Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yellow Fever

Anyone wanting evidence for the enduring appeal of football should have been at The Valley today.

A game totally dominated by the side in red, yet victory was secured by the team in yellow.

In football's very unpredictability lies its appeal, although today the only emotion is frustration, tinged with disbelief. A rugby match similarly dominated would have ended up something like 48-7.

On a glorious Spring day, and with the skies overhead unusually free of air traffic en route to Heathrow, a noisy but slightly disappointing crowd of just over 20,000 were expectant.

The Addicks were instantly on the front foot on a bumpy pitch.

Playing the type of passing football that always makes us look an impressive side (but we don't do it often enough), we were camped in the Norwich half. Even Akpo Sodje looked the part.

The visitors meanwhile were a great disappointment. Shorn admittedly of their two best players, they did not impress at all except for an exceptional keeper in Fraser Forster.

He deined Bailey twice from an indentical left-sided position (although the first effort was going wide), and the carrot-topped midfielder was again unlucky with a curled effort.

Norwich had however given a warning of their aerial capability from a rare attack, when a goal was disallowed somewhat dubiously for offside.

Not long thereafter the Addicks fell asleep at a corner and unmarked defender Michael Nelson headed home from close range.

Burton replaced the injured Sodje, and the Jamaican would play an influential role in the second half, not least when his instinctive header was brilliantly saved by Forster.

Although only 50 minutes were on the clock, it was the moment where I thought "It's not going to be our day," and so it proved.

Charlton delivered wave after wave of attacks, but the ball just wouldn't sit right in the box.

Therry Racon in particular seemed to find himself with the ball on the edge of the box countless times, but just couldn't release a shot with sufficient power and accuracy to level the scores.

The impressive Semedo was removed on 72 minutes as Phil Parkinson threw caution to the wind, but paradoxically we lost our momentum, the ball-winning abilities of the Portuguese clearly missed.

By the end of the game, Jonjo Shelvey was introduced as a deep-lying 'quarterback' style midfielder, and Sam Sodje was thrown upfront but it just wasn't to be.

I could finally take no more when on 93 minutes, having seen Darren Randolph race forward (perhaps out of boredom) for an attacking free-kick, we ridiculously tried to play it short and failed even to deliver a cross at all. Madness.

With Swindon having failed to win, the Canaries could celebrate a promotion they scarcely deserved on the day, but it's hard not to be pleased for such a nice club.

Facing the same (or arguably worse) financial challenges as Charlton, their fans stayed loyal despite that infamous 7-1 defeat.

With average home crowds of 24,000 in their tidy stadium, the club and its fans deserve to be back in the Championship.

As for Charlton, results elsewhere could scarcely have gone better, so we really have most likely wasted an outstanding chance to put automatic promotion into our own hands.

Frustratingly had we played this well for most of the season, we surely would too have been promoted by now. After all we were 11 points ahead of Norwich after just six games.

Then again, just five goals from open play in our last eight games suggests that perhaps today's result was somewhat predictable. Finding a way to score goals again must be no.1 on Parkinson's 'to do' list.

Here are my match ratings:

Randolph 6 - virtually nothing to do except a regulation first-half save; could he possibly have dealt with the corner for the goal?
Richardson 7 - always a threat going forward, and regularly linked well with Sam.
Borrowdale 6 - less cultured than a yoghurt but solid defensively; some poor set-pieces
Dailly 7 - as consistent as ever
Sodje S 6 - the defensive pair were so rarely troubled, that I only noticed him when he went upfront
Semedo 8 - outstanding; does the blocking and tackling to allow others to play
Racon 8 - the best I've seen him play; fully involved when previously so often anonymous
Bailey 6 - no-one can doubt his shooting ability, but his influence wax and wanes out on the left
Sam 7 - impressive again; I reiterate that he should consistently have been taking League One defences apart (but rarely did)
Sodje A 7 - I had wondered on Tuesday how he ended up as a professional footballer; today he provided some answers
Forster 6 - generally well-shackled but makes intelligent runs; well worth a 1-year contract
Burton 7 - a vital player and definitely missed whilst injured; holds the ball up far better than Sodje
Reid 6 - struggled to get involved despite tired Norwich legs
Shelvey 7 - a brief cameo in an unusually deep role; ironically he looked quite an interesting option there


At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do like ur article~!!!..................................................

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Pat said...

Undoubtedly Norwich deserve to go back up but I'm tired of hearing about their wonderful fans - what the hell else is there to do in Norfolk and just how many miles away is their nearest premiership club? Anyone know what happened to the fans who threw their season tickets at the boss at the start of the season? I wonder at what point in the season they went grovelling to get them back?

At 2:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



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