Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Premiership: Addicks tie the Baggies

Both Charlton and West Brom came away from their Premiership clash at the Valley unbeaten but dissatisfied with the outcome.

In a closely fought 0:0 draw, the home side missed the opportunity to further their revival and enter the top half of the Premiership while West Brom, despite gaining a point, stay a perilous four points and one place above the relegation zone they so narrowly avoided last season.

The Addicks had come into the clash breathing more easily on a back of one loss in their last six following their miserable autumn while West Brom had more need of points, with their confidence freshly wounded by giving 3 pts to the hapless Sunderland in their last game at the Hawthorns.

The first stirrings on a freezing night in South East London came with speculative 35 yard efforts from Junichi Inamoto and Hermain Hreidarsson in the 6th and 7th minutes.

Charlton edged nearer to the scoresheet in the 11th minute when Marcus Bent set up Darren Ambrose for a shot from the edge of the D that Tomasz Kuszczak caught.

Then four minutes later Darren Ambrose curled over a free kick from the left that missed a host of his teammates by only inches to the howls of the home fans.

Alan Curbushley’s side might have been favourites going into the game but in the opening spell struggled to put three passes together and there was a dearth of final balls for the two Bents upfront, who despite sharing the same name and having played together at Ipswich Town, seemed to have some way to go in terms of developing an understanding, Marcus often flicking on while Darren ran in the opposite direction.

West Brom seemed a little overawed although Jonathan Greening did fire a warning sign across Charlton’s bows in the 25th minute when Thomas Myhre tipped his long range effort away for a corner.

Around the half hour mark Charlton roared back into life with a trio of chances over a four minute spell, the first arriving in the 28th minute when Darren Bent muscled past center back Curtis Davies in search of a loose ball and steered his shot narrowly wide of the goal.

Two minutes later the corner flag became Charlton’s 12th man providing a fortuitous assist for Darren Bent to create another scoring opportunity.

The Charlton striker chased a misplaced through ball into the corner but as Davies obstructed him and tried to let it run out of play, the ball rebounded off the flagpole allowing Bent to charge in on goal and pull the trigger, Kuszczak stopping a goal with his legs.

Lastly Alexi Smertin made a 20 yard diagonal run clear of Inamoto but his aim was two yards off target.

Five minutes before the interval West Brom were cursing their luck as the enterprising Jonathan Greening out on the left whipped in a dangerous diagonal pass to the far post where Geoff Horsfield had ghosted in to challenge Thomas Myhre.

The Norwegian could only push it against the post and the ball bounced across the face of the open goal, Hreidarsson scrambling to clear before it could trickle over the line.

Horsfield threatened again a minute before half time when he stumbled through the box and somehow got a shot off that ended up a couple of yards wide of goal.

Four minutes after the restart Smertin danced around the edge of box but unleashed his resulting shot too high to trouble Kuszczak.

Charlton continued to trouble their visitors without converting their possession, Bryan Hughes adding his name to Charlton’s goal attempts with a 20-yard blast in the 56th that Kuszczak dived to parry and a header over the bar from the resulting corner.

On the hour mark Radostin Kishishev sent a snap pass forward to a streaking Darren Bent, whose diagonal cross to Marcus Bent zipped between him and Kuszczak.

Ten minutes later Chris Powell fed Ambrose on the left hand edge of box and the Charlton midfielder wheeled through 360 degrees before firing but his on target effort failed to beat West Brom’s Polish guardian.

When Ambrose was substituted in the 73rd minute for Jerome Thomas, there were boos at the withdrawing of a player well liked by the home fans.

Marcus Bent’s home Premiership debut continued its uneventful course, although he perhaps should have won a penalty in the 76th when Neil Clement brought him down in the box as they went for the same ball.

A score looked increasingly unlikely from either team and in the 80th minute the last chance of note arrived, Bryan Hughes latching on to a weak clearance from Kuszczak, one of a number he made on the night and slipping it quickly to Darren Bent, who found himself in the middle of the box with a clear sight of goal.

Baggies defender Curtis Davies however was Johnny on the spot and his split-second tackle stole the ball from Bent as he cocked his leg to shoot.

Bryan Robson stayed in the dug out while Curbishley and assistant Keith Peacock stood together, deep in conversation but with no real options remaining.

Jay Bothroyd came on for the ineffectual Marcus Bent but failed to make an impact while tricky winger Jerome Thomas found himself alternately fouled or too starved of supply to make an impact.

Post match Addicks boss Alan Curbishley hailed a battling performance for eking out a result:
"It was a tough old game for us,” he told reporters. “West Brom came out of the blocks and looked sharp early on and we had to work our way back into the match.

West Brom’s Bryan Robson also took positives out of the 0:0 draw:
"We are down to the bare minimum with injuries, suspensions and the players away at the African Cup of Nations,” he said, adding “ If they keep performing like that I'm confident we will stay up.”

Celebrity Charlton fan Michael Grade CBESoccerphile spoke to celebrity Charlton fan Michael Grade CBE after the game and the former Chief Executive of Channel 4 and Controller of BBC1, now Charlton director, admitted West Brom had got their pressing tactics right.

“I thought West Bromwich came to spoil the game and they did it very effectively,” he commented. “I thought we battled but they did not give us a minute on the ball and we did not know how to handle it. We missed a couple of chances and they missed a couple of chances so I thought it was a fair result in the end.”

On a brighter note he added, “We are still in the Cup and the confidence is beginning to come back. I can remember games like that when we would have ended up losing 1-0 or 2-0.”

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