|Charlton Athletic 1 v 0 Leeds United|
Saturday, 28th September 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Dominant Leeds somehow suffer defeat at Charlton
Sunday, 29th Sep 2019 12:31 by Tim Whelan
Charlton Athletic 1 Leeds United 0. Special report from our man at the Beamback, clutching his free pint of fruit flavoured cider.
At half past two yesterday afternoon all seemed well with the world as I headed for the centenary pavilion and the sun came out to bless Leeds with some much needed early autumn warmth. After our recent failings at home, I’d decided that our style of play might be more suited to away games and I was sure that our 100% record on our travels would be preserved.
Special guest at the beamback was Steve Hodge, and after some memories of his time at Leeds, talk moved on to Lee Bowyer coming up against his former club as Charlton boss. Hodge thought he was the last player he would have expected to move into management, but also said that despite Bowyer’s volatile nature, he had a heart of gold, and while at Leeds he was always the first to give up his time for the fans or for community work. OK.
There was just one change to the starting line-up, an enforced one with Hernandez dropping out through injury and Costa getting his first league start of the season. Hernandez isn’t keen on having to play wide on the right, so I thought it would benefit us to have someone for whom that is a natural position. Steve Hodge reminded us that Pablo is now 33, so might need a rest now and again.
As soon as the game began Leeds were on the front foot, and created a great chance inside two minutes. A great through ball sent Bamford clear, but he elected not to take an early shot and was forced wide. His cross wasn’t the best and failed to pick out the onrushing Shackleton, but Sarr nearly did the job for him, coming close to turning the ball into his own net.
From the resulting corner Phillips made a great save from Ben White, and the chances kept coming. Klich had a long range shot deflected wide, and a looping cross from Alioski found Bamford at the far post, but his header went into the ground and bounced wide. To be fair to our much-maligned striker, there wasn’t a lot of pace on the cross, and it was slightly too high for him to generate much power.
Alioski himself was the next to go close, with a fierce shot into the far corner, only for Phillips to pull off another fine save. Leeds were playing as well as I can remember, only to suffer the familiar failing of not being able to put the ball in the back of the net. There were other opportunities from Bamford and Cooper, but the Charlton defenders kept getting in the way.
At about this time I remember Costa running into a defender in the area and looking imploringly at the referee once he’d sunk to his knees. That’s not the first time he’s done that in the short time he’s been with us, and he needs to learn that you’re just not to get penalties for challenges like that, so he’d better off getting on with it and trying to beat his man, rather than getting a reputation as a player who goes down too easily.
After all our missed chances it was perhaps inevitable that Charlton would take the lead in the 32nd minute, with a goal you could use to define the phrase ‘against the run of play’. From a Charlton corner Lockyer shot from close range, which Casilla chose to punch rather than catch, despite it being low down with a number of bodies in front of him. That was always going to be risky and it just bounced of Bonne and into the back of the net.
That finally woke up the Charlton fans, after the home stands been as quiet as a library up until then. I wasn’t that concerned at that stage, with there being so much time to get back into the game, but after a shot from Costa that went well over the bar, we went in at half time one down.
In the queue for the loos at the break, the bloke behind me was moaning that Costa always looks for a pass rather than trying to beat his man. Right on cue Costa tried to get past a defender in the first minute of the second period, only to be tackled and lose the ball.
As ever, Bielsa made a couple of early substitutions when things aren’t going well, and this time Eddie and Forshaw came on for Alioski and Shackleton. So many us got our wish as we would now have two strikers up front, and another change in formation saw Phillips dropping back into central defence while Cooper moved to left back.
As a result we seemed to lose a little in midfield and the second half became rather scrappy and more even than the first. Kiko partially redeemed himself with a fine save from a free kick, and when we had a similar opportunity at the other end Phillips failed to get his shot over the top of the wall.
It was all getting very frustrating, and Bamford showed it was getting to him with a reckless foul on Gallagher, well after the ball had gone. It could well have been a red card, but Gallagher was back on his feet quickly and the ref decided he hadn’t been kicked that hard, so a yellow card would suffice. Perhaps the Bamford haters would have preferred him to have been sent off, accepting the inconvenience of being a man down in this game for the benefit of him missing the next three.
Bielsa decided that Bamford was likely to get himself into more bother and end up with a second yellow, so he was replaced by Roberts soon after. Roberts worked hard in a position just behind Eddie, but didn’t look like he was quite back to full fitness after his long time out with injury. With 15 minutes to go we finally had a good cross from Harrison, but Eddie was just unable to get on the end of it.
As time began to run out Charlton fell further back and our former player Jason Pearce came on as an extra defender. Despite his limitations I always admired Pearce, as he would always put his body on the line for the cause. The home side were able to scramble away a close range shot from Phillips, and a shot from Eddie went just wide, with Costa just failing to get a touch at the far post.
And our final opportunity came and went when Harrison weaved his way into the box looking for a shooting opportunity, and when it finally opened up for him he put his shot well over the bar. There were five minutes of injury time, but as many people have said, we wouldn’t have scored if we’d played on till midnight.
The Charlton fans celebrated as if they'd won the cup final, but one small consolation was to see Lee Bowyer coming on the field at the end to give the Leeds contingent in the crowd the Leeds salute. He obviously has fond memories of his time at our great club.
We all came away wondering how on earth we’d lost this game, but it’s no use dominating midfield and having lots of nice moves coming forward if you’re weak where it matters, in both goalmouths. It’s amazing how often the other side manages to score with their only decent chance of the game.
Is the answer to have Eddie playing from the start so we can score while we’re on top and deflate the other side’s confidence? Over to you, Bielsa.
Reuters Media Express
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