Newsletter #865

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After last week’s stunning victory our men in blue fell hard from their pedestals to a 0-1 defeat by Charlton. A scrappy game where neither team played, let alone played well, hampered by the most inept display of refereeing I have witnessed this season. Typical City, 3 wins on the bounce and then don’t turn out against a struggling team, thus forgoing our chance to jump neatly into the top 10 ahead of Leeds.

The only consistency, to paraphrase Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is that when we are good we are very, very good and when we are bad we are horrid.

Tonight we have a couple of match reports thanks to Andrew and Sarah, plenty of opinion and a handful of requests.

Next game: Middlesbrough, away, 3pm Saturday 23 November 2002

MATCH REPORT I: MCFC 0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1

After the euphoria of last week, this was a match that was always going to be an anti-climax. Looking around the ground, the faces were expectant and hopeful of a City victory. City managed to take that anti-climax and times it by ten.

There were not many memorable moments in the game, but the build up play was efficient and City controlled most of the possession. However, they lacked the ability to make the dominance count with poor finishing and quality shown in the last third of the field. The final ball never made any impact, with crosses too short or long. After a break from a defending corner Anelka found himself with Berkovic in clear support with only one Charlton defender to beat. Anelka managed to scuff the pass straight to the opposition and the emphasis was lost and frustration had set in yet again.

Charlton were very slow and were quite a dirty team. They acquired four yellow cards and one should have been sent off if not for the referee Graham Barber realising one had already been booked and deciding to put his cards back in his pocket. All through the first half Charlton seemed to be concerned with the pressure of the ball. The referee had a look at it and would not change it. During a thrown in near the dug out the ball was given to the assistant referee and even Kevin had a feel on the ball and could be seen to say ‘What’s wrong with it?’ It was eventually changed. This charade though made the whole game annoyingly sluggish and sleepy.

After half-time Foe went off with an injury and was replaced by Horlock, who made an immediate impact by making a dipping shot from 30 yards to the ‘keeper’s surprise but was only just over the bar. Sadly this did not bring on the expectant City bombardment on the Charlton goal.

Charlton took their goal well from a break on the right that had left Schmeichel stranded at the near post to be crossed in to a free Shaun Bartlett to slot home.

Huckerby came on to add some much required energy that had only come from Tiatto, but the service never came. A chip shot from Benarbia, who had replaced Berkovic, went sailing high over the crossbar from a free-kick that was moved forward to the edge of the penalty area for Charlton complaints. Perhaps the wrong choice of shot where a hard-low drive from Anelka might have provided a much needed equaliser. In an ideal world City would have taken that victory last week and absolutely murdered Charlton with flowing, attacking football. Sadly that was not to be, with only Tiatto making any impact. Shaun Wright Phillips came in for the flu-stricken Wiekens, who displayed great defensive qualities against United. SWP was hustled off the ball when it mattered and was not strong enough to hold off any of the Charlton challenges.

Shaun Goater looked out of sorts on Saturday. Goater has been a great servant for City and has the instinct and the knowledge of where to be in the box. The poor service quashed any impact he might have had on the game.

With one shot on target throughout the entire match, and that being a tame effort from Anelka, showed that Charlton came here for a point and possibly stealing all 3 points, which of course they eventually did. Give credit to Charlton; they stifled City and defended in numbers. Charlton are the new Wimbeldon and know how to grind out results in order to stay in the Premiership. It was not pretty football, and it was an ugly game to watch on Saturday, but it worked for Charlton. That has seen them stay in top-flight football for three consecutive seasons, and if they carry on methodically turning out these types of performances it most likely will be four.

Overall, four league victories in a row would have been nice for City but 9 out of 12 points isn’t too bad. Keegan has to find the motivation and passion to inject back into the side for Middlesbrough. Although the game against United was a relief and great to watch, resulting in a much desired victory, matches versus teams that turn out to be sloppy and unpleasant performances, need the same commitment as ‘big’ games. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that City kicked off at 3pm and not lunchtime, as unfortunately the appetite and hunger that was shown on the 9th November went astray on Saturday, which was frustrating as all City fans have seen it.

Andrew Walsh (AndrewBwalsh@aol.com)

MATCH VIEW: MCFC 0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC 1

Oliver Kay writing in The Game (The Times 18/11/2002) reports that it threatens to be a long season for Charlton and Alan Curbishley, their astute (his words not mine!) manager… and it certainly was a very long (and boring) 90 minutes on Saturday afternoon, when Charlton’s time-wasting and play-spoiling tactics brought out the worst in City. Listening to the phone-in on GMR while driving back to Yorkshire – (no-one could be bothered to talk) – it was a grey afternoon’s football – cloudy skies and little better on the pitch, there was some debate about whether Charlton should be blamed for their style of football. ‘After all it is not their job to entertain the City fans’ Peter Barnes (I think) volunteered – Oh but it is… football after all is now entertainment – and we for instance paid the best part of

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