Monday, April 19, 2010

Up Against It

Charlton Athletic 0 Norwich City 1

At about 6pm on Saturday, not long after I got home from the game, my father-in-law telephoned me. He is a long-time Norwich supporter, having been born and brought up on the Suffolk-Norfolk border, but very much a Canary. He was away in his caravanette for the weekend, far from radio or TV coverage, and wanted to know what the score was. I told him it was 1-0 to Norwich and that meant that they were promoted. A slight laugh and chuckle, and then an “Oh well, I’m sure Charlton will go up too. Was it a good game?” I said it was rather one-sided, which brought another chuckle and then told him we had murdered ‘em. He didn’t believe me, but that is the truth.

You can look at the statistics, where Charlton had over two-thirds of possession and lots more shots (on and off target), corners, and fouls for, but the only stat that matters when we look in the history books is the goals for column, and we lost that.

Sometimes you just have to accept that a team comes along and mugs you; without their two best players (Holt and Hoolahan), Norwich did set up for a smash-and-grab afternoon, and it all worked out perfectly for them. An offside goal chalked off already, Nelson headed in for the visitors from a long, deep, corner, and despite the best efforts of Nicky Bailey, Charlton just could not score during that first half.

With Akpo Sodje winning balls in the air, it was disappointing to se him withdrawn due to injury, but at least we were able to witness the return of Deon Burton after a month out. Burton came closest in the second half to notching an equalizer, but once more he was thwarted by lanky on-loan ‘keeper Forster.

Too often though, Forster was able to count his blessings as Charlton players snatched at shots and saw the ball bobble along the ground to him, when firmer contact and timing could have seen the net bulge. With the visitors wasting time from early in the second period, you knew that they wouldn't venture forward too often, and that proved the case. Despite five minutes injury time, Charlton just couldn't score, and a fifth 1-0 scoreline on the trot ensued.

I didn't hang around for the Canary celebrations, as this win guarantees them Championship football next season (unless they fall into administration).

Charlton played pretty well throughout, but didn’t have the confidence or cutting edge that Norwich had, despite all the possession. The performance does still suggest an upward curve, and with the results of the other teams chasing that second spot also poor, all is not yet decided though a play-off place is almost guaranteed now.

It should also be noted that the crowd played a full part in the game, willing on the side at every opportunity, and maybe it helped that recent fall-guys Dave Mooney (who wasn’t even a sub) and Miguel Llera didn’t make it onto the pitch.

Now with just three games to go, if that second spot is to be reached, they all need to be won; even then, it may not be enough, so I’d better get those play-off dates in my diary and hope it doesn’t clash with other duties.

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