For some in the KC Stadium’s away end, this was the 11th goal they had seen Charlton concede in five days. Eleven goals conceded without reply, and wholehearted efforts made to stop them a rarer sight than spotting an Englishman in the Addicks dugout.
And yet, there was not a heavy sense of despair as Isaac Hayden’s deflected strike added a sixth to Hull City’s total. The defeat ultimately the heaviest Charlton had suffered in 32 years.
Instead, the visiting supporters were overcome by a sense of resignation. Few believed that the defeat to Huddersfield was the tip of the iceberg, and even fewer thought the appointment of Jose Riga would immediately, if it all, transform a group of broken players. This expected.
A resignation that following this football club would only continue to provide further suffering under the ownership of Roland Duchatelet.
But not an acceptance. The beleaguered souls in the away end, regardless of the acknowledgement that a result like this was predictable, defiant in their stance against the regime. Each misplaced pass from a player who has had their confidence crushed by the state of the club an excuse to call for Duchatelet and Katrien Meire to depart.
Supporter defiance certainly stronger and longer-lasting than Charlton’s. Rhys Williams weak, pathetic and comical as he allowed Abel Hernandez to dispossess him on the halfway line, before the Uruguayan forward raced through and finished coolly beyond Stephen Henderson to give the Tigers a ninth minute lead.
And it took just a further seven minutes for the game to be put out of reach. Rage, that would ultimately be replaced by self-pitying laughs as the deficit increased, and fury sent the way of the visiting defence, as they collective opted to stand off Hernandez and allow a striker of his quality an unchallenged strike at goal. No surprise that he finished with ease.
At least there was more to admire than mock as Hull strode forward for a third. Harry Lennon dragged inside, Sam Clucas teeing up the unmarked Robert Snodgrass, and the Scotland international curling wonderfully beyond Henderson.
Riga’s side replicating the effort, energy and quality of his predecessor’s at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday night, and conceding a fourth before half-time was an adequate reflection of the chasm in class between the two sides. Andrew Robertson in behind Charlton’s backline, and squaring to Hernandez to round off a first-half hat-trick.
The half-time boos, unsurprisingly, loud enough not to be ignored. But they were. The Addicks without fight, and Mohammed Diame’s first-time strike adding a fifth Hull goal 13 minutes after the break.
Those in white and red seemingly not even willing to fight for their own professional pride. A successful move forward so rare that each shot was celebrated, and diligent defending even rarer to the extent that double figures would not have been undeserved.
Instead, Hayden’s strike from the edge of the box, taking a deflection off Morgan Fox and wrong-footing Henderson, was the final Charlton punishment. A shambles, beaten from the moment the hosts took the lead, and so crushed that relegation is becoming increasingly certain.
And as the final anti-board chants of the afternoon rang out around the away end, followed by commitment to the Charlton cause, you did wish those representing the Addicks were as defiant as those that supported them.
There was at least hope that the appearance of Riga on the touchline would encourage a greater degree of resilience than what was offered under Karel Fraeye. A mixture of the new head coach boost that so often happens, and the returning Belgian favouring structure and resolve.
The dropping of Fox an encouraging start, irrespective of the fact Harry Lennon was deployed slightly out of position at left-back. The Welshman horrendously out of form, and in need of a rest for the sake of his confidence.
Lennon’s move out wide meant Middlesbrough loanee Williams started alongside Roger Johnson at centre-back, while the returning Jordan Cousins came in to become the third man in the centre of midfield.
There was also a first league appearance since September for Igor Vetokele, who replaced the ineffective Ricardo Vaz Te in the lone striker role. A tough ask for the Angolan, having to battle with Harry Maguire and Curtis Davies.
But it was the Addicks, as their supporters sung about never winning away, who had the game’s first chance. Cousins bursting forward, but Alan McGregor got down to comfortably claim his drive. You could almost call it a positive start, particularly for those in the away end who were provided with the opportunity to celebrate a shot.
There was certainly a liveliness about Riga’s men, with Callum Harriott attempting to get forward and Johann Berg Gudmundsson, by carrying the ball a couple of yards, making a greater contribution in five minutes than he did for the entirety on Tuesday night.
Williams, however, evidently hadn’t received the memo about doing things at a quicker pace. The Australian dwelling on the ball in the middle as Hernandez pounced, allowing Hull’s top scorer to race through on goal with only Henderson in his way.
For a brief moment, it appeared as if he had taken the ball a touch too wide, but he simply dinked the ball beyond the onrushing goalkeeper and picked out the far corner to perfection. The sort of composed finishing the Addicks are without.
What they are not without, though, is disgruntled fans and players whose heads drop far too quickly. Fists flung in the direction of Williams from the away end, while the departing of energy from those in red and white was so visible you could see it float upwards.
It had, particularly against a Hull side with such an impressive home record, undoubtedly been Charlton’s plan to frustrate their hosts for as long as possible, growing in confidence as a consequence.
But confidence was already down to the level it had been on Tuesday night as Hernandez strode towards goal seven minutes after his first. Neither Johnson nor Williams brave enough to close down the rampaging forward, and Hernandez taking advantage with relative ease. A spot in the top corner of Henderson’s net picked out with unstoppable force.
Certain defeat confirmed after 16 minutes, the body language of Riga’s side all wrong, and the Tigers being given the time and space to perform exhibition football. Hernandez meeting Diame’s cross, but Henderson restoring a degree of pride with an excellent save.
Pride attempting to be restored in the away end, too. “We want Roland out” sung and the entire contingent of supporters on their feet to the chant of “stand up if you want them out”.
They also called for their Charlton back, but most would have settled for one a little less shambolic than this. Williams continuing to miss-hit clearances and misplace passes, Lennon able to provide little forward threat down the left in support of Harriott, and Vetokele isolated.
Not to mention the complete lack of cohesion and organisation, allowing Jake Livermore and Hayden to dominate in midfield. If you had been under rock for a few days, you’d have thought Fraeye was still in charge. Harriott, tamely firing at McGregor, having a shot might have convinced you otherwise.
It was, however, the rarest of rare strikes. Rare enough that the Addicks found themselves in the opposition’s half.
For most of their time was spent watching and admiring as Steve Bruce’s side passed and moved with pace and intensity. Occasionally they even attempted to make some sort of challenge, which was nice.
But even the most disgruntled of Charlton supporter would have found themselves admiring the build-up play and finish involved in Hull’s 33rd minute third, or at least done that first before issuing a rant of justified outrage.
Clucas had been at the heart of Hull’s attacking moves, possessing quick feet that constantly created space against Charlton defenders, and he worked his way into another pocket while Snodgrass made a run on his shoulder. The former Leeds man timing it perfectly and, with Lennon inside to cover, given the space to curl a first-time effort into the top corner. Delicious.
Little solace provided to a distraught Henderson and his deflated supporters. You felt his emotion was genuine; the dropped heads of others more to do with a lack of willingness to continue to fight.
They needed to fight, for the supporters and for themselves. Williams heading Harriott’s corner wide producing a sarcastic chant of “we nearly scored” from the away end, but not really enough to suggest a justifiable response was about to follow.
Instead, that lack of fight was epitomised by the Tigers adding a fourth before the interval. Robertson getting the better of Solly, and driving across the face of goal to Hernandez, who was bizarrely without much company. The Uruguayan free to complete his hat-trick with minimal fuss.
And while those in the away end defiantly voiced their opposition to those that were running this sinking ship, those on deck almost found another way to embarrass themselves before the break. Clucas, in a shock twist, given the space to shoot, and only narrowly flashing over the bar.
That the Addicks ended the half by restarting from goal-kicks and throw-ins in very slow fashion, though infuriating for those that wanted to see some spirit, was no surprise. Energy and effort lacking, and a fear of further punishment. The poisonous boos as the players headed it at the break as much for such an attitude as it was the scoreline. Grim.
Those that hadn’t departed at half-time remained because they felt like they had to, to voice their opposition, or because their trains weren’t leaving until long after full-time. Not because they expected a come-back, or even some pride to be restored.
The evidence increasing as Henderson was forced into a good save to deny Hernandez from the edge of the box, before Clucas found himself in space but could only poke the ball over.
And it would take just 13 second-half minutes before the evidence was unquestionable. Diame, yet another player in amber and black given too much space on the edge of the box, teed up by Snodgrass, and the former West Ham man curling emphatically beyond a hapless Henderson.
A chorus of laughter, rather than groans, from the away end. It was a case of laugh, or suffer the sort of breakdown that Charlton’s defence were seemingly suffering every five minutes.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, it was not long before Hull were looking to add a sixth. Snodgrass’ effort deflected narrowly wide, before Clucas’ header from the resulting corner was superbly saved by Henderson. The goalkeeper just about maintaining some self-respect.
His teammates, however, had long lost all of it. Only really Jackson, putting himself about in midfield, and Harriott, a headless chicken but at least not lacking in effort, were fighting as much as you would have liked. The game something of a non-event with 30 minutes still to play.
Well, a non-event but for Hull’s efforts to increase their already demoralising tally. The Addicks thankful that the barrage at their goal, with a wayward strike each from Hernandez and Diame sandwiched between two misdirected Hayden efforts, was fruitless for the hosts.
Amidst all that, youngster Joshua Umerah was brought on for his debut, replacing Vetokele. Hardly the environment suited for an academy graduate to play his first game of professional football.
To his credit, the robust forward battled well up to, but made no overall difference to the way the Addicks were playing. His youthful energy and physicality unable to prevent the physically and mentally tired defence from allowing substitute Tom Huddlestone to test Henderson.
Nor could they prevent the Tigers helping themselves to a sixth. It probably more fitting to say their efforts to deny Hull were half-hearted, with Hayden given all the space he wanted on the edge of the box, and his strike going through Jackson before deflecting in off Fox.
Not even a consolation shot, with Gudmundsson’s free-kick comfortable held by McGregor could restore any sort of pride for the Addicks as the final whistle approached.
At least their supporters, with defiant renditions of “I’m Charlton ‘till I die”, “stand up if you want them out” and “Valley Floyd Road” continued to fight. Hull supporters as appreciative of those efforts as they were when the visitors joined in with “we want seven”.
The defiance of those supporters becoming more and more important. Especially in weeks like this. Especially when those on the pitch capitulate and crumble so easily.
At least they did not hide. The majority making some sort of effort to put themselves in front of an away end too demoralised to be viciously angry. though Riga opted to stand back.
Probably to allow himself a few extra minutes to work out where on earth he and his inherited side go from here. It’s hard to see anywhere but League One.
Not only are two disastrous performances on the bounce going to be incredibly difficult to recover from for a side already crushed, but those defeats are an accurate reflection of this side.
Undoubtedly, a part of this defeat was the quality of Hull’s football. Organised, moving the ball at a pace, and possessing threatening and potent players in forward positions. Everything the Addicks lack.
So too are there players underperforming. Gudmundsson quiet, Cousins ineffective, and Vetokele given a thankless task.
But more worrying is the lack of cohesion, structure and resolve. Individuals, and not very talented ones at that, playing without direction and strategy. Riga had a base to work from last time; now he has absolutely nothing.
And so ends one of my worst weeks as a Charlton supporter with not only the suffering experienced in these past seven days, but the feeling of certain relegation to follow.
The only positive to take is the defiance of my fellow supporters. There is unity, organisation and determination – assets those on the pitch could do with.
Even if they won’t battle, we will be.
(Sorry about the images – Hull’s stewards were odd)