Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Addicks avoid slip-up, making it five games unbeaten

The Addicks' strike-duo of Ricardo Fuller and Yann Kermorgant,
back from injury, both found themselves on the score-sheet
Not a vintage display by any means, but an important victory. To say 'the mark of a good side is winning when you play badly' may not be the best to describe the 2-0 Addicks win, but it was a first effort to come away with three points on a night the visitors could easily have stolen them.

After an early effort from Kermorgant was pushed away, a rasping 25 yard volley after a skilful turn, it was Peterborough who looked the most threatening. Holding width on both sides of the pitch, their five man midfield worked the ball well, aiming for an inside pass in behind the Addicks' midfield duo. They suffered from only having the one man up front, as well as woeful finishing when chances did come.

Charlton made poor decisions on the ball, and with a packed middle of the pitch, the ball was continually pushed wide. The final ball throughout the first half was woeful, though, with nothing falling to an Addicks Jess. Jackson spurned a glorious chance when Kerkar broke into the box and squared, with it seemingly easier to score than miss, but the scores were level at half time.

The Addicks created two chances in the ten minutes after the break, but other than that it remained an uninspiring effort going forward. Kermorgant's header slid wide of the back post - a chance made difficult by the presence of a leaping defender just in front of him. Pritchard's diving header clipped the front post as he diverted a cross towards goal. But Peterborough's functional football continued to cause the Charlton defence problems. They made good use of the extra midfielder down the flanks, and broke into the box on a numbers of occasions. Hamer gathered mis-directed crosses, a number of shots flew into the stand, but the one shot that was destined for the bottom corner was brilliantly kept out by a full-stretched Hamer.

After 72 minutes, Danny Green was finally introduced, to balance the midfield with his width, and three minutes later the deadlock was finally broken. The ball was played to Fuller by Kermorgant, and with few optimal up front with him, he glanced at goal, thirty yards to his left, and fired a screamer of a shot that dipped over the keeper and hammered into the back of the net. A stunning goal, but the primary emotion was one of relief, as Charlton could easily have found themselves behind. Immediately though Fuller went to ground, clutching an injured hamstring, and had to be replaced. It was the sort of night where you'd take an injury for a goal, such was the desperation to score.

On 85 minutes, after further nervous moments in defence, a Charlton counter found Green with the ball close to the by-line, and he fired in a fierce ball along the ground. Fuller's replacement Hulse stretched to reach it, diverting the ball at an incredibly slow rate towards the back post. Yann pounced. He slid at full-stretch, ensuring the ball made it into the goal. Anybody can score from 30 yards out, but only the magic Yann Kermorgant can poke it in from less than a yard out. The chants of his name as he left the pitch showed just how much love the fans have for him.

After yet more frantic defending, the full time whistle was blown. Uninspiring, yes, but also a gritty, hard-fought, important victory. You'd take any performance if it meant there'd be a Chris Powell tunnel-jump at the end of it.

The Beast Is Back!
Picture © Keith Gillard

MOTM: Ben Hamer. Just the sort of tidy performance you want from your goalkeeper. Collected (almost) every cross/shot fired from the angle, was good with distribution and made an excellent, and made vital saves with the score at 0-0 - the first a flying stop to divert the ball away from the top corner in the first half, and later the strong hand to prevent the ball nestling in the bottom corner. His name was deservedly sung by the Covered End as he made his way towards the tunnel.

Super Yann: I'd love to have given MOTM to Kermorgant, as he was winning headers left right and centre, had that outrageous effort in the first half diverted away, and scored, but his involvement was intermittent given the weak midfield showing. He's scored a number of fabulous goals in his career, and I'm sure tonight's won't be right up there with the best. But in terms of satisfaction, it could be. He's gradually securing cult status, and whilst a team of Kermorgants might be a distant pipe dream, you can see why Addicks fans often wake thinking it might be true. A warrior, but also audaciously skilful with his feet. He's already my hero, but with a continual presence on the pitch this season, you can definitely see him winning yet more over.

Midfield issues: The addition of Frimpong has brought an element of quality in the middle, shown by his superbly timed crunching tackle early on, but he doesn't quite have the passing ability of Stephens, who was missed tonight. Jackson struggled in the middle, with Peterborough often able to pass in behind and threaten the back four. In part, tonight's issues were down to the visitors' extra man, which they paid for in front of goal, but still the middle four failed to penetrate with everyone behind the ball, and the crossing took a long time to get right. It will be an important area on Saturday, when we travel to Millwall, but I'd prefer to see Jackson wide left and Stephens restored, as he adds that bit more quality, as long as Frimpong can sit in front of the defence and tidy up.

Dynamism up front: Haynes came into the side and made a big difference, with his ridiculous page ripping through opposition defences. The absence of such a threat proved a big miss. Whilst Kermorgant and Fuller offer huge quality, the pace to get in behind the defence was not there. Ultimately, Fuller's quality told, as his staggering goal proved, but to have the pace of Haynes would perhaps have given the Addicks that extra dimension in attack that could have led to an earlier breakthrough. If Fuller is injured, which seems likely, having Haynes for Saturday could be key, but Rob Hulse is an able replacement - securing his signature in January would be a welcome move.

Tactics: Chris Powell, as brilliant a man he is, has never been one to preside over a tactical masterplan. Victories tend to come from winning individual match ups, moments of quality, but tonight could easily have seen Darren Ferguson outmanoeuvre him. Peterborough's width caused problems, leaving gaps in the middle which were exploited. Nothing went for them in front of goal, a mark of the poor run of form that leaves them rooted to the foot of the table, but there is hope that things can be turned around. Charlton need a better plan of attack, or at least to cross it better. Defensively the midfield were caught a bit too often, and too often the visitors could exploit the flanks and break into the box. Tactical issues, yes, but in all honesty with better individual performances would negate a lot of these issues anyway.

Powell knows it wasn't our best performance at all, but he's a master of motivation, building that team spirit that has made the difference this and last season. That spirit, fight, determination will be key when travelling to 5th placed Millwall on Saturday. Another tough away trip, but this squad have shown they are up for any challenge.

Not a memorable night, but an important three points. 13 out of a possible 15 in our last five games - a handy run to lift spirits and avoid the relegation doom-mongering. Big game on Saturday, but we are well enough placed not to be too despondent if we don't come away with a victory.

Keep The Faith, and Up The Addicks.

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