Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hudson Valley

"I don't know much about football. I know what a goal is, which is surely the main thing." (Victoria Beckham)

Posh Spice would have relished this Charlton performance surely. Two goals scored either side of 84 minutes of mediocrity were enough to seal an opening day win for the Addicks.

But make no mistake, we'll take it because winning without playing particularly well is a very promising sign.

The starting eleven was as I predicted, but it was encouraging to see that Matt Holland really was fit for the bench, and that my contact lens-aided eyes were not deceiving me during the warm-up.

Some fans will have missed the loan signing of Hameur Bouazza, a useful squad addition for sure, but we remain desperate for central midfield and defensive cover. Unless Pards is planning an ultra-cavalier 4-1-5 formation, I'm not sure I understand the 'end game' here.

I don't have any scientific proof, but players do seem to score disproportionately often on their debuts, even defenders it seems. From the top of my head, I can think recently also of Phil Chapple and Danny Mills for example. To that illustrious list one can now add 'Captain' Mark Hudson, who had clearly spent his summer reading, "How to swiftly endear yourself to Charlton fans after moving from Crystal Palace."

The delivery from Jonjo Shelvey was immaculate, and Hudson buried the resulting free header, but the neat passing move that led to the corner was notable too. Unfortunately we did not see enough of that for the remaining 88 minutes, at least not from players wearing red.

Swansea seemed shell-shocked, and one wondered whether Charlton might seize the initiative, and perhaps go on to register an opening day hammering. Unfortunately, our failure to maintain possession was carried forward from last season, and by the 25th minute or so, Swansea began to stamp their authority, with Lloyd Sam the only Charlton player to have threatened their goal again. It was a spectacularly acrobatic effort though, matched only by an equally impressive save.

A Charlton fan on BBC Radio Five's 6-0-6 suggested that we had resorted too much to the long ball (again), but I beg to differ. Instead I saw evidence that we were keen to play passing football, but that we simply didn't do it well enough. The widemen in particular (Sam and Thomas) often gave the ball away too cheaply, preferring to try beating a marker, when a simple five yard pass would suffice.

When Bristol City gave us a footballing lesson at The Valley in March, it was clear that one underestimates League One's promoted sides at one's peril. There is clearly much to be said for maintaining the same squad by definition (or better), whilst beginning the Championship campaign full of confidence from prior success. Derby fans will be thinking the same about Doncaster Rovers one can safely assume.

Swansea were not quite as slick as Bristol City, but their neat passing was palpably superior to ours, although they lacked the pace to seriously threaten Nicky Weaver's goal. It was only when the inappropriately named Gary Monk was red-carded for two bookable offences inside a minute, that Charlton fans could relax just a little.

When Matt Holland replaced Jonjo Shelvey shortly after half-time, it was clear that Pards also recognised that the game had passed the teenager by. Given the shaven-headed prospect won't even turn 20 years old until February 2012, I think we can safely assume we will see better performances from our most promising youngsters. His depressed reaction upon substitution was full of teenage angst, which in a sense was reassuring.

Our second goal was a virtual carbon-copy of the first, although the execution of the header by Andy Gray required more 'devilment', as Pards likes to say. Grant 'the Count' Basey's first 2008/9 contribution in a Charlton shirt, was to deliver a magnificent free-kick which Gray met at full pelt to secure three points. That's three goals in three home games for the Scot, reiterating my view that he may perhaps be our underrated talisman this season.

Here are my player-by-player ratings:

Weaver 6 - forced to be alert, albeit not outstanding - an unsighted first-half save was probably better than it perhaps looked.
Semedo 7 - if you don't notice a defender much he's probably had a good game; strong as an ox, and occasionally ventured forward. His verstatility may make him the squad's most vital member.
Youga 6 - his crossing remains dire, but he generally stayed (just) on the right side of the line between class and casualness.
Hudson 6 - carries himself like a captain, so no surprise he's been appointed. We shouldn't expect him to bring the ball out of defence with grace, but he did the simple things well.
Fortune 6 - he seemed to relish having leadership responsbility taken by Hudson - it's not ideal to have zero cover for them, but early indications they could be a decent partnership.
Shelvey 4 - the game largely passed him by, but he can only improve. He has plenty of time to do so.
Racon 6 - rarely looked hurried, and was always comfortable to play the simple pass.
Sam 5 - as usual showed some glimpses, but rarely got into positions that could threaten.
Thomas 6 - he looked interested, which is something I suppose. However you still sense that he would be a cut above this level if he wanted it even more (today he wasn't)
Gray 7 - had to deal mainly with scraps, but held the ball up when he could, and won useful free-kicks when he couldn't. His goal was terrific.
Varney 6 - outstanding work-rate; a goal in injury-time would have boosted confidence, but the keeper saved with his legs.
Holland 7 - appeared to change the game, which is probably a little unfair on Shelvey. Still, you can't put a price on experience it seems.
Basey - a late defensive substitute for Thomas; I'd not be surprised if he starts at Watford for tactical reasons.
Bouazza - not on the pitch long enough to even gauge his favoured position.


At 8:36 AM, Blogger Dave Peeps said...

NYA - You got the Shelvey reaction to his early substitution spot on. Maybe we'll get a reaction from him at Vicarage Road?

At 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last season Charlton did not win any games like yesterday's, at least not at home; not once at home did we win a match where the opposition had looked the best footballing side. I agree this is encouraging.

Thomas might have looked interested yesterday, but once again his instinct seemed to be to ask "Who can I beat" and as a consequence he disrupts any fluency we might otherwise have. I was struck by the fact that when Bouazza came on he immediately tried to pass and move. I'm afraid that Thomas is a luxury we probably can't afford. If only we could sell him and raise enough money to retain Zheng.

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree with comment on Bouzza, I'd like to see more of him to see if he can sustain that level


Post a Comment

<< Home