The scoresheet says 1-1, but it was far from a dull draw as O'Nien's early repeat of his Portsmouth goal was cancelled out when a cross ricocheted off James's toe earl in the second half. We started at 100 mph, finished about the same, and creaked a fair bit in the middle, but we scored again and didn't lose against a well organised Charlton side - therefore not a bad day at the office.
With many fans now suffering the Blackpool lurgy on top of Accy Flu, there were coughs and splutters aplenty on the way down as we discussed the many and varied ways in which Maja's agent should be publicly eviscerated. I was firmly in the "play Josh" camp while others had a point when they said his head might be all awwa the place. After a quick tour of Charlton's retail park, we were off the bus and taking the short train ride to Woolwich and the Woolwich Equitable pub. Barman #1 expressed the opinion that he'd never seen so many folks in a Saturday dinnertime. Barman #2 explained: "Sunderland are in town", and we were, all 3,000 or so of us. In came the team news, with only the enforced change because of Cattermole's suspension…
After Walsall, Shrewsbury, Accrington, and Blackpool, it made a change to enter a biggish ground, and we filled our "usual" place in the South Stand, dreaming of that belter by Alex Rae all those years ago. Maguire's belters in the warm-up were slightly less accurate, with one hitting John Tempest full in the face and nearly taking his head off. As we sought to check his level of dizziness, a second clipped the top of his woolly hat. A dangerous place to be, four rows back and virtually on top of the net. McLaughlin O’Nien Flanagan Baldwin James McGeouch Power Gooch McGeady Wyke Maja
We kicked off away from our fans, and really ripped into the Addicks from the off. With McGeady and Gooch on the flanks, it only took a couple minutes for us to open the scoring. Gooch burrowed his way down the left, tucked it back to James, and his cross to the back post was met in the volley by O'Nien. Back across the goal and in. LUUUUUUKE! The best possible start we could have wished for, and a contender for January's Goal of the Month already.
After a few more minutes of pressure from us, the home side got hold of the ball for longer periods but we defended well, meaning that precious little got through to McLaughlin. Lyle Taylor, one of many forwards we were allegedly looking at in the summer, was an awkward pest, but like a few of his teammates, he was pretty adept at hitting the deck before a challenge had arrived. It was a shame the ref fell for almost every one of these incidents, but there you go.
As we passed the half hour, having prevented Charlton from getting a shot on target, we girded our loins and put a decent attack together. Gooch was again instrumental, backheeling it to Wyke, but the big feller (copyright League One) couldn't curl it enough from the edge of the box and his right-click effort went wide of the far post. Damn. A second, which we've been struggling to get of late, would really have knocked the stuffing out of the home side and probably have won us the game.
That second so nearly came when Gooch skinned his fullback again and fired in a rocket that Phillips in the home goal tipped onto the face of the crossbar, with the rebound virtually hitting Wyke on the head, meaning that he could only head in over. Getting close, Lads, and it got even closer when Big Chas picked up a bad backpass and bore down in goal, but he didn't get his shot away in time and was closed down. The pace got even more frantic as two added minutes were announced, and as Charlton turned the screw we were pretty happy when the whistle sounded.
A goal to the good, which could well have been another one or two, but we had to work very hard to keep Charlton our towards the end.
Just as we'd started the first half, Charlton were quickly out of the blocks in the second, and only a few minutes in Taylor's low cross from the right spun off James's toe with McLaughlin unable to respond, and it was all square. It could have got much worse, despite good work in trying to build attacks around Maja, who didn't look at all affected by the contract nonsense, and Wyke. Pratley got free on the back post but somehow headed wide, then McLaughlin did really well to keep Taylor out as the gangly stroker bore down on goal. Good save, Big Jon, but we were really rocking at this stage, and anxious glances at the clock were a regular occurrence in our end...ages, man, ages! A third chance went begging when the ball fell nicely (from a Charlton perspective) to Grant in the box, but with the goal at his mercy, he blazed over the top. Phew, phew, phew.
Gooch made way for Watmore, which was slightly harsh on the Californian, as he'd been at the heart of a lot of good stuff, but Dunc's pace could perhaps take the pressure off.
It did. He burst down both flanks before settling on the left, got in a couple of shots to make the keeper work, and helped get it out to the eight for a cross that Wyke couldn't get sufficient power on, the ball looping harmlessly into the keeper's arms. Ross then sent on Maguire for Maja, who deserved the generous applause he received, as we opted to protect what we had... but we should have won it. A low cross from Power on the left found Watmore ten yards out, but he got his left foot under the ball and swept it over the bar into the howling crowd. Aw, man Duncy! Four added minutes were announced, Maguire made sure we kept the ball in the opposition half, and we took the point. There was a nice moment after the whistle when Phillips, the home keeper, applauded our fans as he collected his bits and bobs. Thanks for that, matey.
A tough game, fiercely competitive and well contested, with both sides having chances to win. No contract hangover for Maja, more physicality from Wyke, and sound defending in the centre. Perhaps some cleverer decisions from Watmore - cross instead of shoot- would have set up McGeady when he was in space at the back, but that's all part of learning the game again. Great industry from Gooch and calmness from McGeouch allowed Power the time to pick his passes, but there was a hole behind the front two where Honeyman buzzes about.
Man of the Match? O'Nien, for that goal, for his defending, and for generally being the most enthusiastic player in the world. Onwards and upwards, Lads, with Gillingham's FA cup win meaning more fixture upheaval. Can we not play Blackpool that day instead of a Tuesday night?