Monday, 18 August 2014

Charlton Athletic 2 v 1 Wigan Athletic

Saturday 16th August 2014
Football League Championship
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £5.00
Attendance: 15,334 (447 away)
Match Rating: 4

After taking a year out from having a season ticket at Charlton, once the club announced that they would be selling season tickets for just £150 in the end block in the East Stand, it didn't take me long to sign up, even though it would mean that my groundhopping adventures would be reduced during the season ahead.

My seat turned out to perfectly acceptable - in fact, probably better than where I always previously had season tickets, in the North Stand Lower. This season, my seat is fairly close to the corner flag, about half way up, and good inclination between rows with no obstructing pillars means an excellent view of the action. The stadium has also had a major spruce up in the close season which was very pleasing to note. Last season, the pitch was a complete embarrassment to the club - in the second half, at best it closer resembled a ploughed field, at worst it was unplayable, causing numerous postponements and a congested playing schedule in the final weeks of the season. Today, the pitch was an absolute picture, green and lush, and long may that continue. As is customary at Charlton, the programme for the first home game of the season incorporates the club handbook. At £5.00, it seems rather unfair on travelling supporters, but the programme itself, whilst heavily redesigned for this season and containing a few rather cheesy elements, remains a very interesting and informative publication.

It would be quite intriguing to see how Charlton fare this season, with a previously virtually unknown Belgian appointed manager, Bob Peeters, and the club signing a large number of mainly foreign, unknown players. They started the season fairly well, drawing 1-1 at Brentford before comfortably dispatching League One outfit Colchester United 4-0 at home. Wigan, under Uwe Rosler, are one of the favourites for promotion this season. They opened their season with a 2-2 draw at home to Reading, but lost away to League Two side Burton Albion 1-2 in the League Cup, although they did make 10 changes to their line-up for that game.

On an overcast afternoon, there proved to be plenty to be positive about with Charlton today, passing the ball much better than in previous seasons, and with Wigan also passing the ball around well too, this was a good game to watch, even if there were fee goalscoring chances until the final ten minutes. Charlton took the lead on eight minutes when Jordan Cousins took the ball out wide, cut inside and unleashed a fabulous curling shot from outside the area and the ball took a slight deflection, swerving the ball past the reach of former Charlton keeper Scott Carson and into the net. Wigan were back on level terms on 22 minutes. Charlton defender Rhoys Wiggins couldn't deal with a long high ball down the right wing and Callum McManaman showed excellent footwork to dribble the ball towards goal before firing low past the keeper from a very tight angle from just outside the six yard box. It was Wigan's first goal in four visits to The Valley.

Into the second half and the pattern of the first half remained, plenty of passing but a lack of goalscoring chances. Charlton suffered a setback on 66 minutes when keeper Stephen Henderson hobbled off with an apparent hamstring injury, to be replaced by youngster Nick Pope, who looked composed and confident for the rest of the game. In the final ten minutes, Charlton suddenly really started to threaten Wigan's goal, the highlight of which was when new Angola striker, Igor Vetokele broke clear of the Wigan defence, ran through on goal, but his shot was excellently saved by Carson. It seemed that the home side would have to settle for a point, but three minutes into added on time, the ball was played across the edge of the penalty area, Franck Moussa played a one-two with Vetokele and his first time shot on goal took a big deflection from a desperate block from a defender, and the ball looped over Carson and into the net. The Valley erupted in celebration at the three points being earned in such dramatic circumstances. Bob Peeters was as jubilant as anyone as he jumped for joy on the touchline, which his opposite number Uwe Rosler took exception to, leading to a rather ugly confrontation at the final whistle.

As a Charlton fan, there was much to be optimistic about here for the season ahead. The brand of passing football to feet was a welcome change from the hoof from the back football played in recent seasons, the new manager showed a refreshing passionate management style, most of the new players looked quality additions, in particular the new centre back partnership of Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey, midfielder enforcer Yoni Buyens, who showed intelligence with the ball and was always ready to get stuck in, whilst striker Vetokele looked to have that pace and magic in the locker that could be crucial in winning games. Time will tell as the season progresses how well founded this early optimism will prove....

Video highlights of this match can be found here

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