21 August 2016

Walsall 1 Charlton 2

My second game of the season saw me riding the rails again. This time to Birmingham New Street, surely the most unpleasant station in the country, then on to the Bescott Stadium, a few miles north of the city.

It's the second time I've been to the Bescott and it's a relaxed-feeling ground, dominated by a laughably out-of-scale north stand, as if the club won the lottery a few years ago and decided to blow it all on one end of the pitch, while leaving both side stands still pretty basic. Still, since the ends of grounds are traditionally the cheaper and more poular seats, perhaps that's a democratic move. Away fans get the south stand, which is presumably nearly always big enough for travelling League One opposition.

The first half was fairly even. Walsall looked quite limited in their attacking play, using similar tactics again and again. They ought to be quite easily neutralised, but Charlton's defence still isn't quite working smoothly, and only a couple of terrific saves by Declan Rudd prevented them from going ahead. Charlton's opener came shortly before halftime, Nicky Ajose able to get onto a loose ball and delight the fans behind the goal.

Some very encouraging performances. Ricky Holmes again looked like the best aquisition of the summer, while Josh Magennis was impressive, especially given his size, for the effort he put in all over the pitch.

Before the game as usual a few banners were draped over the empty seats near the south stand, including this one. You'll notice it's folded at the bottom. For a brief time it wasn't and you could see the phrase "Roland Out". At half time word went round that Walsall's Chairman had asked the police to cover up the words.

While you can expect football club owners to stick up for each other, this was an unnecessary breach of freedom of speech. The words aren't offensive or inflammatory: just an opinion.

It was at this point that I decided I wanted Walsall to lose and be relegated. A view hardened when, following their goal, they played goal music. Charlton had allowed Walsall to press early in the second half and that's not, currently, a safe tactic.

Hardly had the music died away before Charlton regained the lead: Nicky Ajose again. And that was about it, apart from the vigorous and repeated singing of a new chant, possibly in reaction to the censorship. If you can't display it, say it. Despite the likely victory that was unfolding, the message to Duchatelet remains clear: Just sell the club.

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