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29 November 2011

Charlton 2 Vincibles 0

All the Sky hype before the game had apparently been about "high-flying" Huddersfield. Flying so high they were five points behind the leaders in league one, whoever they were, and in third place. But this was always going to be a crucial game. Sure enough, Huddersfield turned out to be the best team that's come to the Valley this season. The key to their hitherto-unbeatenness is their midfield: it really was superb, controlling the game for long periods. You can see how they can shut down most opposition.

Their player who usually gets all the attention is Jordan Rhodes. He's scored 13 in the league this season, so he's almost asgoodasbetterthanShaun, and I was looking forward to seeing him. I still am. He was largely invisible, and not in a good way. The sense is growng that we have, at last, a defence we can trust. And we needed it: Huddersfield got 10 corners to Charlton's nil, but the number of times they genuinely looked like scoring was tiny.

Charlton's first goal was a precise header to the top corner by Kermorgant that left the Terriers' keeper completely flat footed, and the second, by Hogan Ephraim, was the result of some quick thinking and fumbly goal-keeping. As usual, the opposition had started stronger, but that doesn't worry me any more. It's good that Charlton take the measure of them before taking control.

In the second half Huddersfield were mostly on top, and I got the sense that some of the Charlton players were feeling the pressure of the situation. But without any real scares they saw the game through, and the buzz around the ground at the end of the game was more jubilant than I can remember for a long time. Maybe the boxing day defeat of Chelsea all that time ago?

Chris Powell had tried to play down the importance of this game. Wisely, he wanted to take pressure off the players, and he's right that it's just game 19 with 27 more to play. But it felt momentous, as if Charlton had absolutely claimed their right to be on top of the league. Now they really are the team to beat. (And my pre-season bet on Charlton to be champions at 11.5 is looking good. The latest price is around 2.6.)

Selected other views
Guardian report (Don't usually see them here. It's a good report with interesting reader feedback. The Independent's report is all about Huddersfield's broken record, so I'm not linking to that. If the Telegraph has a report, it's too well hidden for me.)
Cafc.co.uk match report
Huddersfield website report
Wyn Grant (magisterial, as always)

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