Latics 3-2 Charlton

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The Premiership really is a funny old league.  A few sides apart, no one seems to have the recipe for continued ‘success’.  Whether success means, challenging for Europe, mid-table mediocrity or avoiding relegation it’s hard enough to keep it going over the course of 38 games, let alone for the season after as well.

Both these teams are prime examples of that.  Early season form had them both mixing it in the Champions League places.  The north western Latics may have kept it going that bit longer, but neither side exactly shone in the latter stages and whilst their final placings may have been more realistic there was inevitably tinges of disappointment when the “what could have beens” were discussed come May.

The comparisons were still there early this season.  Two clubs, both in transition, both struggling to get results and both looking like certainties to be involved in the relegation battle.  Three wins on the bounce may have improved
Latics’ outlook but Charlton’s four games without defeat saw them still rooted to the bottom of the table.
Having gained their first three points of the season a week earlier may have increased the Addicks’ confidence, but then again the City’s performance at the JJB should have been a warning about taking a result against them too seriously. 

On a day hardly suited to flowing football, it was clear that the players weren’t taking Charlton’s position lightly.  Latics midfield forced themselves on top from the early exchanges and although the wind meant that a lot of the play was long they were picking up more of the second ball than in other games this season.

For the first half, the away team had little answer other than to defend with backs to the wall and in the main it paid off for them.  However their failure to deal with two long balls saw them behind and, at the time, Latics looking comfortable.  First Scott Carson was unable to deal with a McCulloch drive from just inside the box, even though the Scott didn’t seem to get much power behind his shot.

The next goal was the moment of the match.  Again a long ball from Kirkland evaded the Charlton central defenders and, with the keeper off his line, Camara was able to volley the dropping ball over Carson’s head and into the net.
From that point on it should have been easy, in fact it probably was less of an effort than the final score line suggested.  Yes, Charlton put more effort into the second half and caused some problems, but in the end it was an error from Latics that gave them hope. 

Webster’s lack of match fitness was never more obvious than when first mis-controlling an easy ball then failing to recover the situation.  It was left to De Zeuuw to chase back and although he managed to nick the ball off Darren Bent it only served to put the ball past Kirkland.

In between Matt Jackson, on for the knackered Webster, made it safe for Latics.  It wouldn’t be fair to put his first top flight goal for 13 years purely down to bad defending, so we’ll pretend it was his well timed run that left him free to head in Kilbane’s free kick from six yards out.  The celebrations proving just how an import figure Jacko is off the pitch.

Charlton’s second was a case of another long ball, another goal.  Marcus Bent ghosting behind the Latics back line to latch on to a cross field ball and slot home.  By that stage it was too little too late.  It’s easy to put this score line purely down to bad defending on both sides, but Latics deserved their win and should have had it more comfortably. 

Charlton weren’t the worse side to visit the JJB this season and the second half suggested that they could manage to turn the season around so it came as a surprise that this game was the one that made Ian Dowie the first Premiership casualty of the season.  At least he’ll now get the time with his family, up north, that he so wanted when he left Palace.

The three points left Latics in 8th place and it’s very tempting to say that things are now stabilised and to start setting targets for the season.  Four wins on the bounce is good form by any measure, that there still seems to be a fair bit of room for improvement can only be a bonus.  Then again, until they start firing on all cylinders there is still a chance for Latics to slip back into their ‘old’ ways. 

You can say that’s pessimistic, but there are a lot of games over the next month or so, including home games against Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.  If we’re still doing well come Christmas then it may be time to start looking up the table rather than down.

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