29 February 2012

The League One Run-in

Charlton's marmalising of Chesterfield last night suggests that they're going into the final quarter of the season on top form, with a reinvigorated BWP ready to add his goals to the effort. So I thought it was time to look at the run-in. I've created a spreadsheet, which shows how many points each team in the division could get, if they won every game from now on. Once a team's total possible points is less than Charlton's current points, they can't overtake them. Here's how it looks now.
All it really proves at the moment is that Charlton can't be relegated (hurrah!) as all of the bottom four teams can't get 75 points. But as the games run out, we'll see more teams falling into that position, and I'll be updating the spreadsheet regularly. I think I'll enjoy this!

(Technical note and appeal for help. This is a google docs spreadsheet and you can open it on this link. Can any of my smart readers advise on whether it's possible to use conditional formatting so that whenever any team's max points goes below Charlton's current points, the row gets a red background. Thanks. Any other improvements also welcome, of course.)

26 February 2012

Charlton 2 Stevenage 0

I think a lot of people were expecting a difficult game today. Stevenage are one of only two teams to have beaten Charlton in the league this season, and they've generally been doing well, with a good chance of getting into the playoffs, and a decent cup run. There wasn't much sign on the pitch of how they've done that. True, for the first half they kept Charlton bottled up, but they didn't look as if they had much creative to offer. Charlton kept their game intact and didn't panic, even when a couple of good chances were missed by BWP, who was getting into some good positions. I didn't say it, or better still write it down, but I began to think this was the game when he'd get the goal everyone wants.

In the second half Charlton upped their game and Stevenage largely disappeared. The first goal, about 5 minutes after the break, was an unstoppable shot by Morrison from a loose ball following a corner. And then, 10 minutes later, BWP at last put away one of his chances, with the help of a deflection. The joy and relief around the ground was tangible. By the end of the game he could have scored 5 or 6, and while a couple of weeks ago we'd have bemoaned the wasted chances, now we were excited by the potential he's showing again. I'll be surprised if he doesn't score a few more goals in the remaining games.

Stevenage didn't ever look like coming back and so on a beautiful sunny winter afternoon a near-capacity crowd enjoyed the comfort of a comprehensive win against needlessly feared opposition.

This was another "Football for a Fiver" day, and the most successful yet. The streets around the ground were swarming before and after the game. Obviously a lot of kids (including my friend Teresa's son Burt) were seeing their first game, and you must believe they'll want to come back. The future looks better than it has for years for Charlton.

Relive the joy with these reports:

Official site report
News shopper report
The view from Chicago
Charlton Casual
Blackheath Addick
Kevin Nolan on

Some people see Chris Powell as a miracle worker. I wasn't sure, but look what he's done today: he's only gone and made the Daily Mail a must-read. (Well, OK, one article in one day's paper, but it's a start.) Maybe he can sort out Southeastern Trains next.

22 February 2012

Charlton 1 Rochdale 1

"They want it more than we do." How often do you hear that as an explanation for for a dodgy performance on the pitch. It's not only patronising to the opposition (we'll be calling them "plucky" next) it seems to me to underestimate the natural competitiveness of the players. I'm pretty sure you can't make it as a professional footballer without being fiercely competitive from the age of about 5. All footballers - probably all successful sports people - hate losing. And they hate it when they know they're not playing as well as they should.

Look, what I'm trying to say here is that they don't need to be booed. It doesn't help, and one day it might mean that a player thinks "Oh, fuck it, I'm just going to coast along for this game and for the rest of my career, I might as well."

Charlton didn't play well last night, particularly in the first half. You can identify some reasons, and I'd select the absence of Chris Solly as one. Rhoys Wiggins is a superb left-back but he looked uncomfortable on the right, particularly when going forward. And Johnnie Jackson is always missed when he's out, as much for his spirit as for his play.

But a lot of players just had a bad day. Tranmere Rochdale wouldn't have scored without an awful mix-up that gave them the ball just inside their own half with nearly all the Charlton team committed up front. Their goal, predictably, brought out the best in Charlton, and a quick reply, with Kermorgant a superb replacement for Jackson as free-kick taker. But nothing more came of the increased effort. Silly little mistakes meant the ball kept being lost. There were a few half-chances, but no spark of magic to get through Tranmere Rochdale's surprisingly competent (given their league position) defence.

Bad days happen to good teams. The man next to me was a simmering pot of annoyance, his arms folded tighter across his chest as the game went on. On a colder night, people could have gathered around him for warmth. I didn't think Charlton were as bad as he did, but even he kept his mouth shut at the final whistle. Some didn't, and Kermorgant was visibly shocked and disgusted to hear a few idiots booing in the north stand. In many ways he's my favourite player in the team at the moment for his unstinting and unselfish effort. He, above all, does not deserve that.

Charlton match report

15 February 2012

Charlton 2 Artificial team with no fans 1

Well, it was a win, but many wins like this and we'll all be crazy by May.

The first half was unusual. Charlton used to go whole seasons in the Prem without getting a single penalty. Here they got two in the last five minutes. One of them also saw Mackenzie sent off for the visitors, and both seemed to me to be as certain as Johnnie Jackson's treatment of them. Spirits were high going into half time and we settled in for a rampage. It's been too long since we've had a 4-0.

But what happened? Charlton's game plan in the second half seemed to be to take the pace out of the game completely, but it didn't work out that way. There was also a sense of complacency, of job finished, so 50-50 balls went uncontested, and passes were hit without conviction. I suppose there was a sense that there are a lot of fixtures coming up in the next few weeks. It was hard to watch at times, but as usual the defence was able to clear up any problems. Well, almost any. A goal after 87 minutes gave the shamefully scant band of visiting fans something to cheer, and finally brought a little edge into Charlton's play. The win had never seemed in doubt - you always knew that if Charlton conceded a goal they could up their game - but it hadn't been a lot of fun.

But looking at the table remains fun. With one of the Sheffs losing and the other winning, the gap is now 8 points.

Charlton website report

12 February 2012

Two sides of football

Sadly, all the football talk today is about Liverpool. I don't want to dwell on it, but it's depressing how a club with Liverpool's history can get things so wrong. Their failure to recognise and tackle racism - it's not just "banter" - is damaging the club's reputation. Millwall were like this years ago, and they still have the stigma when it's probably no longer deserved. It's not just one stupid arrogant player, it's the management that colludes with him, writing him a blank cheque for any bad behaviour. And this seems to encourage the worst kind of fan (I won't repeat some of the filth that's been spouted on twitter). We thought football had overcome racism, but it's clear there's still some way to go. The encouraging thing is the wave of media and public revulsion. Most football fans are clear in their disgust, and Liverpool's manager seems increasingly out of touch, a dinosaur.

But the other side, which won't get reported, was this. Yesterday the weather caused the games at Barnsley and Chesterfield to be called off, leaving loads of fans from Birmingham and Charlton at a loose end in South Yorkshire. So a lot of them made the short trip to Sheffield Utd, and became temporary supporters of the visitors, Wycombe Wanderers. Three sets of fans packed into one end of a football stadium: the conventional wisdom is that this will cause trouble. In the bar at halftime, for example. In fact, it seems to have been a wonderful afternoon, even though Wycombe lost 3-0. Here's a video of what happened at halftime in the bar. (You may want to turn the sound down; some of the singing is awful).

@Sam_Kimber24, who was there, said "we kinda went round the circle calling out each other to give us a song haha. Was legendary!"

Oh, Kenny. Everyone else can tell the difference. What happened at Sheffield Utd is banter. What's happening (sometimes) at Liverpool is racism. Recognise it, condemn it, kick it out.

01 February 2012

Charlton 1 Bury 1

What a disappointing game! In the first half, Charlton looked a bit shell-shocked, and there was no clear pattern to their game. But in added time, Dale Stephens scored a super goal - a scorching shot from about 25 yards out that flashed through a crowded penalty area - that restored the fans' spirits a bit. This was a game everyone expected Charlton to win and it looked like they would.

In the second half you could see that the goal had given the team confidence, and they played some of the best football we've seen for a while - passing the ball smartly and creatively. But there weren't many real chances, and those that came along tended to be blasted high and wide. You felt that the team believed that if they just kept playing like this, more goals would come. Perhaps there was a certain smugness to their play. With just three minutes left, Bury grabbed an equaliser in a swift passing move that left John-Lewis in a one-on-one partnership with Charlton's keeper, who should have saved the shot, but just grabbed two handfuls of air about this far from where the ball now was. A smallish crowd of Charlton fans grumbled away into the bitterly cold night, while the tiny band of Bury supporters, hardy northern types, celebrated jubilantly.

Actually, it wasn't like that. That's what happens when you let the ghost of J B Priestly guest-write a blog post. Him and his experiments with time. You see what he's done there? He's imagined how the game would have felt if the two halves had happened the other way round. Same result, totally different emotions.

In fact it felt like a kind of triumph to grab a point in the end, in a game that everybody expected Charlton to win. Above all, the importance of not losing was what we cherished after the match. This is a team that doesn't give up. And with MKDons and Sheffield Wednesday drawing, the position at the top of the table improved: 10 points clear now.

Why not look at those goals (bizarrely shown in the correct order)?

and here's the club website report.