Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Peterborough 2-2 Charlton: Industrious Addicks fight for Posh point

A large Charlton following travelled to Peterborough hoping that the excellent away form this season would continue. One win in the last seven games, and no clean sheet in 15, it was a big game for the Addicks. Add to that Peterborough's plight, sat in the dropzone seven points behind Charlton, which heightened the importance of the game even further.

Chris Powell signs an autograph before the match.

Charlton lined up with an attacking 4-4-2 formation. Button kept his place in goal, Solly came in at right-back, pushing Wilson forward to right-midfield. Matt Taylor played in place of the presumably injured Leon Cort, whilst Wiggins played left back. Jackson and Pritchard were charged with controlling central midfield, and Callum Harriott was given a start after some encouraging cameo appearances. Haynes and Fuller were the strike pairing.

Charlton started much the better side, playing good inter-linking football down the wings. Before five minutes had passed, Lawrie Wilson rifled a shot from the corner of the box which ricocheted off the crossbar. Soon after, a ball across the face of goal had nobody waiting to tap in, and the score remained level. Peterborough grew into the game, taking advantage of space in the middle of the park, and after two threatening attacks, their third brought the opening goal. Swanson ran straight from the centre circle into space, and Morrison's challenge was weak, allowing him a straight one-on-one with Button, who was powerless to stop the lifted effort on goal. After that, both sides pressured but aside from a Haynes header that went wide, there was little action at the far end of the pitch, and despite a brilliant start to the game, Charlton went in at the break one down.

A small patch of fans booed this apparent failure, which I found incredible. It was a frustrating half, typical of our season, where things haven't quite fallen our way, and the efforts of the players only warranted applause and further encouragement. Harriott had struggled, failing to land any crosses in play and getting caught out a couple of times. He clearly had talent and ability, it was just a tough introduction into the side. Peterborough were taking advantage of Charlton's overworked central duo, and the threatening Mendez-Laing and Gayle were playing on the shoulder of the last defender, waiting for aerial balls to be played. Charlton were clearly good enough to compete, they just needed a rallying cry to give them the confidence they needed.
The second half started with an immediate Posh attack, where seemingly Charlton were switched off, and were fortunate not to concede. But after that scare, the following 15 minutes saw a sustained spell of pressure that brought two goals and pandemonium in the away end.

The first came from good interplay down the left. Jackson was played the ball on the left corner of the area by Harriott - a lovely ball. Jackson touched it towards the six-yard box and lifted a beautiful left-footed shot over the keeper and into the net. He celebrated in front of the ecstatic away end, and the passion was there for all to see. A comment that he's been our best finisher in the box this season was not far wrong.

"Johnnie, oh Johnnie Jackson runs down the wing for me!" The adoration went on for a good three or four minutes. For all the stick he gets, he's a great captain, and worked tirelessly all game in midfield. He also pops up with vital goals. Write him off at your peril.

Charlton continued to pile on the pressure, and won a corner on the right. Jackson swung it in dangerously. The ball went back out to the right, and Solly took the ball into the box and clipped a cross to the back post. Morrison headed towards goal, and there were appeals that it had crossed the line. The block fell to Haynes, barely a few yards out, who absolutely hammered the ball up into the roof of the net, triggering chaotic joy on the terraces. He had been pumped up all game, and it was great he was rewarded with a goal. Though his pace had nothing to do with the goal, the danger he poses makes him a vital player for this club.

The goal took the noise level up another notch, with sublime chants praising the magnificent effort of the Addicks to turn things around.

Harriott looked like a man transformed - his trickery troubled the defence and he could lay the ball of to the marauding Rhoys Wiggins. Jackson and Pritchard gathered the loose balls and spread the play wide. Fuller interlinked, but it was Haynes causing most trouble, with his pace and determination.

Further pressure came, and a third goal was a distinct possibility. The ball didn't quite fall on a couple of occasions to allow a shot in and around the box. You got the feeling - you always do - that failure to convert would be followed by an opposition goal.

And that's exactly what happened. A mid-range shot from 18 yards low to Button's left wasn't saved and hit the back of the net. I failed to hear who scored, but heads dropped in the away end. Button was slightly late down on it, and many ere disappointed with the effort. The word "Hamer" was at times audible above the groans.

The ensuing 20 minutes saw end to end football. One Charlton chance almost arose after some excellent one touch football around the right hand corner of the box. Haynes chipped in front of Wilson who was beaten to the ball by a defender. But after that, it was Posh pressure, particularly in the final ten minutes of the game. It was familiar backs-to-the-wall defending, with corners being won and free kicks being given. A melee in front of goal invoked a ridiculous sense of panic, and I was expecting the net to bulge and pile on the misery, but somehow the ball was cleared. Dervite came on late, and for all the defensive assurance he brought, there was no outlet, so it was constant pressure. Full time eventually came, with the point secured. All things considered, a good point, and a fair result.

The whistle was part cheered, part applauded by us. There was recognition of the value of denying Peterborough three points, and keeping the gap between the two sides at seven. The Charlton players walked over towards the faithful supporters after shaking hands. Another rendition of the Jackson song was gloriously launched. The warm applause afforded to the squad was well deserved, as the Posh looked a threat for much of the game. Before we turned for the exits, there was time for a song for Chris Powell, who thanked the support. A fairly satisfactory result.

Addicks fans applaud after the final whistle

Jackson gets my man of the match. His goal was taken calmly and clinically, and his tireless effort in the middle was vital to breaking down play and spreading the ball wide. He's not just a quality finisher, but also a hard worker, and a superb motivator. The passion was there for all to see tonight. He truly is a Great Man.
Haynes was the better of the two strikers, winning as much in the air as Haynes, who himself posed a much greater threat in and around the box. After his difficult first half, Harriott was superb, and perhaps a little defensive naivety was made up for by an inability to stop running in the team's cause. I'd definitely start him on Saturday. Wiggins and Solly were useful going forward, as always. Wilson also had a good game, and was unlucky not to score early on. Pritchard also ran himself into the ground in midfield. That the central duo were overrun at times was not through fault of their own, but a consequence of the clever passing play from the Posh. Morrison made the key error that brought the first goal, but he and Taylor did well to win the majority of headers. Posh liked the lifted ball in behind the defence, and largely this was dealt with well. Button made an excellent save to keep the score 1-0, and collected crosses and high balls flawlessly, but most will only remember the second goal, which is a shame, but it happens.

As for Powell, a big thumbs up for the team selection. The scoreline at the break didn't reflect errors in selection or tactics, and the occasional threat through the middle was a consequence of the will to attack and score goals. He must have done a phenomenal job at half time. He's brilliant at instilling that belief needed when things haven't quite gone right for his side. With five minutes to go his decision to go defensive and take the point was brave, running the risk of conceding another late goal, but ultimately it was a great showing from the Addicks, who certainly deserved their point, if not more.

There are always goals at London Road. Peterborough's good recent run highlights the value of a point. More importantly, the fight, desire and energy shown after half time embodied the spirit of the squad. You can never be certain, but the squad seem to have too much fight to go down. The point tonight actually lifts us to 14th, showing how crazily tight this league is. There's no denying that there are big games to come, and that a few more wins are needed before we can rest easy, but after tonight's performance there's no justification in manning the lifeboats just yet.

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