Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Charlton Athletic 3 v 2 Derby County

Tuesday 19th August 2014
Football League Championship
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 15,317 (1,434 away fans)
Match Rating: 4

After a surprisingly entertaining and dramatic opening home game of the season at The Valley on Saturday, more of the same was certainly hoped for as I set off on the Valley Express coach service to the stadium after work. The match certainly didn’t disappoint!

This game promised to be even more of a tough assignment than Saturday’s. Like Wigan, Derby are one of the favourites for automatic promotion, probably more so, as they were beaten finalists in the play-off final last season, losing to a last minute goal against QPR. They  have retained most of last season’s squad, but they have had a quiet start to the season, scoring one and conceding none in their two games so far in their home win and away draw so far, and progressed in the League Cup thanks to a 0-2 win at Carlisle. Charlton made a couple of changes, with two youngsters coming in to make their full debuts. Goalkeeper Nick Pope retained his place after coming on for Stephen Henderson on Saturday, and Joe Gomez came in at right back for Chris Solly.

On a cool but dry evening, Charlton made a great start to this game, again showing a brand of passing, intelligent football that hasn’t been evident at The Valley for many years. On 11 minutes, they took the lead. Gudmundsson sprayed the ball out to the left wing to Jordan Cousins, very reminiscent of Cousins’ goal on Saturday, but this time he passed the ball low to Tucudean in the area, who took a touch before firing low into the bottom left corner of the net, a very good finish. That did seem to wake the visitors up, as they imposed themselves more and more on the game with their brand of passing football. They equalised on 31 minutes, when Jamie Ward ran onto ball played back to him from the byline, took a touch and thumped thumped a powerful shot across Pope and into the top left hand corner of the net from the edge of the area. Derby went on to dominate the rest of the half and it did seem only a matter of time before they would take the lead. It was Charlton though who were given an opportunity to retake the lead right at the end of the first half, when Tucudean showed good footwork in the penalty area but before he could get a shot away, Derby captain Richard Keogh brought him down. When a red card seemed inevitable as Keogh was the last man, the referee didn’t even show a yellow card, but Yoni Buyens stepped up to confidently send Lee Grant the wrong way for the final kick of the half.

Derby continued to play good possession football in the second half, although it was an even half which could have gone either way, both sides carving out decent chances to score. On 78 minutes, it was Charlton who scored what would surely be a killer third goal. Captain Johnnie Jackson sent in a good cross from close to the right corner flag, substitute Lawrie Wilson headed the ball towards the far post, and Igor Vetokele nodded into the net for his first of what will surely be many this season. However, five minutes from time, Derby were given renewed hope when they were gifted a goal. After an initial shot was blocked, the ball fell to Ward towards the edge of the area, and his innocuous looking shot inexplicably went through Pope’s hands and legs for his second of the game. A very poor goal for the young keeper to concede, but hopefully he will learn from it. It proved to not be costly anyway, as despite sustained Derby pressure in the final minutes, Charlton held on for another three points. This was probably an even better performance than on Saturday. The two weak links then – Tucudean and Wiggins – had much better games, Wiggins not putting a foot wrong and Tucudean looked much more at the races, showing some good skills and getting stuck in more. Buyens was again superb in midfield, and the Bikey-Ben Haim partnership at the back looks very solid. Gomez looked very assured and competent on his full debut, and Pope had a decent game apart from his mistake, and stood up well to a lot of Derby pressure, both from their players and their fans. I dare to dream that this may indeed be an enjoyable and perhaps even successful season ahead, although the two away games, at Huddersfield and Brighton, will be further big tests of where the squad is at. One thing is for certain, the passing football and inclination to attack even when in the lead is a very refreshing change from the recent years of aimless punts upfield and sitting desperately on any lead that we gained.

Video highlights of this game can be found here

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