I said I would try just to enjoy a game of football. I really did. But I knew I was always kidding myself. There is still only one game that Charlton have lost which I enjoyed – 0-4 away to Notts Forest when we had our best season in the top flight under Lennie Lawrence and secured survival with a game to spare. Today, as everyone knows, finally sealed our fate, if there had been any doubt before. And it was a game that at half-time we were winning, at home, only to fall well short of what was required in the second period, against a team that was also poor but had more incentive than us to get something from the game. Enjoying capitulation is beyond me.
The team line-up sparked collective disappointment. The defence was as expected, midfield saw Sam preferred on the right to Soares, but a reversion to 4-4-2 not only saw Burton return to partner Kandol but with Dickson left out completely (was he injured or do we have another case of petulance?). No place for Shelvey even on the bench either, with Todorov, Soares, Holland, Zhi and Randolph forming the back-up. It didn’t look like a set-up full of possibilities, although perhaps Parkinson and his team had done their homework on Watford and had a plan.
That didn’t seem in evidence in the first 25 minutes. Watford dominated the play and, while hardly good themselves at least looked as if they knew each other. It wasn’t a great surprise that the first piece of decent football in the game produced a goal. A ball down the line, played inside to a guy running onto it, who scored. Not rocket science. That put the crowd on notice for booing, but the curtain almost came down with a Watford shot shortly after that went narrowly wide. If that had gone in the feeling was the crowd would really have revolted.
Instead, somehow 10 minutes later we were in front. First, a lofted ball forward was poorly handled by their defenders and Kandol found himself with the keeper to beat. To our surprise and delight he rounded the keeper and scored with aplomb. That gave us some belief and, with Racon increasingly influential going forward, we caused problems. Then Hudson advanced and his shot was deflected for a corner. That came in and Kandol clearly lost his marker and headed home unchallenged. Cue celebrations. There was still time left for Watford’s perpetually fouling lone striker to get in a header (after a clear shove on Hudson went unpunished) which Elliot superbly turned around the post, but at the break this was a game that was at least there for us to win.
Trouble was, we started the second half as we had the first. Instead of coming out of the traps to really win the game we looked as if we just wanted the final whistle to sound and to bag a win. We lost the momentum of the previous 20 minutes and it wasn’t surprising when Watford equalised. Their forward was given too much room to swivel and shoot from just inside the box, although to be fair it was a good strike. Elliot didn’t move.
What followed was painful. There was no real suggestion from the play that we would respond, the crowd seemed resigned, and a third Watford goal, this time the result of poor defending as we gave the ball away in a dangerous area, only deepened the gloom. Zhi came on for the disappointing Spring, then Todorov replaced Burton. Finally Soares came on for an ineffective Sam. But while each of them contributed moments there was a total absence of belief. It seemed in the last 10 minutes that both the team and the crowd just wanted the final whistle to put an end to the suffering.
It’s done and dusted. All that is left now is to prepare for next season. Nobody can say what sort of team we will put out on the opening day of the next campaign as finances dictate that anyone out of contract will go and anyone attracting a bid will be sold. So be it. I don’t think Parkinson should just throw in kids from now on. It’s not fair on them. We have away games at Reading and Wolves to come over the next seven days. Let the players on decent wages play in those games and take whatever comes. After that perhaps we can ditch whoever is not staying.
Elliot: 8/10. Another rather nervy start, but he made an excellent save to preserve the lead at half-time and had no real chance with any of the goals.
Butterfield: 6/10. Nothing personal, not a bad game, but we might as well send him straight back to Palace tomorrow. I’m assuming Moutaouakil won’t be here next season either, so its time for one of the reserves to step up – after the next two away games.
Youga: 4/10. He is a shadow of the exciting player who came back to us from Scunthorpe. I am a fan of his, but he played like he doesn’t want to be here. Time for Basey to return, unless the attitude changes.
Hudson: 7/10. There’s an element of déjà vu. I don’t remember him making a mistake but we shipped three goals. Whether he is here next season will, I assume, depend on whether someone else puts in a bid. It’s a pity as he still looks like he cares.
Ward: 7/10. Much as for Hudson. Did his fair share of the work and no obvious mistakes, but we conceded three.
Sam: 5/10. Disappointing game, didn’t look sharp and was largely anonymous in the first half especially. Has shown much more in other games and can’t have any complaints about being subbed.
Spring: 5/10. Also disappointing. Gave way for Zhi in the second half.
Racon: 8/10. Showed skills that were at times exceptional and on another day could have won us the game. Will he be here next season?
Bailey: 7/10. No shortage of effort as usual. But especially in the second half was peripheral – and he didn’t score. The experiment playing him wide-left worked for a while, but with next season in mind it’s central midfield now.
Burton: 5/10. Was instrumental in causing Watford problems in the first half, but he too faded badly in the second and was taken off.
Kandol: 8/10. Any forward scoring two goals in a game has to get a decent mark. The fact that he didn’t feature in the second half – apart from one good shot that was blocked – summed up our afternoon.
Zhi: 6/10. Came on to play in the centre and did some good things. But what can you say about a guy who is now out of place for the next campaign? Goodbye and best wishes.
Todorov: 6/10. Same as Zhi (how can a team bottom of the Championship bring on a Chinese and a Bulgarian international?). There will be memories (obviously the goal at Palace) but so long, farewell.
Soares: 5/10. Game was over before he came on. I can’t remember him touching the ball.