Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Red Leicester

Relativity is a funny thing.

When Charlton were relegated in 2007, the opening home game of the Championship season versus Scunthorpe felt like a nasty taste of cold turkey.

Now that we are back at that level via a promotion, the opening home game had a tangible sense of ‘occasion’ even despite a mildly disappointing crowd of 16,658.

By comparison our first midweek home game of the aforementioned 2007/8 season (versus Norwich) attracted a crowd of over 21,000, suggesting several thousand fans have sadly been lost during the course of the last few tumultuous years.

It’s a shame that more weren't there to see it because on last night’s evidence, there will be plenty of entertainment on show and whilst Charlton will lack the quality of some of the division’s better sides, they will more than match them for heart. 

There was no doubting the quality of Charlton’s two first-half finishes though, both devastating yet from what were barely half chances.

Leicester looked shell-shocked and two half-time substitutions signalled intent, and indeed the degree to which Andy King subsequently bossed the midfield (more about that later) suggests Nigel Pearson’s team selection may have been wrong to begin with.

It was no surprise meanwhile that Jermaine Beckford did not appear for the second half after a display which bordered on the casual – a fairlytale career which seemed set to take him from non-League to Premiership stardom stalled badly once he reached the highest level, and he now barely looks Championship quality on this evidence.

The second half was one-way traffic with Charlton not carving out a single opening, whilst the Foxes created four gilt-edged chances, yet only converting one.  

Had Jamie Vardy scored with a late point-blank header, few Charlton fans could have complained a draw wasn’t a fair result but given the cruel way points were lost at Birmingham, perhaps we deserved some good fortune.

The degree to which the Charlton midfield went awol in the second half must be a cause for concern however, especially with little in the way of more compelling alternatives in the squad. 

Bradley Pritchard provided an energetic link between defence and attack (notably during the build-up to the opening goal), but I question whether he has the quality on the ball to make a real impact at this level – then again the same could be said of Scott Wagstaff.

The less said about the contributions of Stephens, and particularly Hollands and Jackson the better – the latter two would look slow next to a stationary vehicle, but perhaps in League One this was less of a factor.  Worryingly Lawrie Wilson also looked off the pace during his late cameo.

With Kermogant and now Ricardo Fuller providing obvious outlets for a ball that bypasses the midfield entirely, perhaps we can succeed merely by being a little direct and maintaining a high tempo, but to the extent we can do some business in the final days of the window, we are desperate for some midfield back-up.

Without it I sense a midtable season, which (financial implications notwithstanding) would suit most of us just fine.

Here are my player ratings:

Hamer 8 – safe handling when called upon although his defence left him exposed at times

Solly 6 – rarely able to bomb forward, but dependable when required defensively

Wiggins 7 – great quality on the ball though went missing for Dyer’s golden second half chance

Cort 6 – at nearly 33 years old, he is slow on the turn (notably in the first half) but terrific in the air and reads the game well

Morrison 7 – looked more comfortable than his defensive partner; a vital player

Jackson 4 – I’ve never been his biggest fan, and for once at least I had some justification – virtually anonymous

Stephens 5 – great early promise at the start of last season has not been fulfilled – game went on around him in the second half

Hollands 4 – not good enough at this level I’m afraid

Pritchard 7 – as mentioned, in the team for his running (just don’t expect any moments of genius)

Kermogant 6 – won his fair share of headers and scored a great goal, but he lacks mobility to get behind defences facing goal

Wright-Phillips 8 – looked the player we all hope he could be for us this season; hard-working, pacy and devastating when called upon

Wilson, Cook, Kerkar – late substitutes


At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're in a great position if we can beat a promotion contender while our midfielders are that bad...

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

Did you have a bad day? Has the wife been bullying you? You got lost driving your white van? Your children don't love you?
Anyone that can judge Jackson and the boys after one home game deserves our sympathy.
The one that really tickled my son and I was the six out of ten you gave Chris Solly.
Well done. Totally brilliant.
Best laugh I've had this month.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Anonymous at 1.29pm: yes, maybe.

Anonymous at 1.36pm: no I got there in good time thanks. The midfield was garbage in the second half - suggest you take off your rose-tinted specs. Could have lost us the game on a different night.

At 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes but we didn't, the team as a unit is very strong and resiliant ( can only go on for so long, but early days). I would say that the reason why our midfield had no say in the second half would be because we don't have enough speed in there and the way Leicester attacked, with numbers and speed Leicester we looked like rabbits caught in the headlights. But our midfield hasn't played in the championship and but it will get use to the league (especially stephens, who infact thought played well in the first half as we played some good stuff.) Jackson wasn a disappointment but its due to his lack of speed. There will be games where he will be suited to it but with the speed possessed in the Leicester it wasn't a game for his style of play.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Admittedly I do tend to focus more than most on performances more than results (not that I'm suggesting last night's was bad by any means - it was terrfic except in one area).

My concern is that it wasn't the case that our disappointing midfield trio had a one-off poor game, but they are fundamentally not good enough to step up to this level week-in, week-out for reasons that they can't realistically do anything about (ie. they're too slow).

After all when you go in at HT 2-0 up against one of the best sides in the division, surely the midfield's job (if they're good enough at this level) is to 'box up' the game and strangle the life out of the opposition. Instead we ended up winning thanks to some desperate defence and poor finishing - as a fan, obviously I'll 'take it' but most teams won't be as profligate as Leicester were.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger The Exile said...

I too was disappointed with the attendance. Leicester are one of the big boys of the league, I expected 19-20k for this match.

I think you were a bit harsh on the midfield. In the first half (Jackson aside who had a poor 90 minutes) I thought they did well enough. It wasn't until Leicester started to up their game that we found wanting.

I think the reason for that was that Leicester are just a better side than we are and they made those players look ordinary.

I think it's a bit premature to judge whether any of our players are good enough for this division yet.

At 4:53 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

Indeed, given that in truth probably only 15k or so were actually there, the attendance was even more disappointing - I do wonder to what degree the business model of the new owners depended upon better crowds (at regular prices)? We may laugh at Sheffield Wednesday's inflated sense of self, but they got 25k last night.

On reflection, you're right I was probably too harsh on the midfield, basing it too much on the second half performance.

However not sure it's premature to judge if players are good enough or not with the transfer window closing next week.

At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth is somewhere in the middle, the team has great heart and spirit and some excellent players however to progress we need to find someone to hold and pass the ball better. I do think assessment of midfield was harsh as I think Leicester will be a top 6 side and I would stick up for Danny Hollands it was never a score of 4 as he does a lot of unseen work. Onr factor on the crowd is many people delayed their holidays because of the olympics.

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

I agree about the midfield not looking good enough, particularly in the second half. However, I'm not sure this wasn't due, in part, to the whole team sitting much deeper and looking to defend the half time lead.

I think we did this a lot in the big games last season. Certainly the two games against the Sheffield teams in January we defended a lead by getting every player behind the ball. This leads the midfield to drop back until they are almost shoulder to shoulder to the centre halves. This leaves the midfield deserted and allows the opposition to run the game.

In League One this looked like a successful approach, but against teams with the quality of Leicester we are going to come unstuck, I believe. When Leicester scored I just couldn't see us keeping them out until full time.

As for Jackson, I know he is not fast, but on Tuesday he looked knackered from the start, and has done so for some time now. I thought this was due to coming back into the side a little sooner than he might have after an injury layoff. I was hoping that he would start the season like he did last year. Sadly he still looks like it's a struggle to even jog more than a few meters.

At 11:21 AM, Blogger New York Addick said...

KHA, you may be right that it would be wrong (for people like me) to assess the second half midfield performance based solely on possession, as opposed to 'keeping their shape' and protecting the defence. Obviously the latter is a lot harder to discern than the former, but no less valuable when you are already 2-0 up.

However as you imply then if so, they didn't do even that especially well - the way I saw the second half is that played 100 times in that way (with same substitutions, formations, possession etc.), Leicester would have won about 50 times (only poor finishing stopped them doing so on this occasion) - given that teams probably only come back from 2-0 down at HT to win about 1 in 40 times, I found the performance to be somewhat worrying. The fact that we actually won makes no difference to me (clearly it is highly relevant to others who don't look at things the same way I do!).

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I even thought the midfield were anonymous in the first half. It was so easy for Leicester to pick up a ball between our defence and midfield unchallenged. Without mentioning their speed limitations they made a few mistakes (especially Jackson towards the end) as well inviting pressure and counter attacks which Leicester were particlarly dangerous with. Morrison was my man of the match. I'm convinced Leicester will be near the top (especially if they sort their defence out) so it maybe better to see how we perform against other mid-table teams.


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