|Notts County fully deserved their four goals following |
an excellent first half performance
The game started in the usual way - patient play from Charlton, but once again lacking the cutting edge. Notts County looked dangerous on the break, and took advantage of Jonathan Forte's lay-offs to move forward. The opening goal was desperately similar to that on Tuesday - the defence stood off and allowed a shot from distance, and Judge's effort beat Hamer into the corner of the goal. From my diagonal viewpoint, I couldn't tell whether Hamer should have done better, but I get the impression he should have done. Soon after, and this was a theme of the first half, County took advantage of an out-of-position full back and moved down the flank, putting in an excellent cross in for Forte to head in unchallenged. A disastrous start.
Charlton then seemed to panic, and were desperately lacking in the basics. Too often County won the ball in midfield, and passes were misplaced. A bouncing ball towards Hamer's goal was shepherded by Taylor, but Hamer was indecisive and delayed his effort to take the ball, allowing Forte a chance to nip in and lob the keeper. A shambolic goal to concede. A fourth was added before the half as another ball across goal was tapped in at the back post by Forte, capping of an abysmal half of football from the Addicks. I am not a fan of booing, especially when we're doing so well this season, but the outburst of the crowd was entirely justified. It was the worst first half of football I think I've ever witnessed at the Valley following about 10 years of watching. There was a lack of desire, as County won every second ball, worked harder, and played much better. Powell would be thoroughly justified in giving the players a bollocking in the dressing room, and it sounds like he did.
|Wagstaff gave Charlton hope by bringing the |
score back to 2-4, but it wasn't to be
The second half was a vast improvement, as once again the goals showed that if you could get to the by-line and get a good cross in goals could be scored. After three minutes, Wagstaff ran round the left back and put a cross in, which both the keeper and Bradley Wright-Phillips challenged for. The ball looped into the air and Bradley's classy overhead-kick brought the score to 1-4. And before the hour mark, Wagstaff was this time on the end of a cross, heading into the bottom corner as the keeper failed to tip it round the post. The atmosphere at this stage was excellent - the crowd were fully behind the team, willing them forward, and there was a real sense that the most unlikely of comebacks was possible. There was a shout for a penalty as BWP was shoved unceremoniously off the ball as it bounced towards goal, but the portly referee said no, as did his equally incompetent linesman. No penalty, and the game petered out. The Addicks ran out of ideas and started hoofing it randomly forward. The momentum was lost and the game result that looked certain at half time was indeed confirmed. With both Sheffield clubs winning, the lead at the top was cut to 10 points, and just 11 points between first and third.
What went wrong? The midfield was outplayed today. The first half saw County dominate there. They won more balls, passed more effectively and didn't put their own players under pressure, unlike those wearing red. Stephens has been poor of late, and today was another bad day at the office. He tries to be too clever and cute with his passing, which often puts us under a lot of pressure. Hollands was also weak in there today. Losing Haynes early didn't help, but in the 14 minutes he was on the pitch I can't remember him touching the ball. Wagstaff was very poor first half but improved in the second. Jackson, so often the key player, was ineffective, losing possession too often and getting caught out of position, along with the two full backs that contributed to at least two of County's goals. The centre halves were also poor today, Taylor especially. They backed off to allow the shot for the first goal and defended the crosses badly. The third goal was just a mess. Hamer and Taylor clearly had a misunderstanding, but as a keeper you just have to step out and collect the ball there. Hamer failed to do so and was left looking like a fool, with the ball in the net and the game effectively lost. Could he have saved the first goal? I don't know, but it was a very poor performance from him.
|Bring back Hughes, I say|
How do we change things? Well, I think teams are starting to realise they need to stop Kermorgant, and are committing fouls on him that prevents him jumping and winning headers. I think the midfield needs a shake-up, as I don't think Stephens is playing well enough to justify his place. I miss Andy Hughes in there. He allows Hollands to get forward and dissipates the pressure when necessary by playing the ball to the back four, or keeper. But in the main I think the team need to sort themselves out, as two defeats on the bounce poses a real risk of this becoming a slump. The first half performance and ensuing reaction should be what we need.
Onto Chris Powell. I don't think he can be blamed for that first half. His comments certainly show he was not pleased, and the reaction after his team talk certainly showed he's one that can give a half-time team talk. The problem is we don't seem to be able to come out first half and be clinical. It often takes half time to turn things around, whereas earlier in the season things were coming more easily. I shared Powell's view that the first half was unacceptable:
Powell: "After you concede one... you respond. But it just wasn't there. We just didn't have the basics right at all. We made some bad decisions, so my dressing room at half-time was not a pretty place. My supporters here at the club love their team and they don't want to see their team do that. Stern words would be a gimme at half-time - it wasn't as if I was going to offer them a cup of tea. That's not going to happen, not at all. It was not acceptable for me being their manager. I will back them, because they have been outstanding for 35-and-a-half games, but that half? No."
10 games to go, and a 10 point lead at the top, but the jitters have well and truly set in. I want us to win this league properly, as we've come this far and played so well, to waste the chance now would be devastating. I have complete faith in Chris Powell to arrest this mini-slide and set us back on the right track. I just worry, having experienced the last few years, that nothing is certain at Charlton.
Keep the faith.