in a good cross which drew a diving save from Seaman. Soon afterwards JJ put in another good cross. Dennis Bergkamp turned provider for Wiltord on 31 minutes and his fierce shot was well parried by Kiely. Another Arsenal corner was cleared by Bart-Williams. Arsenal put a ball across the front of Deano's goal, but fortunately there was no one there to connect with it. Deano was having his usual problems with his distribution with a third kick going out of play for a throw in. Arsenal got in behind the Charlton defence, but Fortune was able to clear. Euell put in a good ball to JJ but the Finnish striker was unable to make any connection. Then Young turned provider for Euell, but his effort was narrowly wide. Arsene Whinger was by this time out of his dugout, but he needn't have worried, despite his perpetual expression of anxiety. (He later failed to respond to Arsenal charts of 'Arsene, Arsene, give us a wave.') With the break approaching, and hopes rising that Charlton might be able to go in on even terms, Bergkamp put in a cross for Henry whose shot was in the back of the net before Deano could do anything.
Arsenal played with renewed determination after the break and an early effort from Toure came back off the post. An Arsenal corner was cleared by Fortune. Chris Bart-Williams fed Euell who put a shot across the goal. This was one of the best chances of the half, but JJ was just unable to connect. Toure was pulled off for Edu on 65 minutes. Arsenal's second goal came two minutes later and it was a good one that exposed the frailties of the Charlton defence. Good work between Edu and Vieira gave Wiltord a chance which he took well. The less than impressive JJ was pulled off in favour of Blomqvist who looked like a 1970s rock singer who had just come out of rehab. A few minutes later Bergkamp was pulled off in favour of Kanu, emphasising the strength in depth of the Arsenal side. It was a rather different scene from when I had watched a match in the Midland Combination earlier in the week and the Leamington announcer had said 'Alveston's No.15 shirt, Carl Murphy. That's [pause] Carrlll [pause] Murpheee' as a beetroot faced player shambled on to the field.
A good run on the left by Henry created a corner for Arsenal which desperate efforts failed to clear, leading to a second for the visitors. Chris Bart-Williams was pulled off and Kishishev brought on. Rather bafflingly, Euell, who had given the Arsenal defence some problems, was replaced by Svensson. This decision was greeted with loud boos from the Addickted. Blomqvist won a corner, but a blatant push by Seaman was rewarded with an Arsenal free kick. Luzhny received a yellow card for a foul on Lisbie. The match was starting to fizzele out from a Charlton perspective. As at Villa, Deano came racing out of his goal, but Henry failed to take advantage. The Arsenal corner was cleared eventually. I had forecast a 0-2 before the match, but the score was made the same as last year with a header from Efu which evaded Deano. It looked as if it might be 4-0 when Edu once again found the back of the net, but it was ruled offside. Some Charlton fans were so much in despair by this time that they thought this was the final score.
Despite the fact that the Addicks were up against world class players, some of whom would be worth almost as much as the entire Charlton squad, the result has provoked a massive outbreak of moaning on the list and elsewhere. It was reported that one fan had run down the West Stand steps to tell Curbs to leave at the end of the match. One supporter from a few rows in front of me left early shouting 'they're useless'. In the gents afterwards, one supporter denounced Deano as a 'useless tosser'. Apparently one of his complaints was Deano's size when 'we were up against 6ft. 10 giants out there.' Another geezer replied, 'No one out there was 6ft. 10. But my missus is 5ft 19 when she stands on our dignity when I come home late.'
Unfortunately, not every one has retained their sense of humour and the doomsters, of which Charlton has more than its fair share, are already predicting relegation. So far we have played just six matches and we won the two against other Relegation League clubs. Charlton are a medium sized club punching above their weight in the Premiership because of good management. Those who shout 'Curbs out' never seem to know who should come in. If I do have a cause for concern, it is the fact that, as Bryan Matthews has pointed out, we were several hundred below capacity for the Arsenal match, one of the most attractive fixtures of the season. The positive scenario for the club was that we would manage to hang on in the Premiership for a few seasons, gradually building up our financial strength so that we would be able to strengthen the side, although we are never going to be able to afford world class players like Arsenal. If our attendance has peaked, this strategy is going to be difficult to pursue and it may be that the club will find its natural level in Division 1 - simply for financial reasons. The match against Southampton will be a much better test of our survival prospects than the defeat by Arsenal.
Match analyst Hooch the Pooch has awarded the Silver Bone to Robbo. He showed real dedication and commitment and quite a lot of skill. Deano did not have a good game, but is still one of the best keepers in the Premiership. Young had a reasonable game and Fortune was quite solid. Rufus seems to have been unsettled by being captain, a role to which he is not really suited anyway. Powell increasingly looks out of his depth. The midfield is missing the injured Parker and, some would argue, Kinsella, although he hardly sparkled for Villa. Jensen had been one of the few good players at Villa, but contributed relatively little to this match. Bart-Williams is not as bad as some people claim and at least was able to clear from some corners. JJ was making a useful contribution on the wings, and it was probably a tactical error to move him later to the centre. Lisbie made little impact on the game and should have been taken off instead of Euell. Euell was one of the few Charlton players to display a level of skill that even approached that of Arsenal. It's too early to make an assessment of Blomqvist . He doesn't seem to have knitted into the side yet. At one point he was unmarked and calling for the ball and was ignored. Kishishev did nothing to turn the game around, but it was perhaps unreasonable to expect him to. I'm not sure that Svensson was the answer to Arsenal's brand of skill and he made little impact.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has awarded the Hiss of the Match to Ashley Cole for his petulance and arrogance.
Crowd rating: The crowd did their best to lift the Addicks 7/10.
Charlton tried to go for the draw with a defensive strategy at Villa Park on Wednesday night. They managed to hold out for 70 minutes until Villa scored. Although they made a spirited attempt to get back into the game, they were left exposed at the back and the inevitable happened when Villa made it 2-0. Charlton did have their chances, two for Claus Jensen and a great chance for Luke Young to equalise, but they were unable to take them. It was an uninspiring match with Charlton looking poor against a rejigged but still very ordinary Villa side.
Having watched Rushden beat Southend 3-0 last Saturday, followed by the Irthlingborough side dumping the Spanners out of the league cup, I was hopeful for another night of football success. For once, it wasn't pouring down with rain at Villa Park, but a warm evening requiring only a t-shirt throughout the match. If Charlton had won it would have been their first third successive victory away from home in the top flight since 1954. Instead it was the third defeat in a row in the Premiership at Villa Park, reminiscent of last year's 1-0 defeat which also saw a poor performance from Charlton, although on that occasion Deano was sporting a black eye. Despite reports that they might be in the line up, there was no sign of new signings Blomqvist or Mustoe with old faithful Robbo being relied on once again.
Charlton started brightly enough with Claus Jensen winning the Addicks an early corner. It was punched out by Enckleman in the Villa goal and Luke Young's header went over. Villa soons started to pile on the pressure and were finding a lot of space on their left and Charlton's right, with Staunton, a good crosser of the ball, showing an ability to make runs forward. On seven minites Samuel (who had been roundly booed by the Addickted) turned provider for Angel. His low effort was tipped round the post by Deano with a diving save. Graham Poll found something to rebuke Deano for. The Villa corner was unproductive.
Euell played the ball into Kishishev who won the Addicks a corner. This was taken short, but Poll had still not got his methane breathing appartus set correctly and demanded that it be taken again. This time it was played into the box and Fortune's header was not far wide. A Rufus tackle provoked a dramatic fall and a Villa free kick but nothing was made of the chance by the home side. Deano then charged out of his area and the ball went to de la Cruz, but the Ecuadorian was effectively dealt with by Fortune. Steve Staunton gave Kinsella a goal scoring chance, but as we know from The Valley, he has lost his ability to put the ball into the back of the net and his effort went across the face of goal. A Villa corner was smothered by Deano. The impressive Jensen put in a good ball to Powell on the wing by the corner flag, but there was no one in front of goal that he could pass to. A ragged chant of 'Goodbye Horse' was started by the Addickted.
As the half hour approached, another Villa corner was cleared. CJ put in a tame shot straight at the keeper. A bloke behind me commented, 'this game is less exciting than a flat can of coke'. On 33 minutes Euell and Svensson combined well with Jensen. He could have scored, but seemed to be too concerned with the precision of his short. Enckelman was able to make the save, although he spilt the ball and it had to be cleared by a defender for a Charlton throw in.
The fear that Charlton might go ahead served as a wake up call to the Villa. A Barry free kick produced a Staunton header which Deano did well to push away. With the pressure continuing, Rufus had to make a good clearance. Staunton managed to run up virtually the whole park without a challenge, but Charlton's blushes were spared when his attempt went wide. On 40 minutes Kinsella delivered a corner for Villa and defender Mellberg managed to get into a dangerous position. But the ever vigilant Euell did enough to distract him and his header went over. Deano had to punch out another corner and Svensson was called into defensive action with a header.
I was talking to Roland from Goring-on-Sea at half time about how some of the buzz had gone out of the Charlton support, not least in the branches of the supporters' club. Until Charlton can become a larger club (and that is not going to be easy given that it has proved difficult to sell out the enlarged ground, with the Addicks third from bottom in the average attendance league) it is always going to be a struggle to survive in the Premiership. And that is not good for the spirit of the fans.
Luke Young took a knock early in the second half and required treatment. Good work by Chris Powell prevented a Villa corner. A Villa free kick was taken quickly and produced a wild shot. Bart-Williams put in a good long ball to Euell which enabled the striker to break clear, but Poll blew up for a free kick. Rufus was required to make a decisive header at the expense of a Villa corner taken by Kinsella. Deano was required to save on a crowded goalline. Repeated Villa handballs were recognised at last with a Charlton free kick. After a spectacular fall following a Robbo tackle, the West Sussex branch president received a yellow card. Deano had to dive to the left to deal with a Villa corner. Deano threw the ball out to Jensen who took it all the way, but his effort went over. Jensen then had another chance, but instead of putting in a shot, 'passed' the ball to the left and the opportunity was gone. I was talking to a Bolton fan today and discussed CJ's two missed chances and he thought that it was typical Jensen. On 69 minutes Kishishev was pulled off in favour of Steve Brown.
If this move was meant to shore up the Charlton defence and hang on for a point, it didn't work. The pressure was bound to tell eventually. de la Cruz scored his first goal for Villa on 70 minutes. He cut in from the right, beating Rufus, and putting the ball past Deano from eight yards out. Bart-Williams was pulled off in favour of Bartlett, while Villa took off Allback and brought on Moore. A mistake by Alpay let in Luke Young but somehow he managed to hit the side netting from eight yards out. On 84 minutes Moore was able to evade Rufus, leaving Deano exposed and giving Villa 2-0 lead. Matt Svensson was then taking off in favour of JJ, but 3-0 rather than a consolation goal seemed more likely. All that was left was for the Addickted to show their appreciation for the services of Mark Kinsella who came to the Charlton end to acknowledge the crowd.
Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch slunk into the press box at Villa Park, fearing that word might have got around that he was recently rejected for night security work because he wasn't fierce enough. He was sitting next to Rick Everitt who shouted 'we can see you sneaking in' as the chastened hound crept into his seat. He was even more disconsolate at the end of the match and it was one of those rare occasions when he feared he would have to go home with the Silver Bone between his teeth. Last year at Villa Park it was awarded to spectator Shaun Newton and this year Hooch decided to give it to Mark Kinsella as a thank you for all his efforts for the Addicks.
Deano made one outstanding save from Steve Staunton in the first half and a number of other good saves. He was let down by his defence in relation to the two conceded goals. Kishishev was eventually pulled off and did not make a great contribution to the game. Powell now regularly seems to be a player below his best. Rufus shares some of the blame for both Villa goals, but he did make some good interventions. Of the defenders Fortune had the most solid game. Luke Young made one or two good runs forward, but failed to take a golden chance to score. Bart-Williams was again disappointing and was eventually pulled off. Robbo was as vigorous and energetic as ever, but lacks the extra edge needed for the Premiership. Jensen was one of the most involved players on the pitch. It's a shame that he lacked the confidence to do more with his chances to score. Euell was as busy as ever, but suffered from a lack of support from the often invisible midfield. Svensson often lost possession and never looked dangerous and was named as the 'weakest link' by Roland from Goring-on-Sea. Steve Brown made a limited contribution after he came on. Bartlett also made little impact. JJ made one good run up the wing in the closing minute, but otherwise made little difference in the admittedly short time available to him.
Juneau the Soccer Cat already had the name of referee Graham Poll pencilled in for the Hiss of the Match but in fact he had a reasonably good game and the award went to Central Trains for their inability to organise services from Witton after the game.
Crowd rating: The Addickted were not there in great numbers and we missed Brian Cole stranded in Portsmouth when it came to starting the chants. Roland from Goring-on-Sea made an effort but got very little response and all we had was a few ragged choruses of Valley Floyd Road. No doubt the Addickted were subdued by what was happening on the pitch, but that is when you need to give the team a lift. 5/10.
As I waited for the flight to Boston at Heathrow on Wednesday morning after the 0-1 defeat against Tottenham, a Brentford fan approached me and asked if I thought things were going badly wrong for the Addicks. My response was that it was a classic case of the familiar 'half full, half empty' syndrome. It was not so much that Charlton had played badly, but that Spurs had played well. The Addicks went down to the familiar early goal through a well worked moved by the North London team. Tottenham defended well, forcing Charlton to result to long balls which only rarely had the desired effect. It might be added that Spurs resorted to some cynical fouling which attracted little attention from the ref, although Spurs fans after the game thought that he had been determined to try and give Charlton a point. Yet another example of how perceptions can differ in football.
Harold Wilson used to say that a week is a long time in politics and a few days can be a long time in football. The Addicks restored the faith of their fans on the following Saturday with a 2-0 victory at Upton Park. I received a text message in Boston saying 'I can't believe it' after the Addicks went 2-0 ahead. But they were, of course, away from home. It is interesting that the team was booed after the first half and at the end of the game, something that didn't used to happen when they were struggling in Division 1. Expectations have risen, and understandably so. There was one attempt to raise a chant of 'Kin, Kin, Kinsella'. But would it really have been good business to retain a player past his best, with serious knee problems, who had only managed a ratio of one game in three in the last season. As for the argument that the club should have got more money for him, perhaps they tried and the market eventually found its level.
The outstanding player on the park was once again Jason Euell . You seem him here, you seem there, you see him everywhere. It's not just a question of effort, but of real skill, the way in which he shrugs off his marker and suddenly appears in a promising situation. Deano really didn't have a chance to save the goal and was otherwise capable. I thought that Rufus didn't settle well in the captain's role and that it affected his game, although he still made some key defensive interventions. Fortune looked out of his depth. Perhaps he was not fully match fit, as he went on to score at Upton Park. Chris Powell had a solid but not particularly inspiring game. I only noted him down as making a key contribution once. Luke Young is looking solid and won Charlton a corner. Kishishev put in two strikes from distance that were as near as Charlton came to scoring, but otherwise his contribution was disappointing. Konchesky was not outstanding, perhaps partly because of the shape (or lack of it) of the team. Bart-Williams is the favourite scapegoat of the moaners, but did not impress in dead ball situations, but Jensen did not do much better, although he did put it an impressive late run which was halted by a cynical foul by Bunjevcevuc. JJ made some attempts on the wing, but he never really made an impression on the match and it was no surprise that he did not start on Saturday. Svensson was brought on in attempt to liven things up, but the back of the net continued to elude him. He took one free kick which was way over. Brown was brought on to replace Kishishev, waywardness and flair giving way to solid reliability. Robbo was also brought on to see what he could do, but energy and enthusiasm was not enough. We will be resuming our normal reports service for the Villa match.
Charlton won a key victory at the Reebok, reports Westcombe Park Addick Paul May from his southbound coach on the M6. After the disappointing and frustrating start against Chelsea, it was important to come back fighting, not least because of all the controversy surrounding the departure of Mark Kinsella. This was a vital Premiership Relegation League three pointer and a strong performance by the Addicks won them all three points with a 2-1 victory over the Trotters.
Wyn Grant knew that he would be doing the late, late phone in on Radio 5 and asked me to stand in for him (although he wouldn't let me have a dog reporter). I was only just about standing as I made my way down to The Valley for the coach, even though my trip is one of the shortest. But I must admit I had had a few the night before. But by the time we reached Watford Gap I was ready for a demolition job on the full English breakfast.
The talk on the coaches was all about Kins, of course, and I think of all us were sad to see a Charlton legend go. But it could be a smart move as we may have seen the best of him. He has not looked at his best for a while now. Of course, it would have been nice to get more money from Deadly Doug and I suppose this was what worried people most. But, as one geezer said, how often have we been in a position to sell a player to a Premiership side because we were too strong for him to get into our starting eleven?
The match started badly for the Addickted. Warhurst put in a thirty yard shot which Deano well to parry. However, the ball may well have gone in the net anyway as it spun out of control with Deano trying to control it, but the ball fell nicely for Djorkaeff who tapped it home. I was too distraught to notice that Wyn Grant had sent me a text to say that Leamington had gone down 0-1 to Handsworth Continental Star simultaneoulsy. Then things got worse when Gary Rowett limped off after just six minutes following a challenge on Ricketts. But the dependable Steve Brown was there to come on and you know he will never let you down. And so it proved to be.
The Trotters continued to press for a match killing second. A free kick was well placed for Warhurst, but his shot was deflected wide by captain Graham Stuart. From the corner Pedersen was well placed about ten yards out, but managed to send his effort wide of the post. Pedersen turned provider for Ricardo Gardner by gifting him a free header at the far post, but the Addickted breathed again after it went wide.
Twenty-one minutes into the game Chris Powell put in a good cross from the left. JJ managed to break away from his marker, but his header was way off target. On 26 minutes, Claus Jensen put in a corner and Richard Rufus was pushed (views differed about who did it) as he jumped for one of his classic efforts. Referee M Messias turned out to be a bit of a messiah for the Addicks and pointed to the spot. But who would take it? As Bart-Williams stepped up, the moaners, no doubt including those who have been slagging him off on the list all week, started to complain. But the calm Bartman sent Jaaskelainen the wrong way to put the Addicks back in the game.Djorkaeff put in a fierce shot that Deano blocked well with his legs. A chip from Euell (who turned up to support AFC Wimbledon at their first home match) was headed on by Jensen. JJ got past N'Gotty but his effort from six yards out was disappointingly wide. Jensen broke away but his effort from thirty yards was no threat to the keeper.
Following the break Pedersen threatened in the 47th minute but was dealt with by Steve Brown. Djorkaeff's free kick was dealt with by Chris Powell. Then an attempted clearance by Bolton fell well for Konchesky and it was only Barness who stopped him scoring at the expense of a corner. Luke Young had to make a good intervention to deal with an attempt by Fransden.
Charlton were starting to take control of the midfield. Bart-Williams showed his dead ball expertise again with a curling free kick from thirty yards which only just missed the target as his critics muttered 'fluke'. Bolton managed to break again and Pedersen turned provider for Ricketts, but his scuffed shot suggested that Bolton should not rely on him too much to keep them in the Premiership. Warhurst put in a good ball across the field to Djorkaeff. He turned provider for Gardner, but he was surrounded by Charlton defenders. Jason Euell put in a good shot that required Jasskelainen to use all his skills to save it.
Charlton's winning goal showed the fluency that was evident at The Valley last week. A good move started by Jensen saw Stuart (another played slagged off on the list) to busrt through, evade Fransden and cut the ball back for Euell to knock it home on eight yards on 71 minutes. Blimey! 2-1 to the Addicks. On 74 minutes Stuart was taken off on a stretcher with an injury after he slipped and, somewhat surprisingly, he was replaced by Lisbie. On 76 minutes N'Gotty and Euell were booked for dissent. Allardyce decided to go for a double substitution, putting on Holdsworth in place Ricketts and replacing Gardner by Nolan. Nolan came close to equalising with a strong effort from close range which saw Deano react brilliantly to block the shot. He also had to block an attempt by Warhurst.
On 82 minutes Svensson was brought on in place of JJ and was given a lone ranger role up front while Euell was pulled back into midfield. The home side made some last desperate efforts, with Nolan putting is effort over Deano's bar, N'Gotty heading a corner wide and Djorkaeff puting an effort way over. But the three points deservedly went to the Addicks who had played with skill and fighting spirit. Having watched Leamington lose 3-5 to Handsworth Continental Star, and having to cope with the late night phone in on Radio 5, Wyn Grant was sorry he was not there. I quite like this reporting lark. You can E mail me at Paul May.
It was a boiling hot day at The Valley for the opening match of the Premiership season against Chelsea. Before long things had boiled over on the pitch with Paul Konchesky being sent off in a highly controversial decision, placing himself in the unenviable position of scoring both the first goal and being the first player to be sent off in the Premiership season. Charlton managed to go 2-0 ahead, but the ten men could not hold on in the searing heat and a goal by Chelsea in the last minute of regular play gave them a 3-2 victory and ended Charlton's run of four successive victories against their London rivals. It was crushingly disappointing start to Charlton's new season.
Normally I ask who the referee is before the game as I know that it can have such a vital impact on the match. However, I was so much enjoying my pre-match drink outside the R*se of D**mark that I did not notice the methane tanker rumbling past. For the referee was Graham Barber, one of the visitors from outer space who have landed in the notorious 'Hertfordshire triangle'. It was not a good sign either when Charlton changed ends before the start of the match, a move that is often followed by defeat.
Charlton started brightly with Konchesky's good work winning the Addicks a corner. Rufus just failed to connect his head with Jensen's kick. But then Deano found himself tested with a fierce shot by Lampard that he saved well. Then seven minutes into the match poor defensive work by Chelsea gave the ball to Jensen who delivered it well to Konchesky whose crisp shot went inside the far post to put Charlton 1-0 ahead. Konchesky leapt over the hoardings, just failing to connect with the outstretched hands of the Covered End faithful. A chant of 'We are top of the league' echoed round the ground.
Chelsea were awarded a dangerous free kick on 12 minutes on the edge of the 'D' and directly in front of goal. Zola's effort was cleared off the line by the much maligned Bart-Williams. Offences such as a push on Jason Euell were being ignored by referee Barber. Zenden provided Hasselbaink with a chance to break free, but he was dispossesed by an excellent sliding tackle by Rowett. After finally getting his methane-oxygen mix right, Barber gave Charlton their first free kick. Then Charlton won a free kick for a push on Euell on the edge of the area. Jensen's effort was over, but not by too great a distance. Luke Young provided some good defensive work culminating in a Charlton throw in.
On 24 minutes Chelsea won a corner which Deano palmed away. Zenden's second corner for Chelsea was headed away by Graham Stuart. With the ball high in the air, Konchesky gave chase and as he jumped his elbow made contact with De Lucas's face. Curbs was emphatic after the match that there had been no intent on Konchesky's part. However, a referee could interpret what happened differently and Barber robustly defended his decision after the game. In any event, it was the turning point in the match.
Luke Young was beaten and Zenden put in a cross for Hasselbaink, but his headed effort was way off target. Then Chris Powell was brought down on the edge of the area. The Bloke Beside Me commented, 'This would be a good time to score a second.' An excellent free kick from Jensen was nodded into the net by Rufus. Chelsea protested that Barber had already blown his whistle before the ball crossed the line, but the only alternative would have been a penalty as Euell had been pushed over in the box.
JJ won the Addicks a corner, but it was cleared. Desailly fouled Euell and received a yellow card. Chelsea were stepping up the pressure and Zenden hit the angle of the crossbar. On 40 minutes, a Chelsea corner was cleared, then played back in, but Luke Young was able to break with the ball. On 43 minutes Zenden evaded Young in the box and fed a pass to Zola who put in a shot that left Deano with no chance of saving it. JJ won Charlton a corner, but it was cleared. With two minutes of time added on, Euell collided with Cudicini as he went for the ball and the Italian made the most of his sufferings, delaying the match until the final seconds of the half could be played out.
There was a strangely quiet atmosphere in the ground as the second half resumed as if the Addickted knew that a 2-1 lead would not be good enough with ten men. The Bloke Beside Me described it as 'frightening'. An early Chelsea attack was dealt with by a strong clearance by Rufus at the expense of a throw in. A deflected shot from the right by De Lucas produced a good save from Deano. He then had to deal with a fierce long-range effort from the impressive from Zenden. This was followed by an attempt from Petit which Deano had to clutch to hold on to.
On 58 minutes Bart-Williams was withdrawn to predictable abuse from the rows behind in favour of Kishishev. Rufus made a great tackle to frustrate a Chelsea attack. A fierce shot went just to the right of Deano's post and the increasingly pressured keeper made clear his displeasure with the defence. Petit was withdrawn in favour of Gudjohnsen. Despite the fact that he was returning from a period of injury, he looked match fit and quickly started to make a telling contribution to the game. Chris Powell rather casually conceded a corner, but the Chelsea effort was hopelessly overhit and went out of play. Jensen turned provider for Euell, but the striker was fouled, but Jensen's free kick was well over.
Chelsea refreshed their strike force on 74 minutes by taking off Zola and Petit and bringing on teenager Cole and Gronkjaer. Charlton had perhaps been overly defensive in the second half, given that Chelsea looked weak at the back. All too often Euell was trying to deal with passes on his own with two defenders covering him. It might have been better to bring on Svensson in the 'lone ranger' role. With their reinforcements, Chelsea were strengthened and showed an increasing ability to power through the middle of the Charlton defence. A fierce shot went just past Deano's post causing the keeper to get angry with his defence again.
JJ put in a good tackle, but Chelsea still managed to win a corner. De Lucas was booked to the delight of the crowd. On 80 minutes JJ was pulled off in favour of car theft victim Kevin Lisbie. Chris Powell put in a great tackle. Baffingly, Chelsea fans started to leave to the accompaniment of the inevitable chant of 'We can see you sneaking out.' They missed Cole powering through the middle, evading Kishishev and Rufus, before putting in a clinical shot that defeated Kiely. Zenden was booked. On 86 minutes Svensson replaced Euell. He nearly made his mark when good work by Kevin Lisbie enabled him to put in a header forced Cudicini to dive to push it away. Then on 89 minutes a ball from Cole was deflected off Kishishev's chest allowed Lampard to make it 3-2. There was a shout for a penalty for handball, but luck and the referee were not with the Addicks.
After a late scare when it appeared that a new night security job might keep him from The Valley (and with Homer the Cherry Hound revisiting his old south coast haunts) new senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch made it to the press gantry, although one radio commentator was asked about the panting sound. It was not easy to select a winner of the coveted Silver Bone but Hooch finally gave it to Claus Jensen for his two assists. Deano let in three goals, but he also made some great saves and the quality of his play attracted favourable comment on The Premiership . Luke Young was more in evidence than in some games and displayed some skill. The signing of Rowett has been decried by the usual moaners, but he showed that he is a skilled defender, although the Bloke Beside Me was concerned about his distribution. Under pressure he was inclined to clear anywhere and he had fewer opportunities to provide his trademark diagonal long-range passes. Rufus not only scored a goal, but once again showed his quality in defence, even if he was beaten a couple of times. Powell was competent enough, but not that much in evidence. Konchesky was having an excellent game before the cruel blow of his sending off. Not having him available for three games will be a blow. Stuart did make some useful contributions, but was less in evidence as the game went on. Bart-Williams provided some neat passes, but also made some errors. He needs to develop if he is to contribute regularly at Premiership level. JJ was actually called on in defence quite a lot after Charlton went down to ten men. The nature of the game after that point did not allow him to showcase his talents. Euell displayed effort and skill, but often lacked any support. Kishishev was not that impressive after he came on and was beaten more than once by Chelsea players. Lisbie made some useful contributions on the wings, but never looked like scoring. Svensson showed once again that he is a tricky player who can open up defences, but there is a limit to what anyone can do in six minutes.
Juneau the Soccer Cat delivered an emphatic Hiss of the Match to referee Graham Barber, Some wags at the RoD suggested that the headline for this report should be 'Barber Shaves It for Chelsea'.
Crowd rating: Generally good, although subdued in the early part of the second half and very reliant on the contribution of the Covered End. 7/10.
Despite the defeat we were all surprisingly cheerful in the RoD after the game. Scroll down for picture. From left to right, your reporter; Bruce from Old Couldson; and Susan, a season ticket holder from Oakville, Ontario.
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