Saturday, 30 March 2013

Addicks collect three vital points from lively Bolton encounter

Alarming home form this season and a couple of bad results has seen the Addicks slide towards that frightening relegation scrap, and though the three points were well deserved and incredibly welcome, more wins for lower clubs means there is still no justification in relaxing - and Chris Powell will certainly know that. Whilst the scrap is a frantic one, the game today highlights the spirit, hunger, desire and determination that the squad possess should mean safety isn't too far away.

Hamer returned in goal, whilst Dervite filled in for the presumably injured Matt Taylor at centre back. Pritchard played right midfield with Jackson accompanied in the middle by Andy Hughes, after a lengthy injury absence. Harriott continued on the left whilst Kermorgant and Fuller started up front. Bolton fielded a strong team, including David Ngog, who scored twice in the reverse fixture, and Jay Spearing, in on loan from Liverpool. 

Charlton got off to a terrible start, with Bolton's inter-linking play between midfield and the forward line cut the Addicks apart. Hamer was forced to make an excellent early save to his left, but a goal was coming. Sordell was free in space near the edge of the area - Dervite leaving too much room for him - and the striker took the ball, beat his man with ease and fired home. 0-1 inside four minutes. 

Charlton improved after initial lifelessness, but Kamara wasn't closed down on the edge of the box, and his shot curled into the bottom corner, in off the post. Hamer scrambled but couldn't save it. A good shot, probably too easy for him to hit it. 0-2, with some pockets of booing heard above the cheers of the travelling Bolton fans. 

The two goals had thankfully shocked the hone side into life, with the greatest threat being posed down the left. Harriott was a livewire, and Wiggins arrived on the overlap. A number of crosses and shots came from that side, until the half hour mark arrived. Jackson made a darting run through the centre, and Fuller managed to avoid obstructing his progress and instead laid the ball off nicely for the skipper who fired a left-footed shot across goal into the bottom right corner. 1-2, the crowd roaring encouragement.

The sides traded blows until half time, with the Addicks seeing a couple of shots deflected behind, and a frantic mis-punch from Lonergan almost presenting a chance from one resulting corner, but the sides went in at the break with the score 1-2. The home side were applauded off after their positive efforts to get back into the game, drowning out any who thought booing would be a good idea. The game was well poised, and almost irrationally I still felt Charlton could win it, despite the dreadful home form. 

Charlton threatened, and continued to trouble down the left. Harriott enjoyed perhaps a few too many shots, but he was the most creative player, and his performance was a real plus. 

It could be argued that just before the hour mark was the game's real turning point. A long ball towards Fuller saw Knight and Ricketts close towards him. The Charlton striker won the header and was brought down immediately after by Ricketts in attempting to play the ball. A free-kick was given 30 yards out, and somewhat to the displeasure of Dougie Freedman, the defender was given a second yellow card. It definitely looked like a yellow card offence, given Fuller had nodded the ball towards goal and was looking good to get on the end of it, although all three had made an honest attempt to get the ball, so perhaps you could argue it was a tad harsh. Immediately Sordell was brought off and Butterfield sent on. It presented the Addicks with a golden opportunity to steal the three points.

Jackson and Kermorgant were both poised, ready to strike the free kick. The whistle went. Yann stepped forward and curled his typically sublime effort towards the bottom left corner of the goal. Lonergan sprawled. The ball clattered the post. Players flung themselves towards the rebound, the ball deflecting slightly off Pritchard, making Hughes attempt at a header look comical given the ball was nowhere near when he completed his dive. It travelled past them. Dervite, free in the area, rolled a first time left footed shot, resembling more of a pass, into the wide open right side of the goal. A frantic few seconds capped off by a calm finish, and another great roar from the home crowd. One man advantage, with half an hour to play. What an opportunity.

Not long after that, Fuller again won the ball in the far corner, and flicked the ball past Butterfield into the penalty area. In the process of chasing back, Pratley clipped the leg of Fuller who was forced to ground. Trevor Kettle pointed to the spot. What a chance. After the initial protestations, it became clear who was going to take the penalty, although a couple of double-takes were necessary. Yann Kermorgant was waiting by the spot. It would be his first competitive penalty since the infamous chip that was saved in the playoff semi-final - the reason Leicester gave him so much stick. He placed the ball confidently on the spot. It was the pressure of a normal penalty, heightened by the terrible home form this season, the desperation to secure three points to climb away from the dropzone, and yet the overriding feeling was that of fear, for the talismanic striker who was about to take a step into the unknown. 

The whistle went. Kermorgant charged towards the ball, side-footing a powerful effort that curved away from the diving Lonergan and crashed into the back of the net, sparking an even greater roar than before from the home supporters. Yann celebrated properly, once again illustrating his commitment to this club. The goal completed the comeback, from the depths of despair at 0-2, to the joy and ecstasy of 3-2. However, there was the small matter of defending for the next 25 minutes, which Chris Powell unfortunately seemed all too eager to do. 

Hughes was withdrawn after a fine comeback on 70 minutes, replaced by the impressively calm and clinical Mark Gower. Kermorgant dropped off Fuller and played more of a covering central midfield role. Charlton sat deep. Worryingly deep. 

The chances still came, but the intensity in attack was significantly reduced, given the desire not to give a goal away. Kermorgant had acres of space on the right and chose his target when crossing for the far post, only to see Harriott mishit the shot which went wide. Pritchard almost turned in a cross from the left but the effort was superbly blocked by a flying Wanderers defender. Towards the end of the 90 minutes, Kermorgant rose above Butterfield at the back post and his header was touched superbly over the bar by the jumping Lonergan. 

Bolton attempted to salvage something from the game, bringing on Craig Davies. It was an odd change as his sole objective throughout the short period he spent on the pitch seemed to be to just act like a complete idiot and make as many fouls as possible. He used his arms, elbows and all to try and get the ball, all to no avail. He was booked for shoving Michael Morrison, and when the ball dropped for Wiggins to hoof clear, his lunge from behind flattened the left-back, and earned him a deserved second yellow card. A quite magnificent display of incompetence and ineptitude from the former Barnsley front-man. 

The final 20 minutes weren't entirely pleasant to watch. The Addicks initially held the ball well up the field, but that soon turned to panicked clearances and brave headers as Bolton heaved the ball forward in an attempt to steal a late equaliser. Hamer collected a fierce low ball across goal, as well as a couple of tame shots, while dealing with crosses well. With a linesman being replaced injured, we knew there would be some added time to come, but we weren't prepared when the board was raised and the number 7 was staring back at us. SEVEN? I clicked my stopwatch into action and let the panic commence. A couple of nervy moments were well negotiated, and the sending off occurred too, but despite Bolton's best efforts, the Addicks defence held firm, and three points were secured. Get in.


It was a superb team performance, one where picking a standout player proved extremely difficult. 

Hamer dealt with everything he had to, and save for one dubious moment when challenging for a high ball, he was very solid on his return to the side.
Solly was immense, yet again. He cleared up at the back when Bolton threatened to break, proved extremely difficult to beat at right back, and made one of the most heroic charging runs late on that you'd wish to see. The ball was hoofed clear, with nobody chasing, so Solly took it upon himself to sprint after it. He managed to win the ball, before being spectacularly hauled to the ground, winning a free kick. He really is f---ing quality. 
Wiggins was superb as well, defending solidly and linking up beautifully with Harriott down the left. Though his crosses didn't find the target, the main threat came down the left and he deserves credit for creating space for Harriott to exploit. 
Morrison had a tough task in dealing with Ngog all game, but he did so resolutely. There were a number of balls contested where fouls could have been given either way, but weren't, hence it was a real scrap to win. He did so more often than not. 
Dervite had a rather terrible first half. He was five yards off Sordell and was beaten too easily in the process of scoring the first goal, and threw himself into 50-50 situations where he was taking too much of a risk, many of which he came off second best. But come the second half, he had become far more solid. He took his goal calmly, and won a number of headers to keep Bolton at bay. 
Pritchard was the bundle of energy he always has been, charging up and down the right flank all game. There was some good inter-linking play when he got forward, but the combination down the left showed that an out-and-out right midfielder offers more. However, he's in the team because of his tireless efforts and defensive assistance, and as ever he gave his all. 
Jackson was once again excellent, he leads the team incredibly well. He took his goal superbly, and calmed the game down when he got the ball by spreading the play, as well as tackling when necessary. A great leader.
Hughes played a similar role. A number of first-touch passes opened the play up nicely. His strength is that he brings other players into the game, and it was clear he plays a big motivational role in the centre as well. We've missed him. A great guy to have in the middle, and at the club.
Harriott was lively for the whole game. He runs around ceaselessly like Pritchard, and had a number of efforts on goal. Only one really found the target, which was well saved, but the number of chances he created with his trickery down the left prove he really is a valuable asset to have, and a threatening attacker. Really promising performance. 
Kermorgant was superb, as ever. He made two excellent sliding tackles and managed to somehow swing round the other leg when on the ground to pass the ball. His free-kick was quality, desperately unlucky not to go in, and he showed his bravery when stepping up to take that penalty. It was an emphatic finish. He won headers to link the play up, and put himself about like he always does. Great man.
Fuller flitted in and out of the game. In the first half he did nothing until getting the wrong side of Knight and firing a shot wide. In the second half, his trickery won the penalty, and his header won the free-kick that resulted in the sending off. Apparently he popped his shoulder out again, so to fight through that pain was a truly brave effort.

Gower showed he is a composed midfielder during his 20 minute spell on the pitch, offering a lovely calming influence, similar to the role Hughes had carried out, but with a little more conviction in the final ball. Haynes came on and should probably have outpaced the defence to score, but slowed the ball down and passed the ball wider to create a chance. Wilson did his duties.

Chris Powell was prevented from doing his usual celebratory tunnel jump by a grumpy Trevor Kettle, who had been heckled by Freedman continuously on his way off as a result of the first red card he'd given. The manager deserves great credit for instilling that confidence and belief in his Charlton side. They showed superb fight to come back from 0-2 down, and though there was a red card to assist the victory, we were very much in the ascendancy before that red was given. Powell really deserves a lot of credit for his work this season.

Though ultimately the result did not alter the points difference between us and the bottom three, a performance like that illustrates that the squad has the fight to come up with another few results to make Championship status secure for next year. Hopefully we might be treated to the luxury of another home win in the process!

A vital three points, well deserved. Up the Addicks. 


Video of Kermorgant's penalty can be seen here. (Credit to @Strayslacks for uploading it.)

An excellent article from Valley Talk on Chris Powell's position can be read here. 

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