Thursday, 12 February 2015

Charlton Athletic 2 v 3 Norwich City

Tuesday 10th February 2015
Football League Championship
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 15,094 (2.392 away fans)
Match Rating: 3

This evening was a rare opportunity for me to take in a Charlton midweek home game, just my second of the season. It is fair to say that I set off to The Valley with a feeling of trepidation, as Charlton's season is imploding, with the early season optimism now firmly replaced by uncertainty, ill feelings towards the Belgian owner and his perceived puppet of the newly installed manager, Guy Luzon, and a general feeling of apathy and resignation, as the fanbase is feeling ever more detached from the club, and frustrated by the owners' lack of ambition.

Charlton's slide down the table shows no sign of abating, losing 1-3 at third placed Middlesbrough on Saturday and are now down in 19th place in the table and just six points above the relegation zone, with 6 wins and 15 draws from their 29 games, and still without a win since early November. After two home games that, on paper, should have been opportunities to break that winless run, against Brighton and Rotherham, tonight would be tough, against a club relegated from the Premiership last season, with a team still packed of Premiership players, and sat in seventh place in the table, three points off of the play-off zone, with 47 points from 27 games, having won 13 and drawn eight of their 29 league games. There was some hope for Charlton though in that tonight represented the opportunity to complete the double over Norwich, having won at Carrow Road back in September.

Although Charlton started quite positively in the opening minutes, that soon waned and what followed was a shockingly abject display from the home side, with players obviously lacking in confidence, and in some cases, interest and desire, as they misplaced passes, looked to pass backwards too eagerly, shirked challenges and showed incredibly poor positional sense. Norwich deservedly took the lead on 14 minutes, Lewis Grabban crossing the ball from the right, finding Jonny Howson unmarked and with all the time in the world deep inside the penalty area to place his shot past the keeper. The only surprise was that it took until the 43rd minute for Norwich to double their lead, thanks to some poor defending. Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey watched a long ball sail over their heads, and Lewis Grabban took the ball on and chipped a hopelessly out of position keeper Marko Dmitrovic in no mans land, and the ball bounced into the net. An increasingly hostile atmosphere amongst the home fans really intensified now, as they started calling for manager Guy Luzon's head in just his fourth game in charge. It was indeed a really poor first half performance by the home side, with the 0-2 scoreline not at all reflecting the dominance of Norwich or the ineptitude of Charlton.

The game had the feel that the result was not in doubt, with Charlton seemingly incapable of raising their game and Norwich doing enough to kill the game. Having been introduced at half time, striker Tony Watt provided more of an attacking threat, and out of nothing, he pulled a goal back on 61 minutes, Vetokele playing him in before slotting low past the keeper. Quite astonishingly, Charlton were somehow level on 68 minutes, sub Callum Harriot had his shot parried by the keeper, but the ball fell at the feet of Vetokele, who made no mistake in turning the ball into the net. This finally really fired up the home side, and they looked they might even snatch a winner for a period. However, this was deflated on 83 minutes when Cameron Jerome, who had only entered the field four minutes previously, headed Wes Hoolahan's cross past the keeper and into the net. That was that, and there can be no denying Norwich deserved the three points, and in truth, it was surprising that Charlton came so close to getting anything out of this game. Charlton's relentless slide towards the relegation zone continues, just three points clear now, and these are worrying times, as with a side that struggles to score goals and when it does, the defence looks very vulnerable, it is hard to see Charlton picking up enough wins to keep their heads above water, particularly with the negative and hostile atmosphere that is engulfing the club at the moment. All a very far cry from the optimism that Charlton fans felt last autumn, when a push for the play-offs looked much more likely.

Brief video highlights of this game can be found here

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