Sunday, 15 April 2012
We're Up And We Know We Are
I’m sure I’m not alone in having felt obliged to wait until today to comment on the delights of yesterday. The train back was a bit late and a 23.00 return home meant only enough time to get through the second half of Match of the Day and the first bit of the Football League show before the celebrations gained a fresh boost. Anyway, we were acting under instructions. Sir Chris said he hoped Charlton fans everywhere “have a special moment for themselves and enjoy the moment and raise a glass to their football club”. Having raised several plastic cups on the train back it was only fair to crack open another bottle on our return. I’d bought a half-decent syrah in anticipation on Friday and it served its purpose.
The smug grin on our faces through the season can indeed now be extended to broad smiles; six years of failure forgotten – and at a place where we all knew in our hearts it would be concluded. There is of course still the matters of securing the title of champions and notching 100 points. Nothing wrong with icing on the cake when on Saturday we do indeed stand up for the champions.
The game itself wasn’t pretty, with Carlisle clearly having improved through the season. In a mixed first half the major chance fell to N’Guessan as after an age the ball finally broke to him inside the box, but his fierce shot went well over the bar. They created decent openings, but fortunately their shooting was dire and I don’t recall Hamer having to make a save in anger. Further testimony to a well-drilled defence. We looked more threatening, especially as N’Guessan was finding space down the right, but the quality of our crossing wasn’t top-notch, with too many balls in hanging up for their keeper. We took time to get the deliveries in right. By this time the news from Colchester was being digested, but there was a long way to go.
The second half, perhaps the game, turned on their one decent strike on goal. It wasn’t a bad one, with a curled shot from outside the box leaving Hamer well beaten but coming back off the inside of the post. If anything that galvanised us into our best period of the game. As we upped the tempo Wright-Phillips was played in for a one-on-one. We all held our breath as this looked like the chance to send us up. Instead their keeper came out and blocked the shot well, leaving BWP with his head in his hands. A few minutes later he wriggled free in the box and this time instead of shooting he opted to square it and the ball was knocked behind for a corner.
From one of a series of these, seemingly to a pattern of a curled ball to the far post (we’ll overlook the one that Stephens decided to take rather than Jackson, which curled behind for a goal kick), Kermorgant rose to plant the header, only for their keeper to turn it over the bar. Finally, the back post corner ball worked as Stephens ghosted in at the back and headed it goalwards. It probably would have been cleared off the line had it not been for Wright-Phillips getting a decisive touch to send us into raptures and him into the waiting arms of the supporters.
After that it was a case of holding what we had and waiting for the whistle. We knew that the early hope from Orient had faded, and that Sheff Wed had equalised, but every minute with no more news was good indeed. Wagstaff had already come on for N’Guessan and then BWP gave way for Taylor to keep things tight. In the event we saw out the final 15 minutes as comfortably as you could hope for, then it was a case of confirmation of the Colchester news.
By the time we had final confirmation the players had been ushered off and the minor pitch invasion contained. As we danced and sang we were advised (repeatedly) that the players would not be coming out, to which the response was ‘we’re not going anywhere’. It was something of a game of bluff as a number of us were well aware of the implications of not getting the 17.52 back to London, but eventually the officials relented and the players were able to come back out to join in, giving Sir Chris the requisite platform to milk the applause, joined by the club officials. I don’t know if Richard Murray was among them, but hope he was – and if not enjoyed the time anyway.
So there it is. Back again to where it all began for me, in the second flight. We can live there, just one good season away from the treasures of the Premiership. Thoughts can start to turn to planning for the campaign ahead and of plaudits for this season’s efforts. Having sworn to say nothing about this division being dire until we are out of it, we can finally say good riddance to League One. May we not return again.
It has after all been a tough season for bloggers. We’ve had next to nothing to complain about and no opportunity to debate team formation (4-4-2 last week, this week, and next week). I might even finally find the time and inclination to take the wrapping off last season’s DVD as it just don’t matter anymore. We’re up and we know we are.