That was just about as straightforward as could have been hoped, just about every box ticked by 3.30pm. Key personnel rested; squad members got 90 minutes; home-grown youngster made Danny Rose-esque impact on debut (fingers crossed the next few months are a bit brighter for him than for the boy Rose); clean sheet; no injuries; no suspensions; opportunity for Defoe to return to sharpness; etc. The fact that we were forced to field Luka Modric for 45 minutes, rather than give him a complete rest, mercifully turned out to be fairly inconsequential.Modders, VDV, Hudd: Unlikely to be Losing Sleep
Admittedly this nice, neat box of all-round satisfaction was looking anything but after 45 minutes, in which Sergeant Wilson and Sandro were enlisted with the job of deputising for Modders and VDV in central midfield. One can only imagine the looks of horror on their faces when this task was put to them by ‘Arry prior to kick-off, not to mention the groans of despair from Kranjcar, Townsend, Defoe and Pav, each of whom would have been hoping for a slightly more creative platform in central midfield.
Bless them, Palacios and Sandro manfully attempted to fit their square pegs of destruction into the round holes of silky technique vacated by our regular central midfielders, but it was doomed to failure, particularly with Charlton adopting an understandable game-plan of defending deep. More used to slick one-touch triangles, the Lane faithful had to make do with Palacios’ laboured, telegraphed, multiple-touch passes six yards sideways. I like the chap’s attitude, and consider that his aggression still adds an important edge to the squad, but against a defensive lower-league opponent, this was anything but the stage for his talents. Sandro for his part stuck to safer ground and contented himself with picking up what is already becoming his obligatory yellow card.
So ‘Arry took the hint, replaced Palacios with Modders, and within a blink of an eye we were cutting Charlton to ribbons.
The Next Big Young Thing
The nation’s media are never slow to wallow in hyperbole, and Andros Townsend’s debut has consequently been feted a little too affectedly in some quarters, but even when moored safely to the steady surface of perspective this was a creditable performance. He sounds intriguingly like he could be the love-child of a Greek god and a faux-Irish wonky-nosed ITV commentator, but vastly more relevantly he showed the requisite pace and enthusiasm, and also managed to marry it to a degree of common-sense when weighing up his on-ball options. Nice goal too. With Aaron Lennon flitting between sublime and anonymous young Master Townsend may yet receive further opportunities, albeit from the substitutes’ bench.
Here at AANP Towers we were also quietly thrilled to see Defoe doing what he does best. His flaws have been dwelt upon long and hard in various quarters, but having someone loitering around the squad whose sole joy in life seems to be derived from scoring is jolly well handy. Treasure the following ten words as they will never, ever be spoken again about Jermain Defoe, but there was something curiously George Best-esque about his first. Both goals, and the defending that accompanied them, were reminiscent of playground football, but no matter. Defoe is firing, and in effect his return for the latter half of the season is equivalent to a new and extremely signing.
It is worth reiterating: key personnel rested, squad members getting 90 minutes, no injuries, clean sheet and so on – everything panned out just tickety-boo. A slight shame, perhaps, that we were drawn away to a Premiership side next up, but that is for another time: this was a good afternoon’s work.