To anyone out there looking for a perceptive analysis of the first half of today’s game could I perhaps recommend any number of excellent Charlton blogs. Some of us who nurtured perhaps unrealistic hopes of making the kick-off saw them founder on the rock that is network south-east on a Sunday. Flying in from The Eternal City to meet The Impermeably Inept. ‘No mate, no direct trains from Gatwick to London Bridge. Have to wait, change at East Croydon or Tulse Hill, then find something to do while the connecting train crawls its way towards its destination’. So, made it during half-time. And in its perverse way, and for one obvious but utterly delightful moment, it was worth it.
Let’s get the game over with first. Apparently in the first half we scored what could have been goal of the season (although how anything to be voted above Luke Varney’s two strikes and Svetoslav Todorov’s effort is a mystery), plus another, and they scored. We were apparently quite good but shrank a little when they pulled one back. They were rubbish. And from what I saw they got worse. Coventry really could claim to be the worst side to visit The Valley this season. They had a lot to play for but not long into the second half were reduced to listening to the clues from their supporters and hoping for salvation from elsewhere. At least they went home happy (although I hope the Coventry moron who kicked in the headlight of a mate’s car on the way back from our 3-2 cup win some years back slipped on a dog turd on the way to the station).
Not long into the second half we worked a good position on the right, only for the cross to look like easy meat for Kasper Schmeichel. However, he contrived to knock it up in the air and it dropped to Grant Basey. From a very inviting position he managed to pull the shot wide before an inrushing defender managed to thump it into the net. After that Coventry created half-chances but it was more about how many times we could shoot just wide of Schmeichel’s left-hand post. And Basey was to find himself in a similarly great position only to pull the shot and see it cannon off a defender almost into the net. Does he practise scoring that way?
The game was really only notable for two moments (leaving aside home league debuts for Jonjo Shelvey and Scott Wagstaff). First, the ball was cleared by the Coventry defence only for Matt Holland to run onto the loose ball. It was bouncing awkwardly at a difficult height, but he met it absolutely perfectly only for the fantastic shot to crash against the bar. It got the fans out of their seats for an extended appreciation of the captain’s efforts this season.
If that was a good moment what followed was pure theatre. We all know that Sir Chris would come on for his farewell, his 270th game in a Charlton shirt. It wasn’t immediately obvious why he moved into central midfield. At first it seemed perhaps he was so moved by the reception he was given that he couldn’t be risked anywhere else. But truth was he was there so that he could run onto a cross and smash the ball into the net, sparking thunderous celebrations. It was a great moment, a tremendous way to say goodbye to a true gent. Not a dry eye in the house.
What else is worth adding before I return to packing to fly off at sparrow’s far to Amsterdam tomorrow morning? Rome was fabulous (and sorry I managed to get into the ground with a 1litre bottle of Ramazzotti in my bag – I just didn’t think). Suzanne really enjoyed her ice cream. Shelvey showed enough to suggest he can play a part next season, although he’s one for the future and its far too soon to think of him as a starting midfielder. Luke Varney played well but missed chances and was moved out right when Chris Iwelumo came on. I don’t know about anyone else but I want our main goalscorer to make the central position his own. Basey and Powell getting on the scoresheet meant that no fewer than 19 players scored for us this season, not including two own goals. That only one (just) made it to double figures tells its own story.
Perhaps most important was that at the end of the game what we can perhaps call a lap of mutual appreciation by the players was conducted with dignity and a quite moving demonstration of support for the team from the fans. A large percentage of the crowd stayed behind for it, no doubt influenced by the desire to cheer Powell around the pitch and, for one last time, out of the tunnel. But the players and staff were applauded despite the disappointment of the season. Alan Pardew opted not to join the players and I think misjudged the moment here. No, there’s nothing to celebrate when it comes to the season now ended. It was one of failure. That was the season that was; it’s over, let it go. But there’s still plenty to appreciate in being a Charlton fan. Sir Chris reminded us of that today.