|Charlton Athletic 1 v 2 Ipswich Town|
Wednesday, 26th December 2012 Kick-off 13:00
|Mullet added 17:51 - Dec 26|
A large travelling contingent well over the regular average of 650 swelled behind the goal perhaps with full bellies from yesterday's festivities. Chopra meanwhile had fullbacks Cresswell and Hewitt at his place yesterday for all the trimmings. Only the Liverpudlian made the cut as his host sat on the bench again and presumed cracker pulling counterpart Hewitt, didn't feature.
The opening exchanges were forgettable as both sides pressed a distinct lack of advantage. Charlton had outright wingers in Green and former scourge of Carrow Rd Haynes as their main outlets, former Royle favourite Fuller and the awkward Hulse occupied Chambers and Smith. Initially it proved to be somewhat fruitless but the dynamic of brawn and brainless attacking would come to the fore after the break.
Town on the other hand, looked sluggish and overfed when the current fashion for players being hungry is so pertinent. Martin didn't so much cut in from the wing, but rambled far and wide. His energy and industry again proving to be Town's main attacking outlet from the flicks and flashes of Murphy. The Waterford man was crucial in a victory built on physicality as he spent most of boxing day being the bag. Arms hammered, clawed and dug at his frame incessantly with little reward from the ref. To his credit Daryl did his job without complaint.
Charlton's penchant for head tennis carved out plenty of territory but a lack of clear chances as N'Daw, Smith and Chambers all had enough aerial presence to knock away much of the balls hoisted upwards. Town made better work of the line as Martin's direct running produced shots, saves and scrambles with the help of DJ and a decidedly charitable Edwards who wasted the first good chance of the game. Alone and central he scuffed a loose ball so far wide it may have finished behind him.
At the other end, Haynes exploited the lack of protection Orr received to cut inside and try an audacious shotcross tipped over by the extendible arm and adjustable feet of Henderson relatively early on. For the first half an hour or so Town couldn't find their feet and when Martin was nudged off his for the first time it was to be set pieces which would dictate the effectiveness of tumultuous phases of attempted play.
It was to be Cresswell's second free-kick attempt thanks to the felling of Drury which would titillate the most. The former Hatter and lower-league maestro made his first anything of the game when he darted forward from inside right having spent the previous half an hour a spectator. Simon Milton he is not. Blasted wide with vigour from the left boot of Cresswell the ricochet off of the stanchion made the set-piece look closer than it was. A poorly worked third, saw the left back exchange passes a la Barnsley only to overturn his body and drill the overhit pass well wide.
The Addicks' experience up top tested Smith at times. Whilst he may not have passed by Hulse with flying colours losing out on headers often, the youngster held the line well with the help of Chambers as the only QPR loanee getting on the score sheet today would be our own, albeit not easily.
Martin took a typically direct route at his marker switching in from the left he cut back outside of the area and was felled before exiting the 18 yard box. Penalty. Cheers. Delays. Whilst Charlton held the game up with protests Town fans chose to serenade the home fans with Campbell's signature song. As the diminutive striker stood 12 yards from goal awaiting the ref's whistle to despatch the kick the chant grew and right on cue DJ repaid us by blasting wide. An effort so poor it made Lucas Piazon's seem even more forgiveable and inconsequential.
Amends would soon be made however when DJ would find himself in a similar position to Edwards' earlier blunder thanks to a deflected shot from the captain, following Martin's one-two-smash routine opening the move. Unlike Carlos, DJ opted for the instep, hips akimbo he beat Hamer with a delicious cherry-sweet finish on a blancmange of a move. The noise ripped out from the away end like a child taking to the first and biggest present yesterday morning, it was great while it lasted.
The second was not long in coming but the hosts did give Town more of a game as they battled for space. While the Drury-shaped hole closed in the middle and the usually giving Cresswell was much more Scrooge-like in his possession today the usual chinks appeared timely enough to remind fans that Town were still a work in progress.
When Martin again tested Hamer with a drilled shot from inside the box a familiar sense of joy rose up as the helpless keeper was beaten by a delectable and powerful chip into the roof of the net from Murphy. Joyful and triumphant Town fans welcomed the half time whistle for more than just an excuse to unbend knees wedged and frozen in seats so cramped,I might write to the EU and complain.
Whatever scouting Powell had done on Town before today he must have felt it unreliable as he made two changes to his side after the break, Mick did not reciprocate. He had no need to perhaps, but the opening ten minutes of the half may have changed things as Athletic lived up to their name. Out-muscling and jostling Town onto the back foot all too often, a lack of effort would have seen us concede previously.
Henderson is much improved lately, but his weakness for punching like Audley Harrison needs addressing. He connects far too infrequently and the steadfast performances in front of him began to falter more regularly as N'Daw in particular missed his opportunities for clearances from loose balls, the home side's reply took far longer than it should have done.
A rare assist for Martin broke the tedium as he chopped down his south London counterpart in the area carelessly during another spell of pressure. Town fans missing yesterday's heroes may have been sated and dismayed to see Haynes despatch the second spot-kick of the game viciously. A game with so few talking points was now balanced on a knife edge, luckily for Town it seemed to be a butter knife as Mick tightened and tweaked his way to three points today.
Drury was swapped for NRC which helped ease the pressure in the rare moments of the ball being on the floor. While money talks and wealth whispers, the young veteran gave his experience and influence the Bob Harris treatment as he ably pinged simple passes around. There were nearly a dozen before for the first one went astray and the crashing bores downed blankets and thermos. They gleefully expressed their conjecture at the sub failing to set Martin away, despite his raised hand of apology.
The only incident of real note was the injury time extension thanks to a broken corner flag. A move down the right saw Edwards beat his man for the first time in ages only to have his ankle tapped on the touchline by a stray, reckless slide from Jackson. No card, no idea why. A new flag to replace the snapped one was not forthcoming for a few minutes. Another disappointing centre from Cressy as he found DJ's forehead with far too much pace allowed Town to gentlemanly clear the ball on their hosts' behalf.
Hyam replaced DJ as Murphy continued to man the front-line single-handedly with the plodding fortitude which earned him today's nod for the prossecco and first dibs on Mrs McCarthy's mince pies on the way home. The incoming home-grown youngster did a sensible job of slowing things down and pushing possession away from harm's way.
As injury time came JET would relieve Murphy up top and provide just enough threat to remind the home side not to spring a counter trap carelessly. Fresh legs in the now torrential rain were telling when perhaps Charlton were spent. Even their keeper went up for a late corner such was their desire if perhaps not their ability to beat Town with their own game of ugly, battling anti-football.
Town showed today how, while the failings may be familiar, they are fading. The ugly brand of pace and brutality was an equation always likely to cause division amongst the Town ranks, but today it was not enough to stop us taking the points. Rare chances were taken (penalty aside) and luck rode where necessary. Here's to a new year not another year at ITFC, especially if it starts early at Mick's old place.
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