Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hert Attack

hubris ('hju:bris) n. 1. pride or arrogance; 2. an excess of ambition, pride etc., ultimately causing the transgressor's ruin.

Perhaps it is too simple to mistake an extraordinary lack of urgency for hubris, but that was my overriding feeling after making the short trip across Hertfordshire.

You could tell within five minutes that the home side were 'up for it', every ball was challenged for as if their life depended on it, whilst Charlton were harried on the rare occasions they were in possession.

If Powell thinks this approach is merely 'physical' then I am very concerned. This result was about more than a deflected goal.

Stevenage were not especially dirty and indeed passed it well at times, especially in the first half.

Instead their approach struck me as being 'rational' not 'physical', providing clear evidence as to why they have rapidly risen up the domestic pyramid on meagre resources.

When they had time they passed it, but when they were under pressure they weren't afraid to hoof it high into the sunny autumn air. It seems perfectly reasonable to me.

I'm sure that man-for-man Charlton would have had considerably greater 'quality', but that advantage was snuffed out by a remarkable work ethic.

If only the likes of Stephens and Green on yesterday's evidence could have recognised the problem.

I understand from some of my fellow learned fans that there were clear warning signs from MK Dons (outplayed first half), Brentford (outplayed), and Tranmere (outplayed first half), and alas some chickens did come home to roost.

In recent weeks Powell had seemingly taken heed from the type of views expressed in my blog post about substitutes, namely that his early benches had lacked 'impact options'.

Green and Kermogant combined to earn a point at MK Dons, and then Kermogant scored with his first touch from the bench at Sheffield United, before adding a further assist.

Evidence to support the view that more of the same was required? Erm, no it would seem.

Paul Hayes may be a player best appreciated by the purists, but his ability to hold up the ball and link play is vital, especially when the midfield is struggling to impose itself.

Kermogant meanwhile is prodiguous in the air (remarkably so for a relatively small man), but is not a 'hold-up' man. If I was a tired defender, he'd be one of the last people I'd want to see warming up.

Indeed if Kermogant is going to start, he may well be a perfect foil for Hayes (who is more than capable of feeding the wide men with the ball, who can then give the Frenchman service), but this implies dropping Wright-Phillips which is absurd.

Good management requires the accommodation of unhappy players at times, in favour of the greater good.

Of course with both Kermogant and Green starting, the subs bench again lacked 'impact' and the half-hearted (and late) changes proved it.

The other surprising change yesterday was Cort for Solly. I'm not convinced by the pint-sized youngster, but given it must only have been a change made to directly respond to a perceived threat from Stevenage, it's odd that the unbeaten League leaders (with the joint best defensive record) should feel the need to be proactive in this way. Surely it should be the other way around?

It all smacks a little of a manager trying to look smart for the sake of it. He's learning his trade and we must acknowledge his right to experiment at times, but everything was going so well.

However despite the above, I'm a little reluctant to waste too much time on Powell's 'tinkering'.

Had we won the last two games (and football is a game of small margins of course), then he'd be declared a managerial genius by some.

I'm more inclined instead to focus on that aforementioned lack of urgency (effort?), and the ease with which a very limited but hard-working side snuffed out any attempt to impose our passing game.

I also prefer my managers to be a little more animated on the touchline. The players clearly needed a firework up their backside yesterday - when things aren't quite going to plan, will he find a rocket or a sparkler?

These types of issues are more tangible and have a degree of permanence, than which particular eleven are on the field.

More generally, seeking to assess Powell's abilities is near-impossible at this point for me given the remarkable turnaround in form which coincided with 19 new players (many of them rather good ones).

One just has to hope that he can (continue to?) add more value to this Charlton side (compared to last season's) than merely some better players, because I fear this won't be enough.

In light of my early reservations, I'll continue to reserve judgment until the evidence tells me otherwise. Even with this season's great start, we are only averaging 1.44 points per game under his stewardship.

Either way, we are now on a uncomfortable mini-run of 5 points from 4 games, and the momentum is back with some of our Northern rivals.

Here are my player ratings:

Hamer 5 - flapped horribly at a cross, and almost gave away a sloppy late first-half goal, but an important save kept us in the game
Morrison 5 - seemed to be out of position at times (not surprisingly perhaps) but wasn't overly troubled (which begs the question, why was he there in the first place?)
Wiggins 7 - the only Charlton player who stood out for me; always tried to play football and provided an attacking threat when others failed
Cort 6 - resembles Usain Bolt (at least until he starts running) and is not going to lose many headers; unlucky not to score from a pinpoint Jackson cross
Taylor 6 - hard to single out any defender for much criticism as the team's problems were further up the pitch
Stephens 3 - inexplicably anonymous; what on earth has happened to the stylish all-action midfielder who stole the show on opening day?
Hollands 6 - wasn't helped by his partner, but cannot fault his effort; yellow card proved his frustration (then again if I had triplets, I'd be pretty stressed too)
Green 4 - League One's answer to David Beckham, just without the looks, money and aftershave range; given space he can deliver a great cross but Stevenage were all over him
Jackson 6 - having been confused, I'm beginning to understand better what he brings but again he did not have any time or space to cause damage
Wright-Phillips 4 - his languid style leaves him open to criticism, but surely no other League One striker possesses such an explosive threat; was unlucky with his only chance
Kermogant 5 - won virtually every header but to what end? Not cute enough to maximise the potential of Wright-Phillips
Substitutes 3 - too little, too late.