Going in to their game with Leeds on Saturday, Charlton were in a fine run of form. Five games unbeaten and over seven hours without conceding, the Addicks had been playing good football and starting to turn their poor start to the campaign around.
Aside from the 8-game run at the end of last season, you could argue Charlton were displaying some of their best form since their return to the Championship. Leeds on the other hand have been struggling on their travels, having lost their last 5 games away from Elland Road.
It wasn’t just the weather that was miserable in SE7, and form went out of the window as Leeds ran out 4-2 winners, thanks to a combination of atrocious refereeing and an inspired performance from Scottish striker Ross McCormack. For Charlton the defeat comes after a fantastic run, and on the whole Powell will be pleased with his team over the past two months.
Team news saw Callum Harriott replace Bradley Pritchard, a change that many fans have been calling for in previous weeks. Whilst Pritchard’s work ethic does not go unnoticed, his performances this season have been well below par; and with both Harriott and Stewart playing on the wings, Charlton have a real attacking threat down either flank.
When the game finally got under way (after kick off was delayed by half hour due to torrential rain) Charlton started brightly, Harriott going close before Church was tripped in the box. Referee Keith Stroud decided that it wasn’t penalty, to the disbelief of the majority of the supporters inside The Valley, and it set the tone for one of the worst refereeing performances in SE7 for a while. The Leeds players seemed to fall at any opportunity, and Stroud was more than happy to give them decisions. It wasn’t long before the away side were ahead either, Ross McCormack slotting Blackstock’s pass beyond Ben Hamer. For the remainder of the afternoon, Stroud and McCormack would fight it out for the headlines.
Charlton continued to play with the confidence of a team in good form, and had the better of the possession and chances; they were soon level, and it was a goal worthy of restoring parity. Jackson’s free kick was headed up rather than out, and Cameron Stewart watched it all the way onto his foot before smashing a 25 yard volley past Paddy Kenny in the Leeds goal.
Charlton started the second half in the worst possible way, but it was one of the few decisions Stroud actually got right. Harriott tripped Pugh in the box and the referee had no choice but to give the penalty. McCormack restored the away side’s lead from the spot, to send the large travelling contingent into raptures.
Again, Charlton refused to be beaten, and their attacking style was met with supportive encouragement from the fans. Yann Kermorgant was introduced after a spell on the sidelines, and with 20 minutes to go the home side were back level. Simon Church worked hard to break down the wing, and crossed for Jackson to rifle home. The skipper was responsible for some of Charlton’s most important goals last season, and his return to the side has coincided with some strong Addicks performances again this campaign.
Stroud continued to act as if it was him that everyone had come to watch, giving decisions Leeds’ way at every opportunity, Charlton were only level for three minutes before the best player on the pitch volleyed home for his hat trick. Charlton pushed to level the game once again, but it was too little too late, and a last minute free kick from Ross McCormack gave him and Leeds their fourth goal to weight the score in the away side’s favour. The referee left to a chorus of boos, but the home side were applauded off despite the score, showing that the performance was worthy of more than the result.
Charlton can take confidence from their performances over the last 6 weeks, with an international break ahead of the trip to QPR. With Jackson back in the side and Kermorgant returning from injury, the team will go into the games against QPR, Doncaster and Ipswich in high spirits. The Doncaster game in particular represents the Addicks’ game in hand, and a golden opportunity to secure a mid-table spot as they enter the Christmas period.
One issue Powell needs to address is the teams’ mentality when Kermorgant plays. The Frenchman, who turned 32 on the eve of the Leeds game, offers a massive aerial threat, but it’s too easy for the defensive to bypass the midfielders and lump it forward to him. As soon as they do, they nullify their own talent in the form of Stephens and Cousins, and shoot themselves in the foot. Whilst the Leeds defence had also sat back, Charlton’s defenders seemed too keen to aim straight for Kermorgant, and Powell will want to work on that in training. With the ball still going through Stephens, Jackson and Cousins, but with the potent finishing of Kermorgant added up front, Charlton could be a real threat in the next few games, and with confidence high, the Addicks have no reason to fear anyone.
In Powell We Trust!
By Tom Wallin