It provided a moment of joy when he was Charlton boss, but Chris Powell’s tunnel jump come full-time was joy that did not belong to the Addicks.
For while it came after those still inside the home ends of The Valley had shown their admiration, away from the tribal hostilities of the game, Powell’s leap was propelled by the performance of his Huddersfield side.
With a winless start to the season, a chronic lack of confidence, and their flat-capped boss under serious pressure, there was an expectation that they would simply roll over in the face of the expansive attacking play of Guy Luzon’s side.
But it was Charlton who looked like team without form and belief. The Terriers on the front foot in the opening stages, and rewarded with the help of individual errors that belonged to a side near the foot of the table. Morgan Fox dispossessed with ease by Sean Scannell, and Nick Pope allowing Harry Bunn’s resulting shot through his hands.
And while the visitors were by far the better side, stopping the Addicks from playing and providing a persistent threat on the break, their second was also gifted to them. A naïve foul from Naby Sarr on the impressive Ishmael Miller allowed Emyr Huws to curl a free-kick beyond Pope’s dive.
That it was Sarr who gave Luzon’s side some hope on the stroke of half-time, heading in Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s free-kick to undeservedly reduce the deficit, went some way to cancelling out his earlier mistake, but something different was still required from Charlton.
All they could provide in the second half, however, was more of the same. Huddersfield merely doing what they did in the first half, completely nullifying the tentative, predictable and unpenetrative forward moves of the Addicks.
A Plan B lacking, and even when something different was tried, the execution was poor. The unflappable pair of Elliot Ward and Joel Lynch dealing with most balls played into the box, and Charlton’s forwards wasteful otherwise.
It meant the full-time whistle was as much a relief for home supporters as it was for those Huddersfield fans desperate for their side to cling on for their first win of the season. The unimaginative and uninspiring play immensely frustrating.
Powell, in a different coloured tie, able to enjoy another success at The Valley. Luzon left to ponder how to inject some attacking spark back into his side, and beat those sides that offer stubborn resistance.
The gloom at full-time a complete contrast from the positive atmosphere as the game began. Powell acknowledging the home crowd, who were both pleased to welcome him back and expecting him to leave without any points.
For the Addicks, lacking cutting edge in the frustrating draw with Rotherham on Saturday, had sought to address that by bringing Simon Makienok into the side for Igor Vetokele. The Angolan benched, with new addition Conor McAleny joining him in reserve.
The Dane starting and the Everton loanee being available welcome news, and just about covering up the disappointment of Alou Diarra requiring a rest. Sarr in for his Championship debut.
And the early signs were positive enough. Huddersfield’s defence standing off Gudmundsson, allowing him to drill an effort just wide of Jed Steer’s post, and Jordan Cousins, again positioned out wide, firing an opening over the bar.
But it was fair to say that the visitors had also started well. When they were not squeezing the Addicks, pressing with energy and as an organised unit, Scannell and Mustapha Carayol, fed by the composed Dean Whitehead and Huws, were providing a genuine threat on the break down either flank.
So while it was against the form guide, it was not against the run of play that they took the lead with 11 minutes played.
It was also against the form of two of Charlton’s young players, who have made great strides at the beginning of this campaign. But the only strides Fox was making were desperate ones in pursuit of Scannell, who had robbed him of the ball with ease, and the only place Pope would have wanted to stride was as far away from The Valley as possible, as he fumbled Bunn’s volley into his goal.
Silence, interrupted by the celebrations of the handful of Huddersfield supporters in the away end, filled The Valley, but there remained belief. Chris Solly’s delivery, which Makienok would have reached were it not for the bravery of Steer, providing encouragement.
Frustration, however, soon intensified. Solly and Fox struggling to deal with their respective wingers, and a late intervention from the vice-captain required to force Huws run away from goal after he’d been allowed to waltz through anyone else who stood before him in red.
So too was the struggle to get forward increasing. Huddersfield certainly worthy of praise for maintain their shape, forcing the Addicks into sideways passes, and incredibly disciplined defending, but Charlton were doing themselves no favours.
No player in red, particularly the extremely disappointing Tony Watt, brave enough to attempt to take on their man, forward passing, especially El-Hadji Ba’s, wayward, and the decision making summed up by Ahmed Kashi taking a dangerous free-kick ahead of Gudmundsson, and firing it straight at the wall.
Such failure to turn ball retention away from the final third into something meaningful was made even more of an annoyance by how the Terriers were making the most of their moments on the break. Carayol’s venomous strike well saved by Pope, and only a slip from Scannell preventing him from converting the rebound.
But the Addicks were not so lucky on the next occasion that Huddersfield were able to attack. And it was luck they did not deserve, assisting the Terriers on their route to doubling their lead.
First, a needless pull of Jason Davidson’s shirt from Ba presented Huddersfield with a free-kick, from which they won another, with Sarr’s unnecessary push on Miller giving the Terriers a golden opportunity.
And it was one they took with a touch of class. Some looked to blame Pope, for either the positioning of himself or his wall, but Huws’ strike was superbly directed into the top corner. The game seemingly over with 34 minutes played.
While the visiting supporters, making a great deal of noise for a group so small in number, made the most of the enjoyment their position in the game created, frustration turned to anger among those sat in the home ends. The Valley not so low for quite some time, and a lift was required.
So Sarr’s goal, glancing Gudmundsson’s delivery beyond a stranded Steer, was desperately needed not only in the context of the game, but to get the crowd back on side. The deficit halved and hope restored with 50 minutes still to play.
But that hope so easily could have been lost again before the break. Huddersfield carving open Charlton’s unorganised defence, with desperate blocks from Sarr and Kashi required to keep out the rampant Miller, before the forward glanced successive headers wide. Ba’s strike, curled into the palms of Steer, not enough to prevent a few boos at half-time.
There could, however, quite easily have been cheers within the opening seconds after the break. Ba stabbing Makienok’s flick on agonisingly across the face of goal, with Steer beaten.
In fact, the efforts going forward in general at the start of the second period were, if not yet totally threatening, more encouraging. The Covered End finding their vocal cords as Gudmundsson looked to get forward down the right.
Defensively, though, it remained worrying. Sarr struggling to cope with Miller, who headed narrowly wide from a corner, and Scannell winning his duel with Fox quite comfortably.
At least Fox, now assisted by substitute Zakarya Bergdich down the left, was able to make a contribution going forward. His cross superb, and would have been converted were it not for a brilliant intervention from the head of Lynch.
But Sarr had no such way in which to regain some composure on confidence, irrespective of his goal. Again, he pushed Miller and gave away a dangerous free-kick, which substitute Phillip Billing curled around the wall but not beyond Pope, who saved well.
And with Huddersfield’s backline slightly high, Charlton’s goalkeeper instigated a break. His kick bouncing through to Makienok, who dragged an effort not too far wide. A rare moment where the Addicks acted with some speed and urgency.
This was a positive spell for the hosts, and there was a roar of expectation as Watt, finally, turned his man to feed Gudmundsson.
His resulting cross, however, was met on the up by Bergdich, and horribly fired over. Luzon’s side finally finding a way through Huddersfield’s extremely disciplined defensive efforts, only to be criminally wasteful.
The miss sucked some life out of the Covered End, and seemingly provided motivation to the visitors. Their resilience commendable as the Addicks, following a few minutes of penetrative passing, were forced back into a mould of sluggish and sideways ball retention. Gudmundsson tamely curling into Steer’s palms not encouraging at this stage.
And neither was Makienok slicing wide at the far post following a corner. This a rare moment where Huddersfield’s defence had not properly reacted to a ball put into the box, but nor had the Dane, mistiming his swing and horribly skewing the ball behind.
Struggling, not in terms of the contribution he was making but to find the energy required, Makienok was soon replaced by Vetokele, with McAleny also on for his debut as Luzon looked for his side to press for an equaliser.
But, even with Powell’s side now deeper and unable to pressure the Addicks in the central positions that they were previously, they still they struggled. McAleny prodding Gudmundsson’s cross into Steer’s hands, before the young forward dragged an effort wide enough for Huddersfield’s goalkeeper to simply watch flash past the post.
Five additional minutes brought about one last burst of hope, but that disappeared as soon as McAleny had cut in and fired wide. Kashi’s rushed strike from distance, flying horribly off target, more fitting of Charlton’s desperate forward efforts.
So it was left to Huddersfield, in the final few minutes of those added, to see out the game in Charlton’s half. The home ends emptying at a pace as the excellent Miller made one last contribution, winning a free-kick to effectively kill the game.
Huddersfield’s win, however, had been sealed long before the final minute of stoppage time. There’s a determined effort worthy of copious amounts of praise, and the celebrations shared between players, staff and fans at full-time deserved, but Charlton’s tame, lacklustre and one that warranted defeat.
As such, it is only fitting that I give Powell’s side the praise they deserve. For they put in near enough the perfect away performance – the sort the flat-capped one achieved on several occasions during Charlton’s first season back in the Championship.
Tactically, they were set up just right, and adapted well to different phases of the game. Their high intensity start unsettled the Addicks, their midfield pressing thereafter prevented Charlton from playing a high tempo game from back to front, and their resilient defensive efforts in the dying stages of the game carried the same composure they did throughout the contest. A very good collective effort, well marshalled by the former Charlton boss.
But Huddersfield’s performance takes little away from just how poor the Addicks were. Individual errors at the back, a lack of creativity in the middle and both poor decision making and wastefulness in attack all contributing towards a pretty dire display.
Above all, though, it was extremely frustrating. For the issues that scuppered Luzon’s side in the draw with Rotherham on Saturday were the same being made tonight. The inability to take a game to a perceived weaker side, and test one that sets up with a stubborn defensive shape, is perplexing given the attacking talent in the side.
In fact, half the problem was that no player in red regularly attempted to beat his man. Instead, they merely looked for a tentative sideways pass, before eventually losing the ball. A complete contrast to the brave wing play deployed by Huddersfield, and what is normally seen by Watt. The Scot’s performance, along with those guilty for making the mistakes that led to the goals and Ba’s, the most disappointing.
And so, if there is to be some sort of positive taken from this evening, it is that a Plan B will have to be discovered. When we’re unable to pass out from the back and build an attack, when a team is pressing us in the middle, and when a side is defending in resilient banks, something else needs to be seen.
Over to you, Guy.