Charlton 2 -1 Leicester
In searing sun on the last day of August, yesterday felt very much like the last stand of the summer before September arrives with its first hints of autumn. Yet for Charlton, their game against Leicester felt like a new beginning – as if the sun was finally shining on them for the first time this season. For the first time this campaign, everything clicked into place for the Addicks as they gained their first three points of against a Leicester side that had thus far been unbeaten.
After an encouraging performance in the cup tie atHuddersfield, Chris Powell stuck with his new-look 3-5-2 formation and found even more success this time around. With Leon Cort, Michael Morrison and DorianDervite united at the back we looked as solid defensively as we ever have this season. Lawrie Wilson and RhoysWiggins too – both perfectly suited to their wing-backroles – had their best games. In midfield, Powell opted for Dale Stephens, Johnnie Jackson and BradleyPritchard. All three were solid, but it was Pritchard who especially stood out. He was everywhere at once, buzzing and prodding and hassling and harrying and running.
Pritchard would be nailed on as “Man of the Match” if it were not for the performances of Yann Kermorgant and Simon Church in attack. The latter ran himself into the ground with a ceaseless commitment to chasing every scrap he could find, while the former, as he always does against his old club, played like a man possessed, determined to inflict damage of the club who rejected him.
Yet it was Charlton’s other former Fox, Michael Morrison, who headed Charlton into the lead after 27 minutes. In had been a fairly even and cagey affair until that point, but Charlton were growing into the game and began to amount some pressure on the Leicester goal. After Kermorgant had been fouled by Ignasi Miquel, Kasper Schmeichel failed in attempt to punch away Stephens’ resultant free-kick. A corner followed. Once again it was Stephens with charged with the delivery, but this time the damage was even more severe, as Morrison charged onto the cross and forced the ball home.
From 1-0 onwards, the two sides began to lose the tentativeness that defined the opening exchanges and chances fell thick and fast. At first, they fell to Charlton. Church had the chance to double the Addicks’ lead just a few minutes after the opener, but the low cross caughthim unawares and the ball bounced off his shin and harmlessly sailed over the bar. Then, after the break, it was the turn of Kermorgant, whose free-kick was seemingly perfectly placed in the bottom right corner ofSchmeichel’s goal, but the Dane zipped across with lightning speed to tip it wide.
It didn’t take long, however, for the second goal to finally arrive. Another corner, this time from Jackson, was sent over with perfection. Schmeichel ran into Cortin an attempt to punch, and the route to goal was clear for Kermorgant to nod in. A special moment, not only because it was Kermorgant against Leicester, but because it was right in front of the Covered End, whose fans the French striker has formed such a bond with.
Leicester may have been down to 10 men, after MattyJames was shown a second booking for dissent, but they still had an abundance of quality on the pitch – AnthonyKnockaert, Chris Wood, David Nugent. Yet Charlton, whose formation allowed them to switch to a back five whenever necessary, dealt with their threats easily. Of course, there were nervous moments as the clocked ticked towards the 90-minute mark, but Leicester never created a clear-cut chance, and were restricted mostly to wayward long-shots.
In fact, it was Charlton who looked more like adding another goal. Schmeichel pulled off a save even his Dad would have marveled at to keep out a Kermorgantheader, and Church was unlucky to see his effort from the rebound hit the post. The Welsh striker later had a goal-bound shot blocked, while substitute Jordan Cousins almost made his mark after turning in the box and getting a shot away only for Schmeichel to smother.
Heading into this game, many Charlton fans felt that the game would either end in a humiliating defeat or a stirring comeback with backs to the wall defending thrown in to secure a famous victory. I’m not sure it was either. Yesterday felt more like nothing more than a solid, well-rounded performance, with every player giving their all. What had troubled so much about the season’s previous poor form, was that excellent players had looked so out of sorts. Against Leicester, however, they played like Charlton fans know they can. The summer may be ending, but Charlton’s season is just beginning.