Charlton 0-0 Millwall ~ Pitchside Ponderings

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So, international break over and back to the important stuff, a visit to Charlton indeed, so the usual ritual in our household (and I assume yours to) is to get the map book out and find out where on earth this place is located.

A fairly nondescript club, it nestles somewhere between obscurity and who gives a fuck, the patrons of this club have an almost apologetic nature, continually pinching themselves to believe they are actually included in the list of clubs who play in London, their diffident nature not in the least bit endearing and in fact, making them more like fist magnets than anything else.

They are the Elisha Cook of the footballing world, the eternal fall guy, if you will, a breed apart from what we see as South East London patrons, they would probably be more at home in Norfolk playing banjos with like-minded weirdoes, gurning at locomotives and dribbling over timetables.

Of course, it is a local game, we know that really, so naturally these sort of ‘easy to get to’ games tend to sell out and you get the usual mixture of seasoned away fans mixing with the ones that never travel outside of South London, and boy, can some of them be a pain in the arse.

My pet hate, and I emphasise it is only at away games that it bugs me, is my old favourite, the ticket twonk. I fear I may be going over old ground here but it does bug when you know it is a sell out, you know what the majority of our lot are like and yet the ticket twonk will roll up and stare pensively at his ticket trying to work out where he should be sitting. They will amble up and down the stairway muttering to themselves and invariably accost a steward and produce the ticket with a hapless look on their fissog and a shrug of their shoulders. The steward will look embarrassed for even the lowly steward has the brain capacity to work out the simple equation of Block, Row and number yet the poor old twonk seems bamboozled by it.

Then, once the steward has shown them where to go they will find someone already sitting there, usually a seasoned away fan , and then we get the phrase that grates on our nerves, “you’re sitting in my seat”. The fact that there might be, oh, let’s say about 400 empty seats all around seems lost on the twonk. Even a friendly bit of advice, along the lines of “ sit where you like mate” not only falls on deaf ears but seems to trigger a fit of pique almost immediately from the twonk. They just don’t get it at all, it doesn’t seem to register that the person who is in “their seat” probably has someone sitting in “their seat” and so on and so forth.

So yes, I encountered the king of the twonks at the Valley but we held firm and he soon began to realise what a complete and utter fool he was being and finally settled down in “someone else’s seat”. God give me strength, where do these clots come from.

Anyway, onto to other things and the football which saw Millwall rocking up with a bit of a hoodoo over the Addicks stretching back eighteen years believe it or not, March 1996 in fact and they haven’t even scored against us in the last six times we have played them.

The avuncular figure of Bob Peeters at the helm of Charlton just added to the risible nature of the fixture, his gangling frame bringing a slightly unfair chorus from the Millwall faithful, comparing the poor gawky sod to a sexual deviant, no doubt Mr Holloway will be apologising for that at some point…

Talking of Mr Holloway, it was tinker time again and the line-up for this important game was as follows, Forde in goal, Malone, Webster, Beevers and Dunne at the back, Woolford, Williams, Upson, McDonald and Martin forming a double diamond semi “W” formation in midfield with Billy no mates Gregory up front .

I do feel a bit for Gregory, he is continually left in isolation but he is happy to give it a go and he certainly led the Charlton defence a merry dance. They didn’t look at all comfortable whenever Gregory got the ball and at times you just wished that he had someone alongside him.

When he did, it looked like it could reap some dividend, a case in point when Woolford ventured forward and Gregory picked him out perfectly but the winger was woeful in his delivery and the chance went begging as it looked like he kicked the ground instead of the ball.

After about ten minutes of Millwall pressure the home side finally made some progress and rather worryingly, they used the same tactic about three times on the spin and we fell for it every time. Dunne, for reasons best known to him, kept drifting in from right back to a more central position and a simple diagonal ball out to their left wing caught us on the hop and like I say, they did three times in a row and still Dunne didn’t learn any lesson from it, the first time they actually got it right and the cross into the box was met by Vetokele but his header was hopeless and missed by a large margin, thankfully. The next two times we had Beevers to thank for Dunne’s ineptitude as he averted the danger both times.

The game though, soon petered out into a dull affair, plenty of possession football, no end product and no real spark of life from either side.

Upson tried a header that went straight to ‘keeper Pope’s midriff and then Forde made an almost identical save from Charlton’s Bikey. It was turgid stuff at times and even the travelling masses in the Millwall end became quiet, bored senseless by the proceedings on the pitch.

The half time whistle was greeted with numerous sighs of relief as the crowd settled down to a pie and a cup of Bovril, and to watch some kids kick footballs through a big hole which doesn’t sound too exciting but believe me, if you had sat through that first 45 then this was top drawer entertainment.

The second half saw no changes, one has to contemplate why, and one figures that Ollie must have been bored into a coma and unable therefore to make any decisions, but Bob Peeters must have put something in their cocoa because they came flying at us from the off.

Dunne redeemed his shabby first half performance by blocking a fierce effort by Harriot after about three or four minutes of the restart and then Gudmundson had a wayward shot that deflected straight at goal but Forde was on to it immediately and saved well.

The game then settled back down in to familiar ennui we had endured in the first forty five. As per usual, Mr Holloway waiting until around the hour mark before making a change and he took off Upson and sent on Easter…(if this was a Disney film one of the characters would now be saying “Wait…what?”) and then soon after took off Gregory and sent on Fuller.

Fuller caused a few problems straight away and the Charlton defence were given a bit of a torrid time thereafter. His first effort, a shot from distance, didn’t threaten the Charlton goal but the signs were there that he could cause them problems.

McDonald was putting in a decent shift in midfield and was generally orchestrating things and he also chipped in with a shot from outside the area that just went wide after performing some neat control to give himself the opportunity.

Martin was upended in full flight as he careered towards goal and from the resulting free kick which seemed to take ages to execute, McDonald slid the ball across to Williams and his low shot was well saved by Pope in the Addicks goal.

We were definitely the team in control but it was like watching a friendly at times, no urgency, no pace and no real endeavour. Malone had a bit of a mazy run that took him into the box but he seemed bereft of ideas once he got there and Pope tidied things up for the home side and then soon after we almost broke the deadlock when Easter found space and cut a shot across the deck and it was on target and looked a good ‘un but Pope made a fine save to push the ball around the post for a corner.

This woke up the slumbering monster that is the Lions away support and at last some noise was generated as we tried to will the boys on to a victory.

McDonald, always looking busy, set up a header for Fuller and the striker’s header was goal bound but again we were thwarted by Pope who was clearly the home sides man of the match, making another fine save to keep the game scoreless.

Our final substitution saw Gueye replace Woolford with about four minutes remaining but it made little or no difference to the outcome. This game had a bore draw written all over it from the opening minutes and even in the dying embers of injury time when Charlton managed a counter attack we watched helplessly as Tucadean raced through clear on goal, he managed to fluff his lines, poking the ball tamely past Forde which gave Dunne ample time to clear the ball away from the goal.

The game finished soon after and although the away section made plenty of noise applauding the point gained the overall view that is a game that will immediately forgotten but at least the run against Charlton continues and the away support were quick to fire up a rousing version of “you’ll never beat Millwall” to the chagrin of the train spotters that bothered to hang around.

A point away is a point gained but that takes us to one win in thirteen games now and our precarious position in the league is still relevant. We have to go to Bournemouth next week and we will need to at least draw that game as well. A win would be stupendous. A settled team would be a good starting point.

Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
Oscar Wilde
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    Good read.