On a day in which ‘if results elsewhere stay the same’ and ‘as it stands’ would be repeated time and time again, the travelling Addicks could afford to turn their phones off, leave their portable radios at home and watch the game without causing serious damage to their fingernails.
Charlton’s A* display against Watford on Tuesday night meant they’d already done enough to pass the relegation exam, and the stress was off for the final test of the season against a Blackpool side still facing the threat of the drop.
Beach balls had been brought to the exam hall, the usual uniform of replica shirts had been left at home in favour of fancy dress and turning over to see a Charlton side, with their foot off the pedal, unable to cope with the test offered to them by the Tangerines wouldn’t have spoiled the party.
However, without the pressure of needing to pick up points, Charlton recorded one of their highest grades of the season. There have been few better performances, and no bigger margins of victory; a 3-0 win for the Addicks.
And all three goals were scored by a man who, not three weeks, was having everything from his ability to his attitude questioned; his predicated grades suggested a promising career, but some had lost faith. In fact, he was having those same attributes questioned in a lethargic first half at Bloomfield Road.
But the second-half, after a slow start, saw cries of frustration turn to cries of celebration. Callum Harriott’s first, a cool finish after Marvin Sordell teed him up, came somewhat against the run of play, his second, converted following some excellent work from Jon Obika, and third, a low drive from the edge of the box, cemented Charlton’s dominance. Harriott’s up-turn in form sums up the character shown by each and every Addick this season.
They had to be patient, and the hosts were marginally the better side in the first half, but Jose Riga’s side’s second half performance was a joy to behold. They’d passed with merit.
The display was excellent, the atmosphere more than enjoyable and the emotional goodbyes something every Addick will feel they had to be a part of. Relief, at last, before the summer holidays begin.
Those believers in sentiment (and those [me] who obsess over players [Pritchard, just Pritchard] who have been left out the team in recent weeks) would have been disappointed with the 18 selected by Riga, with the likes of Bradley Pritchard (!!!!!!), Andy Hughes and Leon Cort not involved, but the side was a strong one nonetheless.
There was just one change to the Charlton side that secured their safety four days ago, with Chris Solly absent altogether and Astrit Ajdarevic, in what was likely to be his last game for the club, coming into the side. If any Blackpool fans had hoped the Addicks line-up would be weak and roll over, this wasn’t going to be the case.
There was some sentiment from the Charlton fans, however, as Tangerine substitute Ricardo Fuller, a likeable character and a player many had wished was still in a red shirt at various points throughout the season, received a warm reception from the vocal Addicks.
But it was the hosts, in need of a point to confirm their survival in the division, who started on top. Blackpool full-back tested Ben Hamer early on, but the stopper, much to the delight of the dozen or so supporters dressed as Charlton’s number one, was equal to the effort whilst the lively Stephen Dobbie fired wide after cutting inside.
Charlton were certainly off the pace in the opening exchanges, and only a strong tackle-cum-block from Diego Poyet prevented Dobbie getting a shot away from a favourable position. But Dobbie, whose introduction helped to change the game at Selhurst Park last season, tested Hamer twice in quick succession shortly.
His first, a low drive from the edge of the box, was comfortable stopped by the bearded ‘keeper, but his second, a fierce strike after the midfielder found space on the left, forced Hamer into more meaningful action, tipping the ball over the bar.
Whilst Charlton’s back four, Dervite in particular, were performing relatively well, and the majority of Blackpool’s efforts were desperate at best, there was certainly a sense an inspired Blackpool side were going to dampen the party in the away end.
A few through balls aimed in the general direction of Sordell just got away from him, and Ajdarevic saw an effort from distance blocked, but there was little else on show in Charlton’s forward third. Down the other end, Craig Cathcart rose highest from a free-kick, but his header soared over the bar by quite some margin.
In truth, there was a large amount of quality lacking when both sides attacked, with Charlton fans turning their attentions to informing the home supporters that the Blackpool Tower is a less than impressive version of its French counterpart, or something along those lines.
But Isaiah Osbourne attempted to provide the spark in order to bring the game alive and, more importantly for the Tangerines, the goal that would make his supporters a little less worried about relegation. The former Aston Villa trainee strolled through Charlton’s midfield, with half-hearted legs waved in Osbourne’s path but no avail, and his cross was met by the head of Chris Basham. Thankfully for the Addicks, Basham’s header couldn’t match Obsourne’s run, tamely nodded into Hamer’s hands.
There was, at least, one effort on goal for the Addicks as the half came to a close. The hardworking if somewhat isolated Sordell won his side a free-kick in a promising position, with Dervite standing over it. There were cries for Dervite to stand down, with his previous dead ball attempts rather wayward, but the Frenchman lashed an effort not too far from Matthew Gilks’ right hand post.
Former Millwall man Andy Keogh, not having the best of afternoon’s, ended the half with a wild and wayward strike from distance; the only minute of stoppage time summing up the first 45 perfectly.
Charlton were far from poor and Blackpool, despite the number of efforts on goal and being marginally the better side, were far from impressive. I try to avoid calling football boring, but this wasn’t far off; more Hartlepool 2010/11 than Hartlepool 2011/12.
One last 0-0 for the road would have been appropriate, but those Addicks who had begun to lose interest were sucked back into the game just a minute into the second period.
Ajdarevic, who had done his utmost to be a creative influence in the first half, finally saw a reward of sorts for his efforts, sending Sordell through. The Bolton loanee, also likely to have been playing his final game for the club, struck his shot well enough, but the experienced Gilks was on hand to palm the effort behind. The Hamer lookalikes, however, weren’t impressed. “You’re just a s*** Ben Hamer,” was their assessment of the Scotland international.
Nonetheless, Blackpool’s shot tally continued to increase. As did the amount of shots dragged harmlessly wide; Neal Bishop and Keogh the guilty parties as the Tangerines struggled to come to terms with the concept of the goalposts.
At least those efforts were somewhat ambitious, both coming from distance and neither clear-cut openings. But when Basham played Dobbie through on goal just before the hour, the game’s best chance had fallen at the feet of the Scot.
With Charlton’s defence seemingly more interested in reserving the best deck chairs on the beach, there was no magic needed for Dobbie to convert. But, going with form, he could only drag his effort well wide; a huge let off for the Addicks who remained second best at Bloomfield Road.
So when the visitors took the lead on the break with 61 minutes played, it was somewhat harsh on the hosts. Not that any Addick was willing to be sympathetic, not least Harriott, who finished with a touch of class after he was played through by Sordell following a Charlton counter.
With Blackpool’s ability to create a chance, this game was far from won, especially with Jordan Cousins replaced by the previously poorly performing Davide Petrucci, and they carved out another opening just five minutes later.
Keogh found himself through on goal, but appeared to have run down a dead end. However, the Irishman turned and set the ball back to Bishop, who looked destined to score from just yards out. With the eruption from the home ends imminent, a heroic block from Dorian Dervite, arguably the best player on the pitch up to that point, deflected the effort over the bar with Hamer stranded. As clichéd as it may be, it was a block with as much worth as a goal.
Ricardo Fuller, to chants of ‘Ri Ri Ricardo’ from the Charlton end, was thrown on, in place of Keogh, as interim manager Barry Ferguson looked to increase his side’s goal threat, but there was a growing sense this game was long beyond Blackpool.
At no point had the Addicks been uncomfortable in possession, with Johnnie Jackson and Diego Poyet as impressive as ever, but now they were making better use of it. Lawrie Wilson, having his name sung as he did so, came forward with more effectiveness, whilst Petrucci was making something of an impact in the middle.
And it had got to the point where there was no fear shown by the Charlton supporters when Blackpool attacked. The fact the Tangerines, in a game they needed something from, were restricted to desperate attempts, with several more in the final 20 minutes, was testament to Charlton’s impressive back four.
However, with results going the way of the hosts, the away supporters happily informed that they were ‘staying up with the Charlton’. It was fortunate for Blackpool that they were, as the Addicks doubled their lead with eight minutes to play.
Obika, who had replaced an emotional Ajdarevic minutes before, deserves most of the credit for the goal. He drove down the left, before waltzing past his man and cutting inside, where an unmarked Harriott was waiting. The young winger scored his fourth in four days, finishing like a man more than over that dreadful night against Barnsley, and celebrated like a man who had proven a point. The yellow card, he might argue, was worth the trouble.
With the away end party now in full swing, there was another goodbye to be made with three minutes to play. Sordell might not have won over every Addick, but his upturn in form recently has gone someway to allowing him to leave on a high. Joe Pigott replaced him, and immediately got himself involved in the action, holding the ball up well and teeing up Petrucci, who blasted over.
And in this season where missed chances have dominated discussions, and been the main reason why the Addicks faced a relegation battle, there was one last frustrating wasted opportunity to add to the list. Harriott’s ball across goal was testing, but it somehow evaded a number of Charlton players in the middle.
So Harriott decided to show his teammates how it’s done. Given the space to shoot two minutes into five added on, the young winger finished with style to secure his first career hat-trick and end both Charlton’s and his traumatic season on a high.
There was no stopping the noise in the away end, and it only got louder with the final, final-whistle of the season. The players, and Riga (even the one-suit coach had dressed down for the occasion, missing his tie and undoing a button), deserved the plaudits
The smile on Wilson’s face was wider than the Thames as the Charlton fans sung his name, Dervite danced along to ‘Sing I Was Young’ and the young fans who received the players’ shirts were happier than the Charlton pair put together.
There was, however, some sadness. Hamer appeared incredibly emotional, and he gave a wave that could only signal goodbye, whilst Alex Dyer acted in a similar fashion. There is, of course, going to be changes over the summer, but it will be incredibly hard seeing just those two depart, if no one else.
Nonetheless, this was a rather enjoyable day. Those first 60 minutes weren’t pretty to watch, and the Addicks, although not by a large margin, were second best to a poor Blackpool side.
But Charlton were never far behind; there attacks ended with misplaced final balls as appose to the ambitious efforts Blackpool mustered. From the moment Harriott’s first crossed the line, confidence rose, the performance improved tenfold and there was only ever going to be one winner.
In fact, it was almost as if Blackpool were playing the role of Charlton. Their display, riddled with missed chances, which turned to a shambles the moment they went behind was reminiscent of the Addicks as recently ago as last weekend.
With that in mind, it’s the defence, along with Jackson and Poyet, who deserve most of the plaudits. For the Tangerines to rack up 20 shots implies our back four was all over the place; to have only four on target, with Hamer as reliable as ever in what may well be his final game for the club, suggests our back four restricted them to few real openings. Morgan Fox and Wilson were almost faultless, Morrison, although a little shaky at times, did a sterling job, whilst Jackson and Poyet were excellent in breaking up the play.
However, it’s Dorian Dervite that was the best of the bunch. Every header was his, rarely were Blackpool able to pass him and his work on the ball belonged to a possession hungry midfielder, not a cultural defender.
Of course, I can’t fail to give praise to Harriott, who recovered from a dire first half to take his three goals with a cool head and some style. Nonetheless, for Dervite to rank alongside a player who scored a hat-trick speaks volumes.
The final praise of this season goes to Riga. It’s hard to really pick out much from today exactly that you can say ‘yeah, Riga did superbly there’, but he certainly didn’t do anything wrong. There were no faults in his set-up, no faults in his substitutions, and the players responded. He can leave, if he does so, with his head held high.
And so, arguably the most testing, in more ways than one, season of my lifetime comes to a close. But, with all that’s occurred, I’ve racked up 43 league games, four cup games, two friendlies and an U21 game. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite looking forward to a stress free summer. Well, at least until the managerial and transfer rumours kick-in.
I can promise you this; there’s certainly going to be a bit more activity than last summer. Whether that proves to be a good thing or not, remains to be seen. I think I’ll bury my head for now or at least focus on one of our players sharing a pitch with Messi in a month or so…
Up the Addicks!
Thank you, whether you enjoy and agree with my take on things or not, for taking the time to read my rather long ramblings throughout the season. There will be at least two more pieces in the coming week or so, and then Chris Powell’s Flat Cap will hibernate as, apparently, I’m supposed to take exams.
Thereafter, I will write on Charlton related matters as I see fit, but there may well be some non-Charlton related writings throughout the summer months. These will be marked as such, so can easily be avoided if you don’t wish to read them.
Thank you once again,