07 November 2012

Charlton 5 Cardiff 4

I think I'll have to renounce my title as the world's worst football pundit. Yesterday evening someone on twitter (I can't remember who, and it'd be kinder not to) predicted "a dull game. 0-0."

That prediction only lasted 4 minutes, when I can't have been the only person fearing another horrible home defeat. But even after the second goal, on 24 minutes, the North Stand crowd (my man of the match) kept on chanting, in the most astonishing display of solidarity to Chris Powell, clearly a response to the few idiots who've been questioning his position.

Did it affect the players? I honestly think it did. There was no sign of the defeatism that was evident in the second half of the Middlesbrough game. It felt as if the team felt they could, improbably, come back. And improbably enough they did.

It was absolutely fitting that it should be Johnnie Jackson who started the comeback. He's not the most skillful player in the team, but he's got a knack of being in the right place at the right time that any striker must envy. And of course he has a huge influence on morale: when he's on song, the rest of the team seems to follow. His two goals at the end of the half completely turned the game around, and an exuberant crowd was disappointed when halftime came. Could Charlton continue this way?

Well, yes. Dale Stephens got the third before 10 minutes had passed. I don't know if he meant his free kick to be a shot or if it was a misplaced cross that fooled everybody. I kinda hope it was a fluke because it would be the first piece of outrageous good luck Charlton have had this season, an omen that can inspire and encourage the team as the season goes on.

For the rest of the game, Charlton were in total control, adding two goals and causing scenes of delirium in the crowd.

But then the referee, who had a poor game, booking eight players in a perfectly clean match, found six minutes of added time from god knows where. I felt that Charlton's players were emotionally, if not physically, drained at this point, while Cardiff were given a boost by this. So just to keep it interesting they scored two late goals.

Those goals slightly spoiled the mood. At the end of the game I thought Chris Powell was torn between an urge to lay into the team for conceding them and the simple joy of beating one of the top teams in the league. And the players looked as if they knew they were in for a bit of bollocking.

It didn't matter. It was three points gained in the most amazing, palindromic, game I've seen in years. And this from a team still ravaged by injuries, where the best rightback in the Championship has to play on the left, and one of the centre backs has to play at right back. When the team is back to full strength, who knows what they will be capable of?

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