Win at home, be hard to beat away and you’ll not be far off! Tends to be the blueprint for success. Well, the last few days have seen those roles reversed, but the same ultimate outcome and still bang on track.
Whilst it would be easy for the doom and gloom to set in following last night’s 0-0 stalemate with Charlton, the bigger picture still looks rosy; and although there was very little to cheer on the night, there were still many positives to take from that game.
On paper, to many, it looked another three points; after all they were coming into the game off the back of a 2-1 home defeat to lowly Wimbledon.
Of the two home games we faced in the space of four days, this looked all ends up the one where the three points would come, but games aren’t played on paper and last night we saw in its full splendour the fascinating aspects of this wonderful game we love.
Make no bones about it, Charlton are a hell of a side. They clearly came here with a plan to ensure they wouldn’t be another statistic, and they executed that plan almost to perfection.
To give them even more credit, Alexander changed the shape and system of his side to combat Charlton – something he hasn’t elected to do at all during our all-singing-all-dancing start to the season.
Whether those decisions were the right ones is open for debate, and only come the end of the season will we truly know just how big a point last night’s was. But on this evidence I’d say if you do finish above Charlton, you’ll have had a hell of a season.
A hot topic following the match was Paddy Madden. Not the best of evenings for the Irishman, granted – subbed after 65 minutes and almost body checking the manager on his way to the dugout. Frustration, no doubt.
He had a poor game by his standards, there’s no escaping that, but in his defence that game was not set up for him – not in the position he had been deployed, be it by instruction or circumstance.
Dropping deep into midfield to get involved isn’t his game. He’s not a supreme passer of the ball, he’s never claimed to be, and there have been many times in the past where he’s given it away cheaply around the halfway line after finding himself in unfamiliar territory.
In all honesty, there feels like a This town isn’t big enough for the both of us thing going on between himself and KVV.
Bizarrely, the Dutchman now looks a mere shadow of his early season self.
Is it a coincidence? Can he play with Paddy? Sure, there will be points towards last week’s demolition of Southend as proof that they can play together and all of this is a touch OTT..
Perhaps, but you can’t help but think with a more balanced side out there last night that we may have fared a little better regarding the outcome of the game. Easy with hindsight, isn’t it.
Charlton set up with an extremely rigid, yet at times fluent 4-5-1 formation. The back four were well drilled, with a defensive midfielder sat in front and another highly effective bank of four across the middle with a lone, hard-working striker.
On a tight pitch such as Glanford Park, an opponent’s worst nightmare. Credit to Russell Slade who has forged a respectable career as a manager and had clearly done his homework for this game.
Their plan was clear. Keep it tight, stop us from playing, and try and grab something. It almost played out to perfection, and they could have easily headed back to the capital with three points in the bag had just one of their two excellent chances towards the end found the net.
Would it have been harsh on us? Arguably so, but many would have labelled it the classic away performance.
We needed to be cuter. We needed off the ball movement, overlaps and a general faster pace to our play. It all seemed too laboured and Charlton were probably as comfortable as they’re going to be all season. Would we have scored if the game was still being played now? I doubt it. Again, testament to them.
The worry now is this being the yardstick for all opposition teams to visit Glanford Park over the course of the season. As we’ve already witnessed, give this team time and space and it’ll swallow you whole without chewing.
You’d be foolish to come here and open up, as many teams have already found to their detriment, and with this in mind Saturday’s forthcoming shoot-out against a like-minded Sheffield United side looks an absolute belter.
Our last home league defeat ironically was against the Blades, giving them additional confidence on top of their three game winning run.
Will they open up entirely? Probably not, but they won’t be anywhere near as robust and deep-sitting as Charlton were which should make for a much more entertaining game.
Last night, an extra 500+ supporters responded to calls from other fans to get behind the lads, and whilst the entertainment from a goals perspective wouldn’t have been quite what they were expecting, there can still be no doubting the effort and commitment that the players were putting in against a very good side.
Hopefully this won’t have adversely affected those returning fans ahead of Saturday. Give them another chance, there will be plenty of goals, guaranteed.
This morning, the team are still top of the pile having scored way more goals than anyone else and now have the second best defensive record off the back of three successive clean sheets.
How times change, eh?