Saturday, 14 March 2009

Iwelumo puts Wolves ahead

As expected, Phil Parkinson made only one change in the 4-4-1-1 lineup which worked well at Reading on Tuesday, writes Philippa Nicholson from Molineux this afternoon. With Wolves loanee Darren Ward unavailable, Matt Holland stepped into the vacant slot at centre back. Shelvey was on the bench. Former Addicks striker Chris Iwelumo was in the Wolves line up and, as always, there was the worry that he might score against his old club, even though he has not scored for 16 games.

Sting was a curious choice in the warm up period - there aren't many barley fields in Wolverhampton - but then we had the usual injunctions to the home crowd to get behind the team and the corny fanfare from Thus Spake Zarathrusta.

Wolves kicked off through Ebanks-Blake in the spring sunshine in a far from full stadium. Holland got his first touch, evidently playing on the right of centre. A nasty ankle high late challenge was made on Youga, but all that resulted was a free kick. McCarthy indicated to the referee that his player had got the ball which was nonsense.

Wolves made a dangerous attack, with the ball flashing across the six yard box, but Hudson headed clear well. Minutes later, Holland defended well. Charlton made a decent attack involving Soares, but the ball flashed across the six yard box with no one there to connect. Wolves counter attacked and won a corner. Elliot punched the ball clear well to Racon.

The referee spoke to Kightly for shoving Youga and kicking the ball away. Parkinson was very angry at the referee's failure to take action for the second time. The home crowd started to get a little impatient at the failure of their side to dominate. Zhneg Zhi made on attempt on goal, but it was way over the crossbar.

Zheng Zhi combined on the left flank with Kandol, but the ball went back to Youga. However, Charlton kept possession in the Wolves half well. Eventually Wolves won a throw in. Zheng Zhi went down under a late challenge, another example of the home side's physical play.

Charlton got a free kick directly in front of goal just about a yard behind the 'D'.
Eight Wolves players were in the wall and Bailey's shot hit it. The move ended in a free kick against Kandol.

Zheng Zhi was brought down again and Charlton got a free kick in the Wolves half. The move ended in an offside ruling which drew protests from Hudson. Butterfield and Zheng Zhi were playing well, while Holland was slotting in comfortably at the back where he was keeping an eye on Iwelumo.

Charlton came forward well, but the near post cross was cleared. The home crowd tried to lift their team. They thought the referee was favouring Charlton, but for once the officials seemed to be impartial. Zheng Zhi dribbled round the keeper and put the ball in the net, but the offside flag was raised.

Wolves won a corner as the half hour approached. The ball went in the net, but the flag went up for pushing and shoving on Elliot by Iwelumo and Ebanks-Blake. Soares was mowed down from behind and the Addicks got a free kick. Bailey was brought down on the edge of the area by a late challenge. Wolves organised a wall of five players. The shot beat the wall and dipped but Hennessey in the Wolves goal was able to make the save.

Hudson was brought down by a challenge and led to a free kick and more complaining by the home fans about the referee. Tempers began to fray as Youga and Kightly battled off the field. Kandol went down clutching his face and Parkinson indicated that he had been elbowed.

A hand ball was awarded against Wolves to the annoyance of the home support. A Wolves free kick was greeted by ironic cheers and the referee called Kandol over for a word after allegations of use of the elbow.

But then the inevitable happened and Iwelumo scored in the 36th minute at the near post, the Scot's first goal in seventeen games. Up to then Charlton had been holding Wolves well and a neutral would not know there was such a gap in the table between the two teams.

Wolves had a shout for a penalty with Iwelumo being held back. Kightly upended Youga for the third time and at last the referee got his yellow card out. A Wolves player went down, I think it was Berra, and Hennessey came out to complain to the referee that Soares had used the elbow.

Ebanks-Blake beat Hudson and won a corner, Matt Holland having intercepted the ball.
Elliot was barged over the line but kept the ball on the line. The goal seemed to have unsettled Charlton who were not playing with the same verve they had displayed earlier in the half.

Two minutes were added on. The lively Zheng Zhi tried to pick up a long ball from Elliot on the edge of the area, but the referee gave a free kick after a Wolves dive. Iwelumo complained that he was the victim of pushing and shoving, but the lino was having none of it. The rather scrappy half came to a close. Charlton had played quite well, but once again had gone behind.

Half time: Wolves 1, Addicks 0

Zheng Zhi equalised for Charlton on 51 minutes, making use of an assist from Bailey. and creating the space to operate from 25 yards out to put in a superb shot. He raced the bench to embrace the Charlton physio. I just wonder if we had had Zheng Zhi available for most of the season we would have been relegated.

Charlton's players were furious when Wolves were given a penalty for an alleged handball by Hudson on 70 minutes. Ebanks-Blake stepped up to the spot, but Elliot made the save by diving to the left. It's curious that such saves are always described as a 'miss' in commentaries. Surely one of the bright spots of the season is the emergence of Elliot, a Bexleyheath lad who is also Addickted. He will do a good job for us in League 1.

The home support were far from happy about their side's performance. Indeed, unless Wolves have a lot of money to invest, it is hard to see them doing a Hull in the Premiership (and even they have faded).

However, they got their three points on 79 minutes when Wolves won a corner. Charlton always look vulnerable at set pieces and the ball went over the line off the unfortunate Matt Holland. Iwelumo celebrated the strike and it was initially attributed to him, but Ebanks-Blake may have put the ball in off Holland. In the Premiership it would have been referred to the Dubious Goals Committee, but in any case it does matter, as it was possibly the final nail in the relegation coffin, even though the Addicks have not yet been officially relegated.

Supremo Phil Parkinson said afterwards, 'We have lost to two scrappy goals in a game we deserved something out of. We feel hard done by. We have played well here and need to carry on playing with a lot of pride, although our chances of staying in the Championship are slim. That Chris Iwelumo left for a nominal fee, about £400,000, I believe, hurts because we have needed a striker like him who can score scruffy goals.'

Wyn Grant comments: Iwelumo was, of course, constantly criticised by the Addickted when he was at The Valley. Presumably he went because (i) he was not scoring enough goals and (ii) his wages were quite high. However, the budget is going to be even more constrained next season.

Despite the calls by probably a majority of the Addickted (there is no accurate way of measuring opinion) for Parkinson to go sooner or later so that a new manager can bed himself in, my expectation is that the board will review the position in the early summer. I am far from convinced that they will replace Parkinson.

To those who say it's a 'results business', they might say the test will be League 1 results. I am agnostic about Parkinson. He inherited a demoralised and in many ways inadquate team and a 2-1 defeat away at Wolves is better than a 1-3 loss at home under Pardew. Some say they may boycott the club if he remains, but I have always supported the team rather than the manager. I was fan of Curbs, and I had doubts about Dowie, but I still kept coming.

I may, however, not make the trek down to London so often to see League 1 football, even though I will retain my season ticket. This will require some thinking about the form to be taken by Addick's League 1 diary. And I thought I was just parking the Premiership Diary for a while!

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