Sunday, 15 April 2012

Up the football league we go!

Back in a sunny SE7 this afternoon after a four and a half hour dash from Carlisle. Like all Addicks, and certainly those who were there yesterday, I am still feeling particularly good about everything and it's great to know we can relax in our last three games and, hopefully, play a bit of exhibition football as we go in search of the title.

Yesterday was a fantastic day from start to finish. The advance parties of Charlton fans congregated around the Griffin pub in the centre of town from 11.30am and some, us included, moved up to enjoy a few pints in the very hospitable Carlisle Rugby Club next to Brunton Park. It was good to see so many Scots down to join us. The not unexpected gaggle of Dundonians were present as well as a surprise showing by a group of "Celtic Charlton fans" who had come in fancy dress looking for a party. I also bumped into a Gers fan from Glenrothes proudly wearing his Charlton shirt and he had met a couple of other Charlton-supporting Scots who had made the journey south (not forgetting Elgin Davie).

In the ground, 930 Charlton fans were housed along the same side of the pitch where we saw two previous promotions, although the old stand is long gone. Visiting supporters are shoe-horned in at the far end of the stadium and whilst we had a decent view, many of us were actually so far down the pitch that we were behind the goal-line. It makes you feel like you are being allowed to watch the game reluctantly from a distance. No-one will mind, of course, because our team was superb. The defence anchored the performance and looked very comfortable throughout, barring one moment of panic in the second-half when a long-range shot beat Hamer and rebounded off the inside of a post. 

In midfield, I am pleased to report that Dale Stephens enjoyed a much better game than of late and worked well with the industrious Pritchard who mopped up all the loose balls. Johnnie Jackson and Dany N'Guessan provided the width and Kermorgant and Wright-Phillips lead the line. 

As I have said, it was a rearguard action but we moved the ball forward quickly and with purpose when we were able to and it always looked like we had a goal in us, particularly after the break when we opened up as we have tended to do for most of the season. 

One of the Royal Navy and Charlton's finest was sitting behind me yesterday and he gave us the welcome news that Colchester had taken an early lead over Wednesday. That was followed by a goal at Bramall Lane that meant both of the Sheffield sides were losing and it was confirmed with a loud chorus of "Soo-per Kevin Lis-bie." 

As the match moved on, one Sheffield side and then the other equalised before United took an inevitable lead. There was a then a period of radio silence as we upped the ante and began to force the game and the Cumbrian's hands. Yann Kermorgant got on the end of a far post ball and powered in a thunderous header which the Carlisle keeper did brilliantly well to tip over the bar. Former goalkeeper Davie was most impressed with this but the Addicks were not to be denied. Several minutes later a corner was delivered into the box and touched on towards goal where Bradley Wright-Phillips reacted quickest to flick it in from close range.

This was the cue for pandemonium in one corner of the ground as fans danced left and right holding grabbing at one another as if pinching themselves. A fan made it on to the pitch as the players celebrated in front of us and hundreds poured down to the front ready for what was a poorly disguised first front for the invasion that was to follow. Having done it in 81 and 86, I decided to restrict my celebrations and maintain my decorum and better view from the stand. 

We might have scored again before the four minutes of added time when Wright-Phillips skated on to a long ball and drew the keep but his shot was blocked. Once the whistle went they was a huge roar and then moments of relative silence as we collectively sought confirmation that Colchester United had held the Massives to a draw. There wasn't long to wait and the inevitable pitch invasion began as fans tried to catch-up with players exiting the field. The authorities managed to restore order and get everyone back behind their cordon as we awaited the players and management team to re-appear. 

It was obvious in all the excitement that there would be accidents and I could see a boy pushed over aggressively by the side of the pitch as a frustrated police officer tried to keep fans back. Another fan appeared to be struck by another officer and there were a number of heated exchanges, although what was also obvious was that the police and stewards were going out of their way not to arrest fans, some of whom could have expected a shorter return to Carlisle than they had banked on had this been a regular match.

Nevertheless, spirits remained high and we were all rewarded after a prolonged wait when the whole squad appeared from the tunnel and ran en masse towards us cheering and gesticulating. They remained behind the stewards but the joy was unbridled. Players removed their shirts and flung them into the crowd and a ball was planted high into the stand which fell a row short for me to snaffle. 

I was struck by just how muscular most of our players look without their shirts (I think they like taking them off). It's pretty obvious they do a fair bit training that their predecessors didn't and I suspect they do a lot less drinking and gadding about too. I suppose that's why they are better and stronger athletes and why the game is generally so much quicker nowadays (and they earn far more of course).  It was really good to see the players hoist Chris Powell high above their heads in an impromptu move which spoke volumes for man-management and team morale.

It was refreshing too to see the sponsors allowed to walk across the pitch too and join in the festivities. These were the guys who dug deep to pay for the players flight. I am sure they have had a very special weekend and, like the rest of us, one that will live long in the memory. 

Now for the title and an exciting pre-season when we look forward to the fixture list and a few new faces to help us prepare for the rigours of the Championship and an attempt to follow in the footsteps of previous League One Champions and vault into the Premier League. 

For now, join me in the Championship!


ChicagoAddick said...

Superb Dave. Another memorable day. I wonder how many have done the Brunton Park hat trick?

Hungry Ted said...

Wish I was there, Dave. Thanks for the report. What a day?!?!

Dave said...

Simon - good question! I guess the number will grow with time just like the thousands who were at the 7-6 Huddersfield Town match'

Anonymous said...

In 86 we gained promotion after beating Fulham 2-0 at Selhurst.

Dave said...

Anon - I'm afraid you're wrong, it was definately Carlisle. At the Fulham game, we thought we had been promoted and fans ran on to the pitch in premature celebration.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough was a while ago, was at a Carlisle away game around 83-84....but it was not one of the 'famous' three...just a normal league game, i think we won 2-1 though. I do remember the Fulham game and seem to remember that Charlton were almost there....but maybe not quite mathmatically assured of promotion (Paul Parker was immense for Fulham that night too).

Dave said...

Anon - no worried! You are right about Paul Parker though. Now, who does he remind you of!