At half time Gary Mabbutt told us that one man doesn’t make a team (only very nearly) when talking of Gazza in 1991 so Harry put on Luka Modric just to prove him wrong. Within five minutes we had taken the lead and the creativity missing in the first half was available in spades for all to see. In a 15 minute period Charlton were put to the sword time and again and following Townsend’s opener with a perfectly placed drive into the corner Defoe managed a brace to put the game to bed.
His first after a long cross field run in which a succession of defenders kept him going right before he unleashed a shot and scored anyway and the second a nonchalant volley after his original effort was blocked and came back out to him.
But the scoring should not have stopped there. There was a succession of attacks from which Modric could have had two goals; Pav had opportunities, Townsend more shots and Charlton defending in numbers managed to hold us at bay.
In the first half things had been a little different. Palacios and Sandro had been entrusted to central midfield with Townsend on the right and Kranjcar on the left – or was he? Whatever it didn’t work as Sandro and Wilson were competing to do the same thing. That coupled with the fact that we had no aerial ability up front and therefore needed to get round the back of Charlton and did not suggests we made hard work of it.
Wilson will no doubt get plenty of stick but I thought he played ok. The trouble is his game is not what he was being asked to do and so the passes both he and Sandro played were too conservative allowing Charlton to get back in numbers. Kranjcar roamed across the midfield but failed to unlock the defence. When he covered so effectively for Modric last season he had the opportunity to roam from the left but then we had Tommy in central midfield and he has no problems in trying to play a long ball.
Today it just did not work and whilst no one was awful no one was great and Pav and Defoe had nothing to work off.
In the second half Modric changed all that. Delicate and perfectly weighted chips were sent to both wings, men were taken on and beaten and Kranjcar was forced to play more on the left flank to accommodate his countryman. He also hit Corluka who in turn sent free Townsend and he ran his marker ragged in the second half.
The lad had a very decent afternoon but it was against a League One side and how that might translate to a Premier League clash is debateable. To most present he was the biggest surprise of the afternoon but his loan period at Ipswich has clearly given him more confidence than the rest of their 7 goal ravaged squad at Stamford Bridge. Without Beckham and if Bentley drifts away to Birmingham Townsend may make the bench a few times in the second half of the season.
Another surprise was Cudicini as we had been lead to believe that his shoulder injury had him sidelined until February. He had a decent game and even caught the ball a couple of times as it came across the area. As the end of the game approached he was called into action and made a decent save from a fierce shot. Decent enough performance to unseat Gomes? Had it not been Man Utd next week I might be convinced to say yes but I’m easy either way.
What of Charlton and particularly old Spurs Doherty and Jackson? Jackson was involved in the first half but inevitably drifted out of it when they went behind and Doherty was relatively tidy but unable to keep us out when we got going. In the first half they kept their shape well and pressed us at every opportunity and actually had a couple of decent opportunities which passed them by one when the man lost his footing in the area. They also finished quite sharply with us defending stoutly to keep the all important clean sheet.
A decent work out for some of the reserves but a side in which only Dawson and Bassong are comfortable in the air that needed extra creativity to get going. So the draw takes us to Craven Cottage which could be better, could be worse. I would expect the big guns to be back for that match as it proved today to unlock a defence you need a magician and in Luka Modric we certainly have that.