"Oi Powell, can't you tell Francis he's shite?"
The last time an old man came down to remonstrate with the manager, we were being tonked by Brighton. Today, we never looked in any danger of that outcome, but it is alarming to see how the confidence of the back four in particular has nosedived to the extent it has. The gentleman of advancing years, having delivered his question full voice, turned and walked back to his seat. The stewards left him alone, and the manager quite wisely, did not even turn round.
I still find it alien that some fans boo the team, but it is definitely happening again, and not just at the end of the half or full time either. Yes, the players are collectively poor, but no worse than most in this division, and no Powell is not the Messiah, but hopefully sensible fans always knew that. It is interesting to see the players berated, but the sainted manager excused though, because the current slump, arrested by todays draw, is as much down to him, as it is to the players he has inherited from Parkinson.
As for the game itself, the first half was poor, poor, poor. It took a defensive mistake, of course; from Francis, inevitably, in the absence of Doherty, to put Tranmere ahead. Having said that, he is quite the conundrum is Francis. Bloody dangerous to the wellbeing of the team defending, but also quite dangerous going forward, and crossing into the box. If only he could defend, he would be er....a full back?
Hats off to Llera who seized his chance to shine, capping his performance off with a goal. Why do I always get the feeling with him though, that his defensive displays are like watching Bambi take to the ice for the first time. A slip never seems to be too far away, but credit where it is due today, as his errors were few, and fortunately non-critical. His attitude was spot on, and it has been some time since we have seen the trademark crossfield passing that seems to be his signature move. He fully deserves to keep his place for Tuesday night, especially as it is against his old employers.
As for the passing, it is quite obvious that the players have been told to pass and probe, and to keep doing it until they find a way through. The problem with that, is that it means the team as a whole has to be comfortable with the ball, and quite frankly the majority of our players are really not good enough to do that without giving it away under pressure. When done well, like Brighton, it is effective. When done at Charlton it causes rumbles of discontent from the crowd, and more than the occasional heart stopping moment when the ball ends up with an opponent in a dangerous position after a period of sterile to-ing and fro-ing, usually along the fragile back line.
Racon had one of his better games today, and was a problem for Tranmere, particularly in the second half, when Charlton remembered that it was ok to join in and play. The problems he caused though were not the ones he should have been causing, namely incisive passing through the opposition back line for a predatory forward to latch onto. Rather, he was causing most problems running at the defence with the ball at his feet. Valid, but doesn't detract from the fact we need a creative ball player in the heart of the midfield.
As for Tranmere, did they think they were playing Barcelona or something? I only ask because the slowing down of the game, and prevarication that ensued at every dead ball situation, right from the off, was quite obviously an instruction from their manager. What did he fear?, our high tempo, slick passing game? I really have no idea, but the referee should have clamped down on it immediately.
So, we have a draw after four straight losses. It isn't good enough of course, and yet again, this was a game that Charlton should have won. The crucial thing now, is to get a result on Tuesday night at MK Dons, and I shall be there to see it. Now is also the time for the loanees to be brought in. If he wants a big lump up front, then fine, but do not forget central midfield or centre back, as failing to strengthen those two areas may well be the difference between sneaking into the playoffs, or a season of mid table obscurity. Frankly, we deserve no more than the latter, but can realistically dream of the former with the right recruits.