After the nightmare that was 06/07, the Hell that was Iain Dowie’s tenure as boss, the good intentioned but clueless reign of Les Reed to the so close but no cigar efforts of Alan Pardew to avoid the drop, I was looking forward to a new season optimistic of what the future held. After all, Pardew has a solid record in the fizz, and we’d made some solid signings that looked to be more than able to hold their own.
The weather was beautiful, sun out with clear blue skies. The drinks in the Bugle tasted all the better for it. I was in a good mood; I’d spent 48hrs with the girlfriend without mentioning football and incurring a right hook in the teeth, I was having the girlfriend and a few mates around that evening at mine for a Barbeque, Budweiser’s and a swim in the pool (now that’s pretentious folks), where football discussion was tolerated, plus I could watch MoTD without that sinking feeling watching Charlton getting cuffed. I’ll add right now that I’m not such an idiot that I hadn’t considered losing to the ‘Iron’, the illustrious Scunthorpe United, which would have been as sure-fire a means of sticking a bullet straight in the head of the good times as could have been imagined. But the chances seemed slim. We were going to win. I’m pessimistic and made out we’d have trouble, but no. A win was on the cards.
Now whilst things didn’t turn out as bad as I’d first imagined, or feared, I left the North at 4:45pm, fucked off to Hell and back. Charlton, for all their talk of a promotion push, had drawn 1-1 with Scunthorpe.
It’s not the end of the world of course. Scunthorpe, despite the somewhat arrogant sneers of a few that thought that we would exterminate them, were a solid if man-for-man untalented side that gave 100% commitment, worked as a team, and if in doubt, kicked the living shit out of their opponents. It doesn’t look nice, but it’s effective. Scunthorpe miss Sharp and could struggle due to the absence of a genuine threat upfront, but work as hard as that week in, week out, and Scunthorpe will be safe at the end of the season. Their keeper is also a real talent. I’ll avoid the familiar rant about the ref and the linesman, although both of them were fucking weak even when compared to the otherwise poor standard of other Championship referee’s.
That aside, Charlton dominated the game and should have won. The midfield, which on closer inspection is a little bit patch worked, did well. Sam was a revelation, his skill on the ball and pace a real handful for Scunthorpe, whilst Reid looked out of sorts bar an exceptional free kick that hit the bar. He still looks different class for the Division, but he’s no Captain. His performance was better than Ambrose, who for vast parts of the match looked disinterested, though he’s getting better at not shitting himself and losing the ball the moment someone sticks the boot in on him. He even managed to dive in to win the ball back from Goodwin in the second half, which seemed to amaze Reid so much he lost the ball when the ex-Stockport defender/midfielder botched his clearance. The anchor in midfield was Semedo, who looked alright, though there was some God awful indecision between him and the back four which almost let in Kevan Hurst, though Weaver scrambled his shot clear. Elsewhere on the park, Yassin looks the absolute business at right back. Calm and collected on the ball, remains on his feet and doesn’t dive in, and a sublime bit of skill (a flick with the outside of his boot) left one of Scunthorpe’s forwards/wingers for dust. Bougherra and McCarthy looked solid enough, though Paddy has a few question marks hanging over his head with some of his positioning and lapses in concentration, whilst Weaver’s gimmick of being unable to catch a fucking ball is going to get us trouble sooner or later; I’m dreading him facing a good striker that can finish in the 6 Yard box to pick up on his rebounds.
Their equalizer was frustrating; but it was a proper bullet header from Iriekpen (ex-West Ham Youth). Pardew would have been proud.
It’s upfront where the real problem is. Marcus Bent ain’t good enough. He gets drawn into daft areas where he tries to shoot at idiotic angles. His work rate was better, and whilst he looked a bit better than the fucking clueless flump that looked so out of it last season, I’m still not convinced. He did force a superb save out of Joe Murphy in the first half (one of a number of top drawer saves), but it’s not good enough for £2.5 million worth of striker.
Todorov on the other hand has suffered from his various leg injuries. He’s alright, good first touch and he’s still got a cracking shot on him, but he’s not what he once was. The subs looked a lot better; in particular Iwelumo who was a real handful that perhaps should have started. Even so, we weren’t direct enough with him. He’s a monster in the air. McLeod was promising, though he didn’t really have a chance to use his pace properly. He’s technically very good, but he’s going to have to be given more help from midfield and in particular his strike partner (Iwelumo), in stretching opposition defences, as it was they’d well and truly closed up shop by the time he came on.
So whilst I didn’t see us win, I didn’t see us lose either. Perhaps the real test was that the walk back up Charlton Church Lane didn’t feel like the Bataan Death March like it did last season. That alone is encouraging. See you at Swindon.