Monday, October 01, 2012

Stumbling on Happiness

I took my 3-year old son to his first Charlton game on Saturday, and it went remarkably well.
I bought seats towards the front of the West Lower which whilst not affording the type of perspective offered higher up, it is infact an ideal spot for a youngster as they definitely feel more engaged in the action.

Indeed with our seats towards the South end of the ground, even a 3-year old could detect that Danny Green was having a bit of a blinder, and there was no doubt who his favourite player was when I quizzed him afterwards.

It transpires that the 4-4-1-1 formation utilised on Saturday came about largely by accident with Ricardo Fuller’s late withdrawal leaving Powell without a target man (or at least one he was confident enough to throw into this fixture).

However even though the ‘1’ at the head of the formation (Wright-Phillips) was left rather marginalised, it was soon apparent that the extra man in midfield was giving Hollands and Stephens the ability to dominate affairs, perhaps for the first time this season.

Johnnie Jackson did a reasonable enough job ‘in the hole’ but I wonder whether the more mobile likes of Scott Wagstaff or Bradley Pritchard might add more there longer-term, assuming Powell persists with the formation. 

Indeed we looked more potent when Jackson was replaced by Pritchard shortly after half-time whilst perhaps not coincidentally, Blackburn barely left their own half for the remainder of the game.

Speaking of Blackburn, the suggestion that the players were fully behind Steve Kean all along was given further impetus by this performance, which appeared remarkably casual in the absence of their troubled former manager. 

Whilst a point against a side packed with the likes of Robinson, Murphy, Olsson, Etuhu, Murphy, Gomes and Rhodes would have been considered satisfactory pre-match, it was a cause for frustration that the extra two points were not forthcoming.

Perhaps having clung on against Leicester earlier in the season, there was a degree of fortune evening itself out as it inevitably does.

Blackburn’s goal was class however and if one was brutally truthful, Charlton’s central midfield rarely looked like carving open the Blackburn defence with similarly slick passing even if they maintained possession better than in previous weeks.

The multitude of chances that we did create were more often generated either by some outstanding wingplay (particularly by Green), or by a succession of corners and long throw-ins aimed at the significant frame of Leon Cort.

Incidentally William Hill have been offering 16/1 on Cort to ‘score at anytime’ throughout our games this season, odds which appear generous given his importance at set pieces.

Defensively we were rarely troubled aside from the goal, but there is undoubtedly a sense of real solidity at the back which bodes well for the months ahead. 

Lawrie Wilson looked comfortable at right-back, whilst Michael Morrison was every inch the rock hard central defender.  Indeed our vantage point afforded us the luxury of seeing just how good he is at close quarters – Rhodes never stood a chance.

Eight games may not be considered statistically significant, but there does seem to be a pattern emerging and it is one that is not altogether surprising given what we know about Charlton’s strengths and weaknesses.

Nine goals scored places us joint in the goalscoring table with Birmingham, and above only lowly Ipswich and Peterborough. 

Meanwhile ten goals conceded is as good or better than all but six teams, all of which occupy a top seven spot.

I think we can be confident of not getting thumped too often this season, but there remains question marks regarding our midfield guile and goalscoring potency (eg. BWP has managed just 1 goal in his last 10 League appearances incidentally).

Here are my player ratings:

Hamer 7 – blameless for the goal and otherwise had little to do

Wilson 7 – supported Green when required and looked comfortable in possession

Solly 6 – possibly at fault for the goal but otherwise did his usual cleaning up jobs admirably

Morrison 8 – one first-half tackle could have been heard on the other side of the river

Cort 8 – a real handful at set-pieces – Watford’s more mobile forwards may offer more threat

Hollands 7 – far more impressive than previous weeks, benefitting from needing to do one third less work

Stephens 7 – if he is genuinely Premiership class, then I still expect more – tries to be the metronome with varying success

Green 8 – occasionally chose the wrong option but a constant menace – looks more comfortable in the Championship oddly

Kerkar 7 – strange to see such a tall wide midfielder but linked up well when required though rarely able to get around his full-back

Jackson 6 – may fulfil the ‘free role’ more competently if the lone striker is a true hold-up man (BWP patently isn’t)
Wright-Phillips 5 – not really his fault, but worked hard for little reward – needs a goal badly
Pritchard 7 – not technically gifted but provides plenty of energy – needs classier midfielders around him


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