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The Lads went into the Valley, buoyed by last weekend's Wigan win, and on another day could play the same and win 4-0. How we didn't claim all three points is a mystery, aided and abetted by a second-half refereeing display of unbelievably inept proportions. Stewart headed close on three or four occasions before the break, and there were a couple of spells after it when we looked like we'd kick the Charlton doors in, but we weren't quite good enough. 0-0 it was, and whether it's a point gained or two dropped will depend on our results on Tuesday and Saturday. Either way, failure to beat a weak team like Charlton is not a good result.

Of course, Charlton's run of five successive defeats would have had them asking "can we play Sunderland next?" as, over the years, we've established ourselves as world leaders in ending such runs. Have you got a forward who can't score, a keeper who can't save, a team who can't win? Send along the Mackems. Having said that, the day got off to a promising start when the number 6 turned up almost on time, so things were looking good.

After a swift and thankfully uneventful journey to the east end, we hopped on the train to Woolwich and filled the Woolwich Equitable - much to the staff's surprise. Then the team news came in


Winchester Wright Xhemalji Cirkin

Evans Matete

Gooch Pritchard Broadhead


Subs Hoffmann Doyle Clarke Roberts Embleton Neil Hume

Ooh... no sign of Defoe, even on the bench. Will Pritch be out left, or behind Stewart? 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1? Let's see.

In our blue and yellow sort of Ukrainian kit, we defended the Jimmy Seed (South) stand bursting with our fans, and there was a bit of solidarity with the Ukraine with a minute's silence. It's only football.

We kicked off, Charlton had that bloody drum, and we had the better of the possession early on. Charlton, perhaps as to be expected of a side with their recent record, put everything and everybody behind the ball and made us work hard to get near their goal.

Our George was their main man in front of their defence as they filled their half with bodies, but, even without having a great deal of width going forward, we managed to get the ball onto Stewart's head three times - and three times the header flashed the wrong side of the post - or, in the case of the first, from a Pritch (who else?) corner, straight at the keeper. When we got a free in a position that looked a bit wide for a shot, Pritch got it on target, but it wasn't near enough to the corner of the goal and the keeper (that pesky McGillivray, formerly of Pompey) tipped it over. From the corner, you've guessed it, we headed wide. Wright that time, I think.

In terms of actual possession and chance creation, we were probably doing better than at Wigan last week, but we were an inch away from either getting on the end of things or an inch away from hitting the target when we did get to it. That was the story of most of the first half, and although the home side did get back into things in the last five minutes, plus the two added, Patto had nowt to do apart from some routine mopping up.

Happy to go into the break not losing (sorry, I'm a Sunderland fan, it comes as second nature) but disappointed that we'd not converted at least one of the chances we'd created.

We overturned Charlton's little spell of dominance from the start of the second half, and when Pritch rolled the ball through the home defence for Cirkin to gallop into, we were expecting a better outcome that a blocked shot with the keeper beaten. Wrong man in the right place from our point of view, and we should really have gone ahead. It should really have been Broadhead, who was looking sharp, but when his chance came, courtesy of a lovely dropped shoulder that sent his marker the wrong way, he just didn't have the follow-up sharpness to get to the ball first and the chance was gone.

Charlton did fashion a couple of chances, but put a header well wide before scuffing a low shot even further off target. Come on, Lads, this is what we're up against.

Well, that and the ref. After a fairly anonymous first half, which us how it should be, his first real mistake was not punishing the Charlton player who pretended he'd been kicked in the head when our boot was nowhere near him - but an intervention by the linesman, who was much closer, would have helped. Then a rugby tackle on Stewart ended with a free kick to Charlton, and I more or less gave up appealing for decisions to go our way. The same happened when Winchester had an arm thrown in his face and was then wrested to the ground - free to Charlton. Is it even worth mentioning how much of Stewart's shirt was in his marker's fist in the box? Probably not.

With twenty to go, Broadhead made way for Clarke, who did his usual fancy dancy stuff that defenders hate - but crosses were cleared and shots blocked. Five minutes later, Embo came on for Pritch, who looked like he'd had his foot trodden on and was helped from the pitch.

More crosses came in, Stewart had a low shot saved by the keeper's legs, and we went close a couple of times. With ten to go, the industrious Gooch made way for Roberts, and we played the rest of the game with him on the right, Clarke on the left, and everyone else piling through the middle. There was some clever first -time passing that set us almost through in several occasions, but "almost" is the crucial word.

Despite all of that, Charlton had a chance from a free, daftly conceded by Wright but wasted by the home side. Five added minutes were played, but we didn't score and ended up with a thoroughly disappointing 0-0 draw.

In terms of effort and organisation, we were quite canny, but in terms of creating clear-cut chances and taking the half-chances, we just weren't quite there. The stats will tell you we had 63% possession and 17 shots, of which 8 were in target, while the home side didn't manage a single effort on target. Praise to the defence for that.

In summary, nearly but not quite when it should have been quite enough.

Man of the Match? Probably Pritch, as he went close himself and almost set up a couple of goals before being fouled out of action.