Charlton 0 Huddersfield 0 match report: Chris Powell wins Charlton fans' support over sacking
Poll says 80 per cent are against his dismissal as bottom side draw blank in new boss's first match in charge
The Charlton Athletic crowd made their support clear for cult hero Chris Powell, who was sacked some 48 hours earlier, as their team found familiar problems with the lack of goals that had cost his job.
In the opening match under the new Belgian head coach Jose Riga, whose appointment is seen in these parts as one more step towards transforming the club into Standard Liege lite, the Championship's bottom club had plenty of possession without capitalising on it. Riga was greeted with isolated boos before kick-off while his predecessor, dismissed after falling out with the new owner Roland Duchatelet over the future direction of the club, received regular vocal backing at intervals through the evening.
Outside the ground, the Charlton Supporters Trust, conducting a poll on whether Powell should have been sacked, reported 80 per cent against his dismissal. After three minutes' play - in recognition of the former England left-back's squad number - the crowd broke into applause and chanted Powell's name, followed a little later by “We want our Charlton back”.
Riga stood in the technical area throughout in his grey suit, making “calm down” gestures when the home defence grew edgy following a good opening half-hour.
After the game he said: “I'm happy with the performance, not so with this result. In the first 25 minutes we had a lot of chances.” As for replacing a local hero, he added: “I have a lot of respect for the ex-manager. I'm here for Charlton and I like a challenge.”
For Sunday's FA Cup tie at Sheffield United, Powell had declined to start with any of the new players brought in almost as a job lot from Duchatelet's five other clubs; which as Charlton lost feebly proved to be either a suicide note or the last nail in his coffin, according to choice of metaphor. So the first point of interest here was Riga's team selection. To nobody's great surprise two of the Liege recruits were brought in, but Reza Ghoochannejhad, the Iranian World Cup striker, and Astrit Ajdarevic, who played with Powell at Leicester City, were obvious choices and both did well.
The most controversial selection would have been if goalkeeper Yohann Thuram-Ulien, a third Liege import, had been selected ahead of Ben Hamer, as it has been rumoured that Duchatelet wanted, but that did not happen. It seemed certain that the new manager and his assistant Karel Fraeye had taken advice from Alex Dyer and Damian Matthew, two of Powell's coaches who remain at the club.
There are areas in which few supporters can have any great argument with the new owner. He has said that developing young players is “the only model” (citing five members of the Belgian national team having come through the Standard Academy), and that Charlton will have to sell from time to time. With a good record of bringing their own players through, from Lee Bowyer and Robert Lee to Scott Parker and Jonjo Shelvey, and then selling them on to bigger clubs, that has long been the way at The Valley.
In implying that Liege in the Champions League was an obvious destination for the best of them, however, he overstepped the mark for many fans and went far beyond that with alleged interference in who played and, above all, the dismissal of Powell.
One glance at Charlton's record this season would have made Riga aware of their essential problem - having scored far fewer goals than any other team in the Football League. Neither Simon Church nor Marvin Sordell, brought in free last summer, have been successful and Yann Kermogant, leading scorer this season and last, and therefore a popular figure, was sold in the January transfer window.
Sordell replaced Church but once again Charlton found goals hard to come by. Their best efforts tended to come from set pieces, with Ajdarevic, Ghoochannejhad and Michael Morrison all going close from corners. At the other end Dorian Dervite, one of the four changes from Sunday, cleared off the line from Nahki Wells, before Sordell, sent clear by Diego Poyet's fine pass, was denied by Alex Smithies.
Charlton deserved at least a point but even with at least three games in hand on their relegation rivals, they need to win some, starting against local rivals Millwall, whom they visit on Saturday.
Charlton Athletic (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Wiggins; Poyet, Jackson; Ghoochannejhad (Pritchard, 64), Ajdarevic, Harriott (Cousins, 85); Sordel (Church, 79). Substitutes not used Green, Wood, Thuram-Ulien, Nego.
Huddersfield Town (4-3-3): Smithies; Woods, Wallace, Clarke, Dixon; Clayton, Southern, Hogg; Ward, Scannell (Hammill, 75), Wells (Paterson, 75). Substitutes not used Norwood, Gobern, Bennett, Stead, Smith.
Referee B Malone (Wiltshire).
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