The Bob Peeters Express continues to screech to a halt and at half-time today it looked to have finally stopped. Those present were fearing the worst at the break with the toothless Addicks one down and reduced to ten men. I couldn't see where a goal was coming from, nevermind a spirited fight-back with ten men.
As the players lined-up I couldn't see Igor Vetekole and, more worryingly, I couldn't see George Tucudean so thought Bob Peeters was relying on Calum Harriott to win the game. Thankfully George started but it was a stinker of a first-half. Neil Etheridge made a debut he could barely have imagined a couple of weeks ago when joining us as third-choice keeper. Johnnie Jackson also returned to central midfield to partner Buyens once again with Cousins pushed out left and Gudmundsson right.
Cardiff came at us from the off although they looked limited to long balls or deep throws aimed at Kenwyn Jones. It was a long throw from Gunnarsson from the left flank after half-an-hour that put the Bluebirds one-up. The ball was flicked on and Tom Adeyemi was able to steer his header into the gaping left side of the Charlton goal. We waited for a Charlton response and George Tucudean managed a creditable effort from a tight angle that Marshall did well to parry at his near post but I am sorry to say that was it and we also had to see Callum Harriott red-carded for a bad tackle on Adam le Fondre which the inept referee, Mick Russell, decided was two-footed. It may have been but it looked like no more than a yellow at first pass. Le Fondre played his part in the sending off by hammering the turf on hitting the deck with his hand as if signalling an agonising leg-break. He recovered quickly enough as Harriott trudged off and was well enough to acknowledge his part to the Cardiff fans.
We didn't exactly tear into Cardiff after the break but it was obvious Russell Slade's half-time team talk was to slow it down, play for time and hang-on. That may have played into the Addicks hands after Bob Peeters made a double-substitution on the hour. Oguchi Onyewu made his left-back debut replacing Joe Gomez and Igor Vetokele replaced Johnnie Jackson as we gambled. The substitutions begged two questions. Most obviously, if Igor was fit enough to play, why didn't he start? Secondly, what was Bob Peeters expecting by replacing Gomez? Onyewu is tall but he didn't come in to win anything in the air and he looked surprisingly slow.
Irrespective, fired by fresh legs we started to boss the game. George Tucudean had been trying his best from the off but he was lifted by the appearance of Vetokele and began to lay the ball on and played several of his team-mates in with clever flick-ons balls over his head into space. Gudmundsson latched on to one if these and ran in in goal only to see Marshall get enough on it to divert it wide if the far post. Tucudean himself was denied from close range on the line and Gudmunsson shaved the post from a twenty yard free-kick.
Solly was joining the attack at every opportunity and Ben Haim was edging ever further upfield. We really did play some good good stuff and it was easy to forget we only had ten men. Having said that, Callum Harriott has been ineffective for weeks so perhaps he wasn't really missed.
With the clock ticking down it looked a lost cause with only two minutes left of normal time when Johan Berg Gudmundsson weaved his way into shooting space twenty five yards out and hammered a splendid shot into Marshall's top right-hand corner. The goal brought the house down and for the added four minutes of time we were buzzing. It nearly ended as dramatically as Cardiff's last Valley visit when Igor was played in on goal with seconds left on the clock. He ran in and drew Marshall but with the goal yawning, he somehow managed to blaze his shot over the bar. If only. If only we could play with this level of attacking commitment for most of our home games in both halves, our fans would be much happier and we might be challenging for promotion instead if sharing the points with inferior opposition.