Charlton Athletic 0 : Derby County 1 – 16th April 2016

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It was a cracking day out all told. A bit of a mooch around Greenwich, an artisan creole hot dog, a reasonable performance, a resilient if slightly lucky third win on the trot, three points away from home, a play off place made more or less certain, the return of The Wassall Post Match Fist Pump, several pints of beer, meeting a fellow member of the DCFC Twitterati & a splendid curry in the Raj Garden in Bushey to round the evening off. Seriously, what’s not to like?

A visit to The Valley is always a special game & was the fourth game there on the trot for me & The Witch. It was a pleasure to have Spicy Kev with us this time. Shame we won’t be going to the Valley next season. We rocked up to the ground with 5 minutes to spare & located our seats (or standing spaces..) just in time to see the teams come out. The vast empty spaces in the Charlton stands were saddening. That’s how disenchanted a club’s fans can get when their owner makes unexplainable, illogical decisions & gets rid of coaches too easily. I’m glad we’re never going to have that problem.

The team news had been a tad concerning. Thankfully, it was more or less the same side as in the previous 2 games. We obviously need consistent team selection if we have any chance of entering the play offs with any momentum. Unfortunately, Olsson was ill, so up stepped our neo-utility player, Jamie Hanson. He had a reasonable game actually. Several powerful tackles & a performance of great determination. However, he is no left back, was obviously too reliant on his right foot &, as we know, can’t add much going forward. Sounds like Olsson will be better for the Bristol game, so no need for Wassall to have to backtrack & recall the exiled Warnock.

Wassall said that we needed to start this game on the front foot. That didn’t happen, not for us anyway. Charlton were well up for it & went at us from the start. We didn’t recover any sort of poise until at least ten minutes into the game, when we started to hold on to the ball & knock it around. Charlton were impressive actually. Skilful, mobile, energetic, determined. Not what you’d expect from a team on its uppers.

We started to cope with it though. This was nothing like the last away game we went to – the shameless capitulation against QPR. We nearly went ahead from Ince (who had a good game again) & then Martin (who was well off his game).  Charlton had their excellent goalkeeper, Nick Pope, to thank for being in with a shout at this stage. And we had Cyrus Christie to thank too, saving a certain goal from Gudmundsson with a fantastic last ditch challenge. Who says he can’t defend?

The half time interval left us reflecting on an open, exciting game. Surely we would push on in the 2nd half & Charlton would tire? Nope. They were all over us for the first 15 minutes or so & we were all over the shop. Charlton hit the post & shortly after had a goal disallowed (probably correctly, as Carson seemed to have been barged over).

Then, completely against the run of play, we were in the lead from a corner. Thorne knocked the ball on & Johnny sort of nodded it in with a backward header type thing. The 2,500+ Derby fans in the away stand were in apoplexy after that. We had a bit of a purple patch after that goal, with Ince looking particularly dangerous.

Martin was “denied” a penalty & but managed to put his subsequent histrionics on hold for a second, while he clipped an excellent chance over the bar, when he really should have scored. It was around this time that a Stoke City blogger I follow on The Twitter, tweeted me & asked, “Is Chris Martin always such a lumpen mardarse?” I’m afraid I had to reply in the affirmative. Let’s just say he lost possession quite easily all game & should have focused on getting into the box more, rather than throwing up his arms in consternation, every time he didn’t get the pass he wanted. He is so frustrating.

The game continued to be very open and Charlton were still causing us problems, especially when the big blonde chap came on. However, we hung on until the final whistle and celebrated with abandon – “Yes, we’ve got a chance of sneaking fourth spot in the table!! Wahooooo!” Wassall was clearly relieved as he ferociously hugged each player as they came off. Then he approached the away end with his Fist Pump routine. I appreciate it shows everyone that he’s passionate but I think I’d prefer a nice hand clap.

Where does that leave us then? Unless a cataclysmic set of results happens, we’ll be in the play offs. But who will we get? I think we’ve got a chance against Sheffield Wednesday and possibly Hull. I’m not confident about anyone else. Once we get Olsson back, I’m confident about us defensively. Russell and Ince are obviously in form, as is the midfield (especially if Hughes regains match sharpness). The only person I’m slightly worried about is Martin. Will he put the histrionics aside and focus on playing the way we know he can?

Let’s see what happens.

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