Charlton Athletic 0 Middlesbrough 1
by Dave Hearn
Firstly, the Boro lined up with a nice and solid 4-5-1-cum-4-3-3. We started off, bizarrely enough, after the week we’d had, really positively, really quickly and got straight into Charlton and started knocking it about like we were Real Madrid’s C team. It was very nice to watch indeed. The whole of the first-half went on like that really, we were lively and nice and crisp in possession but we didn’t really create too much. Carayol put a couple of crosses in, Adomah put one or two things across, and had one or two shots from distance, but nothing came of any of it. The thing with balls and crosses in to Jutkiewicz is that his lack of genuine mobility means it’s pretty much going to have to be put squarely on his head in order for him to produce something. We had a couple of shots from outside the area; Adomah with a free-kick just before half-time, Jutkiewicz blazed one high and wide and Leadbitter had one or two bits and bobs. Varga also had a crack but the Charlton ‘keeper could’ve dropped a handkerchief on it if he’d wanted to. Charlton Athletic barely threatened at all, to be honest. They couldn’t live with our midfield, they couldn’t handle our tactics. The young boy Pritchard on their left looked like he has a bit of something about him but he was very raw.
The second-half was much more of the same but we really started to take the game to them. We were striding around like a lion, a proud lion on a rock near a nice view of a sunset, and Charlton didn’t have an answer to it. Every single one of the lads was comfortable in possession, passing it and moving into space and looking for the next pass, the centre-halves were mixing it up a bit and playing it long and short or bringing it out to come into the midfield or just generally passing it to one of the midfielders and sitting back. It was a pleasure to watch at times.
Again, we got into really good positions but didn’t create a massive amount really, not if I’m being honest. Friend and Carayol played a nice one-two and Friend found himself in a shooting position but chose to drill it across the face, the old ‘cross shot’ technique, but Jutkiewicz couldn’t quite get his foot on it. We had a fair few shots from distance that looked decent but were charged down, we got to the by-line a few times but didn’t really put a lot of quality in. But we absolutely deserved the goal when it came and Jutkiewicz deserved it solely for the battering he takes from the opposition centre-halves without giving up. Their d*ck head striker, Yann Kermogant, who was like a cross between Luis Suarez and a cheap hooker, in that he was never off his arse, never off his back, all afternoon made a pig’s ear of a header when their ‘keeper had come out to collect/punch and then the big man just nodded it in.
After that we were pretty professional, we saw it out and looked like the team most likely to score when we won it back(which we were doing with ease, to be fair, all afternoon) and played it out to Carayol and/or Adomah. They had a strike from distance that Jason Steele had to do a ‘Hollywood dive’ to fist away and they went close with a header that landed on the roof of the net, that was when Leutwiler had come on, but other than that Charlton were absolutely awful. Really poor.
We looked drilled, professional and purposeful and Charlton didn’t really have any of those things. They couldn’t live with the way we were moving them around and the way we were stretching the play.
All of the lads played well, really well indeed, they all did their jobs and wanted the ball and tried to win it for us. The two centre-halves were on a different level and coasted through it, I don’t think either of them will have broken sweat to be honest. You can see why we’ve brought Richardson in; he’s a defender. A proper right-back, who can get forward, of course, but he likes to defend. The young boy for them never got past him all day and he had a really good game in general. Friend was very good as well, he looks like he knows when to go and when to hang back now, instead of just rampaging off all the time. Whitehead was really solid, he gave it away a couple of times but he doesn’t let it bother him, he asks for it back in the next move, he makes the angles and keeps us ticking over. He was strutting around that midfield like an agitated peacock at times, and nobody likes an agitated peacock. Leadbitter had a good game, he covered a lot, a very lot, of grass and even put two corners in that weren’t absolutely atrocious(he did!). Varga was exceptional for us; he can pass it, tackle properly, get forward, get back to cover, harries and pressures the opposition into giving it back to us and seems fairly quick too, much quicker than I was expecting.
The wide boys were really good, they were mixing it up between coming inside and going on the outside, or switching flanks(second-half) with a fair amount of success. They also had a habit of drifting infield a little bit and that’s when I was wondering what they were doing, we didn’t really have any width for bits and bobs of the first-half, but then in the blink of an eye one of them was on the touchline and the game had been completely stretched, which meant Charlton were being pulled all over because Varga and Leadbitter could start thinking about getting into the box and they didn’t quite know how to put a stop to it. We really did pull them all over at times. Carayol was good but he just needs a bit more composure when it comes to the final-third because he glides past defenders but invariably ends up wasting it, but he’s full of promise. Adomah was decent, he’s going to need three or four games because he was blowing out of his arse after half-an-hour but somehow managed to survive the full ninety. But he’s got quality, certainly. He seems happy to come inside or go on the outside and that makes it difficult for his marker. And we have the added bonus of these lads being able to go out and play, express themselves, because we have Whitehead and Richardson behind them mopping things up.
This is getting really long now so I’ll have to stop, but Steele barely had a save to make, except the ‘Hollywood’ one for the cameras(still goes down as a good save though – but I think because he was so bored at his lack of action he just fully went for it to make sure he got onto The Football League Show), he had bits of routine stuff to do. Apparently he’s got a knock to his ankle but we were at the other end of the ground so didn’t see it; I thought he’d had a knock on the head but he was limping a bit so the ankle thing would make sense.
Anyway, that’s enough of that. It’s too long isn’t it. Amazing how much stuff there is to say after a good performance like that. Charlton were absolutely awful, worse than awful in truth, so we can’t get too carried away because we won’t be playing that sort of outfit every week, but it was a good, solid, professional performance full of causes for optimism.