Sunday, March 17, 2013

The king of the jungle

Yesterday the Millwall lions were the kings of the concrete urban jungle that is South East London. Bragging rights go back to South Bermondsey, for the time being at least.

On a day of torrential rain Charlton certainly had their chances, Yann Kermorgant returning from suspension saw his sweetly taken free kick go inches wide while Laurie Wilson knocked the ball over the bar from just a foot or two out. Millwall, still riding high from their midweek cup triumph which booked them a cup semi final at Wembley, soaked up every Charlton attack and then pounced, biting us where it hurt.

Former Addicks loanee Dany N'Guessan went off and Jermaine Easter, the man who's goal for Wycombe knocked us out of the Carling Cup quarter final, came on. This proved to be an astute move by Millwall boss Kenny Jackett. Richard Chaplow somehow found a hole between two red shirts and crossed the ball from the left to Easter who, with his first touch, turned the ball past David Button. A tragedy of a goal from a Charlton perspective. Jackson was bullied by Chaplow and Solly saw the cross go through his legs, yet that was the hard part. Easter had it much easier as his deft touch saw an almost comical piece of keeping from Button which probably had Ben Hamer's persecutors begging to have our number one back between the posts.

Millwall's second was in fairness a wonderfully struck free kick from Australian born Shane Lowry. David Button stood very little chance, in much the same way as when he was beaten by Charlie Austin a couple of weeks earlier, although being a set piece he did perhaps have a little more time to position himself and prepare for this one. With twenty five minutes left on the clock the game was to all intents and purposes over. Four games against two South London rivals and we've come away with a point.

As if the result wasn't grim enough, Charlton supporters then had a well documented detour to make their way home so that visiting supporters had a quick and easy journey to the train station. Reputations or not, I cannot think of another football club that would disrupt routine for their own supporters rather than risk antagonizing their counterparts. I've heard stories that it was police driven but it wouldn't surprise me if the club instigated it, worried that damage to the Jimmy Seed stand could occur if the result had gone the other way and Millwall's travelling contingent had been held back after the final whistle.

There was no place for new Charlton loanee Mark Gower, signed from Swansea City midweek, he will just have to wait a couple more weeks before trying to help Chris Powell's side get over this home form voodoo. Again, it's another week where sides down the bottom dug deep and picked points up, we may be almost over the line but on the basis of the home form alone we'd be propping the other twenty three clubs up single-handedly.

In a post match interview Powell never shied from the fact, “I’m embarrassed by it. It’s not right. I’m just absolutely mystified by it at the moment.” He's not the only one. Our season tickets may be competitively priced but in the value for money stakes they fall very short. The money for next years will certainly stay in my bank rather than the clubs for a little bit longer yet.

We are now only five points from safety, fortuitously so are another half dozen sides.

Next Saturday (thankfully?) sees an international break, followed unfortunately the following weekend by another home fixture against Bolton Wanderers. Please excuse my lack of confidence, and for that matter, enthusiasm.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Championship survival this season for Charlton is heavily dependent on results away from The Valley. Fortunately this week we've had two welcomed away days and the chance to put some more, much needed, points on the board.

Peterborough and Huddersfield have entertained the Addicks over the past six days, two sides that were heavily fancied to struggle at the beginning of the season. Sure enough, both are finding life tough although they do have a habit of getting a result when least expected. If we were to fail on both these occasions we too could be hovering in the vicinity of the divisions trap door. So tight is this league that two wins and a draw separate a relegation place from the top half of the table.

The game at Peterborough on Tuesday evening started as I feared with Charlton falling behind but the Addicks battled well scoring twice before the Posh pulled level for an entertaining game to finish 2-2. Forty four on the board, already good enough to survive on four of the previous eight seasons.

Yesterday we went to Huddersfield who with ten men had snatched a point off us back in November at The Valley, then had the audacity to dump us out of the FA Cup at the third round stage. Some revenge was needed.

On a pitch that Charlton should be used to, it looked as rough as our own, (although our game is of course much better played on a decent playing surface) the visitors took a rather out of character early lead. Callum Harriott had earned himself a second successive start after a good showing at London Road midweek, at three minutes past three on Saturday he had repaid Chris Powell's faith in him tenfold. Chris Solly rolled the ball his way and the nineteen year old struck the ball sweetly finding a gap between the post and the keeper with inch perfect precision.

It's certainly a rarity for Charlton to score the first goal of the afternoon in their division. I'd be interested, if any of you can help, to know the odds they normally offer for such an occurrence.

Huddersfield went on to have more shots, more corners and more of the possession as you'd expect for a home side but Charlton dug deep and as Chris Powell said afterwards, "the defenders and the goalkeeper showed a strong desire to keep the ball out of the net!" Another gritty performance on the road and another three points, that's forty seven. Only three sides in the last eight seasons have got relegated with that number of points, we still have nine games left which equates to a possible twenty seven points. I think we've at least two wins left in us, that's enough to ensure safety. Perhaps now we can relax as supporters and enjoy the run in without worrying what's happening below us.

That said, Millwall and Bolton now come to SE7 for two home fixtures, we could enter April still on forty seven points. I'm renewing my season ticket this week, next season's has surely got to prove to be more value for money than this one hasn't it?

Whilst we're on the subject of safety, I've had a rather busy week. On Monday I sold my 1400cc Suzuki motorbike which was capable of 150mph, and then on Tuesday bought a scooter more suited to speeds of around 50mph. Not only is it slower, it's also bright yellow and therefore hard for even the most blinkered of car drivers to miss.

Safer and slower, am I getting old? No, I don't think so, just cooler! And it goes without saying, every scooter needs a personal touch...........

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Austin Maestro

Tired, dented, in need of some TLC, but keeps running and much loved. I had an Austin Maestro once, not the one pictured but the same colour and condition, it never really let me down, just frustrated me somewhat with it's lack of power and occasional backfiring. I gave it away in the end.

If the Charlton team resemble the running, the pitch certainly resembles the bodywork.

The Valley yesterday was graced with an Austin Maestro. Not parked on the touchline in the way the good old fashioned Invacar used to grace football stadiums in the seventies, no this one was screaming it's way into the net in front of the Jimmy Seed stand.

Charlie Austin was the scorer, the goal a masterclass in sublime finishing. Prior to yesterday Burnley had gone three games without scoring, these runs do tend to have a habit of finishing against The Addicks. The goal itself came out of nowhere, at a time when most were thinking of half time after a bit of a slow and tedious first forty five minutes. Those trying to beat the toilet queues missed a peach of a strike from some distance that would have beaten the best of keepers. Austin was a revolution at Swindon, I always thought Burnley had got themselves a real capture when he signed just over two years ago. He's averaged a goal every other game for The Clarets ever since!

Burnley seemed happy to sit back on their single goal advantage during the second period, but save for a late flurry with Morrison and then Cort staying forward and leading the line, Charlton continued to frustrate the home supporters.

With two months remaining, you'd be forgiven for thinking Charlton already had an air of 'end of season' about them. The home form (the worst in the division) has in effect killed off any slim hopes of a play-off challenge, if it wasn't for the worrying fact that the sides occupying the lower reaches of The Championship all seem to be picking up points, our season really would be all over now. We hark on about survival being the be all and end all of the campaign, but it would be lovely to finish with something to cheer, even another home victory would do. I thought (hoped) that our blueprinted last third of the season slump was something now consigned to the history books.

Chris Powell was brave with his team selection, Ben Hamer dropped to make way for David Button to make his league debut. With Solly and Stephens injured, and Kermorgant beginning his suspension, the starting eleven had a very different feel to it. Jon Obika got his first start and there was even places on the bench for the returning Andy Hughes and young Callum Harriott. Chris Powell could pick a team of high flying international superstars and I think they'd struggle to get a result, they'd certainly leave the pitch to a barrage of frustration from the boo boys.

I don't really believe the booing helps, it's not as if the players aren't giving their all, things just don't seem to be going our way. I can understand that supporters paying for tickets are annoyed and disappointed wanting to see their team win, but it's a touchy subject and I don't feel the boos are always aimed at anyone in particular, just a way to vent their irritation. Whether you agree with it or not, we have free speech and booing falls into that bracket. If you've paid for your ticket you're allowed to voice your opinion (within reason and common decency), for the moment anyway. The way modern football is going, that too may disappear sooner rather than later!

The bottom line is that at this level we fall short, money needs to be spent during the summer (if we have any) otherwise all the hard work put in by Powell and co will be in vain. I dread to think what would happen to the club if the unimaginable happened and we found ourselves back down in the third tier. Fortunately for us our next two fixtures are on the road so we have a chance to add to the points tally, albeit starting against a very in form Peterborough United on Tuesday evening.

No disrespect to The Posh but if they can get results in this division...............................