POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Charlton

POST MATCH RAMBLE: Wednesday -v- Charlton

With the possibility of facing Steel City rivals, Sheffield United, in the Quarter-Finals of the FA Cup, we couldn’t have wished for a more winnable tie than struggling Charlton at home to seal our place in the last eight of the prestigious competition.

And going into Monday night’s rearranged fixture, everything seemed to be heading in our favour as we were at home and could refresh and regroup whilst the Addicks had a long trip from the Capital to contend with, we’d just come back off a pretty comfortable win at Huddersfield whereas Charlton had to endure a real 90 minute slog to try and grind out a result at home to promotion chasing QPR and, with the larger squad out of the two, we were able to rest six of the players that ended up starting on Monday.

My honest opinion when I heard the team news for Huddersfield was that Stuart Gray had shown great prudence by resting his players in time for the Cup clash so that they would be fresh against a tired Charlton.

We got the three points with maybe not a ‘weakened’ side but nonetheless definitely not one that was at its full strength. However, maybe making so many changes for Monday perhaps unsettled the side that was jubilant following the West Yorkshire triumph.

At half past seven, though, on Monday when I was initially notified of the team news, my only disgruntlement was that a starting berth had been granted to Benik Afobe, who has looked poor so far in his tenure at S6, barring a couple of bright touches in his debut against Barnsley. I wasn’t holding my breath in the slightest at the thought of Leon Best and Benik up top together as neither have looked fully match fit thus far at Hillsborough.

Sam Hutchinson 01

Missing presumed inocent

It was perhaps unfortunate that Sam Hutchinson (or ‘Hutchins’ as Carlton Palmer inadvertently refers to him as) didn’t feature in the initial Wednesday eleven, however his track record with injuries would’ve given him no favours in claiming a starting shirt twice in 72 hours.

There’s no doubt that nerves were jangling inside the 24,000 strong crowd in all four sides of the ground when Mark Clattenburg’s shrill blow of the whistle signalled the start of the long-awaited game.

The start Stuart Gray’s men made early on hardly settled the butterflies inside S6, and I don’t mean early as in the first few minutes, we were AWFUL right up until Charlton deservedly drew first blood after 22 minutes.

What particularly stunned me was the fact that it seemed from where I was sat Giles Coke, Glenn Loovens and perhaps even Miguel Llera were the only ones in blue and white who looked genuinely up for the battle ahead of them.

Gray talks about putting your head in where it hurts, as such, and only the aforementioned three seemed to do just that, especially Coke who I thought carried our midfield through large spells in that first 20 minutes and is often overlooked by Wednesdayites as one of our key players.

Since Stuart has taken charge of the team we’ve looked competitive in every game and given it a right good go, maybe apart from the first 45 minutes against Bournemouth, which left me perplexed and most of all disappointed with our attitude and application in those early exchanges and now in this game too.

In contrast, Chris Powell’s men fought for every ball and gave as good as they got until they had nothing left in the tank. The Addicks seemed to be getting joy in the Owl’s half left, right and centre with our flat midfield two leaving gaps for the likes of Simon Church and particularly Astrit Ajdarevic to drop in-between the lines and release the ball into the wide positions where our full-backs were enduring a torrid time due to the pace the visitors possessed.

Deflated Maguire

Failed to clear

The offensive tactics of the Londoners were evident as they looked to get their wide men running in behind the full-backs and pulling the ball back to the attackers in red. This was a common theme in the minutes leading up to the Charlton’s first goal as Ajdarevic saw one of his scruffy efforts squirm just wide as Chris Maguire failed to efficiently clear the ball out of the 18-yard area leaving the home crowd evermore restless.

The deadlock was broken on 22 minutes as another pull back from the right saw Ajdarevic have his initial effort blocked by Llera before the tricky Callum Harriott sweetly struck home a left-footed half volley into the Kop net, which no one could deny had been coming.

A couple of half chances for loanees Gary Gardner and Leon Best stung the palms of Charlton ‘keeper Ben Hamer, who was increasingly getting on my nerves as time wore on.

The half-time whistle brought with it a few boos of frustration and disappointment more than anything as the Wednesdayites who had turned out in numbers were left to reflect on a hugely poor performance in a game that I personally branded as probably our biggest since promotion. Such a great chance of facing our bitter rivals was rapidly slipping out of our grasp before our very eyes, surely Stu could get something out of the boys for the second half.

As the second period begun we immediately looked as if we’d woken up and realised the importance of the fixture as we actually looked as though we were prepared to put pressure on our relegation-threatened visitors and really show some intent attacking the Kop end.

Leon Best Vertical

At their Best

On 57 minutes we got the one lucky break we were desperately hoping for as Llera’s knock down from a Maguire set-piece saw Leon Best sweep the ball home with the left boot and into the top corner, with the aid of a slight deflection. Gray immediately brought on big Atdhe Nuhiu and Caolan Lavery to bolster our attack leaving us with FIVE forwards on the field. The signs were as clear as they’d been all night that we were actually keen to win this.

And so we pressed, with Nuhiu’s head like a 50 pence coin being his downfall once again as his poorly directed header lacked any sufficient power and Charlton were able to scramble clear. The atmosphere at S6 was superb as the desperation for a second and seemingly decisive goal was forever intensifying and growing.

But then a cheap and, in fairness, harsh free-kick given away by Llera saw Johnnie Jackson whip in a trademark perfect left-footed delivery for Church to beat the helpless/hopeless Damien Martinez with the suspect use of an arm rather than head, that left the former flapping in no-man’s-land and leaving the Owls to stare an FA Cup exit right in the face oncemore.

Set-pieces seemed to be our only route to the Charlton net as Nuhiu’s bullet header from a right-wing corner cannoned off the inside of the post, only for Hamer and that flipping beard of his to pounce on the rebound right on the line underneath the desperate Kop end.

Hamer then spilled Lavery’s drilled cross from the right before seeing Best inadvertently blocking Coke’s follow up, which would’ve been surely the precious equaliser we were all begging for had he not been in the way.

Those final few minutes and the five minutes of stoppage time that followed couldn’t help but give me sickening flashbacks of the dying embers of the Palace game of 2010 with a bunch of jubilant cockney’s in one end singing their handful of songs with that relentless banging drum whilst the other end of S6 chewed on their receding fingernails hoping for a goal that was never going to come.

Maguire’s deflected effort from similar range to his stoppage time winner against Barnsley brought another save out of Hamer, that I hate to say, really brought the best out of him.

Wednesday fan with hat

What a letdown

My disappointment at full-time was massive, with all the hype over this fifth round tie and for us to go out with a whimper at half-time really surprised me as our recent defeats against Derby and Wigan have been a case of us either been unlucky or beaten by the better side.

Tonight we had no excuses, despite the Addick’s winning goal being handball. We didn’t deserve anything from that game based on the 90 minute performance and the delight on the visitor’s faces was there for all to see with Powell punching the air in delight and celebrating with the travelling support that never stopped singing to their credit.

Some may argue that our season is over now with safety close to being secured and us being out of the Cup. Hopefully we can claim a few more wins between now and the close season starting this Saturday at home to Middlesbrough, UTO!

Jonathan
Twitter: @Owlsalive & @jonowlzz
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com


3 Comments

  1. a VERY FAIR AND HONEST APPRAISAL, I WISH YOU LUCK FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON

    • Don’t you just love timewasting goalkeepers and premiership refs, we play Charlton at home 21 Apr lets hope they don’t need 3 points to stay up at that point , would love it (in kevin keegan mode) if they go down now.

  2. Top & accurate report. Keep them coming.

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