There was little pre-Christmas cheer for the Addickted at The Valley this afternoon in a dour and physical 1-1 draw with Oldham Athletic. The Lactics came to do a number on us and they succeeded, greeting their exultant supporters as if they had won the game before being booed off the pitch by the Addickted for their spoiling tactics.
Fortunately the encounter between Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield ended in a 4-4 draw, Huddersfield scoring the equaliser towards the end of seven minutes added on. This means that the Addicks are five points ahead of the Owls in second place and with a far superior goal difference. Sheffield United won their game, but perhaps more signficantly soaring MK Dons lost 0-1 at home to Preston now without tanned maestro Phil Brown.
Our efforts today were not helped by weak kneed refereeing, but it also has to be said that we lost the midfield battle for much of the match while Bradley Wright-Phillips had a below par game. We had our chances put the game beyond reach but failed to take them. I do think that we really miss Johnnie Jackson - and Dale Stephens.
I left rather late for The Valley and I must say that I had an uneasy feeling about the match as I left Coventry. One thing that strikes me is how well spoken tube drivers are these days. The young (I presume) lady driving the crowded Northern line train to London Bridge advised us to 'mind the daaws'. But when you think what they get paid it is more than most graduate level jobs. A further bad omen was that the tide at Deptford Creek was out.
It was great to see the tribute to Peter Croker before the match. My father was a great admirer of both the Crokers whom he thought were real quality both as footballers and individuals.
We actually started the game rather well. We won a very early corner but for some reason decided to take it short rather than putting more pressure on the keeper. In my view short corners very rarely work, certainly at this level, and we just invited pressure on ourselves at the other end as a result.
What quickly became apparent that Oldham are very short on skill but compensate it for by physicality. Shefki Kuqi is a big guy but it quickly became apparent that he was a headless chicken player with loads of pace who thought that running at Hamer would intimidate him but no sense of positioning.
Charm merchant Tom Adeymi got a yellow for a two footed lunge which could have been a red if the referee had a grip. The Charlton free kick came off the wall but we were in again very quickly and Kermorgant's effort was just wide.
A clash of heads between Kermorgant and Diamond saw both players go off to receive stitches. They were off for some considerable time. Baffingly, for the rest of the match the Breton seemed to have trouble with his laces. Perhaps we could get him a new pair. The only option on the bench to replace him was Euell, Hayes being nowhere to be seen, quite why was unclear.
Green burst through and looked as if he might score but his effort was just wide. Kermorgant had to go off to receive more treatment and to change his shirt. Oldham declared their intent with a shot from distance which Hamer did well to tip over. Wright-Phillips managed to draw a save, but one gets the feeling that this is a player who will never realise his full potential because of a lazy streak or something of that kind.
Half time: Addicks 0, Lactcics 0
Wright-Phillips burst through at the start of the half but just missed. He started to display some of the skill he undoubtedly has but missed an open goal - but then he was offside anyway. Following a Charlton corner, Darel Russell scored with a header on 59 minutes.
What we need to do then was to get the second goal but despite some chances we failed to do so and eventually paid the price. The best chance was a Danny Green free kick which he struck well but it went inches wide of the post. Darel Russell managed to pick up a yellow card for a tackle that was unnecessarily vigorous. Hollands was given a yellow card for nothing at all which puts him on four.
I thought we were starting to tire a bit and it might have been a time to bring Bradley Pritchard on who can be quite a nuisance to a team like Oldham. The visitors stepped up a gear and we seemed to become very open at the back. On 83 minutes what I had been fearing happened and Filipe Morais, who had come on as a substitute, scored for the Lactics. A number of away supporters, two of whom had been frog marched out shortly beforehand, came on to the pitch.
Oldham had got what they had come for and it was then difficult for us to get something out of the game with ten minutes left. Indeed, as we tried to press forward, we were in danger of giving them another scoring opportunity. I didn't think that our play in this final phase was very well coordinated, indeed it was a bit panic stations.
With his customary cheerfulness, the BBM proclaimed that we were now in a 'slump'. Admittedly, we have a difficult Boxing Day match away against Yeovil another team trying to stay in the division and claim a big 'scalp' in the process. I was talking to a Bristol City supporter in the week and he said they had found it a very difficult division to get out because there were so many teams who played spoiling tactics and were allowed to get away with.
All 7,000 tickets for Fulham were sold out by 10 a.m. and clearly this will be a big day out for the Addickted. However, I do think that it is a distraction from our league campaign and we are in danger of getting a thumping.
At least Brakes won away at Aresley Town to maintain their promotion challenge.
Ivy the Terrible has awarded the Silver Bone to Yann Kermorgant. Having been taken off for stitches to a head wound and wearing an impressive bandage, he nevertheless stuck to the task. I was talking to Walsall Addick Graham Speller afterwards and he said that he had never seen a Charlton player win so many headers since Bartlett.
Ben Hamer had a generally good game and was not really at fault for the equaliser which was unstoppable. I liked the way he celebrated our goal. Michael Morrison seemed to be getting forward in attack quite a bit but not because he was neglecting his defensive duties. Matt Taylor as captain was once again very solid. Rhoys Wiggins had some brilliant moments at one point taking the ball away from the danger area under pressure and forging forward to launch an attack. Chris Solly made a few mistakes but redeemed them although he needs to watch his positioning. Danny Green launched some impressive attacks but seems unable to score. Danny Hollands was relatively quiet and failed to impose himself on the game. Hogan Ephraim was not as impressive as in some earlier matches. Darel Russell seized the opportunity to score. Bradley Wright-Phillips was often in danger of being caught offside and seemed reluctant sometimes to make the extra effort needed to take advantage of a promising opening. The contribution of Wagstaff seemed to be limited to moaning at the officials.
For trainee match analyst Reg it was the first match at League 1 level as he was a Coventry City supporter before he was rescued. He was appalled at the standard of refereeing and the inability or unwillingness of referee L Collins to deal with the physical tactics and time wasting of the visitors. However his mentor Juneau the Soccer Cat pointed out that the officials were constantly harried by the uncouth northeners and gave the official Hiss of the Match to the worst offender, Oldham captain Dean Furman.