Saturday, 22 February 2014

Charlton 1-0 QPR: Jackson Wins Thriller

Its been a tough season for Charlton. Only five league wins, and plenty of performances where luck hasn't been on our side. Its felt like we've been about to turn the corner for months, without ever quite managing to do so. The visit of QPR to the Valley didn't promise much for the Addicks, who were coming up against the league's strongest squad. To take a point from the game would require resilience, fight and desire. But this Charlton side showed that there is far more to football than throwing big names together to make an eleven - hunger, heart and passion make a team what it is. Charlton Athletic possesses all of those traits, and more. It was a defiant and brilliant performance capped off by a moment of pure delirium, as Johnnie Jackson headed home the winner. His goal sent the Valley into pandemonium, and, against all the odds, gave Charlton a fully deserved three points.

Initially, it was the visiting side that looked the most fluent of the two. QPR possess some quality individuals in their squad even without the recent addition of loan signed Ravel Morrison. He looked to have a certain arrogance and flair about him, floating around at the top of the midfield and looking to create chances. A few counter-attacks saw chances fall for QPR, but none of them found the target, and Kevin Doyle cut a lone figure up front at times.

Despite starting slightly slower, Charlton had the best chance(s) of the half. Jordan Cousins found space on the edge of the box, firing a shot past Robert Green which cannoned back off the post. The ball fell to an unmarked Reza Ghoochanejhad (just 'Reza'...) who only had to side-foot the simple chance into the empty net, what with Green still on the floor. His effort found the left post, bounced back out and was cleared, despite many home fans thinking it had gone in. It left me with a feeling that we'd regret missing a chance as golden as that against a side as good as QPR.

Reza fought hard, but struggled to make an impact against the imposing Richard Dunne in the Rangers defence. Church ran himself into the ground, but found few openings to exploit. Despite the solid defensive and midfield performance in the first half, we still looked quite weak in attack, with no crosses coming from Danny Green on the right, and nobody in the box able to win headers. I won't name the player we were missing, but you can probably work it out.

The second half saw Charlton grow into the game to the extent that they dominated the last twenty minutes of play. QPR still threatened, with Morrison playing a central role in the play, but he was twice only able to slice wide when he should have done better.

The match was transformed when Powell made a double substitution, withdrawing the eager but tiring Reza, and the ineffective Danny Green, and replacing them with debutant Marcus Tudgay and midfield maestro Astrit Ajdarevic. They gave the team renewed impetus, and the clever and canny play of Ajdarevic was instrumental in pushing the Addicks forward.

Charlton's industry was being rewarded, with chances became more frequent. Cousins and Poyet had controlled the central areas, allowing the skipper to roam down the left flank. Jackson looked to fire a shot across goal after a nice move down the left, but he could only skew it wide. The skipper was at the heart of the attacking play down the left, but also vital in defence. He was doing all that you could ask of a captain, and his side responded to the encouragement from the Valley crowd.

Sensing that QPR were not at the races, and that the game was there to be won, with 20 minutes to go the home crowd urged Charlton on every time they took possession. There was unity in the stands, with everyone fully behind the players in red on the pitch. The players fed off the atmosphere, and showed great heart in the final quarter of the match. The game was building to a crescendo - a goal would have set the place alight.

A huge moment of panic at the back almost gifted QPR a goal. Yohan Thuram, who had looked far from composed throughout the game despite not being forced into a save, received a back-pass from Dervite with Maiga running towards him. Instead of hoofing clear, the keeper tried to play the ball back past the onrushing striker, but only succeeded in giving it straight to him. Maiga, fortunately, ran out of space trying to go round Thuram, and the on-loan keeper was reprieved.

Minutes later, the ball was bouncing around the Charlton area, with Will Keane looking to fire off a shot. The ball found its way towards the back post where Maiga had the chance to control and finish, but his touch let him down. Thuram leapt across goal to catch the ball, and succeeded. It was met with fervent scenes in the crowd, as many jumped to their feet to celebrate the keeper demonstrating for the first time that he actually had a safe pair of hands.

Charlton's best spell came towards the end of 90 minutes, with Dunne, Hill and Onuoha repelling frequent forays forward. A scramble in the box resulted in the ball breaking free on the edge of the area, with Onuoha racing after it. Diego Poyet put in a thumping slide tackle, winning the ball and sending it to Ajdarevic on the right-hand side of the area. He curled a shot that was creeping inside the post, but a fantastic full-stretch save from Robert Green tipped it around the post.

Ajdarevic came over to take the corner, with the Covered End roaring the home side on. His ball curved over the area towards the back post, where Johnnie Jackson looked to have the better of his man. He soared into the air, met the ball with a strong header down into the ground. The ball beat Green, bounced up and glanced a defender on its way across goal. It hit the back of the net. GOAL!

Cue wild scenes of some of the most incredible joy I've seen at the Valley. The crowd went absolutely bonkers, a delirious explosion which was just perfect. Jackson charged over to the front of the North Stand, jumping into the crowd and being mobbed by fans and team-mates alike. Still the crowd celebrated. It was absolute carnage! The most satisfying, deserved and important late goal we've seen for a very long time.

It makes me smile just thinking about how good that moment was. Those memories last for years.

The stuffing had been well and truly knocked out of QPR, and Charlton were able to cling on for the final couple of minutes of added time. The final whistle sparked further celebration, with most of the crowd staying to cheer off their heroes. Chris Powell was so delighted, he shook the hands of every single person on the field, including random ground staff. He embraced his captain; Johnnie Jackson - the matchwinner - had sealed his hero status with the Valley faithful, although in the eyes of many, he'd done that a long time ago. The players were visibly emotional, with hugs happening all over the place. It was a truly wonderful time to be at the Valley.


There is still work to be done, particularly in attack, but the performance today showed that you can't put a price on team spirit. Chris Powell's value to this club has been difficult for a minority to see, but not even they could deny how pivotal a role he played in lifting this team to the heights they reached. To start with two teenagers in central midfield, against the likes of Jermaine Jenas and Ravel Morrison, shows how much faith he has in his players, and their performance reflected their pride in wearing the red shirt. Poyet and Cousins were superb, making tackles but also spreading the play to wider areas. Wilson and Wiggins ran the touchlines superbly, and defended with their typical solidity. Morrison and Dervite were stout at the back, repelling attacks with increasing conviction as the game went on.

Astrit Ajdarevic might not run as much as we want, but my goodness does he have something about him. His introduction breathed new life into the side. He has a clever footballing brain, making a long diagonal pass to Cousins which almost came off, but resulted in a throw high up the pitch. He played a clever one-two with Jackson down the left soon after coming on, and although it came to nothing, it showed that he could make things happen. His shot pushed a former England goalkeeper to his limits in order to keep the score level, and his corner provided the assist for one of the great Valley goals in terms of importance and meaning. Add to that the fact that he's a bit of a hero, tweeting lines such as: "Massive games ahead of us. We need all help we can get, and we need to stick together." He certainly has that quality which will be vital if we want to score goals, and remain in the Championship.

Embedded image permalink
Jackson: "Forget the goal though,best part of the day was trying
to high jump the railing behind the goal and getting stuck!!
As for Johnnie Jackson, well, he's a hero. Chris Powell mentioned that a lot of the work he does goes unnoticed, with it involving defensive positioning, organisation and hard work-rate. Today, in his role on the left, we saw what had been missing a few times this season, which was the attacking ability of Jackson. He was a key player on the left-hand side, teaming up with Wiggins and later Ajdarevic to cause QPR problems. But what singles Jackson out is his ability to score important goals for the club. He pulled the side back into the game when 2-0 down to Cardiff last season; again, when 2-0 to Bolton, he came up with a goal; who could forget his winner at Watford in that incredible 4-3 victory. And when it mattered, he was there at the back post to head home the winner against QPR, with the threat of relegation looming. Its not just his goals, but his obvious passion for the club that makes him a vital asset. He's singled out for criticism for not playing an influential enough role in games, but this is just wrong. Jackson embodies the heart and passion of this football club. Just look at the way that goal was celebrated. Him and Powell are two vitally important people in our battle to avoid the drop, and today was the perfect demonstration of that. What a hero.

Powell spoke of Jackson's importance. “He led from the front. People always look at the manager and the captain to lead the team and he does it in a different way. He does it with a lot of unseen work and moments of quality and normally with John that's with his goals. He put in such a terrific shift, the fans want that and the fans can see that. 

“It's a terrific day for this football club."

"It's a great day for my players, they were immense today. It was a terrific performance. They got their just reward.”

How can you read those words and not be bursting with pride? Chris Powell might not be a tactician, but his ability to motivate a side is exceptional. The eleven on the field today did not include many quality players, but Powell has this ability to make a side exceed the sum of its parts. To beat a team of QPR's quality shows what a vital asset he is to our football club. Admittedly, there seemed to be a lot of mercenaries in that Rangers side, but it reflects the way the manager has put it together. Redknapp's reputation exceeds the qualities of the man. Powell is the opposite. He is under-rated even by a number of Charlton fans. I struggle to see how anybody else could've held things together over the past season or so, with such turmoil off the field and a lack of resources to add quality to the side. Powell has been the glue holding us together, instilling such a wonderful team spirit in the side. We've suffered a number of setbacks, but every time we've come out fighting in the next game. Rarely have the players let the manager down. To have a man so adept at creating a strong dressing room is one thing; to have a man able to do that as well as having such a passion for the club is another. Chris Powell is Charlton's great asset, and he needs to stay for many years to come.

A wonderful afternoon of football thanks to the heart and passion shown by Charlton's players. They want this as much as we do. The vibe is so different to that of the previous Championship relegation battle, where players cracked under pressure and shirked responsibility. We've got a side that will fight to the very end here. The reason for that is the team spirit we've got. That spirit flows from Johnnie Jackson, and Chris Powell. We are far stronger with them than without them.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent writeup which I agree 100% with. I'd only add that Tugay looked good when he came on, some excellent touches and fitted right in, making some good combination moves with players that he would only have met 24 hours previously.