1 defeat in 13 and 3 straight wins? Great being a Blue,
Actually, that is Charlton's recent record!
Alan Curbishley has put together an excellent side "down at
the Valley" and anyone who looks at our recent form and simply
expects another 3 points is sadly mistaken.
Charlton's side reminds me very much of Howard Kendall's great
team of "no-stars". Organised and strong at the
back, fluent in midfield and proficient upfront with a touch of
Sitting in 8th place only 6 points behind us, they have to be
considered challengers for a European spot. Jaskelinen in
goal; Fish and Powell at the back; Parker (due an England call up
and very exciting) and Jensen in the middle; and Euell and the
lightening quick Lisbie upfront — they are a difficult proposition
for any team.
The one criticism that may be directed at them is that they lack
some steel in the middle of the park. Jensen and Parker are
excellent footballers but can be found lacking when the studs are
So a good side and a difficult afternoon ahead? So
what! This Blues team is also flying. After putting the
bad run of form over Christmas and the New Year behind us, we really
do look back on track.
Barring injury, we all know the team: Same again!
Pistone and Watson are apparently struggling but both are
expected to be fit. Losing either would be a real blow, but to
me the loss of Pistone would be the biggest blow. He has been
absolutely brilliant since he got fit. Great distribution,
very fast and reads the game superbly. Yobo would replace him
but Yobo is a centre-back (an excellent one).
We will be put under pressure in this one. Lisbie's pace
may see us defend quite deep which brings Euell's height and timing
of runs into the equation; but, with a good performance from Wright,
a clean sheet is possible and we know that we can score goals.
Rooney is available again but must surely start on the bench as
Radz fully deserves his starting place. Nine Premiership goals
(considering how often he has been brought off or dropped) is an
excellent return and he frightened the life out of Leeds on
Saturday. A return to his 70-minute stints is very likely with
Rooney's cameo shows available once again. It would be great
to see them both perform together but that just doesn't seem to work
at the moment.
This will be a very difficult game and potentially an excellent
match — watch ITV totally ignore it on Saturday night.
Given our run I'll going for a slim 1-0 to the Blues but don't be
surprised if we come away with a point — and don't be disappointed
Both teams went into this fixture in good form and it showed as
there was not much between them in this lively encounter.
Thomas Gravesen came back into the starting line-up for the first
time since the Shrewsbury debacle, in place of the injured Steve
Watson. Gravesen looked a completely different figure to the
player who had such a massive dip in form over Christmas and I
thought he performed admirably today. The absence of Watson’s
width and ability to get into the box and cause problems was part of
the reason that we didn’t do better today but Gravesen showed a
great touch and even won a few tackles! A changed man — and
I’m perhaps his harshest critic at times.
Everton started the game brightly, roared on by a packed away end
and our keenness to get forward right from the off seemed to take
Charlton by surprise; maybe away teams have kept it quiet first half
at the Valley in recent weeks. We had a lot of possession
early on without creating too many clear-cut scoring opportunities
and this was the theme for the rest of the game.
The match was played at a frantic place with the referee Jeff
Winter constantly breaking up the ebb and flow of the game by
stopping play for the slightest of misdemeanours — usually in
favour of the team in red. Li Tie received a yellow card for
perhaps the first foul in the game, much to the annoyance of the
Charlton took a perhaps undeserved lead against the run of play
when a static Everton defence seemed to freeze waiting for an
offside flag that never came. Kishishev was at hand to slot
home for the Addicks, calmly scoring past the hapless Richard
Soon after, Everton had a just penalty claim turned down by
referee Winter when Thomas Gravesen was bundled over in the Charlton
penalty area. Not many decisions went in the Blues' favour
today and, later on in the game, an even more clear cut shove on
McBride in the area similarly went unpunished.
Claus Jensen and Scott Parker began to take hold of the midfield
as the half progressed, showing silky skills, good movement and a
controlled touch. If only Everton had a player of either of
their abilities — a creative midfielder is a must-buy during the
next transfer window. The Charlton duo caused the Everton
backline countless problems with Jason Euell also looking a
much-improved centre-forward compared to the sorry figure we watched
last season. In fact, a slip by David Weir nearly let Charlton
in for a second goal but they were eventually denied as the Everton
backline charged back in droves.
Tomasz Radzinski was given an excellent opportunity to level the
scores towards the end of the half but Dean Kiely got down quickly
to block his shot. Alan Stubbs was then stretched off with a
suspected broken leg after a nasty collision as he attempted to
shoot and was replaced by Joseph Yobo who looked very assured when
he came on.
Everton had the better of the first half although Richard Wright
did pull off a tremendous stop at some point during an entertaining
first 45 minutes. It is a bit of a haze looking back.
There were no changes at half time and Everton seemed to step up
a gear but lacked the creativity to break Charlton down. The
game plan seemed to involve hitting Brian McBride's head but he didn’t
get too much success up against Richard Rufus. Tomasz
Radzinski did some excellent running off the ball but didn’t get
in many goalscoring positions.
Dean Kiely didn’t have much to do in reflection but then again
neither did Richard Wright to be fair. Wright, apart from one
flap, put in one of his most commanding performances since his move
in the summer. He claimed crosses well; his kicking and
distribution were first-class throughout.
Brian McBride scored an equaliser for the Blues with a turn
followed by a swerving left-foot shot which crept past the Charlton
goalkeeper. The whole team went to McBride when we scored and
formed a huddle showing the excellent team spirit which exists in
the camp now that David Moyes is at the helm.
With the fans baying for the introduction of Rooney, it looked
like Everton may have enough in them to go and kill the game off.
The otherwise anonymous Gary Naysmith had an excellent
opportunity to put us in front when he went past two Charlton
defenders before skewing a left-footed shot high over the bar.
A few minutes later Charlton got back into the game and after a few
scares Li Tie (who had showed some nice touches through-out)
misplaced a header back to Richard Wright and Kevin Lisbie strolled
in to steal all three points for Charlton.
Rooney and Campbell were introduced soon after but it all seemed
too late. Rooney in fact had the chance to write all the
headlines (in front of the watching England coach... except Sven had
already left...) when an excellent first touch took him away from
two players, (with a turn of pace not seen in English football since
Gascoigne's glory years). He unleashed a screamer of a shot
from 25 yards which was about a couple of feet over the cross
bar. For a minute I think everybody in the ground held their
breath and thought he was going to do it again!
McBride had a similar opportunity to his goalscoring effort late
in the game but his shot went agonisingly wide.
And that’s how it finished, a good solid performance in a close
game. Definite progress.
Player Ratings (from Paul Collyer)
- Wright 7 - Flawless for most of the game including one
cracking save to keep it only 0-1 but possibly blew his England
chances with a "miss the cross by miles" moment late
in the game. I'm confident Richard will be as good as DM
hopes but, in all honesty, I think he's a year or two away from
- Pistone 9 - Top class in every department
- Unsworth 6 - Simply Unsie
- Stubbs 6 - OK, but always troubled by their pace.
I hope he is ok although we thought at half time it was a broken
- Weir 8 - Excellent. He has this habit of being
first to balls played into strikers' feet. And he's rock solid
in the air.
- Yobo 7 - Started the second half nervously but by the
last 20 minutes was in complete control.
- Li Tie 6 - From the sublime to the ridiculous.
- Gravesen 6 - See Li Tie. Great when in attacking
positions, but has no idea about tracking back which made
Pistone's performance all the more impressive. During one
of the many times that he decided to play central midfield, he
tried to take on two people at one time on the half-way
line. In the event he got lucky before releasing Radz
one-on-one with a great ball and that incident said it all about
- Gemmill 7 - Tidy and does his job well
- Naysmith 6 - Gives us balance but that's it.
- Radzinski 8 - Everywhere and always unselfish.
Maybe too unselfish but it was clear that the reason Rooney
never came on after 60 or so mins was that Radz was the logical
player to be withdrawn but in no way deserved to be.
- McBride 8 - Paul Rideout but with more goals in
him. An excellent bit of business by David Moes.
- Campbell - No time for a mark but helped us put their
goal under seige for the last 5 minutes
- Rooney - Got the ball twice in his 5 minutes.
With his first touch, he took 2 or 3 out of the game. A
couple of minutes later, he controlled the ball with his head,
went past 2 and hit the most ferocious shot about a foot over
from 30 yards. An astonishing impression in such a short
Finally, a mention for Mr Winter. He was poor, and I am
told for the first goal, the linesman put his flag up and then down
again. At which point our team visibly stopped for at least a
second.... did he consult the linesman? Er... NO!
Unhappy Valley as Blues let it
Julian Cashen: I
joined the prawn-sandwich brigade today having been invited to The
Valley. Really, it opens your eyes as to why we need King's
Dock. The New Valley is a purpose-built new stadium with
brilliant facilities, including ample and immaculately clean
toilets. Compare that to the scrum under the Lower Bullens
stand, with huge queues for inedible pies and piss poor lager, and
toilet facilities adequate for maybe one tenth of the people looking
to use them.
Inside the ground, the Evertonians had the whole of the stand
behind one of the goals, although it seemed to fill up very late, a
consequence perhaps of the traffic gridlock around the ground.
No surprises in the line up, with the only change from the previous
winning formula being the introduction of Gravesen for the injured
Watson. Pistone, the other injury worry, had obviously taken
note of Moysey's comments about putting in a good run of games, and
was present and (mostly) correct at right back.
Almost from the opening whistle, we showed an unusual
unsteadiness at the back which was to provide Charlton with numerous
opportunities over the course of the game. Within the first
couple of minutes, a loose ball by Lie Tie left a Charlton attacker
bearing down on Richard Wright; mercifully the attempted lob dropped
a foot or so wide.
After the initial few minutes, however, we began to assert
ourselves. Virtually everything we did that was good came down
the right. While I thought Pistone looked terribly out of
shape defensively at times, his attacking play, and in particular,
the quality of his crossing, were absolutely first class. It
was he, too, who got on the end of one of many excellent corners
from Tommy Gravesen to bring a greatsave out of Kiely. Then,
brilliant work from Gravesen in the middle of the park took three
opponents out of the game, an excellent pass sent Radzinski through,
but Kiely was quickly off his line to save.
In the meantime, defensively we were all at sea, and had Richard
Wright to thank for some excellent saves — one desperate, clawing
tip-over being particularly eye-catching for the watching Sven-Goran
Eriksson. Indeed, Wright did his cause a power of good, with a
display of good shot-stopping, but — even more impressively —
fine handling throughout the game.
However, it was no surprise when we fell behind, though the
manner of the goal was sickeningly disappointing, being as blatant
an offside as you will see. Anyway, Winter, the ref with the
orange skin — with his expanding girth he really is becoming more
and more akin to the Tango man — didn't get a decision right all
afternoon, and he certainly wasn't going to give this. So, an
Addick gets it, yards offside, Wrighty makes a brilliant save,
Unsworth is flat footed and totally fails to react, and it's banged
in from close range by their right full back.
After that, we survived the rest of the half, without scares but
not without incident. On the stroke of half-time we are
awarded a slightly soft free-kick on the edge of their box. Gemmill
gives Stubbsy a hospital pass attempting to square it to him for a
shot on the edge of the box; there's a collision, and you can tell
immediately from Stubbsy's immobility on the ground that it's a
serious one. Exit Stubbsy, on a stretcher; enter Joey Yobo.
From the start of the second half we went at them, while still
looking insecure at the back, in what was a generally open and
enjoyable game. We had a lot of pressure, without creating
anything clear-cut. When the goal came, it was no surprise
that it came from more good work down the right, the ball being
worked eventually to Radzinski in the box; it goes through Li Tie
and tees up for McBride, who adjusts his feet quickly to send in a
decent shot just inside the post which beats Kylie all ends
up. A thoroughly deserved equaliser and, over on the
touchline, Rooney and Campbell return to the dug out.
To be fair, there was no real need to make changes as we were on
top, with Gary Naysmith having a great chance to give us the lead
when he blazed over from the edge of the box without a defender in
sight. However, our defensive frailty had not altered despite
the introduction of Yobo and it was no real surprise when they
nicked one. Careless play by Li Tie followed by some decent
passing around the edge of the box by them, and a neat enough finish
This meant an introduction for the boy wonder who nearly saved
the game for us with a great shot from the edge of the box. He
nearly made me a few bob too, as I had bet 2-2; Rooney to get the
last goal; and Charlton at half time and draw at full time.
Roughly six inches lower and I'm a very happy man indeed. With
Campbell also a very late substitute and Davie Weir acting as an
extra attacker, we ended up battering them with four forwards, but
it was all too little too late and we trooped home disconsolate from
a game we didn't deserve to lose.
Moyesy has a real dilemma with Rooney which I do not envy
him. Radzinski has played brilliantly and is worth his
place. For him to be looking over his shoulder, always
expecting to be replaced, will do nothing for the confidence which
is becoming more evident in his game. On the other hand, there
is little point in bringing on Wayne when he will only get three
touches of the ball, as yesterday. He's in the full England
squad, but not in Everton's starting line up. All the Charlton
fans around me were looking forward to seeing Rooney play and on the
evidence of what he did when he came on were asking how on earth we
can leave him on the bench.
For the rest of the squad, Gravesen was my Man of the Match by a
distance and made an unarguable case for staying in the team.
Li Tie looked a little off the pace while Gemmill made little
impression. The defence looked insecure but down the left I
think we have a problem; Unsy was for me back to his most
frustrating, and Naysmith didn't offer much either.
The Ref had a bad game but I think these things even themselves
out over the course of the season and I think Moyesey should watch
his post-match comments. We don't want to be labelled whingers
and nor do I think that criticising referees is likely to get us any
favours in future games.
Nevertheless, this was a good performance and we certainly
deserved to get something from the game. We dominated for
spells but need to tighten up and it is to be hoped that, with
Stubbs out probably for a few weeks at least, it is to be hoped that
Yobo can recapture his early season form. If he can, and Moyes can
solve the striking dilemma, there is no reason why we can't
consolidate the UEFA Cup spot.
From the Charlton programme: the Club with the biggest average
audience for televised games: Everton. A whopping average of
1.579M people have watched games involving the Blues, compared to an
overall average of 1.117M for all televised matches.
Come on you Blues!