Sunday, 15 February 2015

Charlton Athletic 3 v 0 Brentford

Saturday 14th February 2015
Football League Championship
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 14,875
Match Rating: 4

In all honesty, it is hard to remember a time I less looked forward to a trip to The Valley as today, given the very poor run Charlton have been on since the autumn that hasn't seen a win for over three months, some rather farcical and alienating of the fans strategies by the club's Belgian owners, culminating in a shockingly dreadful performance in Tuesday's home game provoking a hostile and poisonous atmosphere in the stadium.

On paper, it was hard to see Charlton's poor run coming to an end today, with today's visitors enjoying a good first season back in the Championship following promotion, in sixth place and the final play-off berth, with 52 points from 30 games. Interestingly, they had lost their last two home games, yet won their last three away games. Following Charlton's dismal defeat on Tuesday, they went into this game in 20th position, just three points clear of the relegation zone. However, hope was raised when, following a much improved second half performance with the half time introduction of Tony Watt to play alongside Igor Vetokele, manager Guy Luzon went with this formation from the start today. It was also a relief to see keeper Stephen Henderson back in the team for the first time since Charlton's last win, and newly signed Roger Johnson taking the place of Andre Bikey at the heart of defence - after looking immense at the start of the season, Bikey has proved something of a lumbering liability in recent weeks.

On a mild afternoon, what followed was truly remarkable, with Luzon's switch to playing two up front and playing players in their most natural positions completely vindicated with a solid performance. For the first time in weeks if not months, Charlton dominated possession, used the ball wisely, looked capable of scoring goals, whilst not fearing the worst every time the visiting team attacked - although Brentford were rarely able to mount threatening attacks anyway. Charlton took a deserved lead on 27 minutes, Vetokele chested the ball down on the edge of the area, controlled the ball, evaded a couple of defenders before laying it off to an unmarked Johann Gudmundsson across the area, who struck a sweet shot across the keeper and into the top left corner of the net. Charlton comfortably held on to their lead up to half time, although things weren't going all their own way, being forced into two injuries with left back Rhoys Wiggins and captain Johnnie Jackson both having to be replaced.

After Brentford actually had perhaps their best spell of the game at the start of the second half, without really threatening, Charlton doubled their advantage on 55 minutes. Frederic Bulot launched the ball towards Vetokele at the edge of the area, and the ball fell to strike partner Tony Watt, who calmly passed to Vetokele in a better position, and he guided the ball low just inside the post to give his team some real breathing space.  Given Charlton's recent record, it was difficult even now to feel comfortable at the three points being secured until the match entered stoppage time at the end of the game when they scored their third with a real route one goal. Keeper Henderson launched the ball downfield, finding Bulot on the left wing who sprang the offside trap, took the ball just inside the area before shooting the ball low and powerfully across the keeper and into the net. A fine goal to cap a fine performance, a total contrast to Tuesday night's performance, particularly in the first half. Hopefully this will kick start Charlton's season, who rose two places to 18th position and six points clear of the relegation zone, and give the team a little bit of confidence creeping back into their play for a big game at second bottom Wigan on Friday evening. Certainly the atmosphere was much more positive today, and perhaps a reminder that the team isn't all that bad, but was stuck is a bad rut, with developments off the field impacting on performance on it.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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