Charlton Athletic 2 Queens Park Rangers 0
What a wonderful day out to end a very enjoyable week. Back in Bermuda tonight with my head full of memories and Charlton songs!
QPR may not end up being a good yardstick to judge our opening performance as my mate Dave said in his post-match thoughts, although you can only beat what is in front of you, but although we conceded a lot of possession and corners to the west Londoners in the first half, it was a little surprising to see their capitulation after we went 2-0 up. The rather cocky QPR fans who somewhat startlingly sauntered past the Royal Oak singing their anti-Chelsea songs may need to lower their pretensions.
I think most of us shuddered a little when those first 6 fixtures came out, but early season is as good as time as any to play the relegated teams, and Austin-less it is hard to see anything other than a season of mediocrity or worse for Ramsey’s team.
But as Luzon repeats it wasn’t about our opposition, for Addicks it was finding out about those players in red shirts, their aptitudes and their attitudes.
I didn’t like the way we were content to sit back in those first 20 minutes, it reminded me of a Bob Peeters team sucked of confidence and creativity, but a Pope save aside, that was warmly responded to by the Covered End, there wasn’t any threat and we eased our way back into the game and ended the half in the ascendency.
At half-time conversation was about about how slow El-Hadji Ba was and that Cousins, with a fresh new contract, was being wasted out on the left. Makienok was resembling a viking Carl Leaburn and Luzon’s apparent gamble to partner him with young Karlan-Grant had showed no promise whatsoever.
Many Charlton managers before Luzon may well have shown obstinance and stuck with their decision, but no, Tony Watt came out in the 2nd half, knowing as we do now, having served his punishment after some childish training ground behaviour on Friday.
Watt was to have an instant impact on the game. Oh, and what an absolute pain in the backside he must be to play against. Niggly, awkward, chippy, skillful, he was a joy to watch in that 2nd half as time and again he faced up to defenders and attacked them with the ball at his feet. All responded to by an adoring Valley.
The opening goal was a beauty and the football played leading up to it showed us a glimpse of what Luzon hopes for this season. A quick passing movement into feet from one side of the pitch to the other with Makienok cleverly stepping over the ball for Watt to run onto, shimmy one way and then the other and hammer the ball past Rob Green at his near post.
I expected then a Rangers comeback but it never materialized as we took control of the game with Gudmundsson and Ahmed Kashi becoming more influential and Watt a constant menace. Then with the Covered End in full voice Morgan Fox controlled the ball just outside the angle of the box and hit a superb shot across goal and past Green to make it 2-0. It was Fox’s first ever first team goal and was well deserved after a very good performance.
Later Gudmundsson hit the bar with a peach of a free-kick but for the rest of the game it was quite nice to soak up the atmosphere of happy Addicks and a team growing in confidence.
As for the players, there was differing views afterwards in the pub as to who the man of the match was, which was probably a positive sign of a variety of good performances. My pick was Alou Diarra, who dominated in defence, always unflustered and confidently breaking up attacks and bringing the ball out of his own half. Patrick Bauer looked solid next to him and Solly, aggressive and resolute throughout I thought emphasized a more pertinacious look to the side.
Nick Pope’s first action of the game was a place kick that went straight into the East Stand, and around us there was many a nervy look. However he made a couple of good saves and in the 2nd half came out for a tricky looking cross and grabbed it with real authority. It was also great to see The Valley respond so well to the 23-year old. Support for one of our at its best.
Ba was poor I thought for most of the 1st half, but he did improve, but my initial thoughts were that he may struggle with the pace of The Championship. Kashi was good, always looking for the ball but I would rather see Cousins in the middle with him especially as he looks lost out wide and so often he drifts into the middle wanting to be more involved.
Gudmundsson put in a wholehearted performance and his team mates got him a lot more involved in the 2nd half, plus he nearly converted a beauty of a free-kick. I liked Bergdich when he came on for Ba, which allowed Cousins to move inside. The Moroccan was very lively and showed some good skill in tight areas.
Ceballos wasn’t on for long enough, but there isn’t much to him size-wise. Watt was excellent and clearly thrives on encouragement but equally it was to good to see him come out and play after being dropped in such a positive manner. Good management by Luzon too.
The 6ft 7in Makienok was a bit of an enigma. He seemed to win every defensive header and will be clearly valuable here, but was mostly beaten when he was challenged with his back to goal and QPR’s centre-halves didn’t look the biggest. The Dane often received balls into his feet though and was quite comfortable on the floor.
It will take many more games before it will be right to pass judgement on the new boys, and Makienok hardly played last season so he very much needs to find his feet (which are a long way from his burst of blonde hair. For me his value will be in a partnership he can form with another striker, because he may get many more assists than goals.
All in all a great day. Of course winning your first game of the season doesn’t mean a lot in the scheme of a 46-game season, but it definitely puts a spring in your step. Come on you reds!
Elsewhere in The Championship: MK Dons were the big winners of the day. Last season’s League One top scorers took Rotherham by surprise beating them away 4-1. Sheffield Wednesday beat Bristol City 2-0 and the other new boys Preston held Middlesbrough today to a 0-0 draw. Bolton and Derby ended the same way, Hull beat Huddersfield 2-0, Birmingham beat Reading 2-1 as did Wolves at Blackburn. Moneyballers Brentford found a way to come back from 0-2 down in injury time and grab a 2-2 draw.