Leicester City 3 (Vardy 9, Drinkwater 48, Nugent 64) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Kingpower Stadium.
A systematic going-over from the best side in the Championship was hardly recommended but Charlton will be wise to shrug this one off and put it down to bad experience. I’d advise them to “move on” if I fully understood what that fatuous phrase meant. It will console them that they’re finished with Leicester City this season and that they remain one of only five sides to have beaten them in the league. So I guess there’s a little “closure” to be found there. Someone get me help because this drivel seeps into your subconscious while you’re daydreaming.
A repetition of that outstanding result on August 31st was never remotely on the cards at the impressive Kingpower Stadium, where City gained emphatic revenge as well as disproving the theory that Charlton, after three consecutive wins over them, are their bogey team. In each of those victories, Yann Kermorgant had scored against his unlamented former club. On Saturday, he was strutting his stuff on the South Coast, where his hat-trick against Doncaster Rovers did his more genuinely missed ex-teammates a massive favour. The popular Breton is unlikely to be quite so helpful when Bournemouth visit The Valley on March 18th.
In the East Midlands, meanwhile, champions-elect Leicester show no signs of freezing as their return to the Premier League grows nearer. Relaxed and confident, the Foxes eased any potential pressure by scoring as early as the ninth minute before cruising smoothly through the rest of a resoundingly one-sided game. Charlton didn’t get a look-in but were mercifully spared a demoralising drubbing as their tormentors turned in an otherwise pitch-perfect performance. After their battling victories over QPR and Sheffield Wednesday, this was an unpleasant return to reality.
It might be stretching it a bit to compare Nigel Pearson’s well-schooled team with majestic Barcelona but their stall is set out to emulate the masters. Rarely dribbling past opponents, they prefer instead to progress through sharp passing to feet, which invites interceptions as the ball zips from player to player but offers few opportunities to do so. And 62 goals in 33 league games means they take their chances. Even at this modest level, Charlton were hitched to an exhausting carousel which has frustrated so many of Barcelona’s victims.
Not that they needed it, of course, but the Foxes also enjoyed a slice of luck in opening the scoring. As Richard Wood’s crunching challenge dispossessed Anthony Knockaert, David Nugent was allowed to turn unchallenged on a fortuitous ricochet from what looked suspiciously like an offside position. His nicely timed square pass was taken in stride by Jamie Vardy, who cut inside Rhoys Wiggins and finished unconvincingly through the goalline efforts of Lawrie Wilson.
As the Addicks chased ever elusive shadows, the issue was effectively reduced to a duel between City and Ben Hamer. Following on from his nobbins display at Hillsborough, the in-form keeper produced a string of defiant saves which technically, if not realistically, kept the outclassed visitors in with a chance.
Before Vardy scored, Hamer had brilliantly blocked the mobile sharpshooter in a one-on-one clash, before diving full length to pluck Knockaert’s low cross off Ritchie De Laet’s feet at the far post. Confronted again by Vardy, he pounced on the striker’s faulty touch and beat him to the loose ball. In reply, the visitors managed a few scraps, most notable among which was the flighted ball from Michael Morrison which cleared a hesitant Jeffrey Schlupp but was unsuccessfully lobbed at Kaspar Schmeichel by Simon Church. More depressing for the Addicks was the sight of Morrison almost immediately leaving the field in distress. A packed agenda of fixtures would be far harder to negotiate without their key defender.
Three minutes after the break, Hamer was at it again only for his luck to run out this time. Having saved magnificently from Nugent, he was left helpless as Danny Drinkwater ferociously lashed the rebound high into the net.
Collapse was imminent but Hamer, aided by some wayward finishing from City, had other ideas. He reacted superbly to keep out another of Drinkwater’s blockbusters, his defiance inspiring a rare moment of activity at the other end, during which Wood strained to reach Astrit Ajdarevic’s wickedly delivered free kick but nodded it narrowly over the bar at the far post.
Midway through the second period, Nugent finally notched the goal his unremitting efforts deserved. Running directly into the heart of a wilting defence, he picked his spot for a low drive, struck expertly with the outside of his right foot, which beat Hamer on its way into the net off the left post.
Before the end there were more great saves from Hamer, easily the pick of them his stupendous parry of Nugent’s close range ripsnorter after fine work by hardrunning De Laet, possibly the division’s best right back. But the damage was limited to injured egos, bruised pride and boneweary limbs. None of them are beyond repair. And we’re free again to concentrate on the Cup. This train could be bound for glory, this train.
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet, Morgan, Wasielewski, Schlupp, Mahrez, Drinkwatewr (Hammond 76), James (King 70), Knockaert, Nugent, Vardy (Wood 67). Not used: Moore, Taylor-Fletcher, Logan, Phillips. Booked: Vardy,
Charlton: Hamer, Wilson, Morrison (Dervite 21), Wood, Wiggins, Cousins (Hughes 60), Poyet, Adjarevic (Tudgay 60), Jackson, Harriott, Church. Not used: Green Ghoochannejhad, Thuram, Fox. Booked: Harriott, Poyet.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson. Att: 24,742 (867 visiting).
IKEA in Greenwich
IKEA’s application to turn the big Sainsbury’s and Comet into a big new branch of the popular furniture shop divided opinion when the plans were revealed. The matter will be decided upon this week when the Planning Board assembles at the Town Hall on Monday evening at 6.30pm. Council officers have recommended that the plans be given the green light.
Just as likely to divide opinion as IKEA is the long-running controversy of the Run To The Beat event. Last year the event moved the start and finish to Greenwich Park and this year the organisers have decided to move it out of Greenwich altogether and it will take place in Wembley. Will you miss it or are you glad it’s going?
Hotel Checks Out
Another application that was causing controversy recently appears to have been quietly dropped for now. Simon has updated this forum thread with the news that Frank Dowling’s application for a large hotel, replacing Trident Hall behind the Trafalgar Tavern, has been withdrawn.
Cabinet member councillor John Fahy conducted a survey through his website to see if people thought the council should once again help fund Blackheath Fireworks and the results were revealed last Monday. It turns out they do, by a massive majority. 91% of the people who took part said the council should help fund the event. Read more on his website.
You can keep up to date with the best of the local blogosphere with the Greenwich blogs page on Greenwich.co.uk.
Another week, another movie being filmed in Greenwich. This time the Old Royal Naval College hosted the cast and crew of Frankenstein, which stars Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. There were lots of excited tweets as the news spread that the Harry Potter star was filming at the ORNC, which is of course also home to the University of Greenwich. Thanks very much to Graham Long for sharing this photo from shooting that took place on Wednesday evening.
The ORNC has recently appointed Will Palin as its new Conservation Director and there was a lovely gathering at the wonderful Warwick Leadlay gallery during the week to welcome him to his post. Horatio’s brilliantly funny and mischievous poem was an unforgettable, and unrepeatable, highlight. Best wishes to Will Palin in his new and important role!
And still with the Old Royal Naval College… a new series of concerts have been announced for this summer with names like Goldfrapp, Russell Watson and Jools Holland performing. Get more information here.
Snow’s No Show
It was reported in the week that London and the south east might get hit by snow yesterday (Friday). The white stuff failed to materialise though so it has turned out to be a pretty snowless winter. Looks like we may have to wait until next winter to once again see scenes like this.
Two people, however, did get snow on Friday as I delivered these two large prints to two very nice Greenwich residents. If you’ve seen a photo on the site you would like as a print or have a special request you would like to have photographed, please feel free to send me an email.
As well as the council’s Planning Board on Monday night, it’s also the next of the Greenwich Series events where interesting folk give a short talk to interested listeners above a pub in Greenwich. More info here. Thanks to organiser Matt for adding it to the site and if you have an event coming up you would like to publicise, you can do the same here.
Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Best 57) Charlton 2 (Harriott 22, Church 65).
Kevin Nolan reports from Hillsborough.
Let’s get one thing straight. There is little evidence to suggest that Charlton’s chances of avoiding relegation will be affected by their convoluted Cup run. These bonny battlers show every sign of coping with whatever is thrown at them so bring on the sixth round at Bramall Lane. Winning is contagious. Meanwhile, relax. You’ll need your rest.
This delayed 5th round win, hard on the heels of an epic league victory over QPR, was bitterly earned over a side desperate to secure a titanic, money-spinning clash with their despised local rivals. There were dollar signs clouding Sheffield Wednesday’s eyes but they might have made the mistake of spending the money before the cheque arrived. No Steel City derby for them. Nor Sheffield United. Charlton proved to be what John Lennon called a Spaniard in the Works.
Wednesday were left with regrets but few complaints. They were beaten by visitors with an insatiable hunger for success which carried them through numerous rough spots. Four of Monday night’s heroes were recent Academy graduates, one of them (Morgan Fox) making his senior club debut, as Chris Powell showed yet again that he is prepared to trust youth. Mind you, he placed them under the veteran eye of skipper Johnnie Jackson, whose crowdsurfing weekend celebrations faced a tougher test at Hillsborough, where travelling fans are squirrelled away in a remote top tier behind a goal. A suited-and-booted Powell duly stepped up to the challenge by swinging on the crossbar at the end. Undignified, of course, but the occasion got to him, as it had many of us on Saturday.
In the early going, the Owls hardly managed a touch. Buoyed by the pressure-releasing dismissal of QPR, the confident Londoners got among them, hogged the ball and should have scored before a resurgent Callum Harriott gave them a 22nd minute lead. Set up by Harriott’s darting run, Astrit Ajdarevic fired a shot against Glenn Loovens’ legs, then squirted the rebound off another blue-and-white defender for a fruitless corner. But the Addicks were not kept waiting long for their breakthrough.
A restless blend of skill and strength, 18-year old Diego Poyet is in the first team to stay, or someone else’s first team unless Roland Duchatelet ties him down to a deal. His hustling urgency won him possession to the right of Wednesday’s goal, with his ball in screwed wildly but effectively by Ajdarevic into Harriott’s feet on the edge of the penalty area. Still only a kid but slightly more experienced than his former U-21 mates, the 19-year old left winger did what came naturally in firing an unstoppable drive into the top left corner.
Well on top, the Addicks created a string of chances to make this tie safe before the interval. A senior citizen compared to Poyet, yet another19-year old (sorry about turning this into a litany of ages but this was a bunch of adolescents strutting their stuff) in Jordan Cousins forced Damian Martinez to save awkwardly at his near post with a blistering drive before more industry by Poyet set up Simon Church, whose tame effort hardly troubled Martinez. At the other end, Chris Maguire’s cross swung dangerously but untouched across goal. The Owls were improving but a formidable goalkeeper stood in their way.
Preferred to Yohann Thuram, Ben Hamer was a study in composure, first in dealing with Gary Gardner’s long range rocket, then effortlessly beating down Leon Best’s fierce half-volley after the striker eluded Fox (not 21 until September, by the way).
With a massive prize dangling in front of them, the South Yorkshiremen hauled themseves back ino contention after the interval. A rare slip by Poyet gave Jacques Maghoma enough space to curl a shot narrowly wide and though Jackson sent Ajdarevic’s lay-off skimming past a post in reply, Wednesday’s equaliser was on the cards.
A foul by Richard Wood on Gardner conceded a free kick, bent in by Maguire and touched on by Miguel Llera. In the ensuing chaos, Best hammered a rising drive through the heaving masses and Hillsborough at last erupted. Its relief wasn’t to last.
While Charlton briefly sagged, Fox’s foul on Best caused another hectic scramble from Maguire’s inevitably accurate setpiece but the home side’s equality lasted less than ten minutes before they fell behind again. Llera’s foul on Church was professional enough to earn him a yellow card from referee Mark Clattenburg but oil was poured on his troubled waters as Jackson’s wickedly dipping free kick was bundled past Martinez by a dubious combination of Church’s head/shoulder/arm. Wednesday’s protests were perfunctory and the goal stood.
What remained was an intense siege of Charlton’s goal, during which Hamer distinguished himself. His instinctive reaction in clawing Adthe Nuhui’s resounding header off the goalline after it cleared Harriott’s head and bounced off the inside of the left post was impressive. So was his plunging effort to beat Nuhiu to Maghoma’s whipped-in cross, then steal the loose ball off Best’s toe. But his piece-de-resistance was put aside for added time.
Already airborne in pursuit of Maguire’s vicious 20-yard drive, the keeper’s problems were complicated by a treacherous deflection off Michael Morrison. Finding an extra extension from somewhere, he managed to conjure the ball over the bar. If catches win matches, as ex-England opener and Sheffield Wednesday nut Michael Vaughan would surely confirm, then marvellous saves like this one certainly make sure you don’t lose them. Hamer’s performance surely resolved Charlton’s goalkeeping dilemma in his favour. We’ll find out at Leicester next Saturday as this crowded season gathers added pace. Keep the faith.
Wednesday: Martinez, Palmer, Loovens, Llera, Mattock, Maghoma, Coke (Lavery 58), Gardner (Nuhiu 58), Maguire, Afobe (Helan 74), Best. Not used: Kirkland, Buxton, Onyewu, Hutchinson. Booked: Llera, Mattock
Charlton: Hamer, Wilson, Morrison, Wood (Dervite 90), Fox, Wilson, Cousins, Poyet, Ajdarevic (Hughes 90), Jackson, Harriott, Church (Ghoochannejhad 85). Not used: Thuram, Green, Sordell, Nego. Booked: Wood.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg. Att: 24,607.
Charlton 1 (Jackson 90) QPR 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
The arrival of cash-heavy QPR at The Valley pinpointed the lopsided struggle Chris Powell has been waging to keep Charlton in the Championship. And this magnificent, emotion-charged victory over the West London plutocrats neatly highlighted the resourceful fist he’s making of defying overwhelming financial odds.
His opposite number, Harry Redknapp, was able to choose a side from what Powell ruefully called “an embarrassment of riches.” The absence of prolific Charlie Austin was covered by the recent acquisition of Irish international Kevin Doyle, while suspended (I know, I could hardly believe it myself) Joey Barton was replaced by the even more recently acquired Ravel Morrison in a seamless jerk-for-jerk adjustment to R’s midfield. In response, Powell cheerfully admitted that his squad had been “cobbled together” from what was available to him.
After being thoroughly outwitted by his less-trumpeted rival, Redknapp was in typically disingenuous mood. “I thought Ravel was excellent on an impossible pitch. He was head and shoulders above everyone else on the field.”
To what my Mum would have dismissed as “blatherskiting” by an “eejit”, the only polite answer is “Cobblers!” The pitch, though bald and unattractive, was perfectly playable, while Morrison, despite seeing a lot of the ball, did little with it and, if his shooting was any guide, appeared to have his boots on the wrong feet. If he was “head and shoulders” above Charlton’s academy kids, Diego Poyet and Jordan Cousins, then the Pope really is still Polish. Unless, of course, Redknapp meant Michael Morrison, who was superb at the heart of the home defence.
The outstanding contributions of Poyet and Cousins were a reproof to Redknapp’s cheque-book version of management. Developed within the club and both still teenagers, they have stepped up from Sparrows Lane to warm the cockles of Powell’s heart. Mind you, it helps that during their development, they are under the experienced wing of their marvellous captain Johnnie Jackson.
As the Addicks have endured one frustration after another during this awkward season, Jackson has been scapegoated by a school of scholarly tacticians, many of whom don’t even attend games. He’s too slow, they say, his legs have gone, he only plays because he’s Powell’s favourite. To which, again, cobblers, cobblers and not-so-cobblers because the third point is conceded. Of course he’s Powell’s bloody favourite. Why the hell wouldn’t he be!?
Alongside a mixed bag of youngsters and new arrivals, Jackson was immense against Rangers. Tackling, blocking, encouraging, giving every inch and ounce of effort, he was everywhere at once. And, oh yeah, scoring, to which we’ll happily return later.
In reply to Charlton’s snapping, hustling urgency, the elegant West Londoners passed, trotted, passed again, broke occasionally into a gentle canter, then passed yet again. A shot at goal seemed the last thing on their minds. They didn’t actually manage one on target, though Morrison screwed a couple horribly wide and Yohann Thuram had to improvise nobly after presenting Dorian Dervite’s ill-advised backpass to substitute Modibo Maiga. The Addicks were far more purposeful in the shooting department.
Cousins made that point in the early going. Set up by Danny Green’s short lay-off, he drilled a low 25-yard piledriver against the right post; wrongfooted by the rebound, Reza Ghoochannejhad prodded against the opposite post as Robert Green floundered helplessly. Much later, the Addicks’ willingness to have a go paid handsome dividends.
Having replaced the ineffectual Green midway through the second period, Astrit Ajdarevic made an immediate impact with his nimble feet and ability to pick the right pass. He can shoot, too, as he demonstrated with a curling drive which was bound for the top right corner until Green’s full-length intervention at the expense of a right wing corner.
Shaking off his obvious disappointment, Ajdarevic took over corner-taking duties from Jackson in a ploy probably devised in training to free the skipper for other things. His wickedly delivered inswinger was met beyond the far post by Jackson, whose prodigious leap above Aaron Hughes was crowned by a firm downward header which cannoned off a defensive, goalline leg to find the roof of the net.
To state that the last gasp goal caused pandemonium would be to distort reality. The previously fretful Valley erupted in delirium; press box neutrality took an overdue break; Jackson and his overjoyed colleagues joined the Lower North in behaving badly; reason and reserve fled for cover. This was far more than a winning goal, this was a corner hopefully turned, temporary relief at least from all the setbacks steadily inflicted by this arduous campaign. And wouldn’t you know it was Charlton’s intrepid captain who delivered the goods? In added time too, which speaks highly of those supposedly knackered legs. Jackson dropped! Powell out! Only way to go, really.
Charlton: Thuram, Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Wiggins, Green (Ajdarevic 64), Cousins, Poyet, Jackson, Church (Harriott 89), Ghoochannejhad (Tudgay 64). Not used: Hamer, Sordell, Wood, Fox. Booked: Jackson.
QPR: Green, Hughes, Dunne, Hill, Traore, Hoilett (Keane 54), Carroll (Benayoun 81), Jenas, Morrison, Onuoha, Doyle (Maiga 69). Not used: Murphy, Suk-Young, Henry, O’Neil.
Referee: Carl Ilderton. Att: 17,333 (3,267 visiting).
I spotted a license application in the week for a new Sainbury’s at the Greenwich Square development on the old hospital site. In it, a new road name is revealed and it’s called Fenton Parade. Check out the forum for more information on the 18th century actress that provided the inspiration for the choice.
Peninsula ward councillor Mary Mills has put out a request for suggestions for street names along with instructions on how you can send them to the council.
Spring on its way
This long, wet, miserable weather is starting to draw to a close and this week there were some uplighting reminders that spring will soon be upon us, with blue skies and even daffodils spotted in Greenwich.
Also spotted in Greenwich this week was the arresting sight of Thor’s rather large hammer. The comic book hero from Asgard was in Greenwich last year for the filming of The Dark Work and it appears he was in the area again last week, leaving his hammer in the garden of the hotel, Devonport House.
The hammer, which was attracting lots of attention from passers-by, is in town to coincide with the release of The Dark World on DVD. Worth a look for all the scenes at the Old Royal Naval College. I understand the hammer should remain in Greenwich until February 28th.
Coming up this week
Esteemed local historial Neil Rhind will be giving a talk this week to the Greenwich Historical Society. It’s actually three short talks one, prompting the title “A Mixed Medley”, and takes place on Wednesday at Blackheath High School. More information here.
Also coming up is another free lunchtime recital at St Alfege Church in association with Trinity Laban. Eve Wieltschnig on clarinet and Gennie Joy on bass clarinet will be performing on Thursday, from 1.05pm until 2pm.
You can keep an eye on all upcoming events at St Alfege here.
Customers at Sabo’s newsagent today were also treated to a free lunch time recital with Bob doing a great job on sax.
Don’t forget, recitals, talks and any other interesting local events can be added to the what’s on section here.
I mentioned in last week’s round up that the Royal Artillery Band would be leaving the borough after 250 years and performing a farewell parade. It was a good turnout in General Gordon Square but if you didn’t make it over to Woolwich to see them, here’s a photo I got of them marching out of historic Woolwich Barracks for the final time.
The stretch of river between Charlton and the tip of the Greenwich peninsula is called Bugsby’s Reach but there are moves to change this to Waterman’s Reach. Historian and Peninsula ward councillor Mary Mills has penned this article explaining why she’s against the change.
Just around the bend from Bugsby’s Reach is Blackwall Reach and that’s where there was a fireworks display on Friday night, sending red love hearts in to the sky. You might well have seen the short display, or more likely heard them, but here’s a short video clip from Twitter user @wontbelong
New restaurant planned in Greenwich?
A new restaurant could be coming to Greenwich town centre in the not-too-distant future. Peyton and Byrne have applied for planning permission for signage and alterations that would be required to open up a new restaurant at 20 & 22 Greenwich Church Street. These two properties have recently been rebuilt by landlords Greenwich Hospital.
The List of Adrian Messenger
Many thanks to Monique who got in touch to tell me about The List of Adrian Messenger. It’s a John Huston-directed movie, made in the 60s, with an amazing cast list that includes Tony Curtis, Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum and Frank Sinatra and many scenes were filmed near Monique’s home in East Greenwich. Check out this great web page to see the stills from the movie and hover your mouse over them to see more recent photos. Thanks again, Monique, for sharing the find.
Met boss in Charlton
The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, Bernard Hogan-Howe, will be at Charlton House next week to answer questions. It’s an event for people from Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs and takes place on Wednesday 19th Feb, from 6.30pm – 7.30pm.
Still in Charlton, don’t forget you can catch up with all of Kevin Nolan’s CAFC match reports on Greenwich.co.uk, kindly sponsored by Grant Saw Wealth Management, who are based at the Blackheath Standard. And this week’s round up ends with a short message from Grant Saw Wealth Management.
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Charlton 0 Birmingham City 2 (Macheda 22,79).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
The table is a stickler for truth and with two thirds of the season gone, Charlton are where they belong – third from bottom of the Championship. The mutual ineptitude of their three closest rivals offers hope but you can rely on the kindness of strangers only so long. Eventually you sink or swim on your own merits.
An unfamiliar line-up, featuring only four starters from the side which beat Birmingham City at St. Andrews on November 2nd, fought earnestly to complete a league double over the Blues. As usual lately, they fell short with a goal in each half enough to settle their hash. Still they remain within touching distance of safety. Thanks to low standards, the issue is far from resolved yet.
Whatever the outcome of Charlton’s fight to stay in the Championship, the wisdom of disconnecting the main components of an admittedly misfiring team and re-calibrating them with untested parts comes into question. Our new guvnors might well know what they’re about but it seems to the less business-savvy of us that spreadsheets, rather than team sheets, dictate policy these days. Surely Chris Powell’s need was for reinforcements, not replacements, as he juggled injuries and suspensions alongside a poorly stocked squad That’s probably an unpopular point of view in the board room but I’ve never actually been inside one and I’ll take my chances.
Not that blame for this latest discouraging setback is directed at the three new arrivals making their Valley debuts. Far from it. Up front, Reza Ghoochannejhad was a lively, mobile handful for the visiting defenders, has a goal in him and can be forgiven for his risible attempt to con a penalty from unimpressed referee Adcock; at the tip of the Addicks’ new-fangled midfield diamond, Astrit Ajdarevic improved on a quiet first half, coming into his own with a repertoire of tricks and flicks; goalkeeper Yohann Thuram was horribly exposed for both City goals but contributed several important saves and, despite some faulty kicking, is beginning to settle down to the job. They’re the future but trouble is the future looks bleak. And getting bleaker all the time.
It’s possible to build an argument that Charlton were unlucky to lose this game but just as easy to demolish it. They dictated much of the action, played pleasingly at times, with young Diego Poyet outstanding, but were again undone by their failure to improve on a miserable record of just 23 goals in 28 league games. With depressing statistics like those, you’re doomed to struggle.
Gamely coming to terms with their stodgy but playable pitch, the Addicks carved out one or two early chances, the best of them falling to Ajdarevic, who headed tamely at Darren Randolph after Richard Wood nodded Lawrie Wilson’s free kick back from the far post. Ajdarevic had also lobbed Wilson’s through pass over the bar when promisingly placed. In reply, Lee Novak drove into the sidenet and Federico Macheda sidefooted Paul Caddis’ low cross narrowly wide. With dreary predictability, it was the visitors who broke the deadlock after 22 minutes.
A borderline foul by Wood on lanky midfielder Tom Adeyemi gave left-footed Manchester City loanee Emyr Huws the perfect opportunity to whip in a wickedly dipping free kick from the right touchline. The most delicate of glances from Macheda’s head in a congested box re-directed the ball beyond a frozen Thuram and into the left corner. A familiar gloom settled over The Valley and was destined to stay there despite occasional shafts of light.
Charlton’s embattled keeper promptly rescued his side with an alert one-on-one save after right winger Chris Burke, not for the first time, outwitted Cedric Evina before Jordan Cousins missed his side’s best chance before the interval.
Set up by Reza’s clever touch and Ajdarevic’s thoughtful pass, the youngster shot unconvincingly against Randolph’s legs. The ex-Charlton keeper also reacted smartly to save Ajdarevic’s acrobatic volley from Johnnie Jackson’s sweeping delivery, then clawed Jackson’s snapshot to safety. With the Addicks on top, a diving Reza was straining inches away from converting Cousins’ fiercely driven, head-high cross.
There was no relief from frustration after the break as Reza’s michievously deflected shot tested Randolph’s reflexes, Michael Morrison curled wide and Marvin Sordell’s long range effort brought Randolph tumbling to his left to save, Another excellent block from Thuram kept his side in the contest as Evina’s error allowed Burke in again but the Addicks were effectively finished off with ten minutes remaining.
Contemptuously brushing aside substitute Danny Green’s wafer-thin challenge in the centre circle, Adeyemi ran purposefully at Charlton’s wavering defence, before picking the precise moment to release Macheda into space to his left. From point blank range, the perennial Manchester United loanee, seen earlier this season in Doncaster Rovers’ colours and still only 22, made easy work of beating Thuram. And that’s all she wrote.
Winners only five times in twenty eight league games, Charlton should by rights be marooned at the foot of the table.Surprisingly though, their plight, while desperate, is not hopeless yet. They can’t rely on handouts from rivals much longer, of course, before it runs out. Self reliance, that’s what it’s all about -good old get-up-and-go gumption as practised by our betters in Chipping Campden. See me, I’m all for it, me.
Charlton: Thuram, Wilson, Morrison, Wood, Evina, Cousins, Poyet (Parzyszek 87), Jackson (Green 73), Ajdarevic, Sordeel (Church 73), Ghoochannejhad. Not used: Phillips, Hughes, Nego, Lennon. Booked: Morrison, Ghoochannejhad.
Birmingham: Randolph, Caddis, Martin, Packwood, Robinson, Burke, Lee, Adeyemi, Huws, Novak, Macheda (Lovenkrands 87). Not used: Doyle, Howard, Shinnie, Brown, Rusnak, Blackett. Booked: Huws, Macheda, Robinson.
Referee: J. Adcock. Att: 15,878 (2001 visiting).
Well, hasn’t time flown. It doesn’t seem two years ago that the Queen granted royal status to the London Borough of Greenwich but the anniversary of that date passed during the week just gone. If you remember, there were fireworks on three consecutive nights around the borough to mark the occasion – here’s a little reminder from the fireworks in Eltham at the Tudor Barn.
It’s also two years since the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery arrived Woolwich at their new purpose-built facilities. They’ve become a familiar sight being exercised on the borough’s roads since then. Here they were down at the Old Royal Naval College in February 2012.
While it was “hello” to the King’s Troop in February 2012, it will be “goodbye” for another group of soldiers this February. As I mentioned in last week’s round up, the Royal Artillery Band are being moved to Wiltshire after calling Woolwich home for 250 years. Their farewell performance is Sunday 9th Feb in General Gordon Square at 1.30pm.
Over on the Greenwich.co.uk forum, on which anyone can start a discussion about local issues, I have posted some details of Cathedral Group’s redevelopment proposals for the Alcatel Lucent site in East Greenwich.
There’s also an update, via local running trainer Ellie Brown, on what’s happening with the tea pavillion in Greenwich Park. Find out here.
Next weekend, look out for free performances at the Queen’s House where performance artists Akleriah resurrect the extraordinary rags to riches’ life story of Lord Nelson’s infamous mistress.
Wigan Athletic 2 (Fortune 88, Gomez 90) Charlton 1 (Sordell 3).
Kevin Nolan reports from the DW Stadium.
Unique among the transfer window deals cut by new owner Roland Duchatelet was his ruthless replacement of Ben Alnwick by Standard Liege’s surplus-to-requirements goalkeeper Yohann Thurma-Ulien. It might also become the one he comes to bitterly regret, assuming, of course, that he dreads relegation as much as the rest of us.
The Alnwick-Thuram-Ulien dispute drove an inevitable wedge between Duchatelet and his neatly shafted manager Chris Powell. Goalkeeping was obviously the least of Charlton’s problems, as evidenced by their impressive goals-against column and the recent inclusion of the nervous newcomer at Middlesbrough was a huge surprise explained, to sceptical guffaws, by the enforced absences of Alnwick and deputy Ben Hamer due to illness and injury respectively. As usual, the fans were treated on a need-to-know basis. In other words, they were impolitely ignored. As was Powell apparently.
It hardly strengthened Duchatelet’s hand that Thuram-Ulien’s early blunder at the Riverside Stadium, despite several fine saves later on, cost the Addicks a worthy point. But the football-innocent owner, advised possibly by an all-knowing eminence grise, was merely biding his time.
Solid, dependable Alnwick was duly re-instated for the cup ties at Oxford and Huddersfield, where he kept clean sheets before the three personally blameless goals he conceded during a lamentable team performance at Doncaster became his swan song. With unceremonious haste, he was bundled off to Leyton Orient, leaving Thuram-Ulien, in Hamer’s continuing absence, No. 1 goalkeeper by default. Powell had won one or two battles but it was Duchatelet who won this particular war.
Thuram-Ulien’s contribution in this most heartbreaking of defeats, was a bizarre combination of instinct and folly. It included another of his colourfully trademarked saves with his feet and featured again a curious aversion to catching high balls. Patting, palming, occasionally punching weakly clear, his lack of penalty area authority spread confusion and panic among a defence heroically striving to protect the 3rd minute lead given them by Marvin Sordell. There’s nothing a beleaguered rearguard appreciates more than a keeper who bosses them about while dominating his area. It offers them welcome respite, breeds confidence and mutual respect. You can be certain about this much in the short term. The word will quickly out that Charlton’s goalkeeper has an almost religious aversion to fielding crosses, preferring to try his luck by alternative, unorthodox methods. Against Birmingham City next weekend, for instance, expect him to have plenty of company under corners, free kicks and crosses. Should be interesting but more than likely costly, unless his colleagues are especially alive to the scraps he leaves.
Sordell’s excellently taken opener, meanwhile, gave the visitors heart as well as something to defend. It’s been a desperately disappointing season for the 2012 Olympian but clearly his manager believes in his potential. Sordell repaid that trust somewhat by running purposefully on to Johnnie Jackson’s lancing through pass, then composed himself before slotting calmly past the advancing Ali Al Habsi.
Confidence duly flooded through Powell’s unfamiliar team, featuring as it did three starting debutants and when 19 year Harry Lennon arrived to replace injury victim Rhoys Wiggins, a third Academy graduate to join the impressive Diego Poyet and constantly evolving Jordan Cousins. It’s becoming a new-look Charlton and none the worse for it.
Though the Latics dominated possession, the Addicks had their moments. Slimline forward Reza Ghoochannejhad (that’ll be Reza, then) started brightly and before understandably tiring, showed an encouraging willingness to shoot. One uninhibited drive tested Al Habsi, a better one clipped the bar. Emerging right back Loic Nego struggled early on but improved: Astrit Ajdarevic showed again that he’s an elegant craftsman with more to offer. There’s hope for the future. Trouble is the future’s right now and it’s bleak.
The second half of this ultimately disastrous game turned into an almost non-stop siege of Charlton’s goal, during which Thuram-Ulien cut a chaotic, sometimes awkwardly effective, figure. His reward was ironic applause from the away end for a solitary catch but to paraphrase the French observer of the Charge of the Light Brigade, his madcap antics were magnificent but not goalkeeping. Not as we know it, anyway, and eventually his wildness wore Charlton down.
Having survived goalmouth scramble after scramble, the Addicks were glimpsing the finishing line when the roof fell in on them. As they began to weaken, a smart pass from substitute Josh McEachran gave fellow sub Marc-Antoine Fortune room to sidefoot a neat finish past Thuram-Ulien.
The disappointment was heartfelt but worse was to follow. From a free kick wearily conceded by Michael Morrison to the left of goal, third substitute Jordi Gomez squeezed a not altogether convincing winner between Thuram-Ulien and his near post.
It was easy to be angry about the late surrender of even a vital point but this was wonderful, if unrewarded backs-to-the wall defiance, which has a perverse beauty of its own. It deserved better but that’s football. It knows exactly where to kick you and delights in doing so. Wonder how Ben Hamer’s recovery progressing? Or if there’s any point in even wondering about it?
Wigan: Al Habsi, Perch, Boyce, Barnett, Beausejour, McArthur (Gomez 74), Watson, Mcmanaman, McCann (McEachran 57), McLean, Maynard (Fortune 57). Not used: Nicholls, Crainey, Espinoza, Browning. Booked: Beausejour, McEachran.
Charlton: Thuram-Ulien, Nego, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins (Lennon 8), Poyet, Cousins, Jackson, Ajdarevic (Dervite 82), Sordell (Pritchard 73), Ghoochannejhad. Not used: Phillips, Hughes, Green, Church. Booked: Lennon.
Referee: Michael Bull. Att: 14,321 (729 visiting).
I mentioned in last week’s round up that the German frigate, SCHLESWIG HOLSTEIN, would be heading past Greenwich on Monday morning. For those that missed her, here she was with the Thames Barrier and the O2 in the background.
Why do Brits make the best movie villains?
The Queen’s House will be seen by over 100 million people this weekend when it appears in an advert for Jaguar that will be shown during the Super Bowl. Most won’t recognise where it is though as it’s actually doubling for the real Queen’s house, edited in at the end of a sequence where a Jaguar drives up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. You can watch the advert, which stars Ben Kingsley, Mark Strong and Tom Hiddleston, here.
The Queen’s House also appeared in David Dimbleby’s brilliant Britain and the Sea series recently and he has created an audio guide to the paintings that are on show there. You can pick it up for free at the information desk by the entrance.
All this talk of the Queen’s House is a good excuse to share this photo I took from over at Island Gardens last summer.
A Poll and a Petition
This week saw the launch of both an online petition and an online poll on two very different issues.
The petition has been set up by the owners of the Old Cottage coffee who want public support for their campaign to get the nearby public toilets in Charlon Park refurbished.
The poll is from senior councillor and cabinet member, John Fahy, who has said on his blog that the council should return to a position of financially supporting Blackheath fireworks. He wants to know if people agree or disagree.
Severndroog Castle nearly ready to reopen
Thanks must go to Laura, the Heritage Manager at Severndroog Castle, for letting me have an early look around this week. Work on the tower, hidden away in Oxleas Wood, is continuing but all’s looking good for a reopening this spring, at which time there will be a cafe, venue space and education room.
I put a couple more photos up on the forum.
Apparently it’s the only non-winning property from the 2005 programme Restoration that has managed to get itself restored. Maybe show host Griff Rhys Jones should come back and see it for the reopening?
Kevin Nolan’s Match Reports
For those that missed them, we had match reports on the site this week from the Huddersfield Town v Charlton game, and then Doncaster v Charlton. Do take a look and add a comment if you think Kev has got it right or got it wrong. Thanks, as ever, to Grant Saw Wealth Management for their sponsorship of the column.
Royal Artillery Band
The Royal Artillery Band have been based at Woolwich for 250 years, but that relationship is unfortunately coming to an end soon. The band are moving from Woolwich Barracks to Tidworth in Hampshire but, before they go, they will make a final appearance in Woolwich. An emotional farewell will take place on Sunday 9th February, from 1.30pm to 2.30pm, in General Gordon Square, Woolwich,
Doncaster Rovers 3 (Meite 26, Brown 36 pen, Duffy 67) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Keepmoat Stadium.
As damp squibs go, this so-called six-pointer took the biscuit if metaphors can be mixed at the start of this report. You would safely assume that a clash between sides respectively placed 21st and 22nd in the Championship would be a blood-and-guts knockdown brawl with no quarter asked or given. Most of time, you’d be right. But not on this occasion. You’ll come across more aggression in a dove sanctuary.
With a gritty Cup victory over Huddersfield up the road still fresh in the memory bank, Charlton were confidently expected to tackle this vital game in great heart. Instead they obediently rolled over and allowed Paul Dickov’s spirited side to patronise them from whistle to whistle. As the second half wore on, Rovers passed the ball metronomically between them to cock-a-hoop cries of “Ole!” from their jubilant fans. Their victims seemed neither humiliated nor irritated by the experience. On the contrary, their attitude was one of weary resignation, if not acceptance, of their fate.
There’s something ominously dispiriting going on behind the scenes at The Valley, or so it seems to your ear-to-the-ground reporter. Rumours are cheerfully bandied about, none of them encouraging. With two days left in the transfer window, the scuttlebutt is of outgoing rather than incoming players. The question mark hanging over Yann Kermorgant seems a good place to start.
Since nobody tells us anything, we’re at liberty to call the moody Frenchman’s body language as we see it. And without pre-judging the outcome before Friday, this was a bloke going through the motions with his suitcase already packed for the seaside. He didn’t fall out with a single opponent, nor did he squeeze in even one moan at the referee. At one point, he shook hands after being unceremoniously decked by James Husband. All very civilised but you wouldn’t have seen any of that a few weeks ago. And the prolonged wave he gave to his fans at the end had rather more “Adieu” than “Au Revoir” about it. Sue me if I’m wrong.
Anyway, sorry about that, now I’m spreading disheartening rumours of my own. You can’t help wondering, though, if our new owners have arrived to dismantle rather than improve the current team. The curious decision to allow Michael Smith to leave, for instance, smacked of hard-nosed business rather than long term vision. The big Geordie has scored three times in two games for Swindon and may, next season, be operating a division above Charlton. He was worth a look. And the arm which Chris Powell draped around Dale Stephens after substituting him a quarter hour from the end seemed one of parting sorrow. The beleaguered manager needs an arm round his own shoulder (you up for that, Roland?) rather than the dog’s abuse he’s coming in for from certain quarters. Debate his decisions by all means but keep it decent. This is one of ours who deserves better. And more than one of us demands it for him.
As for the game itself, that was over and done with as soon as Donny decided that nearly a half hour of softening-up was enough and polished off their helpless victims with two goals within ten minutes of each other.
The opener was a scrambled egg of a goal, not that Rovers much cared about its quality. After Johnnie Jackson performed heroically to scrape Bongani Khumalo’s header off the line at the expense of a right wing corner, the immediate danger seemed ended. Not a bit of it as Mark Duffy worked a quickly taken flagkick, before rapping a close range effort against Ben Alnwick’s legs. The rebound cannoned off Abdoulaye Meite inside the near post and this one-sided match was already effectively over.
Ten minutes later, the formalities were all but completed. Richie Wellens’ piercing pass into Billy Sharp’s feet allowed the returning local hero to turn for goal inside the penalty area before being chopped down by Lawrie Wilson. A red card for Wilson and a spotkick were equally inevitable; Chris Brown calmly found the bottom right corner from 12 yards.
Resuming with ten men, the Addicks were facing a morale-destroying hiding but Rovers chose to coast and spared them. Midway through a routine second half, though, the excellent Duffy split a tiring defence to beat a blameless Alnwick from distance.
As time slipped away, Sharp had a chance to claim the goal his inspiring contribution merited but after rounding Alnwick, inexplicably failed to find the target. No matter – his effect on Rovers is galvanic and his goals might well keep them up. Wellens also might have been suitably rewarded for his captain’s example but unluckily hit the bar from 40 yards. Somewhere during the dismal proceedings, Jackson shot over the bar and Simon Church did likewise but they were hardly moments to cherish and you are free to disregard them.
We journey on, meanwhile, to Wigan where hopes are high but expectations are correspondingly low. You never know with Charlton, of course, so don’t rule them out. But something has to change and quickly. Help me, Roland, help help me, Roland….
Doncaster: Turnbull, Tamas (Quinn 77), Khumalo, Meite, Husband, Coppinger, Keegan, Wellens, Duffy, Brown (Peterson 89), Sharp (Cotterill 77). Not used: Furman, Maxted, De Val, Stevens.
Charlton: Alnwick, Evina (Wood 46), Morrison, Dervite, Lennon, Wilson, Cousins, Stephens (Ajdarevic 79), Jackson, Church (Harriott 76), Kermorgant. Not used: Thuram-Ulien, Green, Sordell, Pigott. Booked: Stephens. Sent off: Wilson.
Referee:Paul Tierney. Att: 7289 (448 visiting).
Huddersfield Town 0 Charlton 1 (Church 54).
Kevin Nolan reports from the John Smith Stadium.
With two mighty leaps, gutsy Charlton threw off their FA Cup shackles and, with this second victory in four days, vaulted from the third to the fifth round in easy stages. Say what you like about their ability but leave their spirit out of it. Despite regular setbacks, that burns brightly.
In wet, windy West Yorkshire, where the rain was siling down as they say hereabouts, they were up against the usual handicaps. For different reasons, their outstanding full back partnership of Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins was unavailable, while talisman Yann Kermorgant was rested with Tuesday’s critical assignment at Doncaster Rovers considered a more pressing priority. With his dwindling resources showing signs of being reduced rather than augmented before the transfer window closes, Chris Powell performed his customary sleight-of-hand and sent out a side dedicated to disputing every inch of territory with the locals.
Ace midfielder Dale Stephens possibly took the Henry V exhortations a little too literally with an unnecessarily robust 28th minute tackle on Adam Hamill, which triggered an unseemly outbreak of the usual “you and whose army?” pseudo-aggression between the opposing bands of brothers. Stephens escaped with a caution, Michael Morrison and Anthony Gerrard joined him in referee Attwell’s notebook for disagreeing about the colour of the card, Danny Ward’s nasty lunge took out Town’s resentment on innocent Cedric Evina before Stephens pushed his luck with a fair but borderline challenge on Oliver Norwood. Both Hamill and Evina limped off later but this wasn’t rugby where stamping has apparently succeeded eye-gouging as the evil deed de nos jours and peace eventually broke out again.
Pre-hostilities, the Addicks had been indebted to keeper Ben Alnwick for staying on terms. His sturdy reliability had already been demonstrated with a competent gathering of Norwood’s snapshot before a marvellous save denied Ward. Played through by Paul Dixon’s measured pass, Ward shot firmly on the run but Alnwick somersaulted to his left to parry, then recovered the rebound as James Vaughan closed in for the kill.
Replacing Kermorgant, Marvin Sordell had come closest for the visitors when blasting Simon Church’s cutback narrowly over the angle of post and crossbar, Johnnie Jackson nodded Stephens’ free kick wide but it was Town who called the first half tune and the Addicks who were more grateful for the break.
Nine minutes after resumption, all that changed as willing workhorse Church shot Charlton into the lead. Full debutant Astrit Ajdarevic (Ad-ar-evitch) played his part by picking out Lawrie Wilson, whose darting infield run and clever reverse pass dovetailed with Church’s intelligent off-the-ball running. Turning sharply, the Welsh international beat Alex Smithies with a low, scuffed crosshot which found the net off the far post.
Town boss Mark Robins had seen enough. Possibly regretting that he hadn’t started Sean Scannell, he sent on the tricky right winger to turn the tide. A one-man army, Scannell began to run at the visitors’ rearguard, where 19 year-old Harry Lennon had relieved Evina to make his first team debut. The latest in an encouraging supply line of Academy talent, the tall, well-built kid, normally a centre back, acquitted himself nobly but Scannell was a different proposition. His direct running and unselfishness caused chaos and created a flood of chances.
The newcomer began by bamboozling Callum Harriott on the right byline before cutting back for Ward to blast wildly into the crowd. Hungry for the ball, he set up Ward again but a weak shot scudded wide. Taking the bull by the horns, Scannell eluded Lennon and crashed in a fiercely angled drive which was sneaking inside the right post until Alnwick dived to beat it clear. Charlton’s in-form goalie also plunged bravely into flying feet to claim a dangerous low cross from second sub Duane Holmes, who stood out for the Terriers last Spring in an U-21 play-off semi-final at Sparrows Lane.
Scannell had one last shot in his locker. Embarking on a determined solo run, he made it into the penalty area where he was surrounded by a wall of pursuing defenders. Sapped by his unremitting effort, he managed only an inconclusive effort which dribbled harmlessly wide.
The wise word, meanwhile, is that this Cup run diverts attention from the bread-and-butter priority of staying in the Championship. It’s hard to refute that assertion but Charlton are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. A less than enthusiastic attitude to Cup commitments has outraged supporters in the recent past and no doubt persuaded Powell, a natural competitor, to have a genuine go at progressing. Added to which, the club has already made about a quarter million in prize money, which will cheer Roland up. Success breeds success anyway, so it’s onward to the Keepmoat Stadium for the fourth of five successive away games on Tuesday evening. We’ll talk again on Wednesday morning.
Huddersfield: Smithies, Smith, Gerrard, Wallace, Dixon, Hamill (Sinott 35, Scannell 55), Gobern (Holmes 64), Norwood, Clayton, Ward, Vaughan. Not used: Bennett, Woods, Stead, Bunn. Booked: Gerrard.
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Evina (Lennon 35), Adjarevic (Cousins 69), Stephens, Jackson, Harriott, Sordell (Green 69), Church. Not used: Thuram-Ulien, Wood, Cook, Pigott. Booked: Stephens, Morrison.
Referee: Stuart Attwell. Att: 10,102 (382 visiting).
NB …. And Charlton’s reward for the heroics described above? An away tie at Hillsborough against fellow Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday, that’s what! No disrespect to an historic old club but how’s that for a kick in the nuts? Mind you, the winner will be one game away from Wembley. I’m starting to warm to it.
I thought I would start with everyone’s favourite subject: the weather. It’s certainly been changeable but on the whole, quite mild for the middle of winter and especially so compared to last year. The contrast was shown up quite nicely by this photo I took in the week of the Ranger’s House, exactly one year year after I stood in the same spot in my snow boots to take the same photo.
Taking advantage of the mild weather, I met up with Wapping-based photographer Vickie Flores to go and take some photos of wildlife in Greenwich Park and have, as she calls it, a nut party! The squirrels were enjoying the attention and some geese came along too.
Also on the forum, I’ve posted details of the cruise ships that you can expect to see visiting Greenwich this year.
One of the gems of East Greenwich, of which there are many, is the Pleasaunce and the Friends group for the park are holding their AGM this week. If you ever visit or use the park, you might want to get along. As Sue, who added details of the event to our What’s On section, says, “Please don’t just sit in and watch Holby City, get out and have your say and meet a few more park users.”
The committee are even offering to buy a drink in the Vanbrugh Tavern for all those that attend!
Charton Athletic had their replay with Oxford United in the week and, of course, our match reporter Kevin Nolan was at the Kassam Stadium to report on it. Kevin’s match reports are sponsored by Grant Saw Wealth Management, who are based at the Blackheath Standard.
Towards the end of the week, a press release came winging its way from Greenwich Market landlords, Greenwich Hospital. They have submitted a planning application to Greenwich Council for a number of changes at the market, which include a new roof and a new open public space. You can read the full news release from them here and why not have your say, too?
Early on Friday morning, well before sunrise, a frigate from the Germany navy came up the river and is currently alongside HMS Belfast (there’s pictures on my other website, all about the Thames). If you’re somewhere near the river at Greenwich on Monday morning, some time after half-past ten, you’ll see them leaving again.
Oxford United 0 Charlton 3 (Kermorgant 35, 59), Green 38.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Kassam Stadium.
Having spent a wretched half hour demonstrating an apparent lack of interest in the FA Cup, an almost full strength Charlton pulled themselves together and efficiently disposed of Oxford United in this 3rd round replay. A two-goal salvo dented local hopes in the first half, a third on the hour saw them off. The questionable fruits of the Addicks’ labours is a 4th round trip on Saturday to Huddersfield Town, where they have lost twice already this season. Not the best of draws but to win it, you have to be in it.
Before Yann Kermorgant scored the first of two excellent goals, the Championship strugglers seemed at pains to descend to United’s lower level, colluding with them in a dreadful mishmash of misplaced passes, carelessness in possession and mutual inefficiency. An assignment in West Yorkshire was clearly a poisoned chalice to be passed on at all costs. Then, to general surprise, the visitors scored and discovered, in the process, that they had little to beat. The opener itself was well worked and clinically converted.
A familiar mixture of promise and frustration, left winger Callum Harriott shook off the lethargy to loft a pass to Simon Church, back to goal and shadowed by Jake Wright. Expertly shielding the ball, Church laid off to Kermorgant, whose vicious 15-yard drive exploded into the net off Ryan Clarke’s vainly groping right hand.
The process was so simple that the Addicks wasted little time in doubling their advantage. Tactically switching wings with Danny Green, Harriott eluded left back Tom Newey before sending Church sprinting through the U’s dishevelled defence. While Green kept pace with him to his left, the busy forward bore down on Clarke, then chose the precise moment to square generously for his colleague to walk the gift over the line. Church’s unselfishness in sacrificing his own need to score in his team’s interest will not have gone unnoticed by his appreciative manager.
Possibly relieved that a Cup odyssey which began with a 1st round trek to Gateshead on November 9th was finally over, outclassed Oxford offered little in reply. A crisp drive from James Constable, their solitary effort on target, was collected without fuss by Ben Alnwick, while Josh Ruffels headed David Hunt’s cross narrowly wide. But there was nothing much else to trouble the Addicks as they coasted serenely into the next round.
There were, of course, motions to be gone through and respect owed to honourable losers. On the hour, Kermorgant added a final flourish to Charlton’s comfortable victory after Johnny Mullins’ irritable challenge on the rampant forward, for which he became the game’s only booking, briefly soured the benign mood.
Picking himself up from the turf, Kermorgant sized up a 30-yard free kick, slightly to the right of centre. His left-footed skipper Johnnie Jackson showed an interest in having a go from a more advantageous angle but his burly teammate was having none of it. A textbook strike soared into the top right corner with Clarke a helpless witness to its deadly accuracy. And apart from the aforementioned motions, that was all she wrote. Or nearly all.
For revelling in the unaccustomed absence of pressure, Chris Powell duly indulged in a small helping of cup romance. With eight minutes remaining, the game’s most accomplished player, Dale Stephens, gave way to 18-year old Diego Poyet, son of Gus, the former Chelsea and Uruguay star. The small pocket of musical, travelling fans promptly confided in us that the son was better than the father. Actually, if he’s half as good, he’ll be useful but during his brief debut cameo, he showed skill, guts and a hint of acceptable cockiness, masquerading as confidence.
There were other plus points for Powell. Jackson sailed through 90 committed minutes, Alnwick’s return to rude health proved beyond reasonable doubt that he is currently Charlton’s best goalkeeper and Green, along with Harriott, provided ressurance that the squad has depth. It’s also worth mentioning the surprising return from injury of Marvin Sordell, an overlooked striker with plenty to prove.
On the negative side, it might be time for the club to show transparency in clearing up the doubt surrounding Chris Solly’s absence. Football is a constantly turning rumour mill, the latest of which suggests that the outstanding right back faces further surgery following a recovery setback. If true – and it remains no more than a rumour – the news underlines the continuing problems faced by Powell, who also temporarily lost Rhoys Wiggins, his other full back star, to suspension last weekend.
The beleaguered boss, like the Victorian poor, has nothing…and is expected to make it go a long way. It would help his cause if fans were told the truth. After all, they march arm-in-arm, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the team they and deserve no less. To be honest – and I’m nothing if not honest – I wouldn’t mind knowing myself. Not that I’m nosy or anything but….well, y’know.
Oxford: Clarke, Hunt, Raynes, Wright, Newey, Rigg (O’Dowda 79), Davies, Mullins, Ruffels, Smalley, Constable (Marsh 79). Not used:Rose, Long, Lynn, Shama, Bevans. Booked: Mullins.
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Evina, Green, Stephens (Poyet 82), Jackson, Harriott (Pritchard 68), Church, Kermorgant (Sordell 76). Not used: Phillips, Wood, Lennon, Pigott.
Referee: David Coote. Att: 3,225.
Middlesbrough 1 (Ledesma 16) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from the Riverside Stadium.
As Charlton begin to fray around the edges, with injury, illness and the occasional suspension biting into their meagre resources, the abrupt decline in health of regular goalkeepers Ben Hamer and Ben Alnwick caused raised eyebrows among the more sceptical of 258 fans who rallied to their cause on chilly Teesside.
With third choice Nick Pope loaned out to York City and 18-year old rookie Dillon Phillips on the bench, the decks were conveniently cleared for brand-new loan signing Yohann Thuram-Ulien to rocket up the ranks from obscurity to first line goalkeeper, within mere days of his arrival in South East London. The big stopper stepped up for his debut in English football and proved to be the difference between these mediocre sides. He is ineligible for Tuesday’s Cup replay at Oxford which means that the return to blooming health of either Hamer or Alnwick will be monitored anxiously between now and then. A curious business and it promises to get curiouser. Though there’s not an evidential leg to stand on, you may feel inclined, meanwhile, to “pull the other one.”
While finding his debut feet, Thuram-Ulien negotiated an awkward opening, during which he was reprieved by Curtis Main sidefooting wastefully wide before Marvin Emnes drove a clear chance into the sidenetting. In the 16th minute, however, his luck ran out.
Picking up a loose ball in an innocuous position, Emmanuel Ledesma was possibly following instructions to test the newcomer’s ability as he moved forward to potshot from long range. He speculated to accumulate as a diving Thuram-Ulien allowed the crisply driven low shot to bounce up and over his left arm on its way inside the right post.
It was a catastrophic start for Charlton’s embryonic keeper but, to his credit, his subsequent performance made a sound case to be considered their man-of-the-match in the face, admittedly, of indifferent competition. Several outstanding saves included an unorthodox effort to keep out Mustapha Caryol’s fierce drive with an outthrust foot, followed by a quick adjustment to neatly field Emnes’ deflected effort to convert the rebound. In the second half, Thuram-Ulien reacted nimbly to prevent Caryol from crowning a brilliant solo run with a cleverly curled decider, then saved his best for last in bravely foiling Dean Whitehead in one-on-one confrontation at close range. But he never altogether convinced.
Thuram-Ulien’s defiance kept the Addicks in hopeful pursuit of a useful point until the dying moments when Dale Stephens’ last gasp blockbuster was brilliantly saved by the artful old stager in Boro’s goal. Shay Given had been given little to do until his late call to action but he predictably was equal to the task. Mind, you, he had been given the benefit of considerable doubt minutes earlier when substitute Simon Church beat him to Yann Kermorgant’s far post header to bundle in what appeared to be a perfectly legal equaliser. It was no surprise, of course, that referee Stroud disallowed the “goal.” After all, when was the last penalty awarded against a goalkeeper for physical excess under a high ball? Everyone knows that they are paragons of virtue in such circumstances.
News that all of their relegation rivals had won (except for Sheffield Wednesday whose 1-1 draw at Burnley was probably the most impressive result) piled on the agony for the visitors. A late red card issued to Rhoys Wiggins for a reckless challenge on Whitehead had capped a dispiriting afternoon and there were few bright spots to highlight. Young Jordan Cousins is wilting under undue pressure while Callum Harriott’s promising career is treading water; Jordan Cook was largely anonymous, valiant skipper Johnnie Jackson’s willing legs are feeling the pace.
Godd news is thin but still visible on the ground. Charlton’s spirit, that intangible quality on which their Championship survival will depend, emerged almost intact. After a shaky start, they grew into this game, more than matched Boro and finished more strongly than their conquerors. But they need urgent help. A second Standard Liege loanee -Astrit Ajdarevic – showed neat touches in an 18-minute cameo but midfield, while obviously important, is not the pressing priority. Nor is the dubious fast-tracking of a new goalkeeper. What the Addicks urgently require is a goalscorer and the search for one should occupy managerial hearts and minds. Not to hold the ball up, bring colleagues into play, run the channels, operate with his back to goal, track back to do his share of defensive work, do all the donkey work recommended by the coaching manuals, none of that sophisticated stuff. Just an uncomplicated goalhanger who puts the bloody ball in the opposition’s net on a regular basis. It’s why forwards are paid more than defenders. So find one and stump up the dough to pay him. Or we’ll be recruiting for League One next season.
Boro: Given, Varga, Williams, Ayala, Friend, Ledesma, Leadbitter, Whitehead, Carayol (Kamara 88), Main (Smallwood 79), Emnes (Jutkiewicz 57). Not used: Konstantopoulos, Butterfield, Gibson, Woodgate. Booked: Whitehead, Ledesma, Ayala.
Charlton: Thuram-Ulien, Wilson, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins, Cousins (Ajdarevic 77), Stephens, Jackson (Green 67), Harriott, Cook (Church 67), Kermorgant. Not used: Phillips Hughes, Evina, Dervite. Sent off: Wiggins.
Referee: Keith Stroud. Att: 14,548 (258 visiting).
With the Christmas and New Year lull out of the way, I thought I would resume with the weekly round-ups of what’s been happening in Greenwich.
London’s Air Ambulance service has been marking its 25th birthday – and trying to raise funds for a second helicopter – so it gave me a good chance to post on twitter this picture I got last year of the helicopter next to the Cutty Sark. Here’s some information about how you can support the service.
It’s also been a week of local anniversaries. Last Monday, it was 108 years to the day since the rather wonderful Woolwich Town Hall was first opened by Will Crooks MP. On Thursday, it was the 141th anniversary of the order that first established the Royal Naval College at Greenwich in buildings that had been left empty since the Royal Hospital for Seaman closed.
Those anniversaries come from Dave Male’s Greenwich Day by Day, reproduced on the Greenwich Guide website.
Information has come, via a Port of London Authority notice to mariners, that work will soon begin on the swing bridge across the mouth of Deptford Creek. Contractors are expected to begin work around the 11th February and the project should take nine months to complete. I’ve put more information on the forum.
Also on the forum is a query from new user Dan who has noticed a number of properties going on the market in Christchurch Way.
If you have a question or something to say about Greenwich, it’s easy to register and start a discussion.
You may have heard that HMS Argyll is currently up in the Upper Pool of London, moored next to HMS Belfast. The Type-23 frigate quietly made her way up river on Wednesday morning, passing Greenwich about 1am. She departs on Sunday afternoon, shortly after 4pm, so there’s a chance to see her sailing by. It will be after sunset but there should be enough light to see her – expect her to pass Greenwich at or shortly after 4.30pm. Here was her sister ship HMS St Albans passing the Old Royal Naval College a few years ago.
On Tuesday evening, Rev Chris Moody from St Alfege Church will give a talk to the Greenwich Historical Society under the title Hawksmoor and the Commissioning of the New St Alfege. Non-members are welcome but there’s a £3 admission charge.
If you know of a community event coming up, you can add it to the website’s What’s On section using this page.
As well as appearing on the website, this round up goes to many hundreds of subscribers via email. If you would like to receive it in your inbox, you can sign up here.
Charlton 2 (Morrison 53, Kermorgant 82) Oxford United 2 (Mullins 13, Davies 24).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Under normal circumstances, a 3rd Round FA Cup tie involving Charlton and Oxford United would make little impact outside their own parochial boundaries. In fact, this reasonably entertaining game would have slipped by unnoticed had the public not been diverted by lurid details of broken drains, immobile water tables, protective domes and two previous postponements in conditions which the rest of the country was finding surprisingly clement at this time of year.
So with the er, shall we say carrot, of a 4th Round journey to Huddersfield beguiling them, these sides finally closed in combat. Well, one-sided combat anyway because for 45 minutes, the Addicks performed as if still waterlogged. According to Chris Powell, his chaps contributed their worst half of football so far this season; as one who has witnessed all the others, he’ll get no argument from me.
Charlton were dreadful. Sluggish, unco-ordinated, apparently still marooned in their dressing room, they couldn’t put a foot right. Which is not to rob their League Two visitors of credit for exploiting the situation. United sensed an opportunity, worked tirelessly to press home their unexpected advantage and ran their hosts ragged on their way to a 2-0 interval lead. An unpromising assignment in West Yorkshire clearly held more attraction for them.
Dozy Charlton were still sleepwalking when they fell behind. A right wing corner from Scott Davies was returned to him by Richard Wood’s powerful but misdirected header. The midfielder’s second delivery caused penalty area chaos, during which Johnny Mullins’ bobbled shot found a berth inside the left post, with help from two deflections. A lucky goal but hardly against the run of play.
Ten minutes later, Oxford doubled their lead. Young Jordan Cousins, in the throes of a rare off-day, was caught dawdling in possession by Mullins, who fed top scorer James Constable. The centre forward’s feint to shoot instead made space for a precise pass which allowed Davies to run through to beat Ben Hamer with a firm crosshot. The natives, such as they were, had become decidedly restless. Had the impressive Sean Riggs’ crisp half-volley, from Tom Newey’s precise cross, not cleared the bar by inches to make it three, outright mutiny might have erupted.
As it was, the Addicks departed at half-time to a heartfelt chorus of disapproval. One florid faced bloke dismissed it all as “rubbish” another irate citizen confessed to being “embarrassed.” Not a word was said in Charlton’s defence but this game wasn’t over. Not while Powell had anything to do with it.
No doubt encouraged by a few well chosen managerial words, the Addicks set about restoring order upon resumption. The early goal they needed arrived just eight minutes into the second period, with Jordan Cook delivering a peach of an inswinging corner, which Michael Morrison’s emphatic header dispatched into the top left corner.
Their confidence might have been shaken but the U’s spiritedly hit back. A clever diving header from Constable re-directed Riggs’ cross inside the left post but Hamer managed a low scrambling save at his right post. Not much else was heard from the visitors up front but they still had their valuable lead to protect.
Midway through the second period, Danny Green replaced the struggling Bradley Pritchard and it was the often frustrating newcomer who made the difference. Green began to torment left back Tom Newey with pace and trickery and sensibly saw plenty of the ball. With time beginning to run out, he nutmegged Newey along the right byline, glanced up to weigh his options, then picked out Yann Kermorgant with an astute cutback. Keeling over in text book style, the Frenchman applied just enough mustard on his sideways-on volley to leave Ryan Clarke helpless.
Kermorgant’s timely equaliser had turned the tie on its head and, in added time, the Addicks came close to sparing themselves an unwanted replay in Berkshire. Lawrie Wilson’s deflected centre looped up to substitute Callum Harriott at the far post, was headed purposefully goalwards but flicked off David Hunt’s head to safety. Seconds later, the whistle blew…and it began gently to rain.
Charlton: Hamer, Wilson, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins, Pritchard (Green 66), Cousins, Jackson, Cook (Harriott 78), Church (Pigott 78), Kermorgant. Not used: Pope, Hughes, Evina, Dervite.
Oxford: Clarke, Raynes, Wright, Hunt, Newey, Rigg, Marsh (Smalley 53), Mullins, Ruffels, Davies (Williams 87), Constable (Kitson 78). Not used: Rose, Long, Bevans, O’Dowda.
Referee: S. Martin. Att: 5,566 (870 Oxford).
Ipswich Town 1 (Wood o.g. 23) Charlton 1 (Jackson 90).
Kevin Nolan reports from Portman Road.
Thirty one year old Nuneaton referee Stuart Attwell was a bit of a prodigy when he broke through to league football in 2009. He briefly made it to the Premier League but, following numerous controversies, was demoted to the Championship, much to the Championship’s dismay.
At braw, brich’t Portman Road, Attwell ushered in the New Year, hopefully not as he means to go on, by getting nearly every key decision wrong. His piece de resistance was in refusing Cameron Stewart an obvious penalty on the stroke of half-time, then adding insult to the Charlton winger’s injury by booking him for simulation. But let’s be fair, his incompetence was evenly distributed.
Battling bravely back from behind when Stewart was doubly insulted, the Addicks might well have been two down at the time. As early as the second minute, Attwell had taken a surprisingly lenient view of the clumsy challenge by Richard Wood which checked Daryl Murphy’s penalty area progress as they disputed a long ball over the top. Had he deemed Wood guilty of fouling Murphy, the defender might have faced dismissal. So a large round of applause came his way from 780 admirably impartial observers of the incident. Not that he didn’t make it up to the Tractor Boys later on.
After the dust and debris of controversy had settled over this eventful game, Charlton could be proud of the precious point they earned against considerable odds. To their credit, they kept the faith, soldiered on and were rewarded by an equaliser in the last knockings of normal time. Their goalscoring saviour was, almost inevitably, late substitute Johnnie Jackson but even the inimitable skipper would concede that, but for Ben Alnwick’s heroics shortly beforehand, his characteristically plundered strike would have been no more than a late consolation.
Alnwick had performed solidly, was given no chance of saving Town’s opener and had just kept his side in with a chance by diving to save Murphy’s cornerbound snapshot. On his shoulders rested the visitors’ dwindling hopes when Attwell made his third, critical penalty call and finally got one right.
In attempting to clear Aaron Cresswell’s left wing corner, Jordan Cousins swung lustily at the ball but failed to notice Paul Anderson coming up on his blind side. The youngster’s boot caught player not ball, leaving Attwell to briefly consider his options before pointing to the spot.
Having rested prolific scorer David McGoldrick until bringing him on in the 68th minute, Mick McCarthy was entitled to congratulate himself on impressive foresight as his regular penalty-taker stepped up to double his Ipswich’s lead. McGoldrick’s shot was struck firmly but Alnwick launched himself to his left to pull off a magnificent save. His defiance practically demanded reward and, in Jackson, the right man was in the right spot to deliver it. Finding instinctive space as Kermorgant headed down for Simon Church to cushion a shooting chance for him, his improvised right-footed volley caught a useful deflection off Christophe Berra and nestled neatly in the top right corner. There was instant pandemonium in the away section and – it must be confessed- in a long suffering corner of the press box.
Until the late denouement, not much else had gone right for the battling Londoners. Following a bright opening, during which Alnwick’s plunging save from Murphy had been matched by Dean Gerken’s similar alertness in keeping out Kermorgant’s low snapshot, they fell behind in desperately unlucky circumstances. Played through on the left by Jay Tabb, the dangerous Murphy drilled a hard, low centre across a heavily populated goal area, where Michael Morrison’s failure to intercept at the near post distracted Wood into inadvertently turning the ball into his own net.
Before the interval, things got worse. Doubly worse as it turned out. Sent sprinting clear of Luke Chambers by Kermorgant’s fine pass, Stewart was sent sprawling as the right back made awkward contact with his trailing leg. Clearly sinned against rather than sinning, Stewart was not only denied a clear penalty but was booked for his impertinence in expecting one.
The Addicks were still fuming when a further hammer blow was inflicted. Having been handed a rare start at Church’s expense, Marvin Sordell had given a promising account of himself, with one drive fizzing dangerously wide before disaster struck. While chasing down a lost cause, the out-of-luck striker pulled up with what the watchers of Casualty or Holby City among us instantly diagnosed as hamstring trouble. No blame attached to Attwell in this instance, though it’s tempting to implicate him. Without wishing to tempt providence, meanwhile, his replacement Jordan Cook belied understandable ringrust with a useful contribution as the plucky Addicks refused to surrender.
The last word belongs to -or, more accurately – is about Stuart Attwell, boy arbiter. They say that the best refs pass unnoticed under a game’s radar and there’s something in the the theory. After this game, on the other hand, Attwell’s fingerprints and footfalls were found in every corner of a battered pitch. Ponderous, pedantic, prosaic, he was football’s version of Inspector Lestrade. Arriving late, jumping to incorrect conclusions, arresting the wrong suspect, he piled error on error. When you can’t find anything good to say about someone, sometimes it’s as well to say something bad. So consider it said.
Ipswich: Gerken, Chambers, Smith, Berra, Cresswell, Anderson, Skuse, Tabb (Hyams 68), Taylor (McGoldrick 68), Tunnicliffe, Murphy (Nouble 82). Not used: Loach, Edwards, Wordsworth, Mings. Booked: Berra, Nouble.
Charlton: Alnwick, Solly, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins, Wilson (Church 71), Stephens, Cousins, Stewart (Jackson 81), Sordell (Cook 45), Kermorgant. Not used: Hamer, Evina, Dervite, Pritchard. Booked: Cook, Kermorgant.
Referee: Stuart Attwell. Att: 18,371 (780 visiting).
Charlton 1 (Stephens 47) 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1 (Wickham 59).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It turned out there was a double dose of bad news awaiting Charlton fans at The Valley on Sunday. Following the splendid victory over Brighton on Boxing Day, they had anticipated an unchanged team but instead found it disrupted by the absence of outstanding full backs Rhoys Wiggins and Chris Solly.
Imminent father Wiggins had been given compassionate leave to handle gas and air for the expectant mother, while Solly was prudently rested after returning recently from a four-month lay-off. To lose one full back, it must be said, may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. I mean, I’m as new a man as the next bloke but there’s a limit. Of course there are more important things than football but be fair… name one!
To a lesser degree of impact, the recovery from hamstring trouble of Connor Wickham was glad tidings for visitors Sheffield Wednesday. Wickham was inevitably on hand to score Wednesday’s equaliser from a position only marginally more onside than the fans behind the goal. Which is an artistic way of saying he was miles offside.
Played on a dreadful pitch, this was an equally dreadful game, one which will slip readily from the memory of everyone unfortunate enough to witness it. Everyone, that is, except Wednesday’s caretaker boss Stuart Gray, who found it beguiling and enthusiastically shared his pleasure with the press afterwards.
It might help to explain that post-match questioning traditionally vacillates between anodyne and asinine, the answer to each question implicit in the question itself. For instance, “You must be pleased by your team’s performance etc, etc” or “Are you disappointed not to have come away with more than a point etc, etc ?” Repetitive waffle most of the time but it stops fights breaking out.
Anyway, Gray went on and on about his team’s total domination, superior mastery of the difficult conditions, better posture and teeth, so forth and so on. He was in full flow until he overstepped the mark in describing Charlton’s goal as ” stupid.” Whoa there, I thought, he’s rubbished the solitary moment of quality on show. I’m not having that. The goal was bloody brilliant so I helpfully reminded him of it. Here’s what happened.
Wednesday hadn’t switched on following the interval when Lawrie Wilson’s quickwitted throw picked out Dale Stephens, who materialised in the penalty area, kidded Roger Johnson out of his jockstrap by feinting to shoot rightfooted, shimmied to his left and casually flicked the ball over Chris Kirkland’s advancing shoulder with the outside of his right boot. Imaginatively conceived, brilliantly executed, lots of things but not stupid. Just love those quick throws. Should use them more often, as I tried politely to point out for the future benefit of the Owls’ bristling guvnor but he had, by then, moved on to a far more searching question. Honestly, it’s hard to help some people when they take everything so personally.
By contrast, Wickham’s equaliser was scruffy, unlovely and plain illegal. Standing almost under the crossbar as Kieran Lee bundled Chris Maguire’s low cross goalward, the big striker correctly concluded it wouldn’t reach its target and applied a hurrying touch, at which critical point he was blatantly offside. Even Gray admitted that an anxious glance at the linesman was his first port of call before celebrating. Don’t blame him for celebrating, of course.
Though Gray was typically one-eyed, as caretakers often are, it was hard to disagree that Wednesday had been the better of two beleaguered sides who created, between them, less than a handful of chances. For the visitors, Glen Loovens hooked Jeremy Helan’s partially cleared corner on to the bar, Wickham almost embarrassed Ben Alnwick with an accurate 30-yard free kick and Reda Johnson’s point blank second half header was stopped by Alnwick’s feet. Hardly a siege but it shaded the Addicks’ feeble efforts, the best of which have already faded into insignificance.
During an uncomfortable closing quarter hour, in fact, the Owls looked far likelier to snatch a winner, as they did in the corresponding game last season. They were still hopeful of a late winner when, with unexpected drama, Simon Church missed a golden opportunity to claim all three points in added time.
Hardworking as usual, Church managed to get the better of Loovens as they toiled under an awkwardly dropping ball near the 18-yard line. Using a touch to elude the struggling centre back’s attentions, he drew a bead on Kirkland’s goal but blasted harmlessly over the bar. So a draw it was and a draw it remained. And now on to Ipswich on New Years Day, by which time, it’s hoped, Wiggins has mastered fatherhood and Solly has had plenty of rest. We don’t need any more selection shocks.
Charlton: Alnwick, Wilson, Morrison, Wood, Evina, Stewart (Dervite 73), Stephens, Cousins, Jackson (Green 73), Church, Kermorgant. Not used: Pope, Hughes, Sordell, Lennon, Pigott.
Wednesday: Kirkland, Palmer, Roger Johnson, Loovens, Reda Johnson, Maguire, McPhail (Maghoma 54), Semedo, Helan (Nuihu 54), Lee, Wickham. Not used: Martinez, McCabe, Mattock, Llera. Booked: Palmer, McPhail.
Referee: F. Graham. Att: 16,377.
Charlton 3 (Wilson 32,58) Brighton 2 (Ulloa 22,90).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Putting their fans through an emotional wringer as usual, on-fire Charlton bravely got the job done on St. Stephen’s Day. It wasn’t always crisp or even but with results elsewhere favouring them, this precious victory went about as deep as victories go. And, boy, was it exciting!? After spotting promotion hopefuls Brighton an ominous lead, they reeled them in through two strikes from unlikely marksman Lawrie Wilson, before apparently finishing them off with Yann Kermorgant’s superb free kick.
The word “apparently” is wisely chosen because that wasn’t quite all she wrote. It never is. It wouldn’t be daffy Charlton if torture wasn’t part of the deal and Leonardo Ulloa’s second goal in added time duly reduced The Valley to a familiar mess of molten nerves. It’s the suffering, though, not always the pleasure, that makes winning worthwhile and the roar which hailed the final whistle was one of unapologetic release. This patient crowd has been here many times before and they know an especially vital result when they see one.
It hadn’t been all that pleasant for the home fans in the early going, during which their team struggled to cope. Albion guarded the ball jealously, passed patiently and called the shots. The 22nd minute lead given them by Ulloa was no more than they deserved but these current Addicks are made of stern stuff. They stayed in the game, began hustling the visitors out of their comfort zone while seeking weaknesses to exploit. And weaknesses there were to exploit.
Ulloa’s first goal was scruffy. During a goalmouth scramble, a sly shove on Dale Stephens went unspotted, with several opportunities to clear spurned before the Argentinian threaded a low drive through a ruck of players. Charlton were in trouble but don’t believe that lazy canard that they lack fight. Pulling themselves together, they were level within ten more minutes.
There didn’t seem much menace in Cameron Stewart’s hopeful cross from the left but Kermorgant’s miscue wrongfooted the Seagulls (bit of a biological melange there, what with Kermorgant sounding like an oceangoing bird, but stay with me), leaving Wilson to rifle a rising shot into the roof of the net. Before the interval, Simon Church nodded Wilson’s cross wide at the near post as the momentum perceptibly shifted.
Albion were nearly scuppered, their earlier superiority by now drained away. The Addicks had secured a toehold in this pulsating game and were not about to have it kicked loose. Before the hour, Wilson doubled his (and his side’s) account. Popping up again at the far post, he hammered home another poorly defended cross from Stewart in a reasonable reprise of his first effort.
Brighton weren’t quite sunk yet and came close to equalising as Ulloa headed Liam Bridcutt’s corner beyond Ben Alnwick but, to his chagrin, Richard Wood, for the second week running, cleared off the line.
Wood’s goalline heroics gained added importance seconds later after Rhoys Wiggins’ brilliant solo run was cynically halted by Keith Andrews’ brutal challenge five yards outside the penalty area. The combative midfielder’s punishment fitted his crime because Kermorgant left Peter Brezovan standing with a beautiful free kick curled neatly inside the left post. And that was that. Except, of course, it wasn’t.
Bewildered by the turn of events, the Seagulls hit back desperately only to find that fortune for once favoured Charlton. In breathtaking sequence, Ashley Barnes struck the bar, his fellow substitute Inigo Calderon smashed the rebound against the left post, Ulloa’s follow-up effort deflected agonisingly wide. They’ve been grousing around S.E.7 recently that the rub of the green hasn’t been going Charlton’s way. It might be an idea to keep a lid on any moaning for a while after they blissfully rode their luck on St. Stephen’s Day. Their amazing escape at 3-1 made Ulloa’s added time strike no more than a mere consolation.
Heroes were not hard to find among these red-shirted warriors though head and shoulders above them all was Kermorgant, a Breton juggernaut who proved unplayable at times. Peerless in the air, his touch with either foot is velvety, his perceptive picking of a pass all but perfect. As dominant an influence when defending in his own penalty area, his recent recovery from injury was particularly well timed.
Running Kermorgant close was Wilson whose goals, only his third and fourth for the club, crowned tireless spadework up and down the right flank. Wiggins was superb, Chris Solly’s excellence can be taken for granted, Church went through his customary wall for the cause while Stewart fused teammates and supporters together with one magnificently gallant block near the end. There was praise for all hands but that Jordan Cousins, what’s that all about? Not 20 until March, he’s supposed to be bowed by the pressure of relegation but this kid revels in it. Gifted and skilful, he’s not above putting his foot in, where the situation demands it. Nor is Stephens, come to think of it. He’s learning from the youngster every week.
Meanwhile, though we’re not quite at the halfway point yet, it’s time to pin colours to the mast so here goes. Charlton are not going down this season. Not this bonny band of battlers. You have my marker on it.
Charlton: Alnwick, Solly, Morrison, Wood, Wiggins, Wilson (Pritchard 90), Stephens, Cousins, Stewart (Evina 83), Church (Dervite 83), Kermorgant. Not used: Pope, Green, Sordell, Cook.
Brighton: Brezovan, Saltor (Calderon 46), Upson, El-Abd, Lopez (Barnes 63), Crofts, Andrews (Agustien 76), Bridcutt, Ward, Buckley, Ulloa. Not used: Kuszczak, Dunk, Orlandi, Ince. Booked: Saltor, El-Abd.
Referee: Mick Russell. Att: 17,404.