It hasn't all got much better in the three days since the Ipswich capitulation, but at least there was some fight, bite, and honest endeavour about yesterday's performance. With Jackson and Pritchard starting, it was Frimpong, Green, and Seabourne who were banished not just from the side, but the matchday squad as well. Doubtless this will be explained away as rotation, but the reality is that heads needed to roll after the Boxing Day midfield performance particularly. Seabourne just had a mare on Wednesday, but it was good to see one of our own left backs in the shape of Evina back in action again.
There was very little to be cheerful about in the first twenty minutes, as Derby pretty much passed us off the park, but the response was a goal that will be difficult to better this season. There was some debate after the game as to whether he meant to do what he did, but as there was nobody at the far post to cross to anyway, I am very much of the school of thought that Haynes absolutely meant it, and what a purler it was, crossing the keeper and burying itself top left of the Derby keepers goal. Even at 1-0 up though, I was still pretty sure Derby would be able to get one back, which they duly did from the penalty spot. This brings me to the subject of Morrison, and referee Boyeson's part in his downfall.
I had been warned before the game that Boyeson was a game changing referee, and not in a good way. Those Addickted who went to Huddersfield away last year testify to an official of bewildering ineptitude who cost us a player that day in the shape of Russell, and although nobody of my acquaintance argues that he didn't deserve to go, they do contest that the two Terriers who were involved in the incident should have gone as well. They got yellow instead. Nothing if not consistent is Boyeson, as he again sent off a Charlton player, Morrison this time, for a second bookable offence. The signs were there that it was coming from way back in the first half though.
Having been booked for an offence in the ninth minute for a foul on Derby youngster Hughes, the referee also gave Morrison a last chance talking to later in the half for another challenge. It was a scenario that he played out with Keogh from Derby as well after his booking for a foul on Kermorgant, so a certain pattern was well and truly emerging, that here was a ref that did not like physical contact in the game. There were many around me urging Powell to replace Morrison with Dervite, and I must say I agreed with them. It seemed obvious that Morrison was on the edge from Boyeson's perspective, and having seen him in action before, there was a certain inevitability in what played out later in the game.
It is a difficult one to call, as the referee is not supposed to be a game changer. Powell had put out a team to beat Derby, and so was he now supposed to change his tactics because of Boyeson? My own feeling is that he should have, but I do understand the strength of the contra argument. If I may lift a quote here from the Charlton official site, “I was thinking of bringing him [Dervite] on earlier than half time,” Powell said. “I asked Michael at half time to play safer, which he did, to be fair. I said to him ‘you have to play with your mind now and make sure that you don’t get yourself in any difficult positions’ but sadly he did with the penalty. Perhaps next time, Powell may make a different decision, but I am not going to criticise him for the one he took against Derby.
Elsewhere, Hamer had flashes of brilliance, and occasional panic in turn. Some brilliant shot stopping to keep us in it, was matched by some flapping punched clearances when the team was under heavy pressure after the Morrison dismissal. Evina showed an understandable ring rustiness, and almost caused Charlton problems early doors, but he improved markedly as the game went on. Apart from his wonder goal, Haynes caused Derby problems all afternoon, until he pulled up with yet another hamstring strain. Speaking of wonder goals, we almost had a second, when a sweeping movement involving Hamer, Solly, Wright-Phillips, and Kermorgant, left Pritchard to lift one over the Derby keeper and into the net. Unfortunately he crashed it off the underside of the bar instead, which was a shame, as it would have been a fabulous team effort from one end of the pitch to the other.
So, a draw to end a run of three successive defeats. Let's hope we have our best away day head on for Tuesday at Watford, as we will need to do far better than we have of late if we are to get anything from the high flying Hornets.