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EMIL EARNS POINT

Posted on 12 March 2007  - 12:00

Emil Hallfredsson's cool finish secured a well-deserved 1-1 draw for our young reserve side after an entertaining clash at Charlton in the Barclays Reserve League South.

Emil Hallfredsson's cool finish secured a well-deserved 1-1 draw for our young reserve side after an entertaining clash at Charlton in the Barclays Reserve League South.

Clive Allen fielded six Academy players in his starting line-up with four Under-16s on the bench - two of them, Adam Smith and Yaser Kasim, came on for their reserve debuts in the second half.

Charlton, also packed with youngsters, finally beat an in-form Robert Burch to take the lead in the 56th minute through James Walker but Hallfredsson latched onto Jamie O'Hara's pass 20 minutes later, shrugged off two tackles and dinked the ball over Darren Randolph in the Charlton goal for the equaliser.

The final scoreline was about right after Charlton forced Burch into top top-class saves, had one effort cleared off the line and hit the post. However, at the other end, Daniel Hutchins had a goal disallowed, Phil Ifil grazed the crossbar, Leigh Mills' scrambled effort was cleared off the line and Randolph had to make the last save of the night to deny Jake Livermore three minutes from time.

Ifil took over the captain’s armband, joining Livermore in a deeper midfield role as Clive went with a 4-2-1-2-1 system – essentially a diamond formation in attack with Hallfredsson and David Hutton wide, Hutchins at the front and O’Hara at the base of that diamond shape.

Charlton were straight on the front foot when Ifil was adjudged to have fouled Gislason on the edge of the box. Basey’s free-kick found its way through the wall but Burch was able to make the save to his left. Play switched straight up the other end and Hutchins climbed well to meet Hallfredsson’s cross but headed wide.

Hutchins looked like he’d opened the scoring after 10 minutes when he stooped to glance home Hutton’s cross but the offside flag ruled it out immediately.

We put together a fine move minutes later when Hallfredsson sped away from two defenders and released O’Hara down the left, his deep cross was headed back by Hutchins for Livermore and the onrushing midfielder lashed just wide from 18 yards. O’Hara then unleashed a drive from 22 yards that Randolph had to push away at full stretch.

We had to wait until the half-hour mark for the next action of note, a move started from left-back and Martin’s vision to hit a 50-yard crossfield pass to Hutchins. He skipped past Ashton and delivered a low cross that Thomas did well to slide away. The pressure was maintained and Ifil’s drive grazed the top of the crossbar.

Charlton hit back though with some style, Weston cutting in from the left and letting fly – the ball heading at pace into the top corner until Burch’s extended left hand tipped it over, a superb save.

As is usually the case, a corner from a fine save can often lead to another chance and that happended, Thomas powered a header from White’s corner that O'Hara had to hack off the line.

Charlton came close again after 42 minutes when Walker cut in from the left, into the box and cracked his shot off the right upright. Play was flowing again and both Hutchins and Hallfredsson tried their luck at the other end, Hallfredsson’s shot deflected just wide.

It was then our turn to have an effort cleared off the line as Hallfredsson swung in a corner, Randolph deflected Mills’ prod into the air and Basey was able to reach the ball on the line ahead of Hutton as the first half finished goalless.

Adam Smith was introduced at the interval for Martin and stepped into the right-back role as Hughton switched to left-back.

As in the first half, Charlton were straight on the attack as Weston’s cross fell at the feet of Gislason and Mills was forced into a brave block, just 20 seconds on the clock.

Burch was forced into top-drawer action again after 53 minutes when Weston clipped a cross into the box for Gislason to head towards goal from all of 10 yards, Burch’s reactions enabling him to turn the effort over.

But there was little the keeper could do about Charlton’s opener. Arter picked up the ball centrally and threaded an inch-perfect pass through to the speedy Walker who was able to lift over Burch and home from the edge of the box.

Appeals for a penalty were waved away when Hutton ended up on the floor after driving into the box and Walker should have done better with his header from Wright’s free-kick.

Yaser Kasim joined Smith in making his reserve debut after 69 minutes and slotted into midfield, Hutton now pushed furthest forward.

The equaliser followed seven minutes later. O’Hara lifted a pass from half-way for Hallfredsson to run onto and he managed to burst through Baxter and Coleman and was through on goal. He ran a further 30 yards before lifting the ball over Randolph and home. An ice-cool finish from the Icelander.

The goal certainly lifted the lads and Mills was soon taking another whack to the head (he suffered a black eye against Watford last week) trying to get onto a flick in the area. O’Hara and Ifil also tried their luck.

Both teams searched for a winner and we came closest with three minutes left when Livermore drove his way into the box, worked a yard of space and forced a fine save from Randolph diving to his right.




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