Solly's shot venomous bounces down from the crossbar the wrong side of the goal-line, just after we give away a soft goal. The rest, to paraphrase Bill Shankly, is gossip. Except there's always more to it, or more to be said. After a decidedly mundane first half, who (if anyone) scored first became increasingly important; and having gone behind our response was poor. Brighton had read the script and seen the formbook: Charlton aren't scoring many, seem low on confidence, so nick a goal and there's a fair chance of going away with the points, so play it pretty safe, get men behind the ball. They did that well enough, with their goal exposing shortcomings from balls from set-pieces to the far post, and in truth saw out the game quite comfortably. We ended a poor game badly.
What was worrying for me was the contrast between how we reacted against Cardiff, despite being down to 10 men, and how we responded today. A glance at the BBC stats suggests that we had 20 shots; but only five were on target, and with the exception of Solly's shot, a smothering of an opening for new-boy Watt, a bit of pinball in their box in the first half, and what seemed a reasonable shout for a penalty for handball, I can't remember us carving out decent opportunities. There were other moments, a few times when the ball didn't quite fall right. But Brighton had about the same number of real openings and while the game deserved a 0-0 - not least for the way both teams played in the first half, admittedly in difficult, blustery conditions - they scored and we didn't.
With the obviously welcome return of Wiggins the defence pretty much picked itself. Absent Buyens, Peeters went for a central midfield pairing of Jackson and Cousins, with Wilson and Gudmundsson taking the wide berths, Tucudean and Vetokele up front, and Watt starting on the bench. Against a team effectively playing one up front and packing midfield, it put a premium on working the flanks.
The first half saw both teams content to knock it around to no great effect, with more misplaced passes and poor control of the ball than the conditions could justify and neither side looking as though they had the pace or invention to catch the other out on any break. They tested us out wide, but Wiggins and Solly dealt with those threats well enough. What did cause us concern were set-pieces. First, Etheridge came for what looked like a routine catch only to spill it, resulting in a little chaos as Bikey Amougou opted against hoofing the loose ball clear. Then in a taste of things to come one corner to the far post picked out an unmarked guy who headed back across goal. For us, Tucudean and Vetokele both struggled to hold the ball up against bigger and more numerous opponents, Gudmundsson down the left looked promising, but Wilson was having, well, a mare, with none of the marauding surges forward that we associate him with. With Jackson and Cousins naturally defensive, it all added up to stalemate.
I can't say whether our penalty appeal for handball was a good one (the ball was the other side of the pitch at the other end), but it was a more vociferous shout from the players than usual. The game badly needed a goal to shake the teams out of their overly-cautious approach, so I'd have given it in any event. There was a set-piece squared well across the box for Jackson, who just failed to get on the end of it, one ball in that was knocked on for a half-shot that Wilson then tried to help on its way, and one genuine opportunity when Vetokele had space but couldn't get the pass through to Tucudean, who in any event had criminally strayed offside. But at the break it was a case of expecting things to get better attacking the Covered End, although as the teams came out we did have the news that Jackson had picked up a knock. Gomez came on, with Solly moving into central midfield alongside Cousins.
Chances did indeed start to materialise in the second half. Brighton out of the blue found a guy in space going into the box, only for Etheridge to come out and smother well, and then the second one to our far post eluded everyone but their guy who headed tamely into Etheridge's hands. We made our next change, with Tucudean seemingly about to be replaced by Watt in any event but going down with an injury and limping off. And he almost scored with his first touches in a Charlton shirt, turning his marker inside the box only for his effort from a tight angle to be pushed aside by their keeper. Given that there were players available for one squared across the box, seemed a fair indication that his first instinct is to go for goal, no bad thing in a forward.
After about an hour the decisive minute arrived. Solly latched on to a loose ball outside their box and beat their keeper all ends up with a wicked shot, only for it to crash down from the bar and get cleared. As they went forward Bikey took one out. The free-kick was curled to the far post, Etheridge came off his line for it but failed to get a hand on the ball, leaving their guy with the simple task of heading in from about a yard off the line.
So be it, still plenty of time. But obviously a need to up the tempo and start putting them under some pressure, especially as they were even more likely to be content to sit back when out of possession, and to get Watt and Vetokele into the game. Instead I think we made a third change too soon. Peeters brought on Church for Wilson, making it a sort of front three with Church central, Igor pushed wider left, and Gudmundsson moving inside. With central midfield already disrupted by Jackson's departure, we increasingly looked - not surprisingly - as if we were having to make it up as we went along.
There were moments in the closing stages when we threatened, but I can't recall a real chance, even as late on we threw caution to the wind and put Bikey up front. Don't ask me what the formation was by then, it was just a case of getting it into the danger area and hoping something would fall. It didn't, and at the finish it looked like a pretty dispirited set of players trudging off.
Etheridge: 5/10. Has to be deemed calpable for their goal, coming for a cross that he failed to get to. One decent second-half save to block a one-on-one but also that spilled cross in the first half.
Solly: 8/10. Nothing wrong defensively, kept things ticking over when moved into central midfield, and was a whisker away from firing us ahead (and however the game actually finished, if that had gone in it could have been a very different result).
Wiggins: 8/10. Slotted back in to very good effect and pretty much blocked out the threat on his flank.
Ben Haim: 7/10. No complaints, generally effective despite the obvious difficulty of judging high balls in the wind.
Bikey Amougou: 6/10. Just seemed to me a bit out of sorts today, reflected in some decidedly sloppy passes, but still iconic.
Wilson: 5/10. He had a poor game, period. It was an opportunity for him to show what he can do in the more advanced wide position and he didn't take it.
Jackson: 7/10. Nothing dramatic from him in the first half, but as ever a calming influence.
Cousins: 8/10. Doing what he does best, providing good cover in the central position, reading the game well to make timely interceptions.
Gudmundsson: 7/10. No decisive impact today but always looked as though he might make one.
Tucudean: 5/10. Unfortunately ineffective, and straying offside when in a position to be played through by Vetokele seemed very poor.
Vetokele: 6/10. For the first time he looked like a guy in need of a goal. Struggled in the first half and later when in a front three.
Subs: Gomez (8/10 - thought he was excellent, not least going forward); Watt (7/10 - does seem to have something about him, wish he'd been given more time to operate alongside Igor); Church (7/10 - decent enough, just not convinced that the change in formation to bring him on was the best call).