Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Charlton Athletic 2-0 Doncaster: Three Points, Job Done

Despite the catastrophic public transport failures trying to prevent fans getting to the game, nothing could stop the Addicks securing a vital victory over Doncaster.

The Addicks ready to defend a free-kick
Utter chaos at London Bridge made the journey to the ground an absolute nightmare. Instead of the train to Charlton, I was forced to get the DLR, a tube, two buses and then had to run to make kick off. It took about ten minutes for the stress to subside and to settle into watching the game.

The smaller crowd (caused by a combination of public transport incompetence and apathy towards the fixture) meant the Valley struggled to create the intense atmosphere synonymous with a floodlit midweek game. That said, the home side were dominant.

Church had an early chance, controlling a through ball on his chest with only the keeper to beat, but he couldn't repeat his fine finish from the Blackburn game, skewing his shot wide of the left post.

Charlton continued to threaten, largely brought about by the control that Stephens and Cousins were bringing in central midfield. The defence repelled Doncaster's long balls forward with ease, and stood firm when they countered on the floor.

Further chances came and went. Kermorgant found the ball at his feet twelve yards from goal after a good attack down the left and a dummy from Stephens, but his first-time side-footed effort wasn't hit cleanly, and bounced off the post despite many (including myself) thinking it was heading into the net. Soon after, Church tried an acrobatic volley from the edge of the area, which was well hit but soon blocked.

Doncaster struggled to get create chances despite often breaking forward with slick passing football. These forays were too infrequent. When they eventually got the ball to Macheda in the box, he spun and turned like a competent Artur Boruc, before firing over the bar from a tight angle.

As half time approached, Charlton found themselves on the attack once again. Cameron Stewart was playing on the right as Jackson was deployed on the left, but was still a constant threat to the Doncaster defence. His ball into the box rebounded out to Stephens, who twisted in the air to fire an outstanding shot across his body from outside the area. It was struck with such power and dipped viciously, which took it under the bar and into the top left corner. What a strike!

All those chances, yet we'd scored from by far the most difficult.

Only one nil up at half time, but that could easily have been more as Church had missed a couple of great opportunities. Doncaster weren't looking a particularly coherent threat, but there was still work to be done before the three points were secure.

The second half progressed much in the same way as the first, though an element of caution had crept into our play which prevented over-committing in attack. Powell kept with the same formation, but Kermorgant had a deeper role behind Church which added extra defensive protection.

Wilson found himself with the ball near the area on the right, with Stewart overlapping, but a slip from the defender allowed him a clear run into the box. His shot was well parried by Turnbull, and Cousins couldn't get his shot on target from outside the box.

Charlton broke forward again on sixty minutes, Jackson carrying the ball down the left. He slotted a beautiful diagonal pass between the two centre backs to the feet of Church. Clean through on goal, he took the ball into the box, waited for Turnbull to go down and slotted to his left. The ball clipped the post before going in, but the Addicks had doubled their lead! Church looked relieved more than anything, but a smile of delight was visible on his face. Instead of joining in with the celebrations in front of the North-East corner, Yann decided to go and give a short defensive lecture to the back four. What a hero.

Church celebrates his goal with team-mates, while Yann
offers some instruction to the defence in the background
Two more chances were created by Stewart, choosing to shoot on both occasions after a sharp cutback onto his right foot. The first was just outside the box, well tipped over the bar by Turnbull, but the second was outrageous. When it looked like he should've passed to set up a better opportunity, he unleashed a dipping thirty yard strike that crashed back of the crossbar. He really has got a fantastic right foot. And I still maintain he should've passed!

Another glorious opportunity to make it 3-0 went begging, as the ball bounced across goal towards Church, twelve yards from goal. His swivelled effort saw him mis-kick horribly, and he just lay on the turf in despair. Turnbull helped him to his feet, probably thinking him for keeping the score down to two nil.

Charlton controlled and the game well, but Macheda had a couple of half chances before the end. One shot was well saved by Alnwick, deputising for Hamer after an injury in the warm up, and another flew over the bar much in the same way his chance in the first half had done.

Church and Jackson were replaced after excellent shifts, although the former probably should've had a hat-trick. Andy Hughes came on to much joy, as did Sordell, who ran a bit before getting bored. Green replaced the excellent Stewart, and promptly fired a shot from wide into the post, though the whistle had gone for offside.

Doncaster had precious little to offer going forward, unable to utilise the assistance of a waterlogged pitch this time round. "3-1, and you f-cked it up" was the rather harsh but amusing view from the North Upper.

Full time was greeted with muted cheers, with the result hardly in doubt from the moment Charlton went two to the good. The players clapped the fans as they went off, with Andy Hughes looking paticularly enthusiastic and inspirational. Chris Powell did his usual and waited to be the last man down the tunnel. The crowd expectantly waited him to re-emerge for his celebratory jump, and he did so having gloriously donned his flat cap. A fine way to end the night.

It was a professional performance by the Addicks, and much needed after a couple of defeats which had checked our momentum. Doncaster were poor, and struggled to have any significant attempts on goal. The Addicks defence restricted them to just the one shot on target. Morrison and Dervite won most of the aerial balls aimed at them, with the two full backs as energetic as ever. Wiggins and Wilson bombing forward is vital to our attacking threat, but they also defended stoutly.

Cousins and Stephens provided the real foundation for the victory. They tackled well, played some excellent short passes between themselves and spread the play going forward. It's great to see a settled duo, especially as it allows Stephens to play in a more advanced position. His passing was particularly good, whilst his goal rivals Cameron Stewart's volley as one of the best we've seen all season.

Stewart was fantastic, a constant threat down the right hand side. He has a tendency to cut onto his right foot a little too often, but Doncaster failed to cope, and he came incredibly close to scoring. He also managed to put a couple of dangerous crosses in, which is more difficult to do when he plays on the left. Jackson's role on the left was more defensive, seeing him tucking inside to provide defensive assistance. His pass to set up Church was exceptional.

Church really must be on the verge of scoring a shed load of goals. He continues to get into great positions and his understanding with Kermorgant is developing nicely. Even though it wasn't his night, he still managed to score. A little too often the defence played long balls over the top to run onto, but again his work rate was outstanding.

Kermorgant showed flashes of his brilliance, with a couple of magnificent and perfectly accurate flick-ons. He was deployed in the deeper centre forward role, meaning he wasn't in the box as often as would be liked, but the defensive duties he carried out made up for that. It was great to see the big Breton back on the field.

Powell got his tactics right, and although the opposition performance was below par, it was a professional job to secure three points as comfortably as Charlton did. The defensive-minded 4-4-2 formation has its limitations in attack, but has provided the side with extremely solid foundations on which they can build on. Another clean sheet and a vital three points will certainly lift the squad after Saturday's narrow loss at QPR. It also shows a steely resilience, as there was no sign of lingering disappointment from the game three days earlier.

For those that could make it, the display was a very encouraging one from a side who've struggled for goals. Ipswich at home on Saturday provides another opportunity to move up the table and build some momentum. Once again Chris Powell has lifted his players to achieve a great result. Here's to more of the same with him at the helm. I doff my flat cap to him.

Up The Addicks!

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