The match itself was thoroughly entertaining even if we made it far harder for ourselves than it should have been and squandered a good opportunity to have increased our goal difference. As well as the five goals, there were at least a dozen other good scoring chances, a key injury, tactical managerial errors as well as a refereeing substition. Both sets of fans were in good voice and the 1000 strong Wycombe contingent made the game more reminiscent of the Championship.
To the action then and Charlton's starting eleven presented no surprises; Elliot, Youga, Llera, Dailly, Richardson, Bailey, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Sam and Burton. It took Charlton 15 minutes to get going during which time Wycombe had plenty of possession without making anything. Charlton's first real foray forward was a move in which Bailey fed the over-lapping Youga who cut into the box and past the first defender as he hared in on goal but his decision to shoot rather than cut the ball back was a poor one because he fluffed his shot embarrassing wide from six yards. Scott Shearer in the Chairboys goal then had his defence to thank for charging down several Charlton efforts before he too was called into action to tip a fierce Bailey 25 yarder low around his left upright.
On 21 minutes Charlton broke the deadlock when the mis-firing Jonjo Shelvey hit a long corner to the back of the box and Christian Dailly appeared highest and planted a downward header into the Wanderers net. The relief was palpable and a minute later Sam ran at Wycombe again on the right and put Richardson in onto the goal-line from where he picked out Nicky Bailey arriving in space and last season's top scorer opened his account with a flourish smashing the ball high into the net. Two-nil and it should have been game over. Lloyd Sam saw a dipping shot narrowly miss the post before he wasted a superb chance to kill the game by ballooning a shot from where Bailey had scored.
Wycombe looked dead and buried after 35 minutes but then Llera got a head injury that required stitches and we were forced play the half out with ten men. Semedo went to centre-back and Charlton played keep-ball. Wycombe were unable to up the ante and at this point and they looked a poor side. However, in typical Charlton fashion and on the stroke of half-time, Wycombe finally got a cross into the box to test the make-shift centre pairing and Zebroski rose unchallenged to head over Elliot for an undeserved goal that left the half-time scoreline flattering Peter Taylor's men.
Within five minutes of the re-start Charlton scored the third and my 3-1 match prediction looked safe. Lloyd Sam was upended after another dangerous run and Jonjo whipped in another cross from the free-kick. The Wycombe defence failed to clear as the ball came across the face of goal and Nicky Bailey and Miguel Angel Llera were waiting to pounce at the back-post. Both went for it but it was the leggy Llera who got the touch and didn't he look pleased with himself. The two-goal lead restored, surely now we would go on and finish the match?
After 75 minutes, Phil Parkinson decided it was time for fresh legs and the hard-working Burton and the dangerous Lloyd Sam were spared in favour of a shift of formation to 4-4-2 which was nearly our undoing. It didn't look like a risk to be honest. Wycombe hadn't threatened and looked beaten. In fact we nearly scored straight after the double change when substitutes McLeod and Gray combined to force a save from Shearer. After that however, Wycombe seemed to find the key to our midfield and with Semedo and Racon tiring, they took the game to us and a Zebroski scored a second goal after beating the off-side and slipping the ball under the despairing Elliot.
Suddenly it was panic stations and Wycombe seemed to create a goal-scoring chance every thirty seconds for the last ten minutes. The back four were all over the place lunging in for last-dicth tackles and blocking shots. There were three goal-line clearances and Elliot pulled off a wonder save when he somehow blocked a pile-driver from eight yards. Andy Gray should have scored in between times after a Racon lead breakout saw him round the keeper but his shot wasn't strong enough and a covering defender cleared under the bar. McLeod also saw a fierce drive tipped over by Shearer but Wycombe forced a succession of corners well into the four minutes of added time. Pitman and Oliver both missed clear heading chances before the fourth official called time having come on for the original ref before the finish.
As the Valley crowd left the stadium, the talk was of a thrilling match but how Charlton always make it difficult for themselves and how we will need to learn quickly if we are to make a fist of it this year. We were all reminded of just how bad it could have been with news that fellow new-boys Norwich City had been spanked 7-1 at home by little Colchester - ouch.
We are at Hereford on Tuesday where I expect we will play a largely second-string side to ensure key members of the team are rested and protected ahead of the important seond game at Hartlepool. The monkey-hangers got a creditable 0-0 at MK Dons yesterday, so it looks like we will be tested up there on Saturday. I have a ticket and just need to sort out some transport.