Blackburn 0-1 Charlton #BRFC #CAFC

A vicious gale struck the departing Charlton fans as we left Ewood Park on Saturday, however weathering a Lancashire storm is what the Addicks did admirably all afternoon.

The only real surprise from Chris Powell’s line up was that there were no surprises. During the week there was much talk that both skipper Johnnie Jackson and talisman Yann Kermorgant could be in line for starting berths however neither made the final cut and instead had to settle for places on the bench.

Richard Wood’s recent good performances saw him get the nod to partner Mathew Morrison at the back, with Dorian Dervite forced to look on from the side lines, and given the level of performance from the defence over the last couple of games that Morrison/Wood partnership looks set to continue.

Charlton began the game brightly and it was pleasantly surprising to see that our play was a bit more expansive than usual away from home, where we more often than not play the hard working and well organised card to a tee, but often at the expense of anything more adventurous (and with good cause given our away form over the last few years).

Within ten minutes of the start this attacking nous was rewarded when the Blackburn defence were caught flat footed and unable to react to a beautifully weighted chip from Dale Stephens into the path of the onrushing Simon Church who chested the ball and expertly dispatched the goal with a side foot volley indicative of a striker who is growing into full confidence after a winning goal for his country during the week.

Positioned at the other end of the pitch from Church’s strike I never appreciated at the time how technically brilliant it was from both Stephens and the Welshman but creativity like that is what we’ve been crying out for and if Stephens can provide incisive moments like that on a regular basis then maybe that Premier League offer which seemed to distract him at the start of last season might not be a one off.

Unsurprisingly Blackburn began to turn up the heat and invariably this meant looking for the prolific Jordan Rhodes at every opportunity. Ben Hamer, who had quite possibly his best game for Charlton since joining the club, was equal to everything Blackburn could throw at the Charlton goal but perhaps his standout moment of the game came midway through the first half when a brilliant top corner save thwarted a stunning Rhodes volley and drew a standing ovation from the travelling Addicks (and a considerable number of the Rovers faithful too.

In addition to some fantastic shot stopping, particularly impressive was his collecting from crosses, I had my heart in my mouth every time Blackburn launched a ball into the box but Hamer met every single one and, apart from one attempt at a punch, held each one confidently. The second half was again a tale of Blackburn pressure, the official stats show 59% Rovers possession but it felt more like 70%. However as the game wore on it was clear that the battle for the middle of the park, which has been our downfall so far this season was being won by Charlton, with Jordan Cousins again imperious as a defensive midfielder who is also able to bring the ball forwards and start attacking plays (am I allowed to compare him to Yaya Toure yet ?).

Combining this with Dale Stephens continued fantastic play and what is becoming a typically excellent performance from Lawrie Wilson at right back – at this rate Chris Solly will struggle to regain his place when fit – and Charlton were able to allow Blackburn to enjoy the pressure but restricted their ability to threaten Ben Hamer’s goal effectively – the fact that both sides enjoyed the same number of shots (11/3 on target) as each other despite Rovers greater share of the possession is testament to this.

Rumoured Addicks summer target Alan Judge was brought on to inject some creativity into the Rovers attack however he was neutralised as efficiently as their other options by a defensive display from the whole Charlton side that seemed to grow in confidence as each wave of blue and white attack broke on an all red wall. Kermorgant (66), Cedric Evina (75) and Jackson (82) joined the fray and were able to contribute to the solid display which was required for the final 20 minutes. Incredibly the referee found a minimum of six minutes of injury time to add to the 230 travelling Addicks misery which quickly turned to elation as the final whistle was finally blown.

Undoubtedly Saturday’s win was incredibly important in terms of points and league position and meant that the Forest and Blackpool results now look like the building blocks discussed in the match preview. However I think what was more important may have been the nature of the win and the standard of performance in key positions. Ben Hamer showed all the attributes that can make him a top class goalkeeper, Simon Church scored a goal which was not only a beautiful finish but also maintains that goal scoring momentum which is so key for strikers. Jordan Cousins and Dale Stephens showed the beginnings of a what could be a fruitful partnership in the middle and the defence is starting to look solid as a back four, which means we don’t have to rely on three centre backs to shore up.

The Wigan game will bring with it different pressures, pressures which have all too often been our undoing at previous “Football for a Fiver” fixtures. However the whole team should take real confidence from Saturday’s wonderful performance and against a Wigan team which is currently playing poorly there are grounds for confidence that Charlton can extend this unbeaten run to four games.



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