Wednesday, 22 August 2012

King Kermorgant, Conqueror of Leicester

Wright-Phillips challenges De Laet
Championship football returned to the Valley in stunning fashion on Tuesday night. A very strong Leicester side struggled to get the better of an energetic and clinical Charlton.

The crowd was a little down on expectations, but the atmosphere more than made up for it, as everyone was treated to a cracking match. First half was end to end, with Leicester looking very dangerous, often cutting through the defences on the left hand side with Lloyd Dyer. Thankfully, they had Jermaine Beckford up front, who was following the example of David Mooney last week, acting as a huge danger to the crowd when he lined up a shot. Still, Leicester's probing was a cause for concern, as often it was last ditch blocks or a save from Hamer that denied them a goal. It felt as if we would certainly concede at some point in the match.

But on 18 minutes, Pritchard stole the ball and advanced forward. His run towards the edge of the box ended with a pass to Wright-Phillips, who saw space to turn and fire a shot low into the bottom corner, catching Kaspar Schmeichel off-guard and sending the fans wild. It was very similar to his goal against Sheffield Wednesday last season, and it showed that he was fired-up and ready to grab his chance at Championship level. You could probably link the signing of Ricardo Fuller to Bradley's superb performance last night. His energy, commitment and finishing served to prove any doubters wrong.

Jeers silenced
Leicester continued to threaten, Beckford in a slightly different sense when he sliced a shot that might have damaged the big screen given he skewed it so far wide. But it was on 32 minutes that the lead was doubled. A long Danny Hollands throw was flicked on, and it bounced in the box before that man Yann Kermorgant hammered it in from waist high. He was ecstatic, as was every Charlton fan in the ground. He turned towards the Leicester fans, who had so harshly victimised him for his penalty miss, placed his finger on his lips and ran towards them. It worked. A jubilant Kermorgant was embraced by the whole team. He'd been up for this game before Birmingham, and it was almost fate that he would score.

Up until that moment Kermorgant had not really been dominant in the air, with the two centre backs proving difficult customers. But as the game advanced, he fought and battled until it was he who would regularly winning contests in the air. His defensive presence was also vital in protecting the lead.

Leicester went in at half time probably unsure of how they were two down. Charlton had not been dominant, but it was the conversion rate in front of goal that really told. Beckford's shambolic night was ended as he was subbed for David Nugent, and Andy King also came on. 7 minutes into the second half and a long diagonal ball wasn't dealt with by Rhoys Wiggins, allowing clever play on the wing to release Nugent into the box. He cut the ball back to the on-rushing King who fired home at the near post. Suddenly the nerves kicked in, and the thought of defending for another 35 minutes was rather a frightening one.

Leicester had most of the play, as the Addicks failed to keep hold of the ball for any length of time, meaning it was an extremely stressful second half. I was forced to watch from between my fingers, such was the extent of the fear. This was most evident when Lloyd Dyer won the ball on the half way line and sprinted into the box, cut in on his left foot and was in a perfect position to shoot. Thankfully, he fired it straight at Hamer, as so many others had done in the half, and the clearance brought huge relief. That was Leicester's problem, that they did not stretch Hamer enough. Most shots were either at him or wide (including a Nugent shot that seemed destined for the far corner. I was just waiting for the net to bulge, it was horrifying.)

Charlton's defence fought on. Last-ditch blocks, flying tackles (some timed better than others) and a glorious 50 yard run down the right by Chris Solly, who beat about 3 players before eventually winning a throw-in. Never have I seen a crowd almost on their feet to cheer the winning of a throw, but the run was absolutely heroic, and released a huge amount of pressure at the back. Leicester however fought back and won a corner in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time. Despite it being only the second game of the season, Schmeichel came up for the corner. Levels of panic went through the roof as the ref decided Michael Morrison must go off as he had a blood injury. The ball came in, but a header won at the front post fell to another defender, who laced the ball up-field. The ref waited a few more seconds, and then blew his whistle. Charlton really had defied the odds to win. And look what it meant to Kermorgant.

The crowd in the second half was superb. It could easily have turned into that edgy, nervous atmosphere that was so often a feature of games in our previous Championship stint, but everyone was behind the team. Each wave of attack that was repelled cranked up the volume another notch. Chrissy Powell's Red Army reverberated around the stadium. Goal kicks were cheered, tackles were celebrated. The whole crowd was 100% behind the team, and the players rewarded them with a performance that gave absolutely everything. Michael Morrison was everywhere, a rock at the heart of the defence. Bradley Pritchard never gave up. Danny Hollands tracked back endlessly to make important tackles. Wiggins was superb. Wright-Phillips gave it his all until he was substituted, and the fans rose to applaud his best performance in a Charlton shirt to date. Hamer caught crosses and blocked shots all night, keeping the dream alive. The pace of the game was frantic, the intensity extreme. Among the promotion favourites, Leicester showed huge amounts of quality, an indication of just what has been missed at The Valley in recent years. But Powell's side held their own, and fought for the win magnificently. A hugely deserved victory, and the final whistle brought an out-pouring of joy.

Kermogant's name was sung as he walked off the pitch. Powell stayed behind to applaud the travelling Leicester fans, who he so endeared himself to during his stint as a player and a coach. He the turned toward the Covered End, and in return his name was sung loudly. Two tunnel jumps later, an ecstatic crowd made their way home. A great game, a brilliant result, and a will that will mean a great deal to King Kermorgant.

Oh, and amongst all that, we signed Ricardo Fuller. Not a bad day really.

Up The Addicks.

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1 comment:

  1. Good summary Dan. Looked the same from the East Stand. I just hope the rest of the teams aren't as good as Leicester. We have a lot of heart but need a bit more quality.