Friday, April 14, 2006

Downed by The Riverside

Middlesbrough 4
Charlton Athletic 2

The dream ends in disappointment once again...

Rather than repeat other blogs reports on the match, I thought I'd write more about the day, which certainly went well, apart from on the pitch!

As I had purchased a train ticket and booked a hotel the day after our initial quarter final draw with Boro, I did not take advantage of the clubs free travel service.

I got out of work and caught the tube up to Kings Cross; arriving after the free trains had left, the station was busy but only a very few Charlton fans remained. The 2.30 Newcastle express was pretty full, and on arrival at Darlington, I jumped straight into a cab which ran me around to my booked accomodation.

I dumped my bag in my room, then grabbed a couple of beers in the hotel bar with a friend who lives nearby. I hadn't seen her for four or five years, so it was good to catch up, albeit briefly. She drove me back to the station, and I waited for the Saltburn train to come in. I was surprised at how few Boro fans actually got on the train, as it was the last that would have arrived in time for the match. The journey across was good, but I couldn't see the planes at Teeside airport as we went past, which got me a little worried as to their arrival.

In Middlesbrough, I walked down to the stadium; even at 7.15, the roads were still not busy, though the closer I got, the more fans appeared from the tunnel under the railway.

Once inside, the atmosphere hit; it was pretty good on the concourse, as Charlton supporters grabbed a beer and a bite before the game, and up in the stand it was even better as the players came out to warm up.

The Boro PA announcer was extremely patronising; more so than the comments Brian Cole had made about some Croydon team in the past in my opinion, but I bet our directors didn't complain...

The game started - official club report here - and Bartlett and Bent had early chances to send us delirious.

Then the first kick 30 yards out, three man wall. Rochemback hit it well, but it wasn't exactly flying through the air. Myrhe scambled, but couldn't get across, and it sat in the bottom corner. Oh dear. Have to put that one down to you I'm afraid Tommy!

No problem - long throw, flick on, bosh! Hoosey volleys in. One all. The Charlton fans go mental! All of a sudden, Boro knew they were in a game, and for the only time in the whole match, they looked shaken. Bent and Bartlett had chances, but these were either saved by Schwarzer or sent high and wide. The game settled a little, but it was real end-to-end for the first twenty minutes.

Boro's second goal was a lucky affair; Viduka bundled the ball forward and Perry and Herman couldn't cope; Morrison tucked it between Myrhe's legs...2-1. I still felt that if Charlton could hang in there at just one goal down at half time, they had a chance. Hasslebaink's header was fantastically saved by Myrhe, and the hope continued.

Still bouyant at half time, the crowd tried to lift the players for the second half. But Boro had other ideas, and just tried to kill the game. They had gained control of midfield; shut down Rommedahl (who got little help or support from Spector all game...); and played the ball to Viduka, Hasslebaink or Downing who held the ball as long as they deemed necessary.

The third goal was flashed in by Jimmy-Floyd, but a scrambled own goal (or was it Bothroyd's?) immediately after gave the game life once more. A famous comeback or an over-gambled last throw - Curbs sent on Jason Euell for Kish. Ooops - Viduka skips round Perry, then Herman, and it's game over.

The best team won, sadly.

I sat in the stand until everyone else had made their way out, and started my slow walk back to the station. I had the best part of an hour to kill, so ambled sullenly the road. There was a lot of banter between some Charlton fans and the Boro hordes waiting to get under the railway lines, that threatened to kick off, but the police controlled it well.

At the station, I sat on platform two, as the first Charlton train filled up on the opposite platform. About eight young (15 or 16 year old) Boro fans - dressed in chav-ish high fashion - were giving it loads across the tracks to the waiting train full of Londoners. It got louder and louder, and more abusive and vindictive, until...the gent sat near me had enough. He stood, took two paces forward, and undid his jacket to reveal an all:sports logo-ed Charlton shirt, and stood with his hands on his hips, ready for action, facing the boys. Eventually, one of the chavs spotted him, did a double take, then told his mates, who immediately shut up and looked sheepish! It was hilarious! A policeman moved across to keep an eye on things, and after having a word with the Boro fans, they started to sing and mickey-take again. This time, the response was almost the whole of platform 2 breaking out into "oh South London, is wonderful...". The chavs were completely outnumbered and almost surrounded. Again, they looked sheepish and quietened. The first train left, and the opposite platform filled with a new set of Charlton fans; cue more banter. Some Londoners came around to confront the Boro boys but the police quickly dealt with them. Our train arrived, and it was obvious that unless the police boarded too, the outnumbered Boro lads would be in big trouble. So it was that they were ushered to the back of the train and a police presence journeyed along to Thornaby where they got off, and they could give one last Churchill salute to the southerners. Great fun!

Back in Darlo, I walked to the hotel, kipped, and was joined next morning back on the station platform by many other Charlton fans, who had also overnighted in either Middlesbrough or Darlington, for the trip back to the old smoke.

It was a great day out for Charlton, with the only thing that went wrong being the result sadly.

Maybe next year...?

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