|A needless kick from Kermorgant, but the reaction of Halford |
and the entire Forest side went unpunished
Charlton started with the same XI who put in an excellent performance at Leicester on Tuesday, which meant a 4-5-1 set-up. The only issue with this style is that success it achieves it away from home, where teams are set up in more attacking formations. But until shortly before half time, it had done its job and kept Forest at bay.
What was irritating about the first half was no necessarily our incapability of stringing passes together. We weren't playing fluently at all, but against a side with the amount of quality Forest possess, it was always going to be a tough ask, and defensively we held our own. The most frustrating part was the impatience, anger and lack of support from many in the crowd. Playing poorly is not an offence worthy of booing. With well over a half of football to play, 0-0 is a perfectly acceptable scoreline against a team of that quality.
Then came the moment that turned, and ruined, the match. A long ball towards Kermorgant on the left flank. Forest had expertly committed niggly fouls as Charlton players attempted headers, and Yann had been targeted all game. They'd been successful in their task thanks to a referee unwilling or incapable of penalising these offences. This time, again Halford blocked him off, twice pushing him dubiously close to a foul. The ball went out for a throw as Kermorgant kicked out at Halford, who went to ground and then reacted angrily to the Frenchman. Forest's players piled in on the referee, who was calming Halford down, pressuring him into punishing Kermorgant. The nearside linesman had little conclusive evidence to go on, but the linesman over by the West Stand apparently had the clearest view in the world. On the word of a man stood 80 yards away, the referee made a decision to send off Charlton's main attacking threat, simultaneously destroying the afternoon for the home side. It was an incredible decision, and the explosion of the Easy Stand should say a lot. I've heard there was a man in the block of flats behind the Jimmy Seed Stand who had an even better view of the incident...
Accuse me of being a Kermorgant-loyalist. Fine, I probably am. Kicking out at an individual and giving the referee an excuse to send you off is incredibly stupid, but so many times you see something like that given a yellow. In the end, perhaps it was the right call, but it was simply unbelievable to see the ultimate decision being made by a man in a different post code to the actual event. From that moment on, though, there was absolutely nothing Charlton could do to salvage things. Give a side of Forest's quality an extra man and of course they will dominate the game.
Half time, 0-0, but little hope as to what the second half promised. Sure enough, Forest could easily dissect the press and create chances. A well taken first goal from Majewski as he burst into the box, and a poor second from Charlton's perspective as Hamer fumbled a tame shot into the path of Lansbury, but in truth if Forest had further ambitions they could easily have scored more. Majewski blazed over when he could've added a third after an excellent counter-attack. Forest dominated, but blaming the 10 men on the pitch for that is ludicrous.
That's what made the final 30 or so minutes so infuriating. Forest had the spare men so that any press Charlton attempted could easily be undone by a square ball. Individuals in the crowd suggesting it was as woeful effort from the chasing players, "showing no passion" made me incredibly angry. What on earth do you expect when you're a man down? Character-assassinations of players left on the pitch who "aren't good enough" did my head in. The speed with which people turn on players in ridiculous. Powell threw on Haynes and Fuller, but because we were a man down, it was almost impossible to get close to scoring. Nevertheless, the referee still had time to further infuriate the crowd. A handball appeal close to the tunnel inside the box was turned down despite frenzied protests from the North/NorthWest stands. Halford scythed down Fuller when arguably he was last man, but it was only deemed worthy of a yellow. Jackson was so knackered you knee his free-kick wouldn't go in, but it wasn't far off the top left corner.
Billy Davies had decided to secure a point, which seemed odd as goal difference can be important in the playoff race. Part of that can be put down to the dogged defending from the home side. Powell switched from 4-3-2 to 4-4-1 as it became apparent all hope of drawing level was futile. Andy Reid was taken off and deservedly received warm applause from the home crowd as well as away. He was excellent in midfield, showing what quality a large amount of money can provide you with.
The game ended 0-2, and the crowd had either completely dispersed or run out of energy to vilify the officials. A few, including myself, applauded the efforts of the players, who trudged off downhearted. Stephens had a poor first half, and was rightly replaced by Fuller to provide us with a focal point in attack. Dervite struggled to pass all game, but defended solidly, and Jackson, Pritchard and Wagstaff ran themselves into the ground in an attempt to steal the ball and prevent Charlton from being cut open. Fuller didn't really have too many opportunities, and Haynes also struggled to get the better of the visiting defence. Wiggins coveted behind the back four very well, and its great to have him back playing again. Hamer made that one costly error, but on the face of it, what is criticising him going to achieve? Forest easily had the upper hand with the extra man, the result was an inevitability. In fact, what is criticising anyone going to achieve?
Ultimately, if you want to point the finger, blame Yann. He made a costly error that prevented any chance of securing a point or stealing all three, but he's been our talismanic figure this season, who's tireless efforts have gained us so many points. A moment of rash stupidity in kicking out. It remains an incredible piece of officiating, given the way the far-side linesman made the call, but ultimately the sending off ruined the game. As Billy Davies has said afterwards, Forest dominated the half before the match-defining incident. But what was the score? And how many clearcut chances had they created? Yes, Charlton were poor, but they were very much still in the game, and a half-time change could've made a positive difference. Instead, the angry brigade are out in force, accusing players of a lack of passion, despite having won at Leicester after one of the best performances this bunch have ever put in.
Comparing the wealth of the two sides, the Addicks were always going to be up against it. Powell has had his hands tied behind his back in the transfer market - there's been no money to build on last year's side. The mid-table position is a testament to the fantastic job he and the squad have done this season. The sending off ruined the afternoon, and decided the result. As a man who asked me the result at London Bridge said, "oh well, there's always the next game." I doubt too many will offer such sensible, measured views after that frustrating afternoon.
Blame Kermorgant if anyone, as ultimately the sending off ended our chances of being competitive in the game. (Or blame the ref, as I did at the time.) Having finally brought myself to see the incident, it was probably red. A lot worse happens on a pitch, but the ball was 5 yards away, and its giving the referee a reason to send you off. But in a league where we are financially inferior to most, have some sense and understand that we aren't going to outplay teams every week. Especially not with one less player.
Edit: If Powell says its a red card, then we have to accept it. I am still not convinced from the view I had, and I still take issue with the way it was dealt with by the officials. I was no closer than the linesman who had the final say, so why did the referee not make the decision initially, and play restarted with a throw, so why was there no foul given if it was a red card offence?
Second Edit: A foolish, rash kick from Kermorgant that brought to an end our chances. Its something he'll instantly have regretted, and pointless vilification of him achieves absolutely nothing. People are suggesting Powell gives him a bollocking or fines him, for "costing us three points." Are some of these supporters serious? He's cost us the chance to get three points, for sure, but missing three games is punishment enough. Both he and Powell know he's made a mistake. Compounding the misery is not the way to deal with a player who has done so well for the club since arriving. Comparisons with Cantona are growing, it seems...