Saturday, 13 December 2014

Charlton Athletic 2 v 2 Blackpool

Saturday 13th December 2014
The Valley, Charlton
Football League Championship
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 15,411 (501 away fans)
Match Rating: 3

Back to the Valley today, and for what was, on paper at least, the home banker of the season. Football doesn't always reflect what league tables indicate though, less still in the ultra competitive Championship, where notoriously every team can beat any other on any given day, and less still when Charlton Athletic are involved...

After the bitterly disappointing last home game, when Charlton lost to Ipswich after conceding a goal in the fifth minute of added on time at the end of the game, Charlton earned a valuable point away at Nottingham Forest, although again losing a lead. They went into this game in eleventh place, having only won once in their last seven games, but were still only three points adrift of the play-off positions. Blackpool had a really poor start to their season, having really struggled for players in the early stages, however the firing of Jose Riga, Charlton's interim manager during the second half of last season, subsequent appointment of Lee Clark and signing several players of decent quality, has seen an upturn in form, losing only once in their last five league games. But they were still adrift at the foot of the table going into this game, in last place, five points adrift of second bottom Wigan, and eight points adrift of safety.

Charlton were still being dogged by injury problems for this game, with captain Johnnie Jackson missing this game, Francis Coquelin being recalled from his loan spell by Arsenal on Friday, star right back Chris Solly being redeployed in midfield, youngster Joe Gomez taking his place at right back. Youngsters Morgan Fox, at left back, and Nick Pope, in goal, retained their places with regular occupants Rhoys Wiggins and Stephen Henderson still sidelined by injury.

On a beautifully sunny day, Charlton started this game in the ascendancy, showing an encouraging return to passing, patient football, although Blackpool came closest in the early stages, with Jacob Murphy forcing a very good save from Nick Pope low to his right from a free kick 25 yards out. But despite Charlton dominating possession, it was the visitors who took the lead on 25 minutes. Nick Pope could only get a faint touch when a high corner came in, and Nyron Nosworthy headed goalwards from the far post, and Chris Eagles touched the ball over the line. However, Charlton were given the chance to get back on level terms on 37 minutes, when Igor Vetokele was brought down in the area just as he was about to shoot. Yoni Buyens coolly slotted the ball low into the left hand side of the net, sending the keeper the other way for his fourth successful penalty conversion of the season. And so the scoreline remained level as half-time arrived, with hope that Charlton would go on and claim the three points if they could just pose more of an attacking threat.

And on 55 minutes, Charlton did take a deserved lead, with another fabulous goal from home-grown youngster Jordan Cousins. Picking the ball up outside the area, he picked his spot in curling a low shot past the keeper's dive and inside the far post. Charlton looked certain to at least hold on to their lead, as they looked much more threatening than in the first half, but again Vetokele didn't really look at the races again, with his flicks and deft touches not coming off today. But once again, Charlton were to be made to pay for not taking enough of their chances, when Blackpool equalised a minute from normal time. They were awarded a free kick after defender Tal Ben Haim clearly won the ball in a sliding tackle - yet another really poor decision by a really poor refereeing performance today, and after the ball was played into the danger area, keeper Nick Pope raced out and performed a rather aimless star jump in the general direction of the ball, allowing Steve Davies to head into an empty net. Charlton desperately tried to find a winner in injury time, and couldn't have asked for a better chance deep into injury time. Sub George Tucudean pulled the ball back to an unmarked Andre Bikey, in a central position 10 yards out, but he blazed the ball over the bar. And so Charlton had to settle for a draw, their twelfth on 21 league games, which lifted them one place to tenth, whilst Blackpool pulled themselves a point closer to Wigan - but remain eight points adrift of safety.

To look at the Charlton performances, and to start with the positives, Joe Gomez looked a really good prospect today - energetic, and as strong and creative going forward as he was defensively, and Tal Ben Haim was again a rock in defence, whilst using the ball well coming out of his area. On the flip side, Nick Pope was to blame for both goals, to add to a number of other costly mistakes this season, which is a shame as he does appear to have plenty of potential. Andre Bikey looked more shaky than usual today, as he had in the last home game, young Morgan Fox just does not look the part at this level who, whilst doing a job defensively, always seems slow to react to situation. Chris Solly put in a solid performance in midfield although clearly he is not used to his full potential in that position. The striking positions are increasingly looking a real concern though, with Callum Harriott surely not suited to playing up front, whilst Vetokele looks less of a threat and more disillusioned as each week passes by. It was extremely disappointing to hear Charlton fans deeply critical of keeper Nick Pope, and even speculate whether manager Bob Peeters is the right person at the helm, fans who would do well to remember that Charlton were one of the favourites to be relegated, only just avoiding that feat last season. But such is the fickleness of football fans across the country these days...

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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