Writer: Johnny Baguette
Date:Saturday April 7 2007
Groundhog Day? How about Groundhog Game?
That has got to be the worst Premiership Charlton Athletic side I have ever seen. They effectively wandered out at Eastlands and surrendered at the first whistle. They were there for the taking and set their stall out to defend in numbers, stifle City's opening burst, then aim to sneak a result as we have seen so many times at Eastlands this season. Our opening assault on the back of confidence boosting away wins had more of a charge about it this time and you can't help but wonder what might have been had Mpenza struck in those opening minutes. - It's worth noting again the difference in quality Mpenza has brought to City's forward line. I don't recall him being caught offside once in the whole 90 minutes.
Still, limited but resolute teams like Charlton have to be broken down and you have to be prepared tactically to persevere and deal with failure to find a breakthrough. Sadly, once again, the management team got it all wrong as far as this correspondent is concerned. We got a stark reminder of our own team's limitations.
Some of City's passing and moving in that first half was scintillating to watch with Johnson, Sun, Vassell and Ireland usually at the hub of the action with Barton and Mpenza mixing it up. Their efforts alone deserved a goal or two. However, supported by our steady defence we just could not get through and it increasingly seemed that Mpenza was being employed as a lone striker. At home, that's unacceptable against a bottom three club. I admit that it's not the first time I've been unable to fathom out a Pearce and Wigley formation this season but there you have it.
I am sure I was not alone in dreading the final 15-20 minutes. As Pearce debated with his pals, I sensed a shapeless, morale withering substitution and I got just that, only twice over.
The again tireless Vassell and the buzzing and battling Ireland (who did not look at all pleased as he trudged off) were replaced by the woefully off the pace and past it Sinclair and the hapless Greek basketball player when we should have gone for Charlton's throats. Clueless. Any creative hope of reaching Mpenza dried up and Johnson, Sun and Barton seemed stranded as our team's shape evaporated. Charlton, a dreadful side, continued to grow in belief or was it disbelief that they hadn't been thrashed and effectively controlled the rest of the game.
Our total lack of strength in depth has been exposed yet again. Jim Cassell's Academy continues to prop us up. Pearce whinges about lack of finance but he isn't fooling me or countless other Blues with that one. Outside of Isaksson he has bought us garbage. I wouldn't trust him with Early Learning Centre toy money.
We are still not safe yet by any means and beleaguered Fulham will see City's visit as a real opportunity to help secure their own safety. I am certain that Pearce will proceed with an even more cautious approach for a difficult away trip. There is not a lot to choose between many of these sides in a generally poor Premiership and home advantage (for most sides!) gives a team that extra man.
Still, we are unbeaten in three games now and have not conceded a goal in the process. That counters only slightly the fact that we have not scored in the league at Eastlands since New Years Day. Another unacceptable fact. For me, this season cannot end quickly enough and I am holding out for safety, a couple of revenge victories along the way and the mother of all clear outs this summer, hopefully throughout the entire club.
On a final note, it transpires that not only Dopey Wiley but the national bandwaggoning sports hacks all missed Song's disgraceful follow through stamp on Michael Johnson. Cue a Joey Barton style witch hunt? Nope.
Date:Saturday April 7 2007
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