It’s the start of the second half of our season and we have a real chance to make ground on our rivals, none of whom are playing today except Charlton of course. I don’t think I’ve been to the Valley since I saw The Who there in 1976 but I was at the first game of the season and Charlton were a bit of a handful then. Our performance against Blackpool was an improvement on previous outings and we’ll need to maintain that to get something today. The Maja situation is still very much up in the air and it’ll be interesting to see what reaction he’ll get today, if he plays that is. I don’t know how far Honeyman is away from returning but the sooner he comes back the better as we’re missing his creativity. I’ll be setting off for the match in an hour and I think we’ll get something from it. A win would be excellent for us but I’ll settle for a draw and my match prediction is 2-2.
When I got to London Bridge Station there were a load of our fans singing on the platform and when we got to the other end, it took a long while to queue up and get into the ground. I said hello to London Branch main man Ian Todd and then it took a lot of shuffling to get to my seat once I got inside. The approach to the stand was very cramped but I was impressed by the scale of the ground after visiting so many small stadiums this season but in the last two decades Charlton have followed a similar trajectory to us. There was a drummer booming out a racket from the opposite end and they hardly let up all match. One of the London Branch regulars behind me also predicted a 2-2 draw. ‘When the red, red robin...’ played as the teams emerged and there was a minute’s applause for all the Charlton fans who’d died in the last year which both sets of fans joined in.
McGeouch and Wyke were starting while Watmore and Maguire were on the bench. We pressed hard from the off and took the lead in the second minute. O’Nien was unmarked at the right side of their box and when James’s cross came over to him he smashed it into the roof of the net in what’s becoming his trademark style. Charlton hardly had a sniff for ages and it took them until the fortieth minute to get a shot on target. We were in control all over the pitch, defending confidently before they could get into our box and attacking down both flanks as well as making some great cross-field passes. As half-time approached Gooch had a great shot that, I think, came back off the crossbar. After that Charlton had a decent patch during which Flanagan was booked for a foul on the edge of our box that resulted in a free-kick and they gained their first corner. Near the end Bielik had a decent shot that went narrowly wide. All in all, though, we’d bossed it and if we could get another early on in the second-half, then I thought we’d surely win it.
It was very nippy at the break and it seemed to last an eternity. Some guy had a chance to win £2,500 for winning the crossbar challenge but he hit the ball just above ground level and into the net.
After the final whistle the cliché ‘a game of two halves’ was being bandied around a lot and it was true as Charlton came at us from the off and looked threatening. We didn’t harass them as we had in the first period and allowed them far too much room, especially Taylor. A lad in front of me started yodelling a few minutes in but his good mood, like that of us all, was severely dampened in the fiftieth minute when Charlton equalized. Taylor was involved as it was his cross that cannoned off James and was projected at 90 degrees into our net. I doubt if Taylor could claim it. Power was soon yellow-carded for a foul and we gave away a series of free-kicks near the edge of our box that went on for the rest of the game but we managed to survive them all. Charlton were having the better of things but it was by no means one way traffic as we created plenty of chances of our own. Wyke was getting stuck in a lot but although he had several headers on target, they were weak and easily saved and he didn’t react quick enough to make more of several good opportunities. Watmore came on for Gooch with around twenty minutes to go and proceeded to make some threatening runs as usual. Maguire replaced Maja with six minutes left and the latter received warm applause – he’d held the ball up well but hadn’t managed a clear scoring chance. Almost at once Maguire was berating James whom he’d felt should have run on to his pass at the angle of their box but my sympathies were more with James as Maguire should have passed it closer to him. There were four minutes of stoppage-time and we really should have got the winner. We’d been making something of a grandstand finish and very near the end Watmore received the ball in space only four or five yards out from the goal-line but he blasted it well over the bar. It ended 1-1 and there was a lot of applause from our end that I joined in as I hot-footed it back to the station to try to avoid the crowds.
Having thought beforehand that I’d be happy with a draw, I wasn’t as I felt we’d let a victory slip. Still, I may feel better about it in the morning.