This was no mere celebration. Not simply appreciation for a well-worked move. Not just delight that a goal had been scored. The release of emotion as Hull City’s net rippled made it much more than that.
For this was a victory that seemed impossible for Charlton to achieve prior to kick-off, before eight additional minutes were added, and deep into that period of stoppage-time.
In fact, even when there was genuine belief that this depleted side could achieve a win against superior opposition, it appeared to be snatched away in heart-breaking fashion.
With the Tigers often making laughable errors in the final third, it seemed as if Simon Makienok’s first goal for the Addicks was going to be enough for victory. Guy Luzon’s side not necessary in control, but neither were they being tested. The lead warranted.
So The Valley was forced into stunned silence when Nick Pope spilled Isaac Hayden’s strike, and Abel Hernandez bundled the ball over the line in the 89th minute. No points were anticipated, but now there was despair that only one would be gained.
With so much more time still to play, however, there was genuine worry that Hull could steal a largely undeserved win. There was no on mass “waahaay” as Hernandez turned away to see the assistant’s flag raised having headed beyond Pope, because most Addicks were busy pushing their hearts back down their throat.
The relief that followed the prematurely suffered pain almost was only temporary. With minutes still to play and Hull pressing, Charlton getting the ball into the opposition’s half was merely seen as a brief rest bite.
Makienok, however, was not challenged as he leapt to flick on Ahmed Kashi’s long ball, and Johann Berg Gudmundsson had stolen a yard on his man.
It sat up perfectly, but slowly enough to build anticipation. The roar already beginning long before the Iceland international turned in a low header.
The Covered End delirious, the bundling players even more so, and the head coach willing to be sent to the stands in order to enjoy a winning moment that came with 98 minutes played.
A win that, although impressive, was so gritty it would not earn a place in the very back of Charlton supporters’ minds had, in the space of 15 minutes, become one of the most dramatic victories celebrated in SE7. The desire to relieve the winning moment will not die for some time.
Even believing the Addicks could achieve the scrappiest, most undeserved, win seemed incredibly misguided as both teams took to The Valley’s turf prior to kick-off.
With both vice-captain Chris Solly and talismanic forward Tony Watt injured, the side Luzon was forced to name featured square pegs in round holes. El-Hadji Ba replaced Solly, with Jordan Cousins filling in at right-back, and Zakarya Bergdich came in for Watt, with Gudmundsson partnering Makienok in attack.
It left the bench resembling a crèche, particularly with captain Johnnie Jackson also absent. Mikhail Kennedy involved for the first time, and Callum Harriott involved for the first time this season.
But fears that a Hull side packed with players of Premier League quality would run riot in SE7 were quickly settled. The visitors were slow, lacking creativity, and unable to find a way past the impressive Ahmed Kashi and Patrick Bauer.
Such resilience at the back and in midfield, you can argue, should have provided the Addicks with a platform from which to test the opposition’s resolve. But so too did Luzon’s side lack creativeness and potency going forward.
Even when an opening was gifted to the hosts, with Moses Odubajo slipping to allow Bergdich to break down the left, the resulting final ball was poor. Not a start to the half that any neutral inside The Valley would have particularly enjoyed.
It was Bergdich, however, who had Charlton’s first meaningful effort on goal. The winger somewhat struggling, but able to create room for himself and win a corner after his strike was deflected into the side-netting. The delivery that followed from Gudmundsson testing, but no one in red was able to connect.
But still genuine attacking threat was lacking from both sides. The game slow, defences on top, and those in wide areas unable to make anything happen.
And Charlton’s chances of creating on a consistent basis were dealt a further blow when Cristian Ceballos, having desperately attempted to play on, was forced off having been on the end of crunching collision with David Meyler.
The introduction of Karlan Ahearne-Grant, however, provided the side with better balance and more natural attacking intent. The youngster’s pace proving useful, leaving Dawson for dead and firing an effort wide from distance, and Gudmundsson no longer lost in a central position.
In fact, Ahearne-Grant might well have put the Addicks in front with a touch more composure as the break approached. In a half low on quality, Ba’s ball over the top was one of the few to create a genuine opening, picking out the 17-year-old’s run superbly, but he could only volley over.
Regardless, the hosts received a solid round of applause as they headed in at half-time. While they had not been entertained, the supporters had seen a side show superb resilience at the back and more than match what was seemingly an impressive Hull side.
But if the Addicks were to be the side who broke the stalemate, or even become the first to show some genuine quality in attack, they required a lot more from Makienok. Once again, you could not question his effort of endeavour, but you could criticise his inability to make the most of the ball sent his way. Headers regularly not won, and flick-ons horribly misplaced.
The vast majority of supporters, however, were desperate for the 6’7 forward to finally get some reward for his efforts, and had not simply written him off. A superb chested pass into the path of Gudmundsson exciting The Valley crowd.
Excitement that only increased as the Icelandic winger drove down the line and gently lofted a ball to the near post, where Makienok had now run to. He met the delivery superbly, glancing a header beyond the stationary Alan McGregor and into the bottom corner to give the Addicks a 52nd minute lead. Cue pandemonium in the stands.
So too was there was genuine emotion in Makienok’s celebration, seemingly overwhelmed by the response from the Covered End and the goal itself. An injection of confidence to supporters about the player, as much as it was an injection of confidence to the player himself.
By contrast, any hopes that Hull had of developing a bit of self-belief and growing into the game were almost completely curtailed just a minute later.
Andrew Robertson slipped, allowing Gudmundsson to race through on goal, and bring the Covered End to its feet in anticipation. But the winger delayed striking the ball for a little too long, giving McGregor the opportunity to narrow his angle and pull off a fine save to prevent his side from going two down.
The reprieve, in theory, should have motivated Hull to finally find a touch of class and perform to the standards that they are capable of. But still they offered very little that was capable of breaking down Charlton’s resolute back four.
And when they did, the strike was tame. Chuba Akpom creating a little bit of space, but prodding straight at Pope.
There was still a feeling that the Hull rampage in search of an equaliser would surely come. The ineffective Arsenal loanee replaced by Hernandez, while injury to Ba, so important to the organised and resolute effort in the middle, meant he was replaced by Charles-Cook for his Championship debut.
Straight away there was a shift in the pattern of the game. The Addicks, boosted by their goal, had been in complete control up until that point. They the side setting the tempo, and so resilient when Hull were in possession that the visitors were forced to try impossible passes that merely ran out of play. Odubajo and Ahmed Elmohhamady not linking up well on the right-hand side.
But now the Reds sat deeper, and the Tigers were able to turn their meaningless possession in the middle into something a little more testing. Patience, however, lacking as Meyler and Aluko struck horribly off-target from distance either side of a run from impressive stand-in full-back Cousins that resulted in a tame shot being saved.
This wasn’t simply a desperate defensive effort from the Addicks. Hull not applying enough pressure for that to be the case. Charles-Cook possibly letting the moment get the better of him in shooting, and clearing the crossbar comfortably, while fellow substitute Callum Harriott danced into the box but couldn’t get any real power behind a strike.
It meant the home crowd was not any more anxious or nervous than they should have been. In fact, as Aluko was invited to shoot and sliced an effort narrowly wide, there was a growing feeling that the Addicks would have no issue in holding onto their lead.
That thought, however, was a little naïve. Hull, with nothing to lose, throwing men forward against a Charlton side that was losing its shape a little. The gap between the forwards and the midfield too big, and the space between the midfield and the defence too small.
And the space that Jelavic found in the middle with four minutes to play should not have been there. Substitute Isaac Hayden’s cross perfect for the unmarked Croatian, but he could only skew his header wide.
In many games like this, such a miss would have been the end. The attacking team losing confidence, and the defending side regaining focus that they may have momentarily lost.
Alas, the opposite was true. Charlton as undisciplined and unorganised as they had been at any point in the afternoon, and Hull as dangerous. A second reprieve as Hayden’s strike came back off the post.
But the ball fell straight to Sam Clucas, who relayed it back to Hayden. Charlton too slow in closing him down, and the Arsenal loanee able to fire another effort goalwards.
It was, however, straight at Pope, and the goalkeeper should have held on. Instead, he spilled the strike straight into the path of Hernandez, who squeezed the ball beyond Pope’s desperate attempts to reclaim the loose ball. 88 minutes of fantastic resilience seemingly being made meaningless by one moment of disappointment at the back.
The silence around the ground was interrupted by eight minutes of stoppage time being announced, mostly owing to Bauer needing a dislocated finger put back into place, and a roar of hope emerging from the home supporters.
It didn’t really seem convincing – the side with the momentum now were Hull, and therefore most likely to win. But that suggestion did not put the Addicks off coming forward. Harriott and Gudmundsson both finding pockets of space, but curling horribly over.
That commitment to coming forward, however, left the exposed at the back. A fantastic Hull break, possibly their best move of the match, exploiting space in Charlton’s midfield and concluding with Hernandez peeling off his man and heading Aluko’s delivery home. The assistant referee’s flag curtailing celebrations in the away end, and prevent further heartbreak among the home supporters.
The hosts were now desperate for this game to end, or at least those in the stands were. A point tough to take in the circumstances, but one that was unlikely before kick-off and still seemed a decent result.
But the Addicks were in no mood to abandon Luzon’s attacking principles. Kashi pumped the ball forward, Makienok bizarrely allowed a free header, and Gudmundsson able to steal a yard on his marker to head beyond McGregor.
The celebrations that followed releasing enough energy to make you feel like you had taken part in the game, as emotionally and physically drained as the players. A simply unforgettable Valley moment.
As the Addicks played out the final few minutes, with stoppage time extending into the 11th added minute, and the full-time whistle was blown, you first of all had to enjoy the moment. Arms all over the place in celebration on the pitch once again, and pure delight in the stands.
But then you had to ask how. How on earth has a Charlton side depleted by injuries, both before and during the game, that suffered the set back of conceding in a game they were seemingly in control of been able to overcome such hurdles to score such a dramatic late winner.
The first answer to that question, and one I will cover only briefly so as to take nothing away from the Addicks, is that Hull were poor. Until the final five minutes of normal time, their movement was non-existent, their passing was sideways and predictable, and there so many sloppy mistakes that you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching a Sunday League side, not one that had just been relegated from the top flight.
Hull, however, were made to look particularly ineffective in attack owing to Charlton’s resilient defending. Until that final five minutes or so of normal time, the continued holding of the shape in defence and in midfield was incredible. A group of young players perfectly fulfilling the instructions of their head coach.
And without the defensive brilliance of Bauer and Kashi, Hull would found more ways of testing Pope. Bauer, once again, winning everything and leading the defence despite his nasty looking dislocated finger, and Kashi simply stunning. With his constant endeavour, his unrelenting pressing and stunning tackles, I would be surprised if there is a better defensive performance seen this season.
His energy was shared throughout the entire side. A perfect display, given the absent key players, was not expected or demanded, but the determination and fight meant, while it was not always technically brilliant, the performance was stunning.
And finally, in the absence of Watt, Makienok and Gudmundsson provided the difference in attack do desperately needed while creativity and threat was otherwise lacking.
Makienok, having struggled in the first half, was a completely different player after his goal. More than just a big bloke working hard, and actually incredibly effective in holding the ball up and creating opportunities for others.
Gudmundsson, typically, was energetic and always finding space. Something that the poor Bergdich could not do and Ahearne-Grant attempted to do with relative success, but not to the standard that the Icelander managed. That he got the winner was fitting.
And then there is Luzon. The credit he deserves for getting his system to work irrespective of who plays within it deserves immense credit. But for that period before the goal, those in his side did exactly what was demanded of them, and his celebration showed the bond between coach and players. As this club has seen before, that is invaluable.
Of course, getting carried away would be naïve. Comparisons to last season is pointless, given the fact the quality in this side is of a much higher standard, but the lack of depth that was shown with today’s bench should be a warning.
If we are to challenge for promotion, then that will need to be addressed. Not every side will struggle as much as QPR and Hull will, and it will eventually hurt us in the winter period.
But it’s impossible not to at least feel enthusiastic about this brilliant group of Addicks. If you’re getting carried away, I’m not going to stop you.