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Premiership
Saturday, 24th February 2007

Charlton Athletic 4
West Ham United 0

by Gordon Thrower


There’s something not quite right about football clubs South of the river. First you have Millwall, whose supporters are the result of some cruel medical experiment perpetrated upon the people of Victorian Bermondsey. The results were so horrific that, even today, intra-family marriages and many types of genetic experimentation are banned by law. Then you have Crystal Palace, a club so lacking in proper tradition that it changes its club colours and nickname more regularly than a Millwall supporter changes his underwear.

Then there’s Charlton, the strange club with no actual supporters of its own. I know I’ve mentioned this before but being based south of the river myself – for tax reasons you understand – I happen to know a fair few Charlton supporters. The thing is that when I first met them they all used to support someone else. I used to think this was some sort of statistical anomaly but over the years my habit of eavesdropping on opposing supporters conversations suggests that this “following two teams” habit is the norm at the Valley. My suspicions were heightened by the fact that the biggest reaction of the day from the home support came in the Horse and Groom pub on the arrival of Man Utd’s winner at Fulham – as one bloke in a Charlton shirt put it “that could be the goal that gives us the title”. There were other conversations – the stories involving a rare sighting of (and forgive me while I consult my notes here) the “rare sighting of a class 37 with on Southern rails” and a possibly misheard mention of “detachable trunions at Clapham Junction” were particularly, er, fascinating.

Team news? Well in the latest attempt at rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, we had what was probably our 96th different back four combination of the season as a result of injuries, suspensions etc. Five changes to the previous match left us with a starting line-up of Green, Dailly, Konchesky, Ferdinand, Davenport, Benayoun, Mullins, Quashie, Etherington, Cole, Tevez.

The start, well Konchesky picked up a yellow card for going through the back of Ambrose. Ambrose then endeared himself to the travelling support by throwing himself to the ground when Benayoun looked at him in a funny way. Ref Styles, never one to pass up on a chance to make a fool of himself, gave the free kick which was put well wide. As is usual when we encounter Styles we expect nothing and that was what we got. Typical was a throw that clearly came off a defender which was given the wrong way leading to a break that required a block from Quashie, Dailly having been stranded halfway up the pitch waiting for the throw that never came. Quashie then picked up a deserved yellow for a challenge on Ambrose, though Song’s identical challenge on Konchesky was somehow deemed innocent.

Up the other end Tevez fed Mullins. Thatcher stuck a hand out to block the cross but we’d have needed a half decent ref to have given it. A long cross from the right then found Konchesky whose cross/shot went across the face of the goal.

We decided that whoever got the first goal was likely to win. We were right but the goal owed a lot to the lino. Marcus Bent – who to be fair to the officials was only two yards offside - fed Ambrose who guided the ball home unmarked in the box. The home support nearly got as excited as they had been earlier when Man Utd had scored. I expect it’s the colours they like.

Once we had gone behind that was it really. Beanayoun lost out to a waist high challenge that ended up feeding Thomas who, not having to deal with the inconvenience of a challenge, ran half the length of the pitch before slotting past the woefully unprotected Green.

I’ll be honest I missed the third. The lunchtime session with the Man Utd, sorry Charlton, fans in the Horse and Groom meant a pre-half time visit to the “facilities” had become necessary. I didn’t realise Charlton had added another goal – I thought the slight murmur around the ground was a throw in or something. Only the electronic scoreboard suggested any change in the scoreline.

The second half was a bit of a blur really. Harewood replaced Etherington. Young got away with a stamp on Tevez that would have seen a yellow card had victim and perpetrator been reversed. Hasselbaink hit the post with a curling shot from outside the box. Diawara finally got booked for the “studs-up” challenge that seemed to be in vogue on the day. Tevez’s free-kick was superb but Carson pulled off an excellent save and the on loan ‘keeper also had to be alert to save from Davenport’s header shortly after.

Blanca replaced Cole and Benayoun got on the end of a loose ball shortly after but, having made room for the shot, failed to get enough on the ball to trouble the ‘keeper. Harewood then forced a corner, taking exception to being trodden on at the same time. Harewood then could have been through on the ‘keeper had Quashie not over-hit his pass – though a little more effort in trying to reach the ball wouldn’t have gone amiss.

While all this was going on the travelling support had decided it was time to have some fun. In a spell of sheer bloody minded defiance the “We Are West Ham’s Claret And Blue Army” chant started. It wasn’t quite up to Villa Park ‘91standard but this time we only had Styles to deal with rather the even more obnoxious Hackett. There was the occasional pause – mainly to sing “West Ham ‘til I die” as a way of saving the hands from the ceaseless clapping but the chanting was pretty much constant. Even a fourth goal from Thomas on the break wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits – the first reaction being a chorus of “Bubbles”. Followed by the accurate comment that Charlton would be “going down with the West Ham”.

Harewood broke free before the end to be flattened by Thatcher in the box but, it was in keeping the general crapness of the day that Styles was content to let Thatcher get away with it once more. The match petered out and the South London side had won their cup final bless ‘em.

Well barring some sort of miracle we’ll be back at the Valley next season and I expect they’ll still charge us £35 quid for a ticket informing us that the stadium is “no smokin” – presumably the spelling being a standard form so that the chavvy elements of their support can understand. I expect that most of the home support won’t be there having found another Premiership club to watch during the close season. Unfortunately, unlike Charlton “fans”, we don’t have the luxury of being able to change clubs.

The funniest comment came at the station when an oh so brave chavvy Charlton fan shouted – from the safety of opposite platform mind – “say hello to Palace for us”. The reply of “Tell ‘em yourself as you pass by on your way to Millwall” was probably wasted on one so unintelligent, as was the subsequent chant of “hands up if you’ve had chav’s mum” which was mainly notable for the fact that a couple of the Met’s finest raised their hands to join in!

Now if only Southend can stay up – I would like a day at the seaside next August!



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Not his fault – had no cover when he needed it most.


Christian Dailly
Battled gamely but his age is beginning to catch up – especially when having to get back 80 yards following another inexplicable throw-in decision.


Paul Konchesky
Poor in distribution throughout. Deserved the booking.


Anton Ferdinand
I missed the third goal. So apparently did he.


Calum Davenport
Bizarrely he posed our biggest attacking threat forcing a number of saves.


Nigel Quashie
Gave the ball away with alarming regularity.


Hayden Mullins
I wasn’t convinced that it would work with him and Quashie in the same side. I was right.


Yossi Benayoun
Anonymous – not quite as much as Etherington but nearly so.


Matthew Etherington
Anonymous.


Carlos Tevez
Ran his legs off at the back, in midfield and up front. Similar commitment from the rest of the side wouldn’t see us losing matches like this.


Carlton Cole
I forgot he was there until he went off


Substitutes


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Etherington, 45) One shot saved. Should have got a penalty when flattened by Thatcher. That was it really.


Kepa Blanco
(Replaced Cole, 58) A couple of good lay-offs but received little in the way of service or support.


Shaun Newton
(Replaced Mullins, 72) If the idea of bringing him on was to give us some width it failed.


Rob Carroll
Did not play.


John Paintsil
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: R.Styles.

Attendance: 27,111.

Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Christian Dailly, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Calum Davenport, Nigel Quashie, Hayden Mullins, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Carlton Cole.

Goals: None.

Booked: Paul Konchesky 5 Nigel Quashie 15 Yossi Benayoun 76      .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Charlton Athletic

Carson, Young, Thatcher, El Karkouri, Diawara, Ambrose, Holland, Song, Thomas, M.Bent, D.Bent..

Substitutes: Hasselbaink (M.Bent 35), Zheng (D.Bent 82), Faye (Song 85)..

Subs not used: Randolph, Rommedahl..

Goals: Ambrose (24), Thomas (34, 80), D.Bent (41)..

Booked: El Karkouri (37), Song (41), Diawara (54)..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Carlos Tevez


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