The ideal had long been bleated out by Charlton supporters on social media, forums and in pubs. While giving the returning Chris Powell the reception he deserved was a must, there could be no distraction from the need to record victory against his Huddersfield Town side.
But even those desperately hoping for the right mix of appreciation for a former great and support for the current crop could not have anticipated the brilliance of the afternoon. To call the events that took place at The Valley simply ideal would be unjust.
For Powell’s initial reception was astonishing. The man who had given The Valley so many unforgettable moments was rewarded with one of his own. A deafening outpour of emotion and admiration for Powell from the sold-out home ends.
It would be matched during the third minute, an applause from almost all inside the ground not distracting from their support of the Addicks as many had suggested it would, and again at full-time. Powell classy enough to acknowledge the worship he was receiving despite the fact his new club had just suffered the most convincing of defeats.
That defeat, however, was not caused by Huddersfield’s ineptitude. To suffer such a convincing defeat was somewhat unfair on the diligent Terriers.
But to win by three goals, for the third time in four, was a reflection of just how devastatingly brilliant Charlton were.
Pressing with energy and determination, passing with class and constantly threatening in the final third, this was an outstanding attacking performance. Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s delicious free-kick before the break the moment needed to turn promise into tangible success.
And with the unplayable Watt reducing Huddersfield’s defence to quivering wrecks each time he drove forward, in addition to an overall threat on the break, a second was always likely. Igor Vetokele forcing the ball to the Scot, who converted coolly.
Even when the Addicks slipped up at the back, a recovering defender, good fortune or the fingertips of Stephen Henderson prevented the Terriers from pouncing.
In fact, Henderson had made a remarkable save to prevent Charlton’s lead being halved before Watt lashed in a third. Huddersfield’s very real hope of getting back into the game killed in an instant.
A day where everything went the way of the Addicks, and largely went their way through their own marvellous efforts.
It was not an ideal afternoon in SE7. It was perfect.
There was, of course, attention on the game in hand before kick-off. Not least the promising return of Jordan Cousins, replacing Lawrie Wilson in midfield, and the worrying absence of Tal Ben Haim, with Joe Gomez deputising for the injured Israeli.
But there could be no getting away from the fact there was strong excitement for the return of Powell. The opposition manager he may have been, but the wearing of a blue tie does not dent the legendary status his efforts for this club built.
The appearance of Alex Dyer, predictably bearing knees, produced a ripple of applause. But before Powell’s right-hand man could even acknowledge them, the man himself appeared.
If there was a supporter not standing, clapping and chanting “Chrissy Powell”, they were hiding better than Yoni Buyens normally does. The noise incredible; the moment one those involved will not forget.
Powell responded with a signature modest wave or five in all directions. Appreciative of the welcome as those offering the welcoming were appreciative of him. Simply brilliant.
As was the start Guy Luzon’s side made to the game. The composure, energy and drive of the side visible as a third minute applause for Charlton’s former number three got underway.
It was apparent from the opening moments just how susceptible Huddersfield’s back three, featuring one-time Addick Mark Hudson, were to the pace up against them. Only some pretty desperate defending prevented Watt going through, and the Scot’s directness carved out an opening for Vetokele, who blasted over from the edge of the box.
But after Charlton’s Angolan forward had headed a decent opening straight at Alex Smithies in the opposition goal, the game settled. The Terriers beginning to enjoy more possession in midfield, and tightening up somewhat defensively.
In fact, Huddersfield worked themselves two excellent openings just beyond the twenty minute mark. Some woeful defending from Roger Johnson was forgiven as the centre-back recovered to superbly block James Vaughan’s drive, and the same man received the ball in space after a long throw wasn’t dealt with, but could only fire over.
An open and enjoyable game for the neutrals who had taken up the offer of a five pound ticket, but quite an anxious one for the supporters of either side.
And heads were in hands in both the Covered End and the Jimmy Seed as Watt waltzed past David Edgar and teed up Vetokele. The Charlton supporters in frustration, with the top scorer hesitating and producing a tame effort; the Huddersfield supporters in relief, with the ball safely in Smithies’ clutches.
Those feelings were reversed as the ball entered Henderson’s goal, only for the referee to penalise Ishmael Miller. The robust forward able to ‘score’ having backed into Charlton’s stopper illegally. While the Addicks remained marginally on top, such scares, especially with Miller constantly causing problems, suggested their pressure needed to produce reward quickly.
So Watt’s burst through Huddersfield’s defensive line that could only be stopped by Edgar hauling him down was timely. A Gudmundsson territory free-kick awarded.
As soon as the Iceland international made contact with the ball, there were murmurs of ‘goal’ in the Covered End, and probably another four letter word from Smithies. The strike sublime, giving the Terriers’ stopper no chance, and turning those murmurs into whole-hearted celebration.
Alas, there remained twelve minutes before the interval. Ample time for Powell’s men to draw level.
And they probably should have done. Jack Robinson’s ball picking out Miller, who created space for himself, only to drag his effort wide with Henderson beaten. All of a sudden, things were very much going Charlton’s way.
At least that seemed to be the case, but final third floundering as the half came to a close suggested otherwise. Vetokele again wasteful, a vital interception prevented Gudmundsson scoring a second and Watt found the side netting after powering through in stoppage-time.
It meant that, while the confidence they possessed gave them a strong upper hand, there remained plenty of work for the Addicks to do if they were to hang onto their lead. A Sean Scannell scissor-kick and Jacob Butterfield’s drive from distance either side of the interval keeping Charlton on their toes.
The Addicks, however, were not just on their toes, but continuing to dance with style through the Terriers’ defence.
They simply had no answer as Vetokele collected a ball played forward and drove ahead. The Angolan worked space for himself, and unselfishly fed the ball across to his strike partner after he’d sucked Huddersfield’s remaining defenders towards him.
It gave Watt a clear sight of goal. There was simply no chance he was going to waste such an opening, finishing with all the composure of a seasoned striker, and giving his side what seemed like an unassailable lead with just three second half minutes played.
But, as was to be expected from a Powell side, Huddersfield did not simply roll over and accept defeat. Gomez and Johnson were continuously called upon, while Butterfield and Miller’s driven efforts forced Henderson into two tidy saves.
Nonetheless, the fizz from Charlton’s attacking play showed no signs of letting up. Vetokele connecting with Watt’s cross, but just slicing wide, before Watt decided to do things on his own again, driving into space and bringing the best out of Smithies low down to his right.
And the Huddersfield academy graduate, who had signed a new deal for the club in the week, was called upon again shortly after to keep the deficit to just two. Substitute Wilson connecting superbly with Frederic Bulot’s corner, only for the palms of Smithies to beat the effort away.
That they were on the brink of seeing any chance of making a comeback disappear did not deter Powell’s men, and the Terriers were beginning to build the momentum needed for a late fight. Various shots flashing wide of Henderson’s posts, with Charlton looking a little uncomfortable at the back.
A goal was needed, however, if the thought of a fight back was to be anything more than fleeting. Were it not for Henderson, then Huddersfield would have certainly got it.
The ball fell perfectly for Murray Wallace ten yards from goal, and there was little wrong with the defender’s strike. But Charlton’s number one flew through the air to tip the effort around the post, earning a Powell-like standing ovation from the home ends.
And the brilliance of such a save was only increased when the home side’s next attack showed just how important a fingertip it was.
For if the Terries had pulled one back, it wouldn’t have been an overreaction to suggest Charlton would have to endure a testing final twenty minutes. Instead, the genius of Watt allowed the Addicks to see out the game in enjoyable fashion.
Having already beaten a few men, there was still some distance between the Scot and the Huddersfield goal, but instead of carrying on with his energy-sapping run, Watt decided he’d simply lash the ball into the top corner. Effortless. Class. Brilliant.
Having attempted with some persistence to get back into the game, it was only then that heads dropped among the Huddersfield’s side. You didn’t want the Addicks to give them a sniff, but you felt there was now no chance of the Terriers scoring one.
In fact, it was Charlton who almost added another goal or two to entertain the bumper crowd. Substitute Chris Eagles forcing Smithies into a tidy save before completely deceiving him with an over hit cross that crashed against the bar deep into stoppage-time.
Alas, that the Addicks could not add a fourth mattered little. It certainly took nothing away from the performance, which was professional during the moments it wasn’t pure quality.
But the cherry on a delicious Victoria Sponge of a day was still to come. Evidently downbeat after such disappointment, and after appreciating the efforts of his own supporters (who were utterly brilliant, I should add), Powell still had the class to acknowledge the Charlton fans as he left the pitch.
He didn’t need to. Not after such a defeat for his side. But this is Chris Powell, and you should probably expect nothing less. Huddersfield fans won’t be pleased to hear such a comment, but his receptiveness to the home supporters playing a part in a special afternoon at The Valley.
But it was the performance that provided the most joy to the packed out Valley crowd. But for those brief moments were Huddersfield came mightily close to scoring, it was a sublime effort from effectively every player in red.
Gomez and Johnson were frequently troubled, but only on a handful of occasions were Miller and Vaughan able to get the better of them. Solly and Fox, too, largely solid and impressive going forward, while Henderson’s saves were key.
The energy of Cousins is so crucial to this side, and his pressing forced Huddersfield backwards and sideways again and again, while the brilliance of Gudmundsson can never be understated. Cousins the blood and guts of this side while Jackson remains out, Gudmundsson the stylish outfit that wins admirers, and points.
Vetokele, although frustratingly wasteful in front of goal, didn’t give a Huddersfield defender a moments rest whether in possession of the ball or not, which can also be said of Bulot and, after he came on, Wilson.
But the key man in red was Watt. Brave, direct and skilful, the Scot was simply unplayable. Huddersfield didn’t know what to do, and I wasn’t quite sure how he was doing it. His goals just reward for a performance that arguably showed the difference between the two sides. The Terriers toothless; the Addicks potent.
Such a turn around, not only in general but following Tuesday’s disappointing performance, is remarkable.
A large part of it is confidence. There’s always been a sense of quality in this side’s strongest XI, but character and fight has been lacking. The attitude poor. When this group have some confidence, performances like today’s effort occurs.
Then there’s the return and introduction of players. Henderson’s influence cannot be overstated, while an on-song Watt, although a very simplistic thing to say, has been the difference going forward. He scares defenders and allows the rest of the side to capitalise, if not himself.
And, of course, it would be amiss of me not to credit Luzon again. While his decision to head straight down the tunnel once again means my attachment to him remains at zero, his simplified and organised approach once again proved ideal for this group of players.
Combined, it’s an absolutely excellent effort. Relegation fears, you would think, now a thing of the past.
It means there is no fear over Tuesday’s game against in-form Nottingham Forest. A repeat performance too much to ask for?