Monday, May 05, 2008

We Are Not Worthy!

Charlton Athletic 4 Coventry City 1

This game was a very nice way to finish a poor season, with a thumping score line over a very poor team threatened all afternoon by relegation fears.

With a full house away allocation turning one end of the ground light blue, complete with balloons and a full range of inflatable objects(balls, lilo's, dolls, crocodiles, etc, etc), the gaps in the home area seats were even more obvious. The announced crowd of over 26000 which includes tickets sold rather than bums on seats didn't reflect the many (possibly over 5000) season ticket holders who simply couldn't be bothered to attend this match.

They missed was probably the most entertaining game of the season, and one which turned into pure theatre...

It didn't take long for Coventry to settle, but Charlton scored with their first real attack, just four minutes into the game. Madjid Bougherra saw Luke Varney's run and promptly played the ball down the inside right channel. Varney didn't have a marker, and was behind the full back. For some reason, Kaspar Schmeichel in goal decided to rush out but was easily beaten to the ball by Varney, who coolly clipped the ball over the stranded keeper and into the net first bounce.

Back came the Sky Blues, but to no avail, and after 19 minutes, Charlton scored possibly their goal of the season (and one much better than Varney’s voted the best of the season…). Playing a relaxed style, with lots of knocking the ball around between defence, midfield, and the ever willing Andy Gray up front, Charlton finally put the string of passes to good effect as JonJo Shelvey played in another channel ball to Varney, this time inside the area; Varney's back heel fell beautifully for the onrushing Gray to sweep home. It was such a simple goal – passing, movement, skill, and control; terrific stuff.

Typically, a minute later, Charlton then conceded a soft shot by Mifsud from 25 yards. He was given time to pick his spot, as nobody seemed to think to close him down.

The game then went through one of those funny periods where either team could have scored, but both were trying to keep the game tight. The hard-working Shelvey lashed wide, but most of the better chances came to the team in blue, but were also off target.

Half time came with Charlton in control, but sitting back quite a lot with much space between the defence and midfield, and attack; on a warm afternoon, maybe this was tactical for the young Shelvey and twice as old Matt Holland?

The second half started much as per the first 45 minutes, with the Addicks scoring quickly – this time Halford's cross from the right eluded Gray and Varney, but Schmeichel's punch went straight up and down to Grant Basey. The youngster didn't mess around and capped an average overall game with a crisp shot that was deflected into the net. This was Basey's first league goal. He should have doubled his tally a few minutes later, but this time the similar deflection from a similar shot went just wide.

Varney and Gray pushed shots across goal and just wide, but then Coventry started to fight; possibly alerted by their own supporters to the fact that one goal from elsewhere would see them drop into the relegation zone. A couple of shots flew wide, as did headers, with Nicky Weaver merely watching the ball and keeping his fingers crossed. Weaver then made a good save, and stood back as the referee's whistle for an innocuous (and probaby non-existent) foul cancelled out a Best shot into the bottom corner.

Alan Pardew had already replaced Jerome Thomas with home debutant Scott Wagstaff, and scorer Basey with big Chirs Iwelumo, but now he made the change that the crowd had hoped for. 16-year-old Shelvey was the player to make was for 38-year-old Chris Powell, making his final appearance for Charlton.

He got a fantastic standing reception as he strode into central midfield, tasked with marking the annoying sub Thornton who looked like he might recoup something from the game for Coventry.
Powell made up half (with Holland) of what could have been Charlton's oldest ever midfield partnership and neither disappointed; Holland strode onto a bouncing corner clearance and crashed in a fantastic volley. Sadly, it thumped the crossbar and bounced away.

Powell then got into the area, and after a cross was missed by attackers and defenders, drove home only his third ever goal for Charlton, and the first he hadn't scored against his boyhood team (Spurs).

As we all know, some players have celebratory routines all planned out, but Chrissie isn't one of those players, so rare have been his goals. He just carried on running toward the North Stand, only stopping when he got to the barrier. The rest of the layers caught up with him there and hoisted him high into the air, such is the esteem in which he is held. Slowly the noise died down and he and team-mates started to return to the waiting away team and referee. Powell made a detour across to Pardew for a high five, and it did take a couple of minutes for him to get back and allow the kick off. D'Urso should have booked him but in a sign of recognition and sensibility (not most referees strong points...) he didn't.

Chrissie actually had another half chance a couple of minutes later, but the game finished in a surreal mood, with Sky Blues fans jumping around once other scores came through and Addicks fans happily stunned by that Chris Powell goal.

At the final whistle, the players all shook hands and the players kids descended for the walk around the ground acknowledging the fans (it was no lap of honour!); actually, there weren't that many kids on the pitch, which probably shows how young the team is these days. Pardew waved to all sides from the middle, but didn't join the players wander.

There was a great mood in Bartram's afterwards, as fans relived the memory of Chrissie's goal. By 6pm, it had become a 25 yard thunderbolt rather than the ten yard drive...

Then the man himself appeared, getting a loud cheer and clap as he put his head into the bar to see who was there. Such a humble man, he did everything he should have before retreating with Martin Simon's words ringing in his ears saying that he'd had that reception eight times already since the end of the game! As I walked up Floyd Road, Powell, with family in tow, drove past in his 4x4. One last set of bowing and clapping was acknowledged by a toot on the horn from the great man.

Summer is here, the final game of the season is over, but the resounding memory that I will take forward to next August is of one of Charlton's great players – Chris Powell. What a hero! I guess that means I better fill in my season ticket forms...

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