Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Fantastic fighting spirit sees Addicks win thriller

#UpTheAddicks #CAFC http://twitter.yfrog.com/h644zixjOn a bright New Year's Day, the Addicks travelled to Watford on the back a run of six games without a win. Anxiety had started to kick-in, and the short away trip offered a good chance to get back on track.

Powell was forced into two changes from the side that drew to Derby: the suspended Morrison replaced at the back by Dorian Dervite, and the injured Danny Haynes replaced by Ricardo Fuller, who partnered Kermorgant up front. Watford fielded at least five imports from Udinese, part of the reason for their successes this season.

The Addicks began kicking away from the travelling fans, and were certainly in the game, playing some effective football going forward. But for all their work came no reward, as it was the Hornets that struck first. Some good passing play saw the ball worked into the box from the left, and a shot was well saved by Ben Hamer, but only in the direction of Pudil on the eight, who fired home low across goal to score, and wake the home crowd.

Despite the scoreline, the Addicks grew into the game. Initially a poor touch in the build-up had scuppered any forward progress, but as the half wore on the touch became sharper. For all their attractive passing, Watford could not penetrate into the box and create another clear-cut chance. Forestieri challenged Hamer for a bouncing ball on the edge of the box, was out-jumped but led with his hand, tipping the ball past the goalkeeper. Referee - Trevor Kettle of Oldham fame - booked him for a cynical act. If you asked me whether Watford's Italian influence had brought with it that gamesmanship element, then I couldn't possibly comment.

A good move instigated by a long ball to trouble the Hornet's defence culminated in Jackson running on to a bouncing ball in the box. He controlled it and skirted it home across goal, but the linesman had flagged, suggesting Jackson had handled the ball in positioning it for his shot. From 100 yards away, with the player's body in the way, I had no idea whether it was the correct decision, but naturally you feel hard done by.

Soon after, Charlton won a corner. The ball was flicked on at the front post before it ricocheted into the back of the net. The travelling support erupted, the building sense of injustice released. The loose balls from the ensuing kick-off fell Charlton's way, and they were urged on by a rejuvenated support. Three minutes after the equaliser, Evina burst down the left, dragging two defenders towards the by-line before cutting inside onto his right foot. He slid a ball into the box for Pritchard, who stood a brilliant cross up to the back post. One player jumped for it but could not stretch, and with the goal gaping, Kermorgant was able to launch himself onto it and power his header into the back of the net to put the Addicks ahead. The travelling support exploded this time, a quick-fire double, which many would feel was deserved, on the back of such a dry run in terms of results meant this was a big goal. The score remained the same at the break, with Charlton fans far happier with proceedings.

The second half did not begin well for the visitors. Hamer initially denied an equaliser with a brilliant one-on-one save to deny Forestieri, which would have capped a lovely passing move, but more tricky play from Watford's front two - both on loan from Udinese - led to a penalty. Dervite was caught on the wrong side of him, and following a tangle of legs he crashed to the ground. Kettle immediately pointed to the spot, and the penalty was coolly slotted into the bottom left-corner leaving Hamer with little chance. Scores level again. 

Three minutes after the goal, Jackson spurned a golden opportunity to bring the scores level once more. Kermorgant flicked on into the box, and the ball fell for the skipper, but he couldn't slot past Almunia, who denied him well with a solid stop. You got the impression it was a big miss, and on 68 minutes that assumption seemed correct. The hosts struck what felt like a crushing blow. Another good move saw the ball worked into the box for Geijo, who slotted home and made it 3-2. 

The Watford fans, silent all game, suddenly started chants of "you're not singing anymore", which was both untrue and unwise. With the home support still settling after their third goal, Charlton took the ball up the other end. Fuller worked the ball past two defenders on the by-line and cut into the box, his cross angled away from goal. Kermorgant stretched, his effort hammering into a defender on the line, but another ricochet saw the ball nestle in the back of the net. Ecstasy! And, somewhat gloriously, the chant was thrown right back at the home fans, who once again descended into a nervous silence. A great line following our chant of "sit down shut up" was offered by one fan, who shouted "they've been sat down and shut up most of the game." 

The travelling fans were far from quiet, though, as they urged their team on. There was a real feeling that the game was there for the taking, despite the regular threats from the tricky Udinese pairing up front. An offside flag, correctly raised, saved Charlton from going behind for the third time. 

Twelve minutes from time, the decisive blow was struck. Wilson departed for treatment, an apparent broken nose, as Stephens whipped in an out-swinging corner. Jackson ran forward, rose above the defenders and powered his header towards goal. Time seemed to slow down, before the ball crashed into the top corner of the net. Four three up! The crowd went absolutely beserk. Jackson ran towards the fans, his knee-slide stopping right on the edge of the pitch. The players flooded over, with pure joy everywhere. The perfect moment. 

Each goal had been greeted with more vigour than the last, and the culmination of that was a minute of pure delirium. It was as exhausting as it was special. The small matter of holding on to that lead remained. 

Vicarage Road was stunned. Watford took a while to recover from the sucker punch that was the fourth goal, but the rest of the game was not without its nervy moments. Two more disallowed goals for off-side - again, correct - as well as a scrambling save from Hamer as the ball threatened to loop behind him and land in the goal. The Hornets' frustration became apparent, with a number of poorly timed challenges resulting in yellow cards. Arguably one could have been red, with an appalling scissor-kick lunge from Ekstrand that scythed down an advancing Pritchard. Kettle only waved his yellow card. Leon Cort had to go off injured, so Charlton brought on Taylor to see out the remaining five minutes of stoppage time. A large proportion of that time was wasted. Cook was booked for scooping the ball into the away support, but what followed was a very entertaining minute, with the collective refusal to throw the ball back to Almunia. Instead, a bit of volleyball broke out among the superb away support. 

Full-time arrived, met by an enormous cheer. By that stage, I was so drained that the feeling was pure relief. The players skipped over to the us behind the goal where the famous winner was scored, applauding the supporters. Chants of "Chrissy Powell's Red Army" rang out, among others, as the fans gave the players a fitting send-off after their more than valiant efforts. Chris Powell was the last man left, doing his two tunnel-jump-esque waves to satisfy the crowd. His own fighting spirit was embodied in that Charlton performance. A famous win!

Trevor Kettle had a good first half, but a number of his decisions in the second were questionable. The increasingly cynical play from the hosts was not adequately punished, especially when Neuton - who deserves a special mention for his hilarious, and pathetic theatrics - was touched in the chest by Fuller, and then went down grasping his face. Not even booked, predictably given he was already on a yellow. New Year, same old moaning etc, but it really is the kind of thing that needs to be eradicated from football. The Italian influence really did see Watford exhibit a more cynical edge, with late challenges when breaks were launched, as well as the diving of Forestieri, who collapsed for the penalty once he felt contact, and the pathetic attempts to deceive the gullible Kettle. He missed some glaring fouls, but thankfully his assistant on the far side was able to raise his offside flag to rightly deny Watford on occasions.

Aside from the gamesmanship, the Hornets played some very nice football, and as much as Charlton should try to emulate the style, our more direct approach was effective given the inexperienced trio of defenders for the home side. Nobody seemed able to challenge Kermorgant or Fuller consistently, and both were excellent in winning the ball, holding on to it and releasing other players. Yann was especially good today, with some sublime touches, a goal, and a lot of fight to lead the line well. Fuller shone with moments of quality, too. Evina was bright down the left, and having a quick, pacy left-back improves Jackson's game no-end, as he was absolutely superb in leading the side today. Pritchard was once again energetic, making both decisive tackles and probing leads up front. Stephens was good at spreading the play, and he made his fair share of challenges, though a few too many breaks through the middle were allowed.

Solly and Wilson were not quite at their peak as a partnership, but the right-back was again superb, making vital challenges and overlapping runs down the wing. Dervite looked a bit unsteady at times but Cort won pretty much everything in the air before his worrying injury departure. Evina showed how much we have missed a real, pacy left-back.

Chris Powell keeps on invoking that fighting spirit into his side. Twice behind away from home to a team sat in the playoff places, but still the players kept their belief. Scoring the third so quickly after going behind again was one of the great displays of that belief, and provided a wonderful moment for the supporters to mock the suddenly silent Hornet fans. Not since Carlisle has a goal been celebrated to such an extent, but the winner today capped an unbelievable performance from a group of players who just will not admit defeat. A proud day to be an Addick.


  1. Stirring stuff Dan - I really regret not making the effort today!

  2. Great report Dan. It made feel like I was there. Thanks.

  3. Fantastic report Dan, a real joy to read. So many highlights yesterday, the impromptu game of volleyball not least amongst them !