Chris Powell's Flat Cap

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Last Gasp Lita Shows Wednesday’s Steel

With just twenty minutes left, Charlton were seemingly heading for a fourth straight league win in 2013. A goal early in the second half from captain Johnnie Jackson had given the Addicks the lead over Sheffield Wednesday, whilst the away side’s period of pressure appeared to have passed by without the Charlton net rippling. The home side looked in control of the game. However, with two minutes remaining on the clock, Leroy Lita had slotted home to give Wednesday all three points after a header from Reda Johnson had drawn the two sides level with 84 minutes gone. Charlton punished for sitting too deep in the final stages of the game. A bitter, and arguably underserved, pill to swallow for the Charlton fans, whilst the reaction from the away end showed what a massive victory it was for the side fighting relegation.

I’d managed to avoid discussing the topic of luck over recent weeks, but this game epitomized a reoccurring theme of Charlton’s home form this season. Despite having the bulk of the game and, whilst creating fewer than Wednesday, having several chances to increase their 1-0 lead, Charlton’s luck was out in front of goal. Two chances at the death, the second goal especially having unbelievable amounts of good fortune, was all it took for the away side to snatch three points from Charlton’s grasp.

After three straight victories in the Championship, Charlton’s team picked itself with Chris Powell selecting the same line up for the third consecutive game. This meant the previously forgotten Scott Wagstaff maintained his place, whilst despite the return to fitness of Leon Cort, Matt Taylor kept his place partnering former Wednesdayite Michael Morrison in the centre of defence. Cort had to settle for a place on the bench alongside Calum Harriot, who had impressed in cameo roles in recent weeks.

For Sheffield Wednesday, the line-up was littered with players who once wore the Charlton shirt. Spanish centre back Miguel Llera started in defence, whilst former fans favourite Jose Semedo joined new signing Lita, who signed on loan for the remainder of the season on Friday, on the bench. Danny Pugh, also joining on loan on Friday, made his debut in midfield, whilst the impressive Michail Antonio provided the away side’s main source of threat in front of goal.

The first half was one of little action with neither side managing to get a grip of the game, but Wednesday almost found themselves a man down after just five minutes. With Charlton passing the ball casually between defence and midfield, Dale Stephens sprayed the ball out to the left wing, and with it long gone, Giles Coke went in viciously on the Charlton midfield’s ankle. Ridiculously late, both feet off the floor and studs showing, not to mention the nature of the challenge made it a potential bone breaker, Coke was seemingly saved by the watch as referee Salisbury awarded a yellow card.

With the fury created from the incident giving the 20,000 strong attendance inside the Valley a spark, Charlton fashioned the first meaningful attempt on goal. Lovely play on the left wing saw Cedric Evina and Wagstaff link up to get themselves away from Wednesday pressure, before Wagstaff exchanged passes with Jackson, Jackson’s a delightful back heel, to open up a shooting opportunity, only for Wagstaff’s daisy cutter to trickle into the hands of Chris Kirkland in the Wednesday goal. Wednesday then had an opportunity of their own to open the scoring. A corner taken by Coke evaded everyone, but for Anthony Gardner, who had peeled away from his man and found himself free at the far post. His resulting header was blocked by a melee of players and Evina was in the right place to pick up the pieces and clear away. With the space offered up to him, Gardner really should have made more of the opportunity. A let off for the Addicks.

Both sides traded half chances as Yann Kermorgant acrobatically attempted to flick the ball past Kirkland from a Wagstaff cross but, despite looking impressive, missed the target completely, and the lively Antonio fired an effort from just outside the area well wide, but few real openings were available as both sets of centre backs looked solid. Even when Llera ran into Kirkland as he attempted to collect an Evina cross, the Wednesday defence were alert enough to the loose ball and managed to get it clear.

Wagstaff was involved in almost every positive Charlton move, and his pace and strength were being rewarded with several free-kicks in the wide left position as the Wednesday defence struggled to cope. One such free-kick, seemingly over hit from Stephens, was nodded back into the centre from Taylor and, with Kirkland all at sea, gave Morrison the perfect opportunity to give the Addicks the lead. Unfortunately for the home side, the pressure applied by Lewis Buxton meant Morrison could only direct his header against the bar and the scores remained level; arguably the best chance of the half, and one that really should have been taken. With the half time whistle approaching, Charlton were almost made to rue that miss even more. Hamer raced off his line to challenge Llera for a high ball pumped into the box, but clattered into the big centre back, falling to the floor and failing to collect the ball, allowing Antonio to slide and, with little more to do that poke the ball in the general direction of the empty net, somehow skewing the ball wide of the post.

The second half started at a much greater intensity, with both sides exchanging good crossing opportunities, including a Wednesday corner that was, this time, comfortably taken by Hamer. The solid pair of hands from Charlton’s number one proved to be ever more important as his quick distribution of the ball into the bath of Lawrie Wilson started a magnificent counter attack to give Charlton the lead. Wilson raced to the halfway line, before holding up play in order to wait for Chris Solly’s fantastic diagonal run. Wilson played through the perfect ball and with acres of space Solly travelled closer to goal before putting in a cross that was flicked back by Bradley Pritchard into the path of Jackson to apply the finish off the post. Defence to attack in no time at all and one of the best team goals seen in recent times. The goal of the season competition had yet another candidate.

With the crowd behind them, Charlton got forward again straight from the restart, but Wagstaff’s cross failed to create a meaningful opening. Wednesday heads didn’t drop, however, and shortly after the goal they had their best spell of the match up to that point, despite a woeful free-kick from Llera that tricked against the wall at snail’s pace. Antonio and Johnson were looking dangerous and Charlton’s defence was struggling to cope as they powered through unchallenged and fired just wide of the far post from the left one after the first. With the introduction of Lita, the away side now had even more threat up front, and his first effort goal was fantastically tipped away by Hamer as it looked to be heading past him into the bottom corner. The last effort of Wednesday’s ten minute crusade on the Charlton goal came through Johnson, who received a standing ovation from the home crowd after clearing the Jimmy Seed Stand (no mean feat, it must be said) with his woeful volley.

A break in Wednesday openings saw the home side create two chances of their own through the impressive Wagstaff. Cutting inside from the left and firing a curling just wide of the post, his first effort came close, but his second chance, again after cutting in from the left, was even closer, crashing against the inside of the post and narrowly evading a host of Charlton players in excellent positions to tuck in the rebound. Agonising for the Addicks, as with a bit of luck, the game would have been put to bed. Despite sitting deeper and deeper, Charlton looked a solid bet to maintain their lead, and another quick break following good work from Kermorgant saw the ball drop to the feet of Stephens 25 yards from goal. Probably with visions of his screamer last weekend against Blackburn, he hit the ball first time, when the space around him invited another touch, and smashed it way off target.

With the Addicks to continuing to press down the flanks and Wednesday starved of opportunities, it came as a complete shock when they drew level with six minute to play. Possession in midfield eventually saw the ball played out wide to Buxton, whose looping cross was met powerfully by the head of Reda Johnson, leaving Hamer stranded as it nestled beyond him into the back of the net. Whilst not entirely underserved, the goal did come against the run of play and there was still hope of Charlton taking back their lead, especially when Pritchard got into a decent crossing position, but his delivery was disappointingly hit well past the head of Jackson at the far post. But with just minutes left on the clock, a scuffed pass from Johnson found Lita inside the area, and his deflected effort again saw Hamer powerless to prevent the ball from going in. Scruffy, lucky, underserved; the Charlton fans left in their droves and faces of shock, horror and anger populated the home stands.

Powell’s late introduction of Danny Green, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ricardo Fuller had no impact at all as, despite a few free-kicks and corners, the five minutes of additional time petered out with no real chances created for either side. Somehow, after looking set for all three points, Charlton were left empty handed.

It’s a difficult performance to access. If Johnson’s header had gone wide and the deflection from Lita’s shot sent it away from goal, everyone connected with the Addicks would be praising a fantastic and resilient performance. However, the outcome raises some doubts about the continuing plan to sit deep after taking the lead. Far too many late goals have been conceded this season because of it; it invites the pressure. Whilst obviously not suggesting an all-out siege on the opposition’s half when defending such a tight lead, a bit of creative and forceful play wouldn’t go a miss.

In terms of individual performances, there’s little to criticise. Only really Hamer, who flapped and a number of balls into the box, didn’t look like his normal self, but he pulled off some decent saves and could do little with the goals. The rest of the team looked comfortable and solid up until the closing stages, especially Taylor and Morrison, who won most of their headers, Evina, who played well both at the back and going forward, and Wagstaff, who stood out above the other players in a red shirt putting in a fantastic showing.

Unlike most defeats, this isn’t one that should spark any major panic amongst Charlton fans, players and staff. It needs to be put to the backs of minds as quickly as possible, especially with the tasty derby away at Crystal Palace next Saturday. The perfect platform to bounce back.


Nigel’s Gone But Against Modern Football? It’s Not That Bad

Football fans woke up this morning to very unsurprising things. First of all, Britain had come to a halt due to our inability to deal with ‘adverse weather conditions’ (snow to you and me), and secondly, a football manager was in line to lose his job. A manager being relieved of their duties for one reason or another has become a weakly occurrence in modern footballing times; 29 have now left their club this season in England’s top four leagues, either through sacking, resignation or moving to another club. Chairmen have no patience and managers aren’t willing to turn down a lucrative new contract higher up the league ladder. It’s the norm.

Today’s departure was a little different though, and genuinely was a surprise to all. Nigel Adkins, not dismissing his remarkable achievement of taking a team from third bottom in the third tier to the Premier League via back to back promotions, had just overseen his Southampton side pull off a remarkable comeback from two goals down to draw 2-2 against European Champions (in case they haven’t told you enough) Chelsea. The Saints were on a run of five league games unbeaten, including three away draws, a draw at home against Arsenal and a crucial victory away at Aston Villa that has helped to move them three points clear of the relegation zone. All of this is made ever more remarkable considering they began life back in the Premier with just four points from ten games and a squad without a great deal of world class talent. Sacking Adkins at that point, although rash and short sighted, would have been easier to justify. Sacking him now is ludicrous. Yet, that is the decision the Southampton board have chosen to make. Unjust, unfair and heart breaking to both Adkins himself and the club’s fans, one even suggesting he ‘should be given the key to the city’ for his part in their dramatic rise up the Football League.

There is little point crying over spilt milk however, as Southampton fans must now get behind their team and the new man in charge. They’ve moved quickly to replace him with Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino, previously manager at Espanyol and largely unknown in this country. He’s got a good record; it must be said, keeping the Spanish club in La Liga on a shoestring budget, but it would appear to be a huge risk. Adkins looked to be guiding Southampton to safety if recent results were anything to go by, whilst Pochettino has never managed in England before. Will he be able to understand the principles of our game quick enough? Will he appreciate the qualities of Southampton’s fine young English players? Will his dealings in what remains of the transfer window be suited to the English game, and if not, will they adapt? He also seems to have troubles with the English language, conducting his first press conference via a translator. A relegation dog fight needs a communicator, someone who can lift heads after a run of bad results or a hammering, can that be put across successfully through a middle man? Look at Harry Redknapp’s appointment at QPR, an Englishman who knows this league well with a fine understanding of what makes a player suitable for the Premier League, along with being an incredible motivator and excellent manager as a whole.

Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese, now vilified by fans, including club legend Matthew Le Tissier who believes Cortese’s actions have left Southampton as the ‘laughing stock’ of English football, will no doubt support his decision by emphasising a desire to move on to the next level. In his view, he may feel Adkins had done all he could for the club; taking them back to the Premier League is all well and good, but can he help to make a real impact in the top flight? Premier League safety didn’t seem to be enough, he’s probably hoping Pochettino will provide much more than that. The thought of this is, of course, crazy. Before the season started, staying up would have been an achievement for Southampton, and that is still the case. Does Cortese not understand football? Does he expect another title challenge from a squad of players largely from the lower leagues? Or is this just a case of a business type medalling with the game we all love and killing its soul? Nottingham Forest fans have been left angered this week after club stalwarts in the backroom staff were unceremoniously shown the door by their Kuwaiti owners, Blackburn’s Indian owners have left fans fuming with the way they run the club whilst, despite the success, Roman Abramovich has angered Chelsea fans with the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo. Football has gone nuts.

Events like this have led to football fans young and old taking to social networking sites to voice their view that they’re ‘against modern football’. To some extent, they have a very valid point. Football has changed for the worse. Would Nigel Adkins have been sacked 30 years ago? Would Forest have removed club legend Frank Clark as ambassador by post? Would a Champions League winning manager have been given his P-45 just months after such a success? The answer to all of these is no. Premier League clubs are spending millions on transfer flops whilst clubs down the ladder on the brink. The Alan Hansen led ‘tackling is a dying art’ club have had more fuel added to their fire following Vincent Kompany’s red card at the weekend, whilst in the same game (Arsenal v Manchester City), the cost of football was highlighted with Man City fans choosing to boycott the game over the price of their £62 tickets. This was all shown on Sky Sports to millions of armchair fans; some have probably never seen their team play live in their life but still claim to be as loyal as any season ticket holder. The majority still watch their local team play, and often for a fair price in the lower leagues, but the Premier League internet stream loving bandwagon is gathering pace by the second. Speaking of loyalty, there’s the issue of footballers having none. Danny Graham, a lifelong Newcastle fan and serial criticiser of Sunderland, has been linked with a move to the Mackems and some sources say a deal is in place. Players chase the pound rather than the pride.

But is football really so different to how it was decades ago? No, not really. Clubs struggled then too whilst others thrived. Clubs went bust. Bristol City went from the top flight to Division 4 and almost went bust, saved at the last minute after eight of their players, some of whom were still on top flight wages, agreed to have their contracts terminated with a few sweeteners thrown in. Why didn’t they do it earlier? Because football is a job like any other for footballers, they’re not going to sacrifice their earnings they need to feed their families. Football players moved clubs to get pay rises, much like they do now. The laws of football have changed, but the occasional strange red car decision is better than broken legs every other week. The only thing that really stands out is the way owners go about sacking their managers, but with the likes of Chelsea and Man City dominating as a result of foreign investment, they can’t all be mocked.

As a fan experience, I take the controversial view that it is now a better one. Yes, we’ve all seen the pictures or the Arsenal ticket for the game against Spurs which cost around the same as a Bayern Munich season ticket; ticket prices are too high in some cases, but not all. The majority of Championship clubs, a high standard of football, offer reasonable prices. Safety has improved beyond recognition: football violence is rarely heard of, tragedies within in the stands are completely unheard of whilst the quality of football on show is vastly improved with better pitches and foreign players. Football is now a family outing, not just a fight zone for ‘hard’ men. Bring in safe standing and lower ticket prices in the top flight, and the fan experience is perfect. Germany is a lovely model, but it will never work here. Clubs are debt free in Germany, clubs are debt burdened in England. Ticket prices will remain high to cover that. Football clubs are businesses and need to make as much money as possible, football fans are consumers, there’s no getting away from it, but we always have been to some extent. Clubs are nothing without their fans, and more specifically their money, much like HMV or Jessops are nothing without their customers’ money.

Whether you’re for modern football, against modern football or don’t want to get involved in the discussion, there’s two things we can all agree on: Nigel Adkins shouldn’t have been sacked and every last one of us, no matter what happens, will always love football. Oh, and I guess we’ll agree this country doesn’t cope well with snow too.

Blackpool Rocked by Solid Charlton

Coming into the game, there seemed to be only one plausible team selection for the Addicks. After their excellent victory in their last league outing away at Watford, coupled with a poor performance from several fringe players in the FA Cup fixture against Huddersfield, the obvious choice would have been to play the same team that won at Vicarage Road baring injuries and suspension in defence. But Chris Powell had other ideas, bringing in the isolated and forgotten Scott Wagstaff for Ricardo Fuller, who had performed excellently against the Hornets, and reverting to a 4-5-1 formation. The decision split fans pre kick-off, but the majority were rather confused; the change in formation and personnel appeared to be a maverick one from Addick’s manager Powell. However, come the referee’s final whistle two and a half hours after the team had been announced, opinions had certainly changed. Powell had read the situation perfectly, setting up a solid midfield five to frustrate Blackpool, with their fluid passing style, into mistakes and Wagstaff rewarded the faith shown in him with an excellent performance, not to mention scoring what turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 win.

Charlton took the lead, seemingly against the run of play, when Johnnie Jackson’s scuffed shot trickled into the bottom corner of the net just past the 20 minute mark. Wagstaff’s goal came in first half stoppage time: a tap in after Yann Kermorgant’s diving header was palmed away by Matthew Gilks. Blackpool could only reply with a consolation goal from former Addick Nathan Ecclestone, volleying in from the edge of the box, in the dying embers of time added on in the second half, and created little other threat throughout the previous 90 minutes with Charlton’s midfield excellent and the defence solid. Charlton’s first win at home on a Saturday all season was well deserved.

As before mentioned, the team selection was crucial in Charlton collecting all three points, but at the time, appeared surprising. Two enforced, and less surprising, changes occurred in the centre of defence, with the injured Leon Cort and suspended Dorian Dervite replaced by Michael Morrison and Matthew Taylor, who was making his first league start of the season. With Wagstaff coming in on the left, Jackson slotted back into the centre of midfield, joining Bradley Pritchard and Dale Stephens, who had both been the subject of transfer rumours linking them with a move away from the Valley. The bench was packed with youth as Callum Harriott, Morgan Fox and Semi Ajayi all took their places in reserve. They were joined by want away striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, with Powell hinting he was ready to listen to offers for last season’s top scorer.

For Blackpool, a blend of youth and experience was selected by caretaker manager Steve Thompson. This was seen to the fore in attack, with 39 year old Kevin Phillips flanked by 20 year old Thomas Ince and 21 year old Aston Villa loanee Nathan Delfouneso. There was also plenty of experience at the back, with the likes of Ian Crainey and Kirk Broadfoot. Ecclestone, previously on loan at Charlton, was part of an attack minded bench alongside striker Gary Taylor-Fletcher and midfielders Tiago Gomes and Angel.

Despite the Addicks having the first shot, a long range effort from Stephens that wouldn’t have troubled a second goal, it was the visitors who took control of the game early on; their passing style appearing to be too much for Charlton to deal with as they knocked the ball around and kept possession with little concern. A Blackpool break almost produced the first goal of the game early on, with Delfouneso beating Chris Solly and crossing onto the head of Phillips at the back post, who saw his looping effort fantastically cleared off the line by Taylor. Charlton’s few touches of the ball were to clear it and send it straight back to a Blackpool shirt, and as Chris Basham danced past Morrison but slipped as he was about to shoot, that ‘it’s going to be a long afternoon’ feeling was starting to show. A break in play following a clash of heads between Taylor and Issiah Osborne on the 15 minute mark seemed just what the Addicks needed. The red shirts gathered together and held court to work out how to stop Blackpool from playing game, and whatever was said, seemed to work.

After the stoppage, Charlton came alive and grew into the game with the ball spending most of its time in and around Blackpool’s area. A succession of blocked crosses from Evina and Wagstaff eventually result in the Addicks winning a corner. Stephens took it, and his ball in was met by Taylor at the far post, but his header was cleared off the line and away. It wasn’t to be long before Blackpool weren’t so fortunate. Charlton were now looking solid in midfield and at the back, preventing Blackpool from passing and maintaining possession as they had done earlier on. Taylor did brilliantly to win the ball on the halfway line and link up with Solly and Wilson, but nothing came of the attack with Gilks collecting the ball. However, his clearance was picked up by Wagstaff, who knocked the ball into the path of Solly. A fantastic little run from the right back led to a deflected pass that fell right into the path of Jackson and he turned the ball into the far corner of the goal in what seemed to be slow motion.

Despite Charlton coming into the game, it was hard to argue their goal was deserved, but they almost, and should of, had the opportunity to double their lead straight after. A pass into Kermorgant from Evina saw the Frenchman expertly play in Wagstaff with a back heel, who was stopped from going through on goal after seemingly being fouled just outside the area. However, referee Mike Jones somehow saw it fit to award neither a foul or book Wagstaff for diving. A strange decision that angered all in red. Clear cut opportunities for either side were few and far between for the reminder of the half, only an untidy overhead kick from Alex Baptiste troubled either keeper. But soon after the 4th official signalled three minutes of added on time at the end of the first half, the home side had the perfect opportunity to double their lead, and they did just that (at the second attempt). Kermorgant started the move, sending Wilson away down the right with a perfectly placed through ball, and then ran into the box to meet the wideman’s cross with a diving header, only for Gilks to pull off a parried point blank save. Thankfully for the Addicks, the ball fell straight into the path of the returning Wagstaff, who coolly tapped home from close range. ‘There’s only one Scotty Wagstaff’ sung the home crowd as the players left the pitch after a fantastic first half display.

Blackpool again started quickly, putting heavy pressure on the Charlton defence. After Wilson failed to clear, he pulled down Phillips on the edge of the box. A promising position, but Ludovic Sylvestre could only hit the ball straight into the wall. The resulting corner came to nothing, but Blackpool were looking dangerous. The attacking threat from Ince and Delfouneso was causing problems and a number of crosses narrowly evaded men and shots from the pair from distance were fired wide, but Charlton still looked comfortable. Pritchard pulled off an uncharacteristic powerful long shot the hit the stanchion, but in truth was well wide, and unbelievable fight from Kermorgant to keep the ball in play whilst it was seemingly long gone and to chase Broadfoot down as he attempted to pass the ball out of defence moments later sparked a series of corners that, although causing defensive problems for the away side, came to nothing.

In between more wayward shooting from Ince, Charlton brought on youngster Harriott for his first appearance in the Championship. His first action was to bamboozle Neil Eardly with a series of tricks and flicks, allowing him to cut inside and win a corner. The home fans were impressed enough to already be singing the 18 year old’s name. Harriott proved it wasn’t just luck when, in the next attack, the ball fell to him the box and his stepovers resulted in the ball falling into the path of Stephens, who smashed well over. Basham almost got a goal back late on, but Hamer saved well from his diving header, but the Charlton custodian could do little minutes later when Ecclestone grabbed the consolation. Taylor could only clear a Crainey cross straight to Ecclestone on the edge of the box, who fired into the bottom corner on the full. Thankfully, it was a case of too little too late for Blackpool, and Charlton had done enough to secure a valuable three points.

It truly was a fantastic team performance from Chris Powell’s men. There were few stand out performers, but each and every player in a red shirt but in a workman like shift to deny Blackpool the chance to play for the majority of the game. If special mentions are to be made, they must go to two players making their first starts of the season: Taylor and Wagstaff. Taylor was sold, winning almost every header, making a number of brilliant tackles and causing a threat in the opposition’s box from set plays, whilst Wagstaff arguably put in his best ever performance in a Charlton shirt, epitomised by the fight and desire he showed in addition to some brilliant balls sprayed all over the pitch and a goal to boot. Kermorgant was the other stand out. Given a difficult job up front on his own, he ran himself into the ground, taking kicks and hits along the way and holding the ball up brilliantly with some unbelievable touches.

Eleven points clear of the relegation zone, seven behind the play-off places and 14th in the table. You’ll do well to find a Charlton fan that isn’t happy with where they are. Five more wins will see the Addicks past the 50 points mark. Five more wins should see us safe. A few more wins in quick succession and it may be time to start looking up rather than down.

New Year Starts With a Bang as Charlton Grab Three Points

The average New Year’s Party last night would have contained plenty of celebration, fireworks and the occasional mixed emotion, maybe even some sadness. All of these were replicated on New Year’s Day at Vicarage Road as Charlton fans celebrated an explosive 4-3 victory over Watford when at times it looked as if the result was slipping away from them. Both sides were ahead on two separate occasions, and with such an open and end to end game, the final score could have easily resembled that of a rugby result. With disallowed goals for both sides, a penalty for Watford and another incompetent refereeing performance form Mr Trevor Kettle, the game had everything.

Daniel Pudli reacted quickest to a Ben Hamer save to put Watford ahead just after 10 minutes, and  the home side dominated until Charlton scored two goals 10 minutes before the break. First Tommie Hoban turned the ball into his own net from a flicked on corner, then fantastic build up play from Cedric Evina and Bradley Pritchard culminated in Yann Kermorgant heading Charlton in front. With the Addicks in control of the opening stages of the second half, but failing to finish their chances, the Hornets took advantage and won a penalty for Dorian Dervite’s foul on Fernando Forestieri. Abdi converted the spot kick, but Charlton continued to press, only for Alexandro Geijo to put Watford back in front just before the 70th minute. Charlton heads could have so easily dropped, but instead they went back up the other end and fine work from Ricardo Fuller saw the ball turned in via a deflection, possibly off a Watford player, but Kermorgant claimed it. The winner came 12 minutes from time, a glorious header by Jonnie Jackson from a Dale Stephens corner. Watford distraught, Charlton delirious.

Charlton’s only changes from the encouraging display against Derby were enforced. Following his red card, Michael Morrison was suspended and Dervite stepped in at centre back. The Frenchman had performed well when ever called upon this season, especially at Millwall, where he and Leon Cort played a huge hand in Charlton successfully coming away from the Den with a point. Danny Haynes was also forced to sit this one out following a hamstring injury suffered at Derby. Despite the impact Bradley Wright-Phillips had when he replaced Haynes on Tuesday, Ricardo Fuller started.

For the away side, loan signings from near and far dominated the makeup of their starting XI. Starts for Nueton, Abdi, Geigo, Marco Cassetti, Joel Ekstrand and Forestieri, all on loan from Udinese, along with Pudil (Granada) and Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea) meant that 8/11 of the weren’t owned by Watford. Two exciting young talents in Sean Murray and Hoban started alongside the loans, with former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia the captain for the Hornets.

The game took just five minutes to get going, with a clever throw in from Chris Solly running nicely into the path of Kermorgant, who rushed his opportunity and fired well wide. Down the other end, a Watford break saw a Cassetti cross into the box just evade the head of Abdi, whilst Charlton created another opening as Watford failed to clear a corner efficiently and Kermorgant again wasted an opportunity from inside the box after being teed up by Fuller. But Watford’s first real threat on the Charlton goal saw them take the lead. Another break from Watford saw Chalobah play in Geijo, whose shot was tipped away by Hamer straight into the path of Pudil, who finished well into the bottom corner of the goal. It looked like being another case of the Addicks being punished for failing to take their chances, but there was still 80 minutes to turn this one around.

The goal kicked Watford into life as they began to dominate possession in midfield and become more threatening from their pacey breakaways. Another break and another ball over the top from Chalobah looked to have set Forestieri in on goal, but the diminutive Argentinian, who had been sent off at the Valley earlier on in the season, was up to his old tricks again, attempting to fool the referees by palming the ball around Hamer. Thankfully for Charlton, the referee acknowledged the offence and the yellow card was duly shown. Despite his antics, Forestieri was causing problems for the Charlton defence with his pace, but Watford were failing to create any real opportunities. The only one of note came from Murray from 25 yards, but it was comfortably held by Hamer.

Charlton fans thought their side had drawn level on the half hour mark. A long ball was flicked by Kermorgant into the bath of Jackson, who looked to have controlled well and smashed the ball home right into the top corner of the Watford net. However, much to the away fan’s bewilderment, referee Kettle disallowed the goal and booked Jackson for an apparent hand ball in the build. Thankfully for all connected with Charlton, it took just a few more minutes before they were level. A corner from Jackson was flicked on dangerously by Pritchard, falling into the patch of Hoban and leaving him under pressure to clear. He could only direct the ball into his own goal and the away side, although in unspectacular fashion, had the goal their chances had warranted. The tides had turned and Charlton were now well in control of the game. A wonderful flick on from Yann fell into the path of Fuller, but he could only poke the ball wide, but a second was just around the corner.

Collecting the ball in his own half, Cedric Evina showed great pace and skill to beat two men, before putting the ball into the path of Pritchard just inside the box. His cross into the goal mouth was a dream for Kermorgant, who jumped highest and headed home Charlton’s second. A fantastic turn around and the 1500 strong away following sung their hearts out in appreciation. Just before half time, Fuller had one last chance for the Addicks; beating his men out wide, cutting into the box but firing his shot into the side netting.

Charlton started the strongest in the second half, but only had a tame header from Kermorgant that was comfortably saved to show for their efforts. Watford, however, were starting to get back into the game, and so easily could have pulled it back level with 50 minutes on the clock. A one-two from Forestieri and Geigo saw the Argentinian get through one on one with Hamer, but Charlton’s number one made himself big and saved well. With Pritchard mishitting from a decent position and chances going to waste, Charlton weren’t to be so lucky the next time Forestieri was through on goal. His pace did for Dervite and a clumsy challenge sent Forestieri tumbling, leaving Kettle with no choice but to point to the spot. A third penalty conceded by the Addicks in as many games was made doubly frustrating when Abdi converted and drew the scores level.

But Charlton responded well, and so easily could have been back ahead in the next attack. Kermorgant again involved as he and Pritchard combined to put Jackson through for the simplest of finishes. Somehow, Charlton’s captain fired the ball straight at the keeper and Almunia collected well. This was a chance that really needed to be taken with the pressure Watford were applying on the Charlton goal, with Hamer forced into a couple of fantastic tipped saves over the bar. Despite the good from Watford, the bad and the ugly were also starting to be shown in force, with several players over emphasising falls and showing a lack of sporting behaviour. A similar situation had occurred at the Valley earlier on in the season, and it was no surprise to see it happening again.

Unfortunately for Charlton, the good of Watford resulted in them pulling ahead again with just over 20 minutes left. A long ball was flicked on by Forestieri, out doing Dervite, allowing Geigo a free run on goal and an easy finish past Hamer. The goal was absolutely gutting for the away side, who really didn’t deserve to be behind. But showing the fight every Charlton knows the side has, the Addicks quickly grabbed an equalizer. Ricardo Fuller ran rings round his men on the right hand wing before drilling the ball across goal into a melee of players with Kermorgant claiming the final touch as it sneaked into the net. Charlton wanted this and straight away got back on top despite a small scare when Forestieri finished but was deemed offside. Kermorgant headed over from a fantastic Pritchard cross, and Pritchard himself fired wide. The away fans were willing the ball into the net, and a corner from Stephens in the 78th minute was powerfully met by the head of Jackson and the ball thundered into the top corner of the net. The captain slid in front of the away fans in celebration; this surely couldn’t be lost now.

Watford pressed though, another goal was disallowed for offside and Hamer was forced into another tipped save as a cross from Chobolah was deflected off Evina. But a strong defensive performance and fantastic ‘get the ball and keep it in the corner at all costs’ play from substitutes Cook and Hulse, and some help from the away fans who decided to keep the ball amongst themselves when it came their way in stoppage time, sealed Charlton’s first win in five in truly dramatic style.

A game in which three goals were considered would normally contain plenty of defensive frailties, but this one didn’t. It really was a fantastic team performance with not a single player disappointing for the Addicks. Special mentions must go to Evina, who looked a class and a bit above anything that has been at left back in the absence of Wiggins, the partnership Solly and Wilson (who suffered a broken nose late on) are developing down the wing and Bradley Pritchard, who is really starting to prove his doubters wrong in every department but for his finishing. But man of the match by a long way was Kermorgant. Definitely the best performance he’s had this season and arguably the best ever, his heading, first touch and build up play were fantastic; the two goals just the icing on the cake for the Frenchman. Hopefully this result, and the performance especially, can be the start of another winning run.