And I’d already written the opening: Bloody football, just like the buses, don’t get a win for 18 games and then two come along on consecutive nights. It wasn’t to be. The under-18s came up against a Tottenham team that was bigger, stronger, more cohesive, and which had in John Bostock a player who at the least knows how to hit a shot.
This probably wasn’t the best night to judge the capabilities of the prospects and the game went away from them with two goals either side of the break. And having only witnessed the cup games last season and the one tonight only tentative conclusions can be drawn. That said, the vibrancy and fluidity of the team of a year ago, at least until the quarter-final against a strong Sunderland side, was not really in evidence. The 4-5-1 set-up, which had allowed the space for Uchechi (what has happened to him?), Shelvey, Wagstaff and others to make things happen was replaced by a standard 4-4-2.
With Shelvey having more important duties these days, the team nevertheless contained many of the faces of a year ago: Christie in goal, Solly at right-back, Long (now playing further forward), Stavrinou (who had excelled as the defensive midfield player in front of the back four), Mambo in central defence, Godfrey up front. Of these the player who seems to have developed most is Mambo, who looks better balanced and more assured a year on.
Outmuscled in midfield Charlton were often chasing the ball as Spurs were happy to play it around. Indeed, in the first 10 minutes we barely got a kick. But as the first half progressed we came more into it and started to create a few chances in an open and entertaining game. Spurs threatened also, with one shot coming back off the post and a low cross from the left somehow not converted at the far post. But Long and Pell had their moments too and Godfrey was played in only for their keeper to save well. It seemed we would go into the break all square, but Bostock decided to have a shot from some way out and it fairly flew into the top corner. Christie had no chance, nor would any other keeper on the planet.
At half-time it appeared that the next goal would probably determine the outcome as it was hard to see us coming back if we went two down. And the game was indeed effectively killed off when Bostock carved his way through the defence and wrong-footed Christie with the shot. That was effectively game over, with a third strike for Tottenham rounding things off. We didn’t have a worthwhile chance in the second half as Spurs shut things up, but at least there was time for the splendidly named Tamer Tuna to make an appearance coming on as a substitute.
So, that’s over for another year. Who knows what the world will look like next time around. But this is no time for gloom, that was reserved for last Saturday and Sunday. Let me be the last to say glory be a win at last. Does it count as a win if nobody saw it? Well, if I can finish off in time I can get to see the highlights programme on ITV to get confirmation that we did indeed win, that Ambrose scored, that the result was so shocking that Norwich had no alternative but to sack their manager, and that Southend beat Chelsea.
Thoughts turn to Saturday. What does Parkinson do now that a changed side went and won? Of course either Basey or Youga will come in at left-back to replace McEveley, whose cameos were encouraging but who now becomes another case of what might have been. Moutaouakil got a game last night but presumably Murty will return at right-back, while Hudson and Fortune have no competition in central defence. I do think there’s a case to be made for bringing back Weaver if he is now fully fit. Elliot has done nothing wrong and it would be tough on him to be replaced, but we have continued to concede goals and maybe he could use a break. And of course Randolph played in goal last night.
Ambrose played in the hole and scored, as he did last season against Ipswich. Maybe he just saves his vengeance for East Anglia, but if we stick to the same formation does he keep his place there or does Shelvey return to play behind Burton? In central midfield, with our run of depressing injuries continuing with Semedo, it looks like two from four: Holland, Bailey, Spring and Wright. At least we’re reasonably well covered in that area, although the availability of Zhi and Racon can’t come soon enough. I’m assuming that Wagstaff and Yusseff will stand down – and that Todorov and Dickson, who must have thanked Parkinson for the opportunity to travel up to Norwich for the joy of sitting out the game on the bench, will go back to waiting in the wings.
I’m that daft that I’m contemplating going on the coach. I truly need my bumps felt. I sent an email around to compatriots yesterday to canvass opinion on the merits of going to Sheffield, with a resounding silence the result. I guess I will have to decide tomorrow. Maybe televised confirmation that we did actually win will help to tip the balance one way or the other, or just possibly I will have come to my senses by the morning. There’s always a first time.