Saturday, August 07, 2010

Cherry Blossom

"Have we done cherries?"
"We done them."
"Red and black?"
(Monty Python, 1969)

For the third consecutive season, the Addicks pulled off an opening day home win although today's conditions felt more like November than August.

On a personal note, it was a nice start to my charity bets with £32.50 going to a good cause thanks to the correct scoreline.

Parkinson opted for a conservative looking 4-4-2, taking no chances with the fitness of Simon Francis or the unfamiliarity of Lee Martin and Bally Smart.

The Addicks immediately took the game to the visitors, and totally dominated the first quarter of the game.

Akpo Sodje's goal was well-deserved when it arrived, although the hard work was done by the highly impressive midfield pair of Alan McCormack (who got the starting nod over Therry Racon), and Kyle Reid.

Indeed Reid had already presented Sodje with a gilt-edged chance that he spurned, and until he tired towards the end he was a cut above the rest on show.

With as much trickery as Lloyd Sam, but considerably more penetration and drive, there are early signs that Parkinson has done a terrific piece of preseason business in securing the former loan man.

Unfortunately within minutes of the goal, the darkening clouds were a precursor for a contest that deteriorated into a scrappy niggly affair, hardly helped by a referee who was unnecessarily fussy.

It's not hard to distinguish a good ref from a poor one, largely in terms of the way they utilise the subjectivity they are entitled to use (considerably more so for example than say, tennis or cricket umpires).

Unfortunately he refused to let the game flow, whilst exhibiting considerable inconsistency (for example allowing Gary Doherty licence to take a free-kick at least 15 yards from where the offence occurred, then preventing the visitors from doing the same just seconds later).

Jose Semedo's sending off appeared to hand the impetus to the Cherries, but whilst there were some nervy moments, Charlton maintained their discipline and earned a deserved three points.

The Portuguese's red card was inevitable once the referee had blown for the foul, and whilst the midfielder probably does not have a malicious bone in his body, he may well have broken one of the opposition's with his studs up like that regardless of intent.

Given the combative role he is asked to perform, it is inevitable that he will see red on occasion but it's unfortunate his season has already been interrupted following an unnecessary challenge in the centre circle.

It is hard to generate meaningful conclusions after just one game, but the game provided early evidence that the team has plenty of spirit.

Meanwhile it was encouraging that the crowd seemed fully behind the team. With the detritus from the past four seasons in the doldrums now expelled, and with the silly rolling one-month loan signings not in evidence (at least yet), this is a team we can all get behind, and is better suited for League One.

Here are my ratings:

Elliot 6 - generally untroubled; protected his defence well in the latter stages, and produced one smart save when unsighted;

Solly 7 - grew in confidence and showed maturity and discipline rarely seen in a teenager; his positional flexibility provides the gaffer with valuable late options

Jackson 6 - a quiet game although when a defender isn't noticed, it's rarely a bad thing; allowed Reid to do his stuff ahead of him without offering much support

Dailly 7 - as assured as always

Doherty 6 - looked surprisingly uncertain early on but improved markedly; several impotant late interventions

Semedo 6 - possibly the victim of a whistle-happy referee; did his usual thankless role capably prior

McCormack 8 - key role for the goal; a vital presence throughout and often dictated the pace of the game

Wagstaff 5 - largely anonymous and not for the first time; clearly a terrific athlete but needs to produce much more than this to keep out those angling for his shirt

Reid 8 - a 10 for the first half and a 6 for the second; could tear defences apart on a regular basis on this showing

Sodje 7 - will never win points for presentation, but if he sticks to what he does best then he is an important battering ram; looked happier in a two-man forward line

Abbott 6 - looked to be trying 'too hard' at times in his deeper-lying forward role; the chemistry with Sodje wasn't great but it's early days
Racon 6 - drifted in and out of the game; not an ideal scenario to be introduced as the 'holding' midfielder

Martin 7 - showed some neat touches that suggest he's a livewire talent; if he occupies the flank opposite Reid then some champagne football could be in store

Francis 6 - a late cameo at right-back; bigger than I expected, and physical presence should not be underrated at this level


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