Charlton 1 Blues 1.. BluenoseRon Reports

Last updated : 19 April 2004 By Richard Barker

Holland 86Morrison 84
Match Report

A late Clinton Morrison strike was cancelled out by an even later Matt Holland strike, before Bryan Hughes missed an absolute gilt-edged chance to win it for Blues with literally the last kick of the game. The points were shared, however, and it was probably the fair result.

Steve Bruce, perhaps wisely, decided to return to a normal team selection after what many still feel was a tactical blunder at Fratton Park. Stephen Clemence returned at the expense of Olivier Tebily, which meant that Martin Taylor was back on the right-hand side of defence, Kenny Cunningham and Matthew Upson were at the heart of the defence, and Jamie Clapham was back at left-back, with Hughes back on the left of midfield. Morrison also replaced Stern John up front.

In all fairness, very little happened in the game until the last ten minutes - and in the first half in particular, I am struggling to think of anything of note to report. Mikael Forssell looked lively at one end, whilst Shaun Bartlett had a couple of headers at the other, and Paul Konchesky put a few decent crosses in. That is literally about it. One thing worth mentioning is how much possession Blues had, but without a Dunn or Lazaridis, they created very, very little. They had no spark whatsoever, and so there was plenty of aimless, unpenetrative passing across the midfield.

Charlton clearly decided to have a go in the second half, and brought on (over the course of half-time and the first 25 minutes after the break) all three strikers that were on the bench, in Paolo Di Canio, Carlton Cole and Jason Euell. They had a fair bit of pressure, but Blues still had plenty of possession and won a few corners.

Then, after 84 minutes, the game finally got going. From a Damien Johnson cross, Upson won a good header which he aimed towards goal, and Morrison was on hand to nod the ball past his compatriot Dean Kiely to make it 1-0 to Blues. After an uneventful game, it looked like Blues may be able to sneak the three points and head home.

No such luck... this is Blues, remember. Blues immediately swtiched to 4-5-1, with Morrison dropping into midfield. As far as I can tell, this was a ridiculous ploy. One thing that could be said of Morrison and Forssell all game, was that they held the ball up well. When you take the lead with not long left to go, you need to keep possession. In playing a lone striker, you can't do that, unless you play an accurate ball to him. There was five minutes to go, and Blues had just taken the lead - you weren't going to get accurate balls up to Forssell. Why change the shape so much? With two men up front, at least you've got twice the chance of retaining possession from clearances upfield - something the front two had done well all afternoon.

Well, what do I know? It was obviously decided that what happened was for the best. Clemence hoofed an aimless ball forward, looking for no-one, and simply aiming to clear danger. All it did was give Charlton possession of the ball, and some two minutes after going behind, they were level, as Holland rose to head home Chris Powell's cross. Holland has scored five goals this season, and three of them have come against Blues.

John replaced Forssell in an aimless substitution, as Charlton piled forward looking for a winner. Then, with the allotted two minutes of injury time played, a Blues ball into the box found its way through to Hughes, via Clemence, who was no more than six yards out, more or less central, with all the time in the world, and just Kiely to beat. If Hughes had somehow managed to allow Kiely to save the opportunity, he'd have deserved lynching. However, he snatched at the chance and hit a total waste of an effort first time, and it trickled wide. When you hear of 'last kick of the game' situations, it never actually was. Well, this literally was. Referee Chris Foy (who was excellent, by the way) blew up for full-time before Kiely could take the goal-kick.

Hard to know what to make of this really. Before the game, Blues fans would have taken a draw. Blues fans not at The Valley would have maybe seen the score, and been content. However, when you were there, and you see the team grab what should have been a winner with very little time left, and then allow basic, basic errors and naivety to allow the opposition to equalise, you are left disappointed. Then, when an easy, easy opportunity falls to the one player on the pitch that you'd most want it to fall to (considering Forssell had by now gone off) and he fluffs it, you're even more disappointed. It was a draw away at a team above us in the league, so I guess we should be happy, but in two ways, it should have been more.

Charlton: Kiely, Young, Hreidarsson, Fortune, Powell, Kishishev (Cole 61), Holland, Jensen, Konchesky, Johansson (Euell 75), Bartlett (Di Canio 45). Subs not used: Royce, Perry.
Booked: Young.

Blues: Maik Taylor, Martin Taylor, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Johnson, Savage, Clemence, Hughes, Forssell (John 90), Morrison. Subs not used: Bennett, Tebily, Barrowman, Motteram.
Booked: Morrison.


Referee: C Foy (St. Helens)