30 November 2014

Charlton 0 Ipswich 1

I did write posts about the last two games, but honestly you should thank me for not posting them. Like any other football blogger I love writing about a win, but draws are hard to get excited about and I was sending myself to sleep trying to find anything remotely interesting to say about the goalless draw against our neighbours, while the draw against their northern counterparts seems not to have left a trace on my memory.

Of course, the best thing to write about is a horrible defeat, but that's not quite what we got yesterday. Obviously it was gutting to see the point slip away, but before then, especially in the first half, we'd seen the best, most positive performance from Charlton for a long time. Because of where I sit - in the West Stand since you ask, basking in unusual winter sunshine because of the lunchtime kick-off - and no, the rays of the sun didn't cause any of the undead sitting around me to spontaneously combust - Jordan Cousins stood out: he was playing as if determined to make the game his own, getting into the right position time and time again, controlling the ball faultlessly and finding the right pass.

But no-one had a bad first half. Callum Harriot was back at his best, for example, and Francis Coquelin again made me wonder about Arsene Wenger's judgement. Coquelin's 23 and by now should either be a squad member at Arsenal (who aren't overflowing with defensive midfield options) or be sold. Still, gift horse/mouth. Thanks Arsene.

As in last year's game, Ipswich played the first half toward their own supporters, and looked like they wanted to repeat last year's early goal. But this year Charlton has a defence, and their initial flurry quickly subsided. Charlton began to make half-chances.

In the second half, the sheer quality of Charlton's play, perhaps inevitably, dropped, but they began to make whole chances. But as in so many games since January 2014 (the window of our discontent) no-one could score. Sorry, what I mean to say is they "lacked productivity offensively". (How I ever came to love the man who could come out with that, I'll never know.) Vetokele, though working hard and covering a lot of ground, looked blunt and maybe a little tired.

When the assistant ref signalled 4 minutes of added time, who didn't know what was going to happen? In another unwelcome reminder of a lot of last season's games the team's concentration was already wavering, and the unavoidable was not avoided.

A defeat, the first at home, that felt horrible but in some ways wasn't. The quality of some of the play was refreshing, and it's now up to the boss to hang on to that positive, rather than return to the negativity that's been creeping in. Next up at the Valley is Blackpool and a quick return to the Valley for the delightful Lee Clark.

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