Sunday, 30 September 2012

Charlton Athletic Academy U18 6 v 1 Swansea City Academy U18

Saturday 29th September 2012
U18 Professional Development League 2 South
Sparrows Lane, New Eltham
Admission: None
Team Sheet: Free
Attendance: 100 (estimate)
Match rating: 4

Despite being a season ticket holder at Charlton for many years - apart from a recent break - I have never paid a visit to the club's training ground complex to see the youth team in action, probably deterred by the early kick-offs. However, I decided to change that today, on a pleasantly sunny day and to form part of a double bill of football action for me today, with the first team playing at home to Blackburn Rovers in the afternoon.

Sparrows Lane is located in New Eltham, about a ten minute walk from New Eltham train station and is virtually adjacent to a ground I visited towards the end of last season, the Metrogas Sports Ground. These days, only season ticket holders, invited guests or Valley Gold card holders are allowed to attend Charlton's academy games. Once inside the complex, there are unsurprisingly several pitches, with the clubhouse behind the main pitch. Unsurprisingly, spectator facilities are very limited, with spectators only intended to stand along one length of the pitch, whch is roped off. The complex has a nice leafy, tranquil feel about it, and there is a pleasant memorial garden outside the clubhouse, with a bronze bust of Pierre Bolangi, who died in a training accident in 2000. Spectators could help themselves to a teamsheet for today's game outside the main reception.

Whilst not too much should be read into youth team results, Charlton's youth team have had some very pleasing results so far and went into this game unbeaten from their four games, with three wins and one draw. Swansea have won one, drawn one and lost two their games so far.

A pattern of play quickly emerged that Swansea's higher status of their first team would count at this level for very little, as Charlton dominated proceedings virtually from the kick off, and with eight minutes on the clock, Charlton took the lead when the ball was played inside and Tom Derry passed the ball past the keeper and into the net. Charlton soon doubled their advantage when a forward made a complete hash of trying to connect with an excellent cross from the right, however he got enough of a touch for the ball to ricochet off a defender and into the net. Charlton were three up with less than half an hour played, and a wonderful goal it was too, when a cross was played from almost the corner flag, and the ball was drilled in on the volley from about 15 yards into the corner of the net by Michael Martin. Charlton then hit the post - one of countless glorious opportunities for them besides their goals - but a minute later, on 31, they did score their fourth, when the ball was passed neatly through Swansea's defence before Derry scored with a simple finish for his second of the game. Two minutes before half time and Charlton added a fifth with another fabulous goal, Harry Gerard picking the ball up just outside the penalty area before curling a glorious shot over the keeper and into the net.

So a convincing 5-0 lead to the home side at half time, and in truth it could have been double that, so was Charlton's utter dominance, other chances squandered and Swansea barely able to get out of their half. One imagined that the second half couldn't be so one sided again, and so it proved, as Swansea showed a lot more cohesiveness, looked much more solid defensively, and Charlton certainly appeared to take their foot off the gas. On 54 minutes Swansea hit the post, and a minute later were almost gifted a goal, when a Charlton defender passed the ball back firmly to his onrushing goalkeeper. The ball passed him and went agonisingly just wide just before the onrushing striker could reach it to tap it into the net. However, a couple of minutes later and Swansea did get on the score sheet, when the ball was nodded in from close range following a good cross. They almost scored a second on 75 minutes when an almost carbon copy of their goal this time was acrobatically tipped over. A couple of minutes later, Charlton were awarded a free kick right on the edge of the box, and the ball was curled onto the post. On 79 minutes, Charlton scored a sixth, when the ball was worked across the box, finally finding Harry Gerard, who found the net via a deflection. There was little activity for the rest of the game and so it was a convincing victory for Charlton after what was a strange game - Charlton could have been in double figures at half time, but Swansea will feel slightly aggrieved at scoring only once in the second half.

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