Today I met up with nine friends, most of whom travelled with me all over the country during the 80's and 90's following Charlton Athletic. We enjoyed some hospitality courtesy of the Celebration Suite (a touch ironic at the moment) which is high up in the West Stand. By my reckoning, only three of us are still "regulars" and I think I am the last season ticket holder, which is a sign of the times.
One of the benefits of a pre-match hospitality is that you get the team sheet handed to you 20 minutes or so before kick-off. It was, therefore, a massive slap in the face to see that Phil Parkinson was attempting to break the mould and win this match by playing 4-5-1 with Deon Burton upfront. I said yesterday that in order to win this game we needed to attack throughout and ensure we got a cushion from which to secure the game. What on Earth was he thinking of? I could live with Matty Holland playing centre-half and a five-man midfield, but Burton on his own upfront?
Well, to be fair, he got a sparkling first half, largely courtesy of Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey drove everything from midfield and played like the missing forward for much of the half and arrived in space to rifle home Bouazza's drilled cross after 20 minutes. Bouazza should have wrapped it up before half-time when he roared into the box but chose to fire narrowly wide of the far post with players sliding in. Burton headed onto the bar and Bailey slid in to miss another great chance before the break.
One-nil at half-time and Norwich looked as poor as I thought they might. Their impressive 3,000 following knew they were up against it and loudly sang "Roeder, Roeder, sort it out" before half-time. Two Norwich changes at half-time made a difference. Wes Hoolihan and John Otsemobor started the second half and Norwich began to at least look competitive without creating anything. The half wore on and we created nothing. Shelvey, Sam and Bouazza began to tire and Norwich began to get more possession. Five minutes after we needed fresh legs, Norwich scored an ordinary goal through Arturo Lupoli which owed everything to complacency. Their only effort on goal and they had the draw.
At 1-1 the game was crying out for Charlton to go 4-4-2 to try and win the game. Instead, Phil Parkinson decided to swop Youga for Burton. Youga went to left back and Basey pushed up but how this was going to help us win the game, I don' know. Svetislav Todorov was on the bench and if he didn't warrant an appearance today, then his career at Charlton is over (I wouldn't be at all surprised if he's being flogged in the January sales, hence the cameos). McLeod is out of his depth in the Championship but even he might have fancied his chances today against this side. Dickson did get on with ten minutes to go (for a tiring Shelvey) but it never looked enough to get close to a winner.
So, we have a replay we don't need and one we probably can't win. Parkinson has now overseen 9 of the 17 winless games and we face a revitalised Nottingham Forest at the Valley next Saturday. It's very hard to see how we can win that and without it relegation moves two steps nearer.
You have to ask yourself why Jonjo Shelvey was only making his second start since the opening day of the season? We have been crying out for more quality and he's been in the stiffs. Maybe he's being put in the shop window? If so, it worked.
Matty Holland played a starring role alongside Jon Fortune but we shouldn't forget that Norwich were dire and presented very little threat throughout. Moutouakil and Basey were solid as were the midfield in front of them - there was just next to nothing up-front. Why-oh-why couldn't Parkinson see it?
He may have been kept on because he was the cheapest option but I am confident we would have won this game under a new manager. A win would have released an enormous amount of pressure and may have set us up for next week. Instead we face Nottingham Forest in a "must-win" game and they arrive with new manager-bounce after beating Man City 3-1 away. Murray, you can't say you weren't told.
The pathetic crowd today of 12, 615 (see photos) owed everything to 3,000 travelling Canaries, or things might have looked even worse. For those of you under 30, this is what it used to be like before you were born. This current run doesn't look like ending anytime soon and I reiterate that we will be the first side relegated this year.