Thursday, February 01, 2007

In The Air Tonight

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord....Ive been waiting for this moment, all my life, oh lord....Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord..."

I'm no particular fan of Phil Collins, but the lyrics of his drum-laden single from 1981 have mysteriously appeared in my head, and not just because Bolton's tactics ensured the ball spent most of the time "In the Air Tonight."

When I wrote a post entitled 'Manic Compression' on 1 Dec 2006, I was concerned that the compression of the Premiership table at that time would take the points required for safety towards an irretrievable level. However, I perhaps couldn't reasonably have envisaged that Wigan and West Ham would subsequently take just 4 and 6 points respectively from a possible 33. With Watford unable to put any sort of run together, an almighty three-way battle is emerging over 17th place, and with home games to come against both adversaries, make no mistake.....Charlton are currently best placed to win it! Being 'best placed' currently doesn't take into account West Ham's recent spending nor our forthcoming fixtures, but let's not dwell on such realism.

The Pardew era has so far brought eight points from six Premiership games. However far more importantly I have again witnessed with my own eyes that it has brought some guts and belief and the very 'never-say-die' attitude that was so tragically missing through that awful Nov/Dec period. And reassuringly (and not entirely coincidentally of course in West Ham's case), our mini-revival is occurring just as West Ham and Wigan appear hell-bent on self-destruction.

After six minutes this evening however, the tunnel was out-of-sight, let alone the light at the end of it. Bolton's goal will be a horror show when Pards reviews it on Thursday morning.....a combination of Sankofa, Hughes and Hreidarsson engaged in a chivalrous 'after you' sequence, allowing Pedersen more room than the Addicks fans received in the near-empty stand behind the goal.

Our equaliser was somewhat fortuitous of course, but it was strong evidence to back up a general view that I have with regard to free-kicks. In short, whilst the 'curler' into the top corner is aesthetically pleasing, the outcome is very much a binary's either an unlikely goal, or else a soft save or goal-kick results. Alternatively, when the ball is slammed low, hard and on-target (particularly on a wet pitch) then there is a greater propensity for 'good things to happen' either directly or via a fumble/parry/deflection* (*delete as appropriate). You won't see El Karkouri's goal in MOTD's 'Goal of the Month' competition, but you don't have to draw pretty pictures on the scoreboard.

The goal sucked the momentum out of Bolton, and for the remainder of the half whilst they undoubtedly dominated possession, they did not create a single meaningful chance (though young referee Lee Trobert might well have succumbed to at least one of two solid penalty shouts). The second half continued in a similar vein; Bolton were permitted plenty of possession but with the injured Anelka unable to provide any pace, Hreidarsson and El Karkouri defended the aerial bombardment heroically, and were rarely forced to face their own goal. Most importantly, the back four never fell into Bolton's trap and successfully held a relatively high line throughout.

Whilst the central defence deserves to take the plaudits, in front of them both Faye and Holland competed manfully, and allowed Bolton possession only where they couldn't hurt us. Indeed one brave challenge from Faye in the 67th minute was potentially worth a point alone. Ben Thatcher at left-back was again rock solid, although sadly I remain very unconvinced that Sankofa is Premiership quality. Several daft free-kicks were conceded, and whilst stopping an opposition attack in its tracks is often a recommended (albeit illegal) tactic, someone needed to remind him that set-pieces are Bolton's attacks.

Of those not mentioned, Carson's handling was impeccable, Hughes was quiet, Rommedahl was rarely involved, Thomas occasionally looked dangerous, and Bent had one of his better games. Credit ought to go too to Pardew for some sensible substitutions that ensured three pairs of fresh legs on the field at the end, without sacrificing either the formation or the gameplan.

Despite the Forest debacle, it is pretty clear that we are improving markedly under Pardew and I can honestly say that for the first time in a very long while, I am cautiously optimistic about our survival prospects. Our relegation odds have not changed despite this brave point because as the punters know only too well, it's Chelsea and Man Utd next from which even a single point gained would be an enormous boost.

Wigan meanwhile face Portsmouth (H), Arsenal (A) and Watford (A), and West Ham face Villa (A) and Reading (A). As a result, the Premiership table which tonight looks promising might have a very different look by the time Curbs returns to The Valley with his merry band of former Charlton players. But until then, let's just wallow in that sense that something really is "In The Air Tonight" (and that something is hope).


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 1:36 PM, Anonymous charltonross said...

Great match report. Totally hit the nail on the head. I slightly disagree with your Sankofa POV thou. He clearly has a good level of skill but is often very nervous (or even scared maybe) when he's on the ball. However last night's was hardly a game in which he'd flourish due to him not being a strong or physical player. For me the dury is still out.

For the first time since the Sheff Utd I genuinely believe we can stay up rather than just hope we can.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Nug said...

Well lets hope at the end of the season, we'll have that other 'great' song by Phil Collins in our heads, Against all odds (take a look at me now). Messers Hansen and Lineker will look like a right couple of donuts. Gone off Shearer a bit as well, his comment when analysing the Man U/Watford game the other night was that rooney, larsson, ronaldo were proper players! What does that mean Chris Powell isn't. Don't get me wrong they are fantastic but thought it was a bit insulting to Watford and anyone out of the top 4. Elitist w******s

At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Norina said...

You write very well.


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