'Here we are in the last few minutes of the match under the cosh against Tranmere. How far have we fallen?' That was the comment of Paul, the Bloke Beside Me, as we stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home against the Wirral side.
Others have told me that the last two performances at Charlton had been awful, but I did not realise how awful until today's dispiriting performance. Here are some of the faults:
1. Over use of the long ball, instead of playing to feet
2. Lack of shape in the midfield and indeed in the team generally
3. Falling too often into the offside trap
4. Hesitating in promising positions
5. Too slow
6. Bailey always playing the ball to Sam, particularly across the pitch when there was an alternative outlet available nearby in the shape of the lively Reid
7. An excessive delay in replacing Elliot when he was injured which fortunately did not cost us
8. Mooney had one of the poorest games I have seen played by a forward in a Charlton shirt
9. Parky's substitutions were not well judged, especially taking off the lively Reid, a decision that was roundly booed
10. Overall a disjointed performance
In the first half we started quite well but our overall play showed a lack of urgency and too often casualness. It was clearly a concern when Elliot came off, although what worried me was that we were still playing balls back to the keeper (which we do too much anyway) when he was clearly injured. There was one moment of humour when John Welsh, having laid prone on the ground and earned Burton a yellow card, hobbled off the pitch. A wag in the East Stand shouted, 'Are you sure that's the right leg mate?' at which point Welsh smiled and acknowledged the comment, so there is still some humour in football. Mooney did have a couple of half chances, including a crisp cross put in by Reid, but did not make anything of them. I and those around me were relieved to get to half time with the score at 0-0.
The Bloke Beside Me predicted that as against Orient we would go behind in the 47th minute but he was a minute out as Tranmere went ahead in the 48th. It came from a corner, poorly defended as is often the case and Sodje put a bullet header into his own net.
We did wake up a bit and eventually Bailey got us level. Tranmere continued with a mixture of some threatening attacks and time wasting, for which their goalkeeper Luke Daniels eventually got a yellow card, but it was far too late. But there was always a danger that Tranmere would score again and towards the end of the game they hit the crossbar. Somehow this galvanised us and we had a storming last five minutes of the game with the ball going everywhere in front of the Tranmere goal except in it. Tripping expert Zoumana Bakayogo eventually got sent off in time added on for a second yellow card following another display of his artistry with the extended leg.
Why were we suddenly able to turn it on? To me this looks like a team whose always fragile confidence has been dented by recent setbacks and are particularly nervous playing at home. We did play reasonably well at Wycombe and hopefully three games away from the Valley crowd will help us to recover our form.
For those who compare the 4-0 win at Tranmere with the draw, I do think it is likely that they have got their act together since Barnes left as their recent form shows. Also, teams tend to raise their game when they play us.
This was a poor performance, but predictably there has been an over reaction as exemplified by chants of 'You don't know what you're doing' directed at Parky. With this team I thought at the beginning of the season that we would be somewhere between mid-table and the fringes of the play offs. We are third, six points ahead of the nearest side, Colchester lost yesterday and Swindow surrendered a 2-0 lead at Southend to draw. Whilst we are unlikely to get an automatic promotion place, we have every chance of being in the play offs.
Match analyst Ivy the Terrible presented a Silver Bone to a somewhat bemused Kyel Reid. Dismissed as 'crap' after ten minutes by one of the football experts behind me, Reid improved as the game went on and could have done more if the ball had been passed to him when he was unmarked rather than always pursuing our fixaton with passing to Sam. Admittedly one run down the left in the first half did end up with him tripping on the ball, but he had the right idea and as the game went on he put in increasingly good crosses. Having a natural left-winger in the side is an asset we must learn to make use of. Apparently he was withdrawn because of a calf strain. Elliot had relatively little to do until he was withdrawn with what appeared to be a lower back injury. Randolph was not at fault for the goal and made two good saves later in the game. Dailly was solid and dealt with one potentially dangerous situation exceptionally well. Sodje did not have a good game, even leaving aside the own goal. As Steve from Petts Wood remarked, he needs to take a chill pill as he nearly got into an ugly confrontation with a charm merchant from Birkenhead. Basey in my view is both slow and lacks an intelligent football brain, but I would give him credit for playing to the best of his limited abilities.
Richardson was one of the better players on the pitch and his runs forward at least offered the possibility of creating something. Semedo had a terrible game. In my view the defensive midfield position is one of the most important on the pitch. He started the season well, but has never been the same since his injury. One Addick counted how many passes forward he made in the first half and it was just four. Bailey did score the goal, but he had a poor game. His frustration showed when he managed to kick one pass to him into touch. Even at the end of the game he was having a discussion with the referee who was reasonably good. Sam had a poor game, there just seems to be a lack of commitment at times. Mooney was a disaster. When the substitution boards went up, he started to run off and well he might. There also seems to be no working relationship between him and Burton. Burton suffered from repeated unpenalised pushes in the back in the first half but, as Killer pointed out in the programme, he is never going to score that many goals in a season. For once the Bloke Behind Me made a sensible footballing comment in relation to McKenzie: 'What's he for? Is he a left winger or a forward?' For Wagstaff it was the best of times and the worst of times. He took a while to settle in, but made some good runs down the wing and won a potentially valuable free kick at the end of the game. But he also put one ball out of play instead of crossing it and wasted others.
Hiss of the Match: Juneau the Soccer Cat awarded this to South-Eastern Trains as they delayed our return and her evening meal. In fact even the Chiltern train from High Wycombe was overcrowded as was the Bakerloo as ever (to the lady who complained about 'football fans' I would point out that they have as much right to travel as anyone else). Coming back South-Eastern cancelled a whole series of trains and as usual there was limited information.
Crowd rating We have a crowd that waits for the team to lift it, rather than a crowd that lifts the team. We have no divine right to success because we are a relatively big club. After the experience with South-Eastern Trains, sometimes I wonder if the experience of commuting on poor train services drains Charlton fans so that they are in a bad mood by the end of the week. When I lived in Essex and I saw tired commuters coming off trains I vowed that never work in London or have a long commute to work.