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Sunday, 21 November 2010

L1: Charlton 3 Yeovil Town 2

Heroic Failure Repeated: Match report and comment from Cruncher.

Today at The Valley I witnessed a purposeful Yeovil. Hard-working with good invention, this was in so many ways a cohesive performance to be proud of. I also witnessed another Yeovil loss.

The two returning full backs Craig Alcock and Nathan Smith were impressively straight back into their stride, while my wish came true for Jean Paul Kalala to regain his midfield slot next to Shaun MacDonald. MacDonald has performed very well lately but his benefit to the cause had been restricted by too heavy a workload while Kalala was out injured, or deployed at right back . Today the Welshman was simply magnificent, whether mopping up against the odds in the tightest of situations or pushing forward to start an attack. I would be surprised if there was another comparable midfield display by any other midfielder in League One this weekend. No disrespect to Owain Tudur Jones's stint, he certainly had his moments but Kalala's combative edge is essential.

Yeovil set the mood from the off. Players were linking well and passes were accurately and confidently being played to feet or into space. Sam Williams was prominent in his spearhead role, Dean Bowditch looking very sharp and inventive playing off him. It was Bowditch who cleverly created an opportunity for Gavin Williams who unfortunately couldn't wrap his foot around the ball enough from a sharp effort in the box, as the Charlton defence closed in. Then Gav struck a free-kick with too much deftness and not enough venom, enabling Rob Elliot a cosy catch. Still the Glovers came purposefully forward, Sam Williams setting up Andy Williams only to have his shot blocked, followed by another effort from the same player which many thought was home, but unfortunately hit the side-netting. Shades of London opposition of last week crossed my mind - would we get punished by a quick raid at the other end?

Alas, that is what happened. Charlton attacking on the right chose not to wait while Yeovil disputed a throw-in decision. This gifted the Charlton winger two yards which gained the receiving Johnny Jackson the crucial one yard he needed to hit the ball first-time past the helpless John Sullivan. Yeovil, by far the more penetrative and fluent of the two sides, a goal down after ten minutes. Here we go again.

To their credit, the Yeovil players responded well and were level in five minutes, with Andy Williams getting his third on the trot, a very well-taken goal after well-worked linking with Sam Williams, sending the travelling contingent into rapture. Didn't last long though, with Therry Racon turning to fire neatly home. Again there was the familiar element of self-destruction as Kalala's pass put Alcock under pressure, his only blip (apart from a ballooned shot) in an otherwise strong showing. Charlton were 2-1 up against a Yeovil side who had been superior on the balance of play and chances created, the costly and frustrating theme of recent times.

The home side were at last looking confident, and created opportunities breaking quickly which resulted in shots across the face of the Yeovil goal. Yeovil though were not going to roll over, with Bowditch laying off the ball for Sam Williams but his effort was straight at Elliot. Bowditch himself had a better chance after good work right on the stroke of half time - bearing down on goal he needed to follow suit from Andy William's equalising strike of last week's first half injury time against Dagenham which was notable for both placement and power. Trouble was, Bowditch chose placement, which enabled Elliot to dive to his left and a golden chance at a crucial time was lost.

The referee had not been afraid to give the away side their share of decisions and early in the second half they gained a free kick in an attacking position. Gavin Williams hasn't been so convincing for a while now with his place kicks, this time opting to put it low and fiercely-hard across the Addicks box, a decision which paid off as the ball ping-ponged around until someone somehow struck it cleanly into the goal. Paul Huntington was my guess at the time, It transpired it was the defending foot of Gary Doherty.

We dared to hope that surely we were at last going to get at least a deserving point. With the home side's confidence clearly hit, more hope was to come when Christian Dailly was sent off after clobbering Sam Williams as they challenged a high ball on the right-side. To be honest, from the faraway view I'm not sure, but the referee believed the immediate and confident flapping of his linesman's flag. We would all have taken a draw, but now, despite Racon (I think) forcing a good save out of Sullivan with an angled rasper the game seemed there for the taking. The deep-down feeling that misery would follow - surely that would at last go away, wouldn't it?

Of course, it wouldn't. The referee had been a bit picky on occasion but on fouls had had a decent game and certainly not afraid to upset the locals. The left-side linesman though had annoyed the Yeovil support a few times already, the precedent to bamboozle was set in the first-half when he cocked up on a foul and an offside or two, and ruled an Alcock header not to have kept the ball in play. So when sub Akpo Sodje chased a long punt forward it was all-too expected that the linesman would flag against Huntington as a result of Sodje's flop to the ground.

Sodje had proved a handful since he came on, and we need to see why we had stretched ourselves enough against ten men for him to be chasing a long punt to turn into such significant danger. The unfair but harsh truth for Huntington after an impressive day's work is that he didn't deserve the foul against him or the subsequent sending-off, but also needs to know not to put out his outstretched arm to give a happy flag-flapper any excuse - and the gusto deployed by the lino did indeed suggest a body-language of sheer joy at his opportunity to be judge and jury. From the ref's own body language I was convinced he viewed it the same way as did the green and white masses - that contact was soft if indeed it was at all, but he chose to trust that his linesman had both a better view and reasonable judgement. So from the point the incident occurred, the linesman's spoiling of the day seemed inevitable. A fuming John Sullivan rushed 25 yards to, er, constructively debate the matter with the official. Johnny Jackson scored from the spot, a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat.

The obvious comparison of recent heroic failure is the Milton Keynes match, what with defensive lapses and a dodgy late penalty putting a very impressive fluent Yeovil performance to the sword and by the same score. Certainly it was better than last week, but it's hard to find comfort when we perform well against stronger opposition but suffer from key mistakes, yet perform worse against lower sides making even more mistakes. Overall it is clear that bad luck is playing its part, and we look to Bournemouth in midweek as an early chance to alter the long and cruel losing streak that we are on. With the Cherries having a goal difference of fourteen goals, they mirror our goal deficit of the same amount: a hard task is becoming harder.

Reality is stark in times like this. A stronger bench today might have seen us take immediate advantage of Dailly's dismissal. Teams can and do go down through bad luck, though I feel that our problems are fuelled by limitation in squad strength and size. We were the Light Brigade (light by an experienced striker and a speedy cb) riding into the Valley of, er, defeat.

Much emotion and many words abound at the moment. I am clear on my own thoughts - we are overdue on a clearout in the Boardroom, but I see no value in dismissing the manager. What I would ask Skiverton doubters to ask of themselves is this: are you bringing your emotion about the Board into your logic about the manager?

Quick appraisal of the players:

John Sullivan - 7/10: The irony is that he did not have much to do which points to a 6, but he can't be apportioned blame for the goals and pulled of a very good second half save when needed along with doing his basic chores correctly.

Craig Alcock - 7/10: Good performance after absence.

Paul Huntington - 8/10: Reads it well, solid under pressure with good distribution, had his (and our) day unfairly spoiled by the Happy Flagger.

Adam Virgo - 7/10: Solid enough for the most part.

Nathan Smith - 8/10: Very impressive performance.

Gavin Williams - 7/10: Seen as a weak link first half by one or two but I thought did well overall (with one or two golden moments), his place kicking has been off the boil for a while but he did whizz one across that led to the second goal.

Jean Paul Kalala - 8/10: His passing is better these days, broke play up smartly that led to Andy Williams's goal but his pass across the back let Charlton in for their first. Overall though he was very good.

Shaun MacDonald - 9/10: Magnificent.

Andy Williams - 8/10: Strong attacking, tracked back well, very well-taken goal.

Sam Williams - 7/10: The master of both Dailly and Doherty in the first half, linked and battled well and at times very well, covered acres of ground, not appreciated by the moaners. Needs goals though!

Dean Bowditch - 8/10: Classy in the first half, shame he missed the effort on 45 minutes

Adam Phillip (87 minutes, on for Andy Williams): Only on for a few lively minutes, I agree with those that wanted him on following Dailly's dismissal.


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