partner reminded me yesterday that when I arrived in France and had the
streaming set-up working I had said ‘no, of course I won’t watch every game …’ Out
of form and struggling, season already a write-off (hopefully), and away at
Accrington Stanley, determined but let’s face it ugly opponents at the best of
times. Did I tune in? Of course I did. And a truly dispiriting experience it
was. Instead of being able to ‘build’ on the goalless draw against Sunderland we ended up losing tamely to opponents who patently wanted it more than we did, with our
cause not helped by some of our own decisions.
lined up with Clare and Leko starting, the latter a straight swap for Burstow
but with it unclear whether the former would play in a back three (with
presumably Gunter the wing-back), even in his normal midfield position. Turns
out he would play as the right-sided wing-back. The good news was Washington
being able to take a place on the bench, confining the absentees to Inniss
(have we seen the last of him in a Charlton shirt?), Aneke, Blackett-Taylor,
and of course Forster-Caskey.
actual match proved to be dominated by four uses of the arm. The first 15
minutes had actually been quite enjoyable, if ridiculously open. The tone was
set as we very nearly took the lead in the opening minute, with a poor pass by
them intercepted by Leko. The ball was worked out to Lee on the left side, who
moved inside and sent in a splendid curler which looked headed for the bottom
corner before their keeper got the faintest of touches to turn it wide. Good
effort, excellent save. In response Accrington managed to beat the offside trap
and forced MacGillivray into a save, then from a free kick almost inevitably a
guy had a free header, but like Sunderland had done sent it wide. And before 10
minutes had elapsed Purrington had set up Stockley in space in their box, only
for him to take a heavy touch and lose the opportunity.
another header from them just over we had the first use of the arm. Lee
challenged for the ball with their defender and it did seem that the guy used
his arm to bring the bouncing ball under control. The ref had a long look then
gave it. Soft for sure but time we had a break. Can’t say Stockley gave their
keeper no chance as he dived the right way but couldn’t get low enough to stop
the ball going into the net. That, it turned out, was as good as it got.
held the lead for about 10 minutes, but then were behind in five more. Their
equaliser was plain horrible. A Pearce foul gave them another opportunity to
load the box. Strangely the ball in was allowed to go beyond the back post
where their guy chipped it back in. Cue head tennis, MacGillivray half-coming,
a final header goalward and only diverted into the roof of the net by the guy
on the line. A failure to deal with the first ball in cost us dear. Then an
attack of ours broke down as Purrington’s low cross was intercepted, long ball
forward, turned on to guy in space. He’s allowed to cut inside and beats
MacGillivray with a shot into the far corner.
rest of the first half was a niggly affair, playing into Accrington’s hands,
with Dobson and Clare among those picking up yellows. We were already getting
bullied in key areas, couldn’t handle their set pieces, and were struggling now
to get anything going in their half.
of the same into the second half with JJ making no changes at the break, with a
free-kick on the edge of our box blocked but the ball back in resulting in a
goalbound header down then up cleared off the line. We made our first change as
Pearce was withdrawn for Washington, this involving Clare being able to abandon
his role on the right side, going into central defence, while Leko moved out
wide. Then just after the hour we had arm incident number two as their guy
seemed to think it was OK to run towards Clare to challenge for a ball in the
air and to lead with his elbow into Clare’s face. The ref didn’t bottle that
one and off he went; he can have no complaints.
responded by taking off a forward and bringing on another midfielder, the
message being pretty obvious. But we did nothing more, with our three
centre-backs now having all the time and space they wanted – but nobody else.
We did then get arm incident number three as Leko’s cross from the right
sparked huge Charlton appeals for another handball in the box. It wasn’t
obvious and this time it would appear if the guy did use his hand the ref didn’t
see it, nor did the linesman.
about 20 minutes left Jaiyesimi came on for Purrington, the formation
unchanged. Accrington not surprisingly were happy to keep it basic and simple,
worked hard filling the spaces, and we, while understandably now having more of
the ball, were getting nowhere. Caution was finally thrown to the wind with a
few minutes of normal time left as Burstow replaced Gunter; and right on the 90
minutes we did think we’d managed to salvage something from the game. Dobson’s
long ball forward saw Washington control it, touch it inside, and slot it past
their keeper into the net. Only for this to prove arm incident number four as
the goal was ruled out and Washington given a yellow card for his trouble. Just
four minutes of stoppage time and Accrington saw them out comfortably.
it was horrible. We’d been outfought when it was 11 against 11 and then with a
man advantage we managed to turn it into greater possession but nothing more.
Some credit to Accrington, who worked hard for their win. But we can only try
to look, again, at what went wrong.
team selection. Please stand up who thought it was a good idea to play the
returning Clare at right wing-back? Take the responsibility and learn from the mistake.
Don’t do it again. Sure, there had to be an element of play the conditions and
adapt to try to nullify your opponents. But surely we must have know we weren’t
going to win by outmuscling them. The point of playing wing-backs is for them
to provide an attacking threat. Selecting Jayesimi from the start might have
been a risk too far against Accrington, given their arial threat. But we had
Matthews and Gunter available (if the latter presumably Clare came into the
back three), both likely to be far more comfortable in the role. Also, we all
hope for great things from Fraser, but at the moment he’s struggling to get
into games and seems on a different wavelength to others. Give him more time.
formation. OK, we know from Thomas Sandgaard that we’re sticking with
3-5-2/5-3-2, but sometimes circumstances change. When they had their guy sent
off around the hour mark, shortly after they withdrew a forward for a midfielder
to shore things up. And for too long we did nothing. We had three centre-backs
covering a lone forward against a team intent on defending what it had. All the
extra space came in our own final third. We did make changes as the game
progressed, but too late. Washington did come on for Pearce before the sending-off,
with this involving Clare switching into the back three and Leko moving
wide-right. The next change, 10 minutes after the red card, was to swap Purrington
for DJ to add to the attacking threat (we hoped) but still keeping three at the
back. Why? Just who were they marking. We had Gilbey and Morgan available and
could have used either for a defender to pin Accrington back. The final
introduction of Burstow, for Gunter, came as a desperation move with four
minutes of normal time left.
attitude and belief. They seemed in short supply from us and that just isn’t
good enough. The pressure is clearly telling, on everyone. I pondered in
midweek that the run of five straight losses, hopefully ended by the Sunderland
game, was the most depressing run in my lifetime (we had seven straight losses
in the top flight but just compare the opposition). Now it’s one point from
seven games and a crying need to beat Gillingham on Tuesday night. The points
game to the relegation places is still seven (and our goal difference is better
than nearly all the teams below us), but as we take on Gillingham, Shrewsbury
are at home to Morecambe, so someone’s going to pick up points. Can this season
get any worse?