Charlton Athletic 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Throstles and Robins must compete again
A rearguard action from Albion secured a draw against Charlton Athletic in the cup tie at The Valley. The Baggies made four changes, bringing in Leon Barnett, Martin Albrechtsen, Felipe Teixeira and Chris Brunt, whilst resting Pele, Paul Robinson, James Morrison and Kevin Phillips and switching from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 formation.
Albion could hardly have made a worse start, falling behind after 54 seconds. Charlton flung a deep cross into the penalty area and after Hoefkens and Barnett were both beaten to headers, Cesar hesitated, allowing Zhi to swivel and fire in a low shot which went in off the foot of the post. Minutes later Dean Kiely made the first of many saves when he beat away a shot from McLeod. A sort of equilibrium settled over the game with both sides content to push the ball around without committing players forward to really threaten a goal. Then, in the 34th minute, the Baggies constructed an excellent equaliser, the only piece of real class from either side all afternoon. Jonathan Greening played an inch perfect crossfield ball to Chris Brunt out on the left hand touchline. The winger tricked his way inside his marker before picking out Ishmael Miller with a pinpoint centre, which the striker headed firmly past the home keeper.
Albion brought on Pele for Bostjan Cesar and Sherjill MacDonald for Zoltan Gera at the break. Early on the Dutchman won a corner from which Chris Brunt almost scored, his inswinging cross being tipped over at full stretch by Weaver. Then Dean Kiely made a one handed stop at the other end, before a shot by Miller, from an acute angle, whistled past the base of the far post. This was the last notable threat from the visitors as play was concentrated at the opposite end of the pitch. The Baggies came under increasing pressure and Dean Kiely made at least three good stops to keep the score level. Albion had brought on James Morrison for Robert Koren when, with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining, Hoefkens went down injured. After lengthy treatment he was forced to continue and the home side responded by bringing on fresh legs with a triple substitution. From the far end it appeared that the Addicks had snatched a late winner with a goalbound close range header, only for Dean Kiely to make a flying save to grasp the ball on the line. In injury time the Baggies keeper made one last save to secure a replay, at The Hawthorns, a week on Tuesday.
Albion were not at their best, which is not surprising, given the hectic Christmas schedule and selections and substitutions which were more concerned with resting regulars (only three, Kiely, Hoefkens and Greening, played ninety minutes) than winning the match. We were unlucky that Charlton scored before the reshaped defence had time to settle in. The tactic of one up front was not a success. In fairness however, a draw away to a side fifth in our Division was a reasonable result, the equivalent in Premiership terms of Arsenal earning a replay at Anfield. Compared to the efforts of Blackburn, Bolton, Everton, Birmingham and Sunderland we did well! On the other hand the game itself was not very entertaining, but perhaps we've been spoiled of late with some thrilling performances, sometimes you do have to hang on for a result.
Dean Kiely is the only choice for man-of-the-match; back at his old club he had his best performance yet in an Albion team. It's difficult to judge the outfield players. The defence kept a clean sheet for 89 minutes, but also allowed Charlton 18 shots on goal. Were the four midfielders who played only part of the game better or worse than the three who played the full 90 minutes? How much credit should Miller be given for his lone role up front. I think I'll pass!
The only other time that Albion have drawn 1-1 at Charlton in an FA Cup tie, was the second game of three in 1930-31. The clubs had already drawn 2-2 at The Hawthorns and in the third match, at Villa Park, the Baggies won 3-1 and went on to famously win a unique FA Cup and Promotion double! The first FA Cup meeting and the only other match at The Valley was in 1922-23 when the Robins from Third Division (South) shocked the top flight Throstles by winning 1-0. We've met an additional three times at The Hawthorns. In 1946-47 Charlton won 2-1 and went on to win the FA Cup for the only time in their history. In 1954-55 Albion were the FA Cup Holders but lost 2-4, but most recently, in 1989-90, Division Two Albion beat Division One Charlton 1-0, thanks to a goal from Tony Ford.
ALBION FORMRATE: FAIR
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: DEAN KIELY
There were several FA Cup Third Round matches involving ex-Albion personnel. Bolton managed by ex-Baggies boss Gary Megson lost 0-1 at home to Sheffield United managed by his successor Bryan Robson. There were five ex-Albion players at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland had Kieran Richardson and Paul McShane (who scored an own goal) as they lost 0-3 to a Wigan side containing Jason Koumas and Kevin Kilbane, with Chris Kirkland as an unused sub. Lee Hughes was part of the giant killing Oldham side which won 1-0 at Everton. On loan Bartosz Slusarski was an unused sub for Blackpool as was James Chambers for Leicester, but Kanu was part of the Portsmouth side that won 1-0 at Ipswich. Most pleasing of all was that Villa made their customary Third Round exit and Curtis Davies was on hand to witness the two late Man Utd goals.
Awful game. Charlton have been dismal for about a month, but we were a very poor second best. As it was a cup game we got a good allocation of tickets and we had a good number there, the rest of the ground was well under half full.
Not much football to talk about. Charlton made a number of good attacks down their left/our right. Charlton always had two players on Miller and the next nearest or next nearest two were usually Charlton players. Gera was busy on the right, especially defending while Hoefkins stood off the winger by ten yards.
It was a cold afternoon and I thought the players would have wanted to run around more to keep warm.
It was so bad I would not have been surprised, or more dissappointed, if in extra time we had stood aside and offered Charlton a free goal.
If that had been a pre-season friendly it would have been very frightening.
Down South Baggie:
Before the game I had a bad-feeling about the coming afternoon, as Beattie/McDonald/Miller couldn?t hit a cow?s arse with a banjo in the shooting practice and Steele spilled everything that went hear him! Oh well, onto the game: we were awful! Need I say anymore? Conceding within two minutes didn't help the players confidence as everything the midfield tried didn't come off. Gera made a couple of good runs down the right and fed the ball into Tex each time, only for him to lose it after trying a flick or trick every time instead of holding the ball and looking for an intelligent pass.
Referee: Did a good job, Gera shouldn't have been booked and Holland's challenge in the first half on Hoff was a lot worse than the one which got Trotter sent off for Ipswich against Pompey.
Home Fans: Half empty stadium and quiet atmospehere spoke volumes about their attitude towards the game.
Away Fans: Very noisy 3,000 following, although not a single person wanted that scoreline! Half-time entertainment from the woman in the flats outside the ground made most guys' day, although she did need a wash.
Nobody at the ground for a start, so little atmosphere and therefore, no game to play for. Nonetheless we don't want to hear about how tired the players are as an excuse. Linear explanations just don't wash for me.
Having watched the last two away games and seen similar showpony performances against teams who are also stretched, I'm now beginning to question the players' motivation. We need a solid 90 minutes from all our players - looked at Stoke v Newcastle last night, and although I hate the bastards, they put in a display, and if they'd had our class in the moments when we scintillate, they'd have cruised it.
Albion, we love you, but you don't half test the metal of your support. On Saturday, there were few good performances - of course Deano did his stopper bit well, but Charlton were first to everything all game without looking much good. Only exception was the breakaway goal, started by the boy Barnet. Whole move oozed class.
TM, you've got a job on your hands at Hull on Saturday - we need three points like I need an arsehole. 4-5-1 didn't work at the w/e with Miller up front, so if you want to continue with this formation you've got to recall Roman B. Otherwise it's 4-4-2 with Super-K. Please put me out of my misery.
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