Blues fans were reported to be 'disgruntled' after their team failed to pick up the expected three easy points at The Valley yesterday at what was described as 'rock bottom' Charlton. Rock bottom we may be, but we also showed that we can be rock hard. The media was quick to point out that we could be relegated on Monday, but this performance gave more hope for next season, although many of the key players that contributed to it could disappear. But at least there was commitment, passion and quite a lot of skill.
We could have come away with all three points as video evidence showed that Darren Ward's second half goal, disallowed for offside by the preposterous East Stand linesman, was in fact onside.
The first half was not very inspiring as a spectacle. Both sides seemed tentative in their approach and if the Blues are going to be a Premiership side, they are going to need a lot of strengthening. Elliot came out dangerously early in the game and the ball had to be cleared off the line. There were a few defensive howlers and at times the midfield seemed to dissolve into thin air. It was not really clear what our game plan was, although the formation was 4-5-1 with Shelvey given a roving role which he undertook with great enthusiasm.
Shelvey put a speculative spot over the bar, but our best moment came around the half hour mark when we had two players in the box and only one defender, but neither of them was willing to take responsibility and score.
Nicky Bailey picked up a yellow card for a soft challenge and Lee Probert's decision-making sometimes led one to wonder if his house is painted blue. Much of the entertainment in the first half was provided by opportunities to boo the returning Bouazza, enhanced by the fact that the Blues won a number of corners in front of the Covered End.
Half time: Addicks 0, Small Heath 0
The Blues came out early for a special warm up, but it does not seem to have done them much good and Charlton began to show more confidence. In particular, Lloyd Sam, who had had a disappointing first half, started to threaten down the right. Blues owed a debt to their goalkeeper Mark Taylor who pushed one effort from the rampaging Sam on to the post.
Blues brought on Kevin Phillips on 49 minutes and he invariably manages to score against us, but not on this occasion. When Marcus Bent joined the Blues, he was treated as a saviour, but the reception from tbe visiting fans when he came on on 59 minutes was less than enthusiastic, while the Addickted were given the opportunity to express their opinions about his half hearted efforts for them.
Dickson was brought on on 79 minutes, switching us to 4-4-2 and there was a view that we should have done that earlier. However, he was not really able to outfox the Blues defence.
Zheng Zhi had a chance to score a winner in the dying minutes of the game, but scuffed his shot. Phil Parkinson commented afterwards, 'If we had that team out there earlier in the season we'd be nowhere near the bottom.' Maybe, but they also seemed to play as a more of a team yesterday. Let's hope we can keep enough of them together to make a go of it in League 1. I left the ground today feeling more optimistic than I have for a long time.
Elsewhere, Leamington won 1-0 at Marlow to keep the BGB Midlands Division title in their sights.
Ivy the Terrible decided to award the Silver Bone to Rob Elliot for two great saves which kept Charlton in the game. Butterfield was generally very effective today. Ward did the business and was unfortunate to see his goal disallowed. Hudson was authoritative and made some great defensive headers. Youga had some moments of real skill, setting up some of the attacks, but at other times he made some howlers. Sam can show real skill when he wants to, but at other times he lacks pace. Whether Bailey was playing in his best position is a matter for debate, but no one can doubt his commitment. Zhi showed real energy and became a greater influence in the game as it went on. Racon was rather disappointing compared to earlier performances and was withdrawn on 79 minutes.
Shelvey was a candidate for the Silver Bone. He showed real energy and skill. Let's hope we can keep him next season. Kandol can hold the ball up quite well, but he never looked like scoring. Dickson tried hard when he came on and could have scored but for some heroics by Taylor. Perhaps his best will be good enough in League 1. Our secret weapon Ambrose arrived in time added on and nearly gave the game away. Seconds after arriving on the pitch he gave away an unnecessary free kick and then he surrended possession.
Hiss of the Match Our feline analyst Juneau the Soccer Cat thought that Alex McLeish made a complete exhibition of himself on the touchline, but gave the Hiss to the overweight and balding East Stand linesman who we have seen before and managed to deny us a goal.
Crowd rating The attendance was probably more around 16,000 than the recorded 20,022, but the Addickted were in good heart and warmly applauded the team at the end. 7/10.