Charlton Athletic 3 Derby County 2
My first sight of the new revolution in SE7 last night and quite frankly I was astounded.
The first 10 minutes I sat in a kind of self contained bewilderment as Peeters’ side imposed their passing game on most people’s favourites for promotion. Derby hardly got a sniff of the ball until they kicked off again after George Țucudean scored a beautifully crafted goal in the 11th minute.
I cheered with others, but I was equally a little bit speechless if I’m honest. I don’t think in 40 years I have seen a Charlton team play such a deliberate passing game. Good passers, yes, but all eleven players in a predetermined way look instinctively for the pass first, I don’t think I have.
Țucudean’s goal was superb with Johann Berg Gudmundsson the architect. The man from Iceland is technically very good for this level, and creates space with good use of his body and the ball. Gudmundsson found Cousins with a raking pass out wide and his superb delivery into Țucudean’s feet deserved the exquisite turn and finish, for his first goal.
I had a pre-conceived idea of George, even though I had enquired into his shirt sponsorship after he signed. However he was excellent, a constant menace coming deep to collect the ball and eventually frustrating Derby’s Bryson enough to get himself booked with a nasty tackle that sadly ended George’s evening at half-time.
Not before of course the Romanian’s sheer determination won us a penalty in 1st half injury time that Yoni Buyens confidentially buried.
At that point, 1st half injury time, of which there was 4 minutes, we were hanging on the referee’s whistle as Derby were dominating. Ward scored a very good equaliser giving Nick Pope no chance and after that it was Steve McLaren’s team’s turn to impose their passing game on us, and they are very good at it.
Moussa replaced George at half-time and although he did show some good turns of pace, he is still clearly a little off it after missing most of pre-season with injury. I have high hopes for the former Coventry man, but he and Vetokele are too similar, and with Peeters obviously preferring the option of Harriott and Moussa to Pigott and Church up front, then our need for another striker is conclusive.
Both sides continued to pass the ball and look to map out goalscoring opportunities as opposed to hoof the ball into the opposing penalty box and hope for a break. So much so, in Charlton’s case anyway, that even free-kicks deep in Derby’s half were simply tapped sideways and then passed back for a passage of play to begin over.
Derby for all of their majority of possession were left with a couple of long range efforts that I don’t remember troubling Pope. Meanwhile both Vetokele and Moussa were getting in behind the Rams’ back four with Keogh in particular having a very uncomfortable night.
Cousins, who had a busy first half was quieter second, and he was replaced by Wilson, and Gudmundsson and the bloke that is “now alright” switched wings and Lawrie was very involved and helped us up the tempo working well in particular with Vetokele.
Then a good run into the box by Moussa saw his cross go too deep for an onrushing Jackson at the far post. The skipper retrieved the ball and put in a peach of a cross that Wilson flicked on wrong footing the Derby ‘keeper and Igor headed into an empty net. The Valley was in raptures, albeit one could sense the disorientation!
That goal killed Derby and the next 5 or so minutes were very enjoyable. Yet, of course despite the Belgian revolution, they cannot eradicate the ‘good old Charlton.’
Pope who had suffered through the night I thought with his distribution and his own efforts to use the ball economically and not just clear it, but did show good positive control of his penalty area, had a moment that he would like to forget letting a simple shot on goal through his legs to raise the stress levels an give Addicks a nervous finale.
However after another 4 minutes of injury time, the whistle was blown to conclude a very enjoyable night shared with my son, brother, two of my best mates and Pete. Good times.
A few words on some of the players. A man of the match was hard to find, but Yoni Buyens was outstanding, reminding me in style and looks of Claus Jensen. Calm, collective and intelligent with the ball and providing a good shield to the two centre-backs.
I am big Michael Morrison fan but I can see why Ben Haim and Bikey have started in Peeters’ first team. They are both very confident with the ball, tackled cleanly and always looked to pass the ball out of defence.
Bikey is immense and it was almost comical to see him win a blood and thunder tackle and then gently pass the ball five feet to red shirt and not do what millions of kids up the park do and hoof it out of play.
Ben Haim adds experience as well, and it was noticeable how he was the first over to Pope after his mistake.
Wiggins stated slowly and his passing was a little off in the first half, but he was better 2nd, and then there is the prodigious talent of Joe Gomez, who we need to keep reminding ourselves is just 17-years old. He played as if he had 200 league games under his belt. Playing out of position, he has such composure and Peeters’ style is made for him.
Lastly I am going to talk about the skipper and I can confirm that stories of Johnnie Jackson’s demise are hugely exaggerated. I thought he was awesome. Buyens allows him to play a little further forward and so often he was the driving force behind our attacks and put into some excellent tackles.
There was no doubting who was the skipper and his desire has visibly rubbed off on the others. Also with Jacko’s pace vapourising, I’m being polite, he will benefit from the passing game and not the kick and rush that had overtaken us in the past couple of seasons.
7 points, 6 off two teams that will definitely be up there in May. I’m still liking the cut of Bob Peeters’ jib.
Don’t tell the other-half but I wish I was going to Huddersfield on Saturday and not Mexico, which is where we are going. I do, honestly.
Addick Bloggers at The Valley: And it Becomes The Perfect Start; God, Charlton and Punk Rock; Albury Addick; Charlton Casualty; Stickleback; And Nothing Else Matters; Chris Powell’s Flat Cap; Hungry Ted; From Charlton with Love; Doctor Kish; Drinking During the Game
Around the League: Four teams including us share top spot with 7 points. The Addicks and Millwall, who grabbed a deserved equaliser late at Hillsborough are the unlikely occupants with Forest, perhaps lucky winners at Bournemouth top and Cardiff, who beat Wigan. Watford won at Rotherham, Middlesbrough won at Bolton and Brighton got their first points on the board by winning at Elland Road. Blackpool stay bottom after losing at home to Brentford.