19 March 2017

Sheffield United 2 Charlton 1

My first Charlton game in months and, surprisingly, my first visit to Sheffield and my first experience of the Greasy Chip Butty song. Sheffield, it turns out, is compact and buzzing and Bramall Lane football ground is tucked in neatly, very near the city centre.

There was a crowd of 23,000 watching United's seemingly untroubled progress towards the Championship and when they sang together it was an impressive noise.

But soon after silenced, as Ricky Holmes - as in all the few games I've seen this season, outstanding -  scored within 3 minutes: a perfectly struck free kick from just outside the box. Charlton were dominant for the first ten minutes and looked more like the team that was walking towards promotion.

With their first attack, though, United equalised. A poor goal to concede with the first sign of how United would learn to take apart Charlton's defence. Declan Rudd is the scapegoat of the day, it seems. I don't know what his recent performances have been like but would have to agree he should have done better.

As the half went on, United attacked more, initially getting caught offside too easily. What looked to me like a clear penalty was denied them, and they figured out how to time their runs to avoid the offside. The last ten minutes of the half were perilous as they created and wasted chance after chance and Charlton fans were grateful when it was over.

After the break United simply picked up where they'd left off and quickly took the lead. From then they gave a lesson in how to do enough and no more. It was thoroughly competent, and none of the home fans would be complaining but by now they surely ought to be playing with a little swagger. Maybe that's a sign of how good Charlton were: United couldn't relax until the game was over. There were a few tweets circulating from United fans about how Charlton were strong opposition. Here's one I got:

Probably the best of the few Charlton performances I've seen this season. Much too late to make any difference of course and a loss is still a loss and the relegation zone is still too close.

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