04 October 2015

Charlton 2 Fulham 2

With 15 minutes remaining Johnnie Jackson got ready to come on. He's been missing, believed injured, for a while and it has shown. While Chris Solly is obviously an admirable player and human being, he doesn't have the presence and charisma that Jackson has, and my feeling is that his own game has suffered from taking the captain's role.

At this point, Charlton were 2-0 down and looking ragged. Not really playing badly, but not creating anything. It's a familiar story I won't go over again. Added to that, Nick Pope's one weakness - his propensity to spill the ball from direct shots - had shaken the team when it led to Fulham's first goal. He does everything else well but this is an expensive weakness. No-one needs to tell him he should have done better - he'll feel it more than anyone - but large parts of the crowd did. It probably doesn't help, but it's totally understandable. A couple of similar, but unpunished, fumbles in the second half suggested that it's a mental problem: he knows his reputation and it freezes him, stops him from doing the simple thing.

Fifteen minutes to go. Surely even Johnnie Jackson couldn't rescue anything in that amount of time. The ball, moreover, obstinately refused to go out of play, and another five minutes passed. Even before he was on the pitch, though, Jackson was changing the mood of the game. Impatient chanting of his name built the sense of expectation. Surely it was over-expectation.

Finally a corner for Charlton. The substitution was hastily made and the next thing anyone knew, Jackson had met Gudmundsson's corner with a firm header into the net. Well, how could we have doubted him? His incredible knack of scoring at exactly the right time had worked again. In some ways there's no secret about it: he just refuses to lack belief in himself, will get himself into the right position and let no-one stand in his way. It's an approach that the rest of the team needed to copy today and in the sixth minute of added time (thanks, Fulham, for all the time-wasting) Jordan Cousins did just that, topping a most unlikely comeback with a goal largely based on sheer determination.

A couple more minutes, and Charlton would have won, but given the balance of the 96 minutes overall a draw that felt like a win was fair.

After the game while the rest of the players left the pitch Jackson was interviewed for the Sky cameras for a few minutes. Maybe half the crowd stayed back while that happened, to give him a huge ovation as he left the pitch. The most stunning 15-minute contribution to a football match that we're ever likely to see deserved nothing less.

As I write this, Arsenal are beating Man Utd 3-0 at half time. He'll be watching it and loving it. It's been that sort of day.

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