'I don't know who was worse - us or the referee'. That was the comment of Steve from Petts Wood as Charlton went down 0-1 at home to Barnsley to fall to 18th in the table. The only good thing about the day from a Charlton perspective was the attendance of over 26,000, and it is questionable how many of them will be encouraged to come back.
It's easy to blame the referee, but I was not convinced that the penalty earnt by Solly was one at the time and apparently the replays tend to confirm this. I did, however, think that I saw the ball cross the line in the goalmouth scramble.
But the fact is that we were outplayed by Barnsley for most of the match. We had a storming finish, but by then we were down to ten men with Fuller having gone off injured having apparently pulled his hamstring and all three substitutes used up. Barnsley were crisper in their passing, faster to the ball and kept possession better.
Our back four are the strongest part of our set up. I remain seriously concerned about the midfield and I am not sure that bringing Jackson on at half time changed things much for the better. Bradley Pritchard made some impact when he came on for the hapless Green.
Up front I am not sure that 4-4-1-1 works at home and this appeared to be confirmed when Wright-Phillips came on at half time, although Razak hadn't done that much wrong. For once Chris Powell threw caution to the winds in his substitutions and it didn't work out. Dale Stephens said in the programme that he thought most of the players had made the step up to the Championship level, but unfortunately I don't think they have.
The train from London Bridge was crowded and I was sitting next to a well-spoken group, one of whom had worked in China and had a stylish Chinese girl friend. They were debating whether they should have gone to Fulham instead, but the £5 seats were seen as a big attraction. Probably they regretted it later. As the Football League Paper commented this morning, 'In a week where the cost of watching football was under scrutiny, there was little of value on display'.
I had pointed out in my preview that Barnsley have some good players, one or two of whom are being watched by Premiership sides. They certainly did well in the midfield battle in the first half, while Stones - usually unmarked - was always a threat as he foraged forward.
Their keeper Alnwick is well regarded, but he did make an early mistake which gave Charlton an early corner, but he was able to catch it without too much trouble. Green did put in a good tackle to stop a threatening Barnsley attack. Good work by Wilson won Charlton a corner.
Hamer had to make a rather routine save. Kerkar put in a good cross, but there was no one there to connect. Would there have been if Bradley Wright-Phillips had been on the pitch. Charlton won a free kick just outside the 'D', but it came off the wall. It is on occasions like these that Jackson can be very useful.
Dagnall threatened and should have scored, but he messed it up - which perhaps helps to explain why the Tykes aren't higher up the table. Fuller put in a decent cross. Barnsley won a corner. Their first attempt was intercepted and Hamer, the walking advert for laser eye surgery, caught well from the second. Charlton won a free kick and Razak drew an excellent save from Alnwick whuch led to an unproductive Charlton corner. Golbourne had been putting himself about and earned a yellow card. Dale Stephens put in a free kick which would have gone if the alert Alnwick had not tipped it over.
HT: Addicks 0, Tykes 0
Clearly things had to be changed and Sir Chris made his double substitution. You're damned if you and damned if you don't, but something radical was needed. A Charlton free kick taken by Jackson was unproductive. Dagnall managed to miss a scoring opportunity again, but we were running out of get out of gaol cards. Sure enough Barnsley went ahead, an error by Green giving them the opportunity. Hamer was at the near post and Cywka turned the ball in from an impossible angle. To be fair, it was one of the better goals I have seen this season.
Green was taken off and Pritchard came on. All those around me went ballistic when Solly was challenged from behind, but it looked like a fair if robust challenge to me and I think the referee made the right decision in not awarding a penalty. Solly lost his rag shortly afterwards and there was an outbreak of handbags which led to Solly and Dawson getting yellow cards.
Clearly I need to go to Specsavers (actually I use another optician but a car drove into their store recently) as I thought the ball had crossed the line in the goalmouth scramble, but someone who was in line with the goal assures me it did not. In any event Wright-Phillips was judged to have fouled the keeper as a number of players ended up in a heap.
Barnsley used up their three substitutions in the four minutes added on, but by then I knew that we were not going to score even when Hamer was waved forward by Sir Chris. On the Northern Line, bemused passengers were serenaded with chants of 'To the Barns-ley 1-0.'
Barnsley manager Keith Hill commented, 'We controlled everything - having the ball is key and so is getting it back. If we keep the ball the opposition can't score, and if we press the opposition they can't be creative. Football is a simple game which gets confused by people who want to retain their jobs.' I suspect that this remark was directed at the would be Italian owners of Barnsley who have hinted that they will want a more sophisticated manager.
Any team coming to The Valley knows we can be shaken at home. Our away fixture at Leeds is a tough one, but anything is possible.
Ivy the Terrible has given the Silver Bone to Lawrie Wilson who shows a nice turn of speed, will take players on and can put in a decent cross. Hamer didn't actually have a lot to do, as Barnsley didn't make the best use of a number of their chances which perhaps explains their recent record. There was nothing he could do about the goal. Morrison who was captain managed to snuff out a number of Barnsley attacks by being in the right place at the right time. He is one player who has made the step up. Some fans have criticised Cort but I thought that he had a solid game and generally dealt with Davis well. Solly had another generally good game and I would not be surprised if he departs in the January transfer window. Hollands was simply woeful and was rightly taken off at half time. Stephens was not very impressive overall and finally got booked for an unnecessary foul. Green kept drifting into the middle when he was supposed to be on the wing and then set up Barnsley's goal through an error. Razak showed some very neat footwork and he is clearly a player of great potential. It may be felt that he was affected by the serious riot that broke out when he was on the bench for Ivory Coast in their match in Senegal after the visitors took a 6-2 aggregate lead. Kerkar showed some sublime skill getting round or tricking players, but it did always lead to anything, although that was not necessariy his fault. Faded as the game went on. Fuller displayed his experience, but he never really got close to scoring, but losing him to a hamstring injury is a blow. Jackson didn't make a great difference when he came on. Wright-Phillips showed plenty of commitment when he came on, but was not able to be a game changer. The 'he's better than Shaun' chant from the Covered End sounded a bit half hearted. Pritchard always plays to the limit of his abilities, but he was unable to unsettle Barnsley as much as some other teams which reflects credit on them. He did get a shot in on goal at the end which is to his credit given the lack of shots by us during the game.
Hiss of the Match Referee Russell got booed off, but I think that he did try to get most of the decisions right and kept the game flowing. However, this was clearly not the view of the row behind me whose colourful language about the referee drew a wry smile from the two young boys in front of me. The jobsworths at Charlton Station didn't try to stop me boarding my train (which is more of a concern at evening matches when I am trying to make the last train home). Apart from the game, everything went well. As my wife said when I set off, 'they won't do much' and she was right. So no hiss of the match.