After the game we were all trying to remember exactly what Napoleon said about generals and luck. I’ll look it up tomorrow. I’ll do a lot of things tomorrow. But tonight I’m a bit jaded and just want to enjoy the moment. We can think then about formations, combinations, options etc. Today it’s about Chris Powell and his 100% success rate as Charlton manager – and ordering a takeaway before I fall asleep. It’s been a long day, but I’m happy. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, a win of any sort will do.
We could reflect on a first-half performance that were Parkinson still in charge would have seen the team booed off at the break. We could ponder on the fact that Benson missed a good chance before Walsall scored and that today Plymouth had a shot on the volley at 0-0 that could have gone under the bar, only for them to gift us a goal that came out of the blue. But, in the words of the immortal Lee Hazelwood, I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me. And I really do want to be up – and stay up.
In his first game in charge, Sir Chris opted to keep the formation utilised by Keith Peacock in two difficult away games, with Jackson and McCormack occupying the wide berths and Wagstaff supporting Anyinsah up front. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things tight as we’ve conceded too many goals at home. But the limitations of the formation were on full display in the first 45 minutes, which after the enthusiasm of the start must rank as the most mundane for some time. The only notable effort from them was a cross which should have been headed home but glanced off their guy’s head (only for the ref to give a corner), plus a mix-up which nearly let their only real threat, Bolasie, in, with the otherwise superb Dailly taking one for the team by pulling him back. The only notable effort from us was a ball played in for Wagstaff to attempt to chip their keeper, who proved to be bigger than the effort required. Otherwise, all that was notable was the dire quality of our crossing, with at least four set pieces seeing balls sent in down the throat of that keeper.
Things seemed to be getting worse early in the second half as that volley whistled wide. It was the sort of effort that Malcolm Allison said if it goes in you blame the tealady. Elliot could only watch and, like the rest of us, hope. They also had a shot and a header and if they’d scored at that time who knows what would have happened. But whatever deities Chris prays to were on our side and having survived we took the lead in the daftest of fashions, albeit with Wagstaff deserving much credit for chasing a lost cause. A poor pass backwards was followed by a worse pass to the keeper and Wagstaff just followed the ball and nudged it past a helpless keeper into the net. Crowd lifted again and something to hold on to.
The only problem, if it was one, was that the changes we could make would make our set-up more attacking. The first was enforced as Jackson was flattened after getting on the end of a cross. For me it looked like a penalty as their defender was nowhere near the ball, although Jackson had got his header in. He struggled on for some minutes but departed, with Reid coming on. The next change saw Racon withdrawn and Eccleston coming on for his home debut, with McCormack moved inside to partner Semedo, and Wagstaff moving out wide. We now had the attacking 4-4-2 formation that promised a greater attacking threat when all we really wanted was the final whistle. The final alteration saw Abbott replace the hard-working Anyinsah and as the clock wound down a ball through found Eccleston with the chance to show us his pace and ability. Again luck was on our side as the tackle saw the ball fall kindly for him, but there was no luck about the finish, with the shot dispatched into the corner of the net.
Glory be, victory and no nail-biting moments to end with. Instead we were able to enjoy the final moments of a game that for its quality and goalmouth incident will not live long in the memory. But for the occasion and the outcome, I’ll cherish it for some time to come. I made it to the pub, I made it for Sir Chris’ arrival, and we won. Oh happy days.
Elliot: 7/10. Standard mark for a keeper that had very little to do other than deal with back passes. That may owe something to a greater emphasis on keeping a clean sheet, or the fact that Bolasie aside Plymouth offered little threat and seemed strangely subdued. Who cares?
Francis: 7/10. Decent enough game, although I think he was involved in the mix-up with Dailly which nearly cost us.
Fry: 6/10. Not bad, but loses a mark for taking a couple of the poor free kicks in the first half. Crosses which hang in the air in the middle of the goal are food and drink for a big keeper.
Doherty: 7/10. Didn’t feature much, but that’s fine for me for a centre-back when we’ve had a rare clean sheet.
Dailly: 8/10. The mix-up aside, he was superb. His reading of the game struck me through the match, plus the fact he was our most effective carrier of the ball out of defence to help get things going.
Jackson: 7/10. Did threaten to get in a couple of times and has a great habit of appearing in the box. Not a natural winger as regards attacking threat, which is a problem when the same applies on the other flank.
Semedo: 6/10. Decent enough, just sometimes hope for a bit more than being combative when we’re looking to create going forward.
Racon: 6/10. Worked hard but made no telling contribution. Fact is we look to him for inspiration going forward and in the first half especially it was in short supply.
McCormack: 8/10. Looked like a fish out of water wide-right in the first half, but deserves credit for sticking at it. More involved and more effective in the second half, won headers, and did the necessary job when moved inside.
Wagstaff: 7/10. Generally ineffective in creating space or getting the combination right of dropping deep and providing a threat. But gets the extra mark for a goal which changed the game and which was reward for sheer enthusiasm.
Anyinsah: 7/10. Worked tirelessly with little support. Not enough time to see whether he and Eccleston will be the best combination.
Subs: Reid (6/10 – loses a mark for having got in good positions adding to the list of poor crosses); Eccleston (8/10 – if a guy comes on and scores he has to get a good mark, let’s see more); Abbott (7/10 – wasn’t on for long enough for a proper assessment).
Man of the Match: Who else? Sir Chris. Enjoy the day, now the work really begins.