Saturday, 23 February 2008

Addicks Have Sand Kicked in Their Face

Woeful defending and a 'mare of a game for Nicky Weaver saw Charlton lose 5-3 to Blackpool today, reminding the Addickted that we have no divine right to go to teams lower in the division and expect to pick up three points. The Seasiders were able to get revenge for their 4-1 defeat at The Valley. The Blackpool programme noted that 'the majority of the country will be expecting an away win.' I doubt whether the majority of the country cared, but the form book might have suggested a draw.

The match was played in a strong and swirling wind which certainly played its part in the result, making fluent football difficult and leading the ball to behave in unpredictable ways. Nevertheless, it was lack of defensive alertness that saw the Addicks 2-0 down in 26 minutes. They then made a quick response with Ambrose scoring on 29 and 30 minutes to make it 2-2 at half time.

However, it was clear that there were more goals in the game. Blackpool stepped up the pressure and Taylor-Fletcher made it 3-2 on 59, followed by a defensive howler that allowed Dickov to score on 62 minutes. Another error by Weaver made it 5-2, but then Fortune pulled one back on 74. 5-4 looked a possible outcome, but the ball failed to go in the net. The simple fact is that the better team on the day won. Charlton slipped back to 6th, behind Plymouth on goal difference.

It actually took us less time to get to and from Blackpool in the Warwickshire Rickshaw than it does to get to The Valley. Having parked up, we went in search of the briny, although when we found it it was barricaded off.

In the meantime we had entered a 1950s time warp. The first street we came to was lined with traditional guest houses masquerading as hotels. But this was not a heritage park, it was the real thing. Flock wallpaper was much in evidence. 'Late keys' seemed to be a key selling point, but one place had the USP of 'free showers', whilst another was offering 'separate television lounge'. Many offered 'continental' duvets, a real touch of sophistication there, whilst 'tea and coffee making facilities all rooms' was common. In some places hair dryers were provided, in others you had to borrow them under the stern gaze of the proprietors.

Still, given that a number of them were offering rooms for £15 a night, you can't complain. Mind you, looking at photos of the rooms, you couldn't do anything adventurous in them. Indeed, getting in and out of bed would be a challenge.

Having viewed the attractions of the pier, we headed back to the ground. It was a bit of a shock to pay £3.50 for the programme which for two of us came to almost half the price of one of the nearby hotel rooms. But I have to say it was the best programme I have seen for a long time, lots of Charlton content, including an interview with Michael Grade.

The ground was the most curious I have seen for a long time. Wrapped round two sides is a modern stand, boosting the attractions of Blackpool International Airport (the occasional piston engined small plane struggled upwards over the ground). One end is boarded off and there is nothing more than a dump behind it. The away stand does at least go the length of the pitch, but you get better seats and proper cover at Leamington.

Cook won Charlton an early corner but it was caught by ex Addick Paul Rachubka in the Blackpool goal. Gray then burst through and was on one on one with the American, but hesitated and Rachubka was able to make the save with his feet. Great work by Cook won Charlton another corner, but it was overhit. Charlton were able to play the ball back in, but then Blackpool broke at speed, something they showed themselves capable of throughout the match.

On 16 minutes Weaver pushed the ball out with his hands, but he was not well served by his defence and McPhee was able to send it back in to make it 1-0. Charlton were being beaten to the ball far too easily.

Charlton won a free kick, the keeper pushed it out and the reply from Varney went wide. The Tangerines showed their determination with a shot from distance that was only just wide of the far post.

Blackpool won a corner. An effort from Dickov, described as a pest by his own manager, was well saved on the line, but Gorkss put in a good volley to make it 2-0.

Good work by the lively Cook enabled Basey to put in a good cross right in front of goal and Ambrose pounced to make it 2-1. Shortly afterwards Ambrose was on hand to level the scores.

An Addicks free kick ended in yet another Blackpool break which produced a corner. This was followed by a second which was caught by Weaver, but the weak and fussy referee judged there should be a third. It then all went off in the goalmouth and Zheng Zhi ended up on the floor. Dickov was then called over for a talking to by the referee which must have left him quaking in his boots.

The lively McPhee was giving the defence a torrid time and the only way that Fortune could stop him was to foul him. Fortunately, the referee had lost his cards in the wind while taking a pre-match stroll on the pier and the resultant free kick went way over the bar.

Zheng Zhi turned provider for Varney who won Charlton a corner which was unproductive. Varney won the Addicks another corner which was also unproductive. Fortunately the team was able to recover from an error by Basey who gave the ball to a Tangerine in an attacking position.

Half time: Seasiders 2, Addicks 2

Chris Iwelumo came out to warm up at half time giving a friendly acknowledgement to the Addickted. He replaced Gray who had been rather quiet. Varney managed to break through, but there was no end result.

Fortune resorted to fouling again and the Tangerines received a free kick. The ball was headed out, but the home side were keeping up the pressure. Halford won Charlton a corner, but it ended in a Blackpool free kick. A long throw by Halford enabled Varney to win the Addicks a corner.

A Blackpool free kick was taken very quickly, indeed I do not think that the referee had authorised it, but no one was paying much attention to him. Weaver made a great save at the expense of a Blackpool corner. Charlton were able to launch a break of their own, but Zheng Zhi had little support and his solo effort went wide.

Weaver spilled the ball, enabling Taylor-Fletcher to make it 3-2. Then a mix up in defence between Weaver and Halford allowed Dickov to sneak a goal and make it 4-2. It was an open if not fluent game and at the other end the ball was cleared off the line.

Taylor-Fletcher put in what was admittedly a good lob, Weaver seemed positioned to catch it, but the ball received an assist from the wind off the Irish Sea and it went in off the post to make it 5-2. Cook was replaced by Thomas and Zhi by Semedo.

A flick on from Iwelumo allowed Fortune to bundle the ball in to make it 5-3. Rachubka tried to stop the Addicks getting the ball back for the kick off. Memories of an historic 8-4 defeat at Blackpool came to mind as the Tangerines missed a chance to make it 6-3.

It should be emphasised that there was no lack of effort from Charlton and their heads did not go down. Ambrose drew a save from the keeper. A long throw by Greg Halford led to a save on the line. Varney won Charlton a corner, but the referee blew for a Charlton free kick. A Matt Holland effort went wide, by this time it was a bit hit and hope. Charlton ended the game by winning two corners in succession.

As far as the Blackpool fans were concerned, it was their cup final. If we stay down next year, we may have fewer problems with this perception that we are a big Premiership club which leads teams to play above their level against us. However, I do fear that we will return to the shores of the Irish Sea. Perhaps next time I will make a weekend of it and stay in the boutique hotel advertised in the programme.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible awarded the Silver Bone to Luke Varney who burst away many times and was a real danger on the wing. Weaver had a game that he will want to forget, but before there are hasty calls to recall Randolph from Bury, we should recall all the fine games he has had. Basey made some good passes, but at times his inexperience showed. We missed Youga. Fortune scored, but I feel more confident when Bougherra is in central defence. Would there have been a case for starting Sodje who was on the bench? I didn't see McCarthy do that much wrong, but one has to ask questions when five goals are scored against you. Halford was generally effective and his throw ins were a real menance. Admittedly, he was at fault for one of the goals, but it is blame that has to be shared with Weaver. Holland battled for every ball. Ambrose scored two goals and was more involved than he often is. Zhi was below his best. Cook started well and showed some real skill, but then faded. Gray missed a golden chance to score early in the first half and was withdrawn at half time. Iwelumo didn't create very much and his presence encouraged too much hoofing of the ball up to him. Thomas did give us extra penetration on the wings when he came on.
Semedo showed when he came on that he is a class player with real technical skills, it's a shame he has become a bench player.

Juneau the Soccer Cat awarded the Hiss of the Match to superannuated charm merchant Paul Dickov. Having feigned injury to win a free kick, he then came to the side and spat judiciously at the Charlton fans.

Crowd rating Not fair to give one when the Addickted are exposed to the elements in a roofless stand assembled with the help of someone's Meccano set. As the Seasiders sung, 'We've only got two stands.' However, I was disappointed by the mass exodus of Charlton fans when we went 5-2 down and there were over 20 minutes left to play.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it the players or Alan Pardew who over estimate the quality of the our team. Defensive failings cost us again. Why can't he stick with the 4-5-1 that seemed to do well away from home at the beginning of the season and stick with 4-4-2 at home. Varney does make sxcellent runs down the wing but needs to find a target in the box when he does so. The bizarre season we've had for a while! Who knows what they'll do next...At times we've looked superb and others the keystone cops.