Saturday, 20 October 2012

Under-par Addicks fall to tame defeat

The pre-match huddle, not particularly effective this time
25,000 Charlton fans witnessed a predominantly tame and under-par performance from the Addicks this afternoon, as Barnsley's dominance in the midfield gave them the edge. It could easily have been a different result but Charlton weren't at the races for large chunks of the game, allowing the visitors to capitalise and grab the decisive goal.

After a fairly bright start in terms of possession, the slide began as players conceded possession far too easily. Aside from one deft touch, Razak looked isolated and failed to provide that vital link between the midfield and Ricardo Fuller. One alarming chance for Barnsley aside (forcing a block from Hamer after a cross into the six yard box) it was a half of very few substantial efforts on goal. A late resurgence saw a Razak free kick well saved, a Stephens cross almost land in the far corner of the goal, and Kerkar almost squeezing a corner in at the front post.

 Powell recognised the deficiencies at half time, withdrawing Razak and Hollands from play, paying the price for lack of ball retention, and brought on Wright-Phillips and Jackson. Despite upping the intensity, the problems persisted, and it always seemed like Barnsley had the extra man in midfield, enabling them to spread the play to either flank and threaten to get in behind. The clever and functional style paid off, when Cwyka exploited a gap on the right byline and curled a shot into the far corner. Perkins was running the show for Barnsley, always picking up the loose ball and spreading it away from danger.

Charlton continued to struggle, but still managed to get the ball into dangerous areas on occasions. The ball from Kerkar on the left was deflected and fell towards Solly inside the area, and a sliding defensive block prevented him reaching the ball, though the referee turned down a hugely convincing penalty shout, which incensed the home crowd. A cross from the right was fumbled by the keeper under Wright-Phillips' challenge, and Jackson's flick towards goal was blocked by two men on the line, before Alnwick collected and a mass of bodies piled on top of him. Definitely didn't cross the line, but frustration built. Ricardo Filler had pulled up with a damaged hamstring. Him being forced off acted as a hammer-blow to our comeback hopes, and may well have significant consequences for the weeks ahead. Wilson was booked for avoiding being clattered on the edge of the box, and despite Hamer coming up for a late free kick, Barnsley held on and secured the victory. The referee had ensured he was booed off but ultimately Charlton fans cannot blame him for playing poorly for most of the afternoon.

Powell has had to endure a tough summer but calls
to replace him are quite simply ridiculous.
The defeat is not a sign that we cannot compete or cope in the Championship. Good victories against tough opponents have.already proved we can. The predominant problem is inconsistency. Momentum has twice been stalled by an international break, and whilst its the same for everyone having two weeks off, we've not profited from the rest. Boardroom problems continue to haunt the club, so blaming Powell would be both short-sighted and unhelpful. We have thus far cooed valiantly without significant addition, and an issue avoided last season is sadly causing problems this year, as an injury crisis seems to be taking hold. Whilst Wilson has filled in well, fluency down the left of Wiggins has gone missing, as has the presence of Yann Kermorgant, who could have formed a dangerous pairing with Fuller. The latter now also appears to have picked up a knock, so hopefully Rob Hulse is able to step up and score some goals. But the main issue is the midfield. We were overrun today, always second best, losing loose balls and being pressured into mistakes by the intensity of the visitors. The lack of quality in the middle of the park results in difficulty linking with the forward line, and whilst Fuller fought valiantly he cut an isolated figure. Fluency is badly needed, and Jackson seems a better bet in the middle than Hollands. As long as Powell can keep confidence up there are quality players who can pull out the performances needed to create goal-scoring chances. Whilst it was a poor display, it was definitely more a bad day at the office than a capitulation that justifies a panicked over-reaction.

Tough fixtures follow, but this squad have surprised us before and will do so again. Injuries aren't helping but the ills are certainly not incurable. In a time of turbulent off-field activity, we need to give Powell and his players our full backing.

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