Sunday, 31 August 2014

Glass Half Full?

Brighton and Hove Albion 2 - Charlton Athletic 2.

After the nomadic years and the shambles of the Withdean, Brighton deserve their excellent home. 

Well, a really rather pleasant day out at the seaside with a sneaky bit of kickball thrown in for good measure.

If that mythical person who goes around offering points before the game had come and sat with me on the train down to the coast, and then told me we could be heading back to London with a point, I would as the cliche demands, have "grabbed it with both hands".

Of course, I'd also have put more money than I did on the draw but that's not really important.

What is important is that by the time our team next wander out onto a pitch wearing the first team shirt, despite it very nearly being mid September, they will be an unbeaten set of players (if we hastily forget about the tin pot cup).

Another important point is that after many years of hoping and moaning, we do seem to have lucked into having a forward who knows where the goal is, showing he is a finisher, rather than one of the 'nearly' men.

Igor has won me plenty of cash already this season.
I fully expect Paddy Power to change his goalscoring odds quite dramatically over the next few weeks.

Brighton is a great destination. Quality pubs, great nightlife and the 'holiday' vibe whenever I head down there.

The Amex is a fantastic stadium and there won't be many places better suited to watching football. Crispy pointed out the red 'mood' lighting in the concourse that he'd heard is changed to match the colours of the visiting team.
There seemed to be rather a lot of Charlton crests stuck around the place and while you were staring dutifully at the wall having your 'comfort break', there was a message thanking you for making the journey from Charlton, helpfully stuck at eye line.

The pies were pretty good, the red wine (don't ask) wasn't as bad as expected and the padded comfy seats were all designed to make you feel welcome.
Normally the once a season away fans get the worst part of the ground so I'm assuming the home areas of the Amex are equally plush, if not more so.

As a special treat, Wayne Rooney had taken time out from his millionaire Cheshire lifestyle to come and do the stewarding of the Charlton fans.
Wazza, give us a wave.
After failing to score in the previous visits to the Amex, (which is even worse than actually scoring but not being able to see it due to the mist rolling in at the Withdean a few years back), Charlton set off like a rocket and were 1-0 up before some of our support had made it off the free train from Brighton.

From that point on, there was only one team in it.
They were the hosts.

Henderson pushed the ball around the post but mostly it was a masterclass in great opportunities with duff finishing from Albion.

At half time we hoped we might be able to hang on for the next 45 minutes but unfortunately, with about 20 minutes to go, a corner lead to bean pole Dunk climbing above everyone and smartly waking up the home support.

We all now hoped we might be able to hang onto the draw but Simon Church had other ideas. 
Having come on for the second half, he made a real nuisance of himself.  
If the game had been played in the Premiership he'd have been awarded a (soft) penalty rather than the yellow card he got for simulation.

As it was, he managed to get the ball to a frankly quite shattered looking Igor Vertokele who twisted and made the space to score, making the angle for himself by skilfully deflecting the ball off the upright.

Never has a goal been scored more against the run of play. 
We cared not one jot.
When the 4 minutes of added on time were announced there wasn't a single Charlton supporter who believed we were home and hosed.
We've seen it all before, many times but it didn't stop us hoping.

Unfortunately, an extremely poorly defended corner with just seconds to go was the chance for Brighton to get what they deserved. 
Dunk headed into an unguarded net while the Charlton team looked befuddled at the sudden arrival of an extra 'keeper in the box.

Ho Hum.

Sometimes a draw feels like a win, as the Brighton support showed, and sometimes it feels like a loss.

We do need to learn how to close out games but nobody could say that Charlton didn't (almost) manage the perfect away performance against stronger opposition.

The 2,000 Charlton supporters were honest and thanked the players for their efforts rather than being annoyed at the late setback.
Thanks at the Amex.

After a really quite pain free short journey back to town from Falmer, we were at the busy Brighton rail station.

A few fine beers nearby, with friends, in possibly Brighton's worst pub, were made more entertaining when some drunk middle aged women were refused entry.
They argued a while, then decided the reason they were not welcome wasn't because they had been too thirsty, it was because the pub bouncers toilet equipment was far too small.


A fine day out and a hardly deserved point on the board sent us home to London with a smile on our faces.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Tuesday Night Thriller.

Charlton Athletic 3 - Derby County 2

Charlton continued an impressive start to the season by sending Derby County the same way as Wigan a few days ago.
It was another Tuesday night game, under the lights, which always seems to bring the best out of our fans and players.

The first 2 home games looked decidedly tricky when the fixtures were published so to come away with a maximum 6 points is certainly more than most Addicks were expecting, or even hoping for.

Steve 'Schteve' McClaren has a very good side who very narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premiership and they showed their class with some neat passing and possession.

Despite this, I felt Charlton always looked quite comfortable, other than when Derby's tails were up after Ward equalised with the kind of 'pick that one out' shot that give 'keepers no chance.

Charlton had gone 1-0 up through Tucudean's first goal for the club. He turned crisply to make the space and fired low.

The first 15 - 20 minutes of the game were a joy to watch. Charlton were playing as a team, stroking the ball about and really using the new carpet of a pitch.

Derby were gradually getting a foothold in the game and ended the half the stronger of the two teams.
However, in added on time Tucudean went on a run into the Derby penalty area where he was fouled, the referee pointing to the spot.

It was clear that it would be the last kick of the half.
 Yoni Buyens stepped up to be the coolest man in the postcode and planted the ball high into the back of the net.

Despite a clear goal scoring opportunity being denied, Derby remained with 11 players but having been strangers to the award of penalties last season, we weren't going to complain too hard.

Vetokele capped off a fine move by heading home a Charlton third on 77 minutes and it looked for all the world as if the game was won.

I even took a sneaky look at the Sky sports app on my phone where the live table had us at top of the league!

Unfortunately, as usual, there was to be the usual Charlton anguish late on when Pope let a rather tame shot by Ward trickle through his grasp.
It was the kind of error we used to giggle about when I was a kid and label 'Scottish goalkeeping'.

All 'keepers make howlers but Pope was lucky his didn't result in a dropping of points. He'll get through this and I'd still rather have him representing us than the clown we were sent from Standard Liege last season.

So, another 3 points on the board.
It's looking good so far.

Now we've got past the fluff about the football, goals yadda yadda, it's onto the important stuff.

The spinach and feta filo pastry slice, bought near to the entrance of the East stand, was as good as I'd hoped it would be and comparable to any I've had in Greece.

I was a very contented looking chap as I munched it in the post penalty glow at half time.
I stopped buying programmes a while back and had been congratulating myself on the cash I was saving but I now realise I've found a new way to part with my £'s at football.

One final thought.
How long is Steve McClaren going to persevere with the tiny 'island' of hair he's sporting at the front?

Steve, do yourself a favour and get yourself a number 2 crop.

On that note, I bid you all goodnight.
Sleep well fellow Addicks.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

3 Points and MANY pints.

Charlton Athletic 2 - Wigan Athletic 1 

Here I am again, after a healthy hiatus, back and raring to go for a new season, much like our boys in red.

I wasn't at the game last weekend at Brentford, or indeed the midweek dismantling of Colchester, though thanks to the new and improved deals available for data usage while traveling in Europe, I was able to follow commentary while also indulging in some sunshine bed rest.

I was very keen to see how the spruced up Valley looks first hand rather than via some (possibly manipulated) photograph taken from a camera pleasing angle.
I have to say, the old place certainly looks back to its best.
Like most other commentators, I was impressed with the shiny new paintwork, inspiring images and of course the tartan patterned pitch, along with the new beers available plus the food that I might actually like to eat.

Evening games are often the times when I hare out of work, park my car with a flourish and then jog over to the Valley having eaten nothing since lunch.
In the past, I've sat with a rumbling belly as I'd refused to consume the nasty offerings - though on occasions I did crumble and buy a kit kat.

This season I'll be ramming pulled pork sandwiches and spinach/feta cheese pies down my throat, chased down by non gaseous beers and be all the happier for it.

Can I just say I'm rather jealous of Jordan Cousins?
Those people who know me would probably guess this is due to his new and (improved?) barnet that makes him look like an extra member of the Four Tops or The Temptations.

His follicle superiority can be taken as a given but actually it's something else I'm green about.

Yesterday he had a day to remember.
 He played a blinder.
Even though he was out on the left, he capped a memorable performance by scoring probably the best goal of his admittedly short career.  He'll never score a better one even if he plays twenty seasons.

Here comes my jealousy. He had his glory moment in front of more than 15,000 live viewers, then had it replayed again and again via vine clips and twitter links, not to mention the potential millions of people who will have seen his goal on television.
When you do something that good, you want the world to know and you can really milk the moment.

I too had a 'moment' yesterday.
Ideally, I'd have been standing on the stage at a filled to the rafters O2 arena, the audience in the palm of my hand.
Unfortunately, I was with around ten people of which probably only half of them were paying even the mildest attention.
I'm not a comedian.
I'm not even that witty. I'm that person who thinks up the pithy reply, half an hour later when the moment has gone.

Not yesterday though.
Upon learning that Aussie noise merchants AC/DC have their own brand of wine available down under, I enquired if they sold a Red wine, a White wine and a "Whole lotta Rose".
This was my moment.
Never to be repeated.
Aww Shucks.

As for the game, Charlton opened with an 8th minute Cousins screamer, then a quarter of an hour later Wiggins got tied in knots by the Wigs best player Callum McMannaman. Wiggins missed the chance to head clear and then had a bit of a dancing lesson before the ball was slipped beyond Henderson from the tightest of angles.

Half time came and it was still 1-1.
There was everything to play for but sadly no £5000 win for me in the Valley Gold draw.

Henderson went down off the ball, much to the glee of the hardy bunch of visitors from the North West.
I couldn't see what happened. One minute he was guarding the goal, the next he seemed to be mimicking my own holiday bed rest.

The youngster Pope came on to stand between the sticks. Instead of looking nervous and shaky, he promptly managed to floor two of the forwards who were intent on knocking him off balance in an aerial challenge.
Well done him.

Bob Peeters should be congratulated for getting his team to go for it in the last 10-15 minutes. There was no thought of preserving the point against one of the title contenders.
An attacking substitution brought Franck Moussa into the fray when last year we may have had an extra defender to keep things 'solid' at the back.

In added on time, it looked as though Igor Vetokele had fluffed the chance to a) win the 3 points and b) win me some money on a 2-1 win. Carson came out on top in that particular duel.
Surely that was it?

There was a bit of silliness as one of the Wigs defenders tried to waste some time by refusing to give the ball back after conceding a free kick. He looked very pleased with himself but a few moments later, rather gratifyingly, he was to look completely crestfallen.

Last season, (and also last week at Brentford), Charlton made a habit of being undone by cruel deflected goals.

Yesterday, lady luck found her way to the Valley and chose to sprinkle her magic dust on the team wearing red.

Moussa's final knockings shot wasn't really going to trouble the ex Valley favourite Scott Carson but a 'wicked' (it's always wicked isn't it?) deflection sent the effort ballooning over Carson's head where it seemed to hang for an eternity, before plopping gently over the line.

Carson taking a breather while SE7 goes barmy.
The Valley exploded into a primal scream of emotion.
Carson lay on his back, looking for all the world like a broken man. He had no chance and the goal wasn't his fault but as the last man, he probably felt responsible.

It was a flukey goal, not that anybody with SE7 in their hearts cared.
We turned into a bobbing mass of limbs and the volume flicked up to 11 as Nigel Tufnel might have put it.

We screamed, we shouted, we bellowed, even the old lady who sits near us stopped saying "forwards" for a while to just go rather mental.

Bob Peeters did his image no harm at all and endeared himself to his new supporters by getting 'involved' with a rather grumpy and sore loser Wigan manager Rosler near to Wigs bench, then later near to the Charlton one.
The media always rather piously say "it's not the kind of thing we want to see", except of course it's exactly what we want to see!

Rosler is no shrinking violet but I'd back Big Bob to give him a bit of a leathering if it came to a 1:1 behind the Jimmy Seed.

The Charlton crowd left with a skip and a bounce, not to mention cheering a couple of Chrissy Powell style tunnel jumps.

All was well in my world.

It was less good when I woke up this morning at 6am, on the sofa, still fully clothed, the front door open and my keys still in the lock!

We all love a win don't we?