Monday, April 29, 2013

Almost there

As Bradley Pritchard ran unmarked into the penalty area to put the Addicks in front during the first minute at the Riverside, many may have thought another rout was on the cards, similar to that witnessed at Barnsley two weeks previously. Many Charlton fans thought at that moment, just possibly, the unlikely scenario of reaching the play-offs could in fact become reality. Promotion through the play-offs isn't my ideal for this season but there's no doubt the money would transform the club.

It's a strange place is Middlesbrough. This famous old industrial town certainly has it's rougher element as I discovered many years ago staying there for the weekend as a teenager, yet it's football has always left me charmed. A great community club, they have always managed to attract talented footballers while achieving on the pitch relatively little success.

My first trip was to the wonderful Ayresome Park where I watched Sutton United lose a cup third round replay in extra time. It was, in many ways, far better a performance than the one that beat Coventry the season afterwards. All four sides of the famous old ground clapped Sutton off the pitch after two hard fought games and with that they cemented themselves in my affections.

I've been back twice, both times to the Riverside, or Cellnet as it used to be known. I was there for one of my most memorable away days, the start of the 97-98 campaign. They had the enigmatic Fabrizio Ravenelli, while we gave a competitive debut to new signing Clive Mendonca. We lost 2-1 that day, Boro scoring the winner at the death, while two of my favourite Charlton players made headlines. Steve Jones for scoring our goal and Stuart 'sweaty' Balmer for completing the game with his head wrapped in bandages and blood staining the best Charlton away shirt in living memory. The second visit was of course the much publicised 'Operation Riverside'.

The 650 Charlton fans there this weekend for our final away game dressed themselves accordingly with Chris Powell masks. I wonder where the idea for dressing up for the last away day comes from? Speaking of which, Hartlepool had to find a new destination for their delightfully creative theme this season as for the past two seasons it's been The Valley faithful (and Daily Mirror readers) that have welcomed them. My local league side Crawley Town had the honour this year and the Broadfield Stadium hosted a large number of monkey hanging penguins. If those from the North East had added leggings and Ugg boots to their attire they would I suspect have looked like locals decked out in those dreadful 'onesies'.

Bradley Pritchard gave us the perfect start, a quarter of an hour later we had doubled the lead and the dream was still alive. Kermorgant crossed the ball across the face of goal and it was an unfortunate Boro captain, Rhys Williams, that turned the ball into his own net.

With Johnnie Jackson and Andy Hughes both missing after taking knocks against Wolves last week, Mark Gower found himself in the starting line up alongside long forgotten Danny Hollands, his first appearance in a Charlton shirt since returning from a loan spell at Swindon. Things were looking good, the heart of our solid midfield in recent weeks were absent and those stepping into the breach were doing so admirably.

Results elsewhere in the division would eventually kill off any realistic hope of that top six finish anyway, Middlesbrough's comeback made it definite. Marvin Emnes had looked dangerous all afternoon, almost winning a penalty in the first half after a good long solo run into the box, then midway through the second half he gave the Boro fans hope of saving face when he did finally see the ball hit the back of the net. Ricardo Fuller would see an effort ruled out for off side before Scott McDonald headed home from a corner in the last minute of the game to cruelly snatch two points from the visitors.

We really were almost there, both in the game and the table. We're almost there for the season as we are now left with one last outing before the summer break. A game against bottom club Bristol City and as good an opportunity as you'll get to consolidate a highly respectable ninth place at the first time of asking back at this level. A chance to show our admiration to Chris Powell and this squad of players that have, I believe, over achieved a little this season while most definitely maturing as a squad on a very tight budget.

I won't even be 'almost there' though. I'm at a wedding (who gets married on such a crucial weekend of the football calendar?). All I can say is thank goodness there isn't anything resting on the match, I'd have hated to disappoint someone.

Well done Charlton Athletic on all you have achieved this season and for one last time for now, come on you reds!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.

Yesterday The Valley was the epitome of gallantry and chivalry if you work on the basis of the late American actress Lana Turner's quote having any truth to it. The Jimmy Seed, to a degree, and the away dressing room (Dean Saunders especially) really would have appeared the most courteous and polite of wolves as there impending doom and successive relegation seem still a distant yet inconvenient blip on the horizon. If we were in the bottom three with just three matches left and Chris Powell didn't demand we throw everything including that well battered kitchen sink at the opponents I'd be pulling my hair out and spitting whole parakeets, let alone just bloody feathers.

The first forty five minutes were a typical end of season stroll in the sunshine, going through the motions, wish we were already on the beach, kind of affair. Two teams that were comfortable in mid table safety happy in the knowledge that they had perhaps over achieved in some eyes considering how little money they had or where they were only a month or two before. The good turn of form came just at the right time for these two sides and they can cruise into the summer break content with a job well done. Hang on, one of them are precarious at best, down the swanny at worst? You'd have never known.

Wolves nearly did take the lead in the one and only moment of note, action wise, during the first half. Karl Henry saw Hamer off his line and from just inside our half tried a speculative effort which very nearly bore fruit hitting the bar, and catching our number one out completely. His casual manner nearly his undoing as his panic almost caused a collision with the upright and I'm certain the keeper would have come off the worst.

We were forced into an early change as Andy Hughes was replaced by Mark Gower after only twelve minutes. Hughes has been the cornerstone in the side during this recent rich vein of form, I've no idea why he came off but with only two games to go it could well spell the end of his season. At his age and with his contract up it could even have been the final action of his spell at the club, or even at any club. I hope not.

Danny Green came on during the second period and things started to liven up just a little. The wide man has had very little opportunity and been well down the pecking order, so he used yesterday, as Scott Wagstaff did back in January, to show the gaffer he's still worth his paycheck every week. He played many dangerous balls into the box but the corner he supplied for Charlton's opener was one of the worst of the afternoon. It was only due to some comical defending that Dorian Dervite was able to latch onto a loose ball and give the Londoners the lead. The wolves at the opposite end of the ground no longer looked patient, more distraught.

They did get themselves back into it as Ben Hamer, for the second time during the afternoon, found himself flat footed and perhaps dare I say it a tad complacent. A long throw into the box was flicked on towards Kevin Doyle, the Wolves captain unmarked and apparently invisible. Hamer looked positioned to deal with the flick on but oblivious to Doyle. Two awful goals and we were once again all square. The away support was a little lighter in result though as stewards were quick to pounce upon supporters celebrating the equaliser.

Late drama has become almost expected in SE7 recently, Leeds bearing testimony to this only two weeks ago. Yesterday's game may well feature on the Dave television channel soon for it was the perfect repeat. Once again Charlton scored a winner at the death, once again substitute Jonathan Obika scored it, carving his name into Addicks folklore for all time. Danny Green had a good effort blocked by the visiting defence, foiling a committed goalkeeper, the ball fell to Obika who kept his head to finish decisively. For the third time in as many matches the home support were delirious! Many would wish the season still had two months left to run on this form!

For me though it was to be my exiting farewell. Two games left, first at Middlesbrough and then the visit of Bristol City, both of which out of my reach with first work and then a wedding being the culprits. Who gets married on the final day of the season!!??!!

Thankfully for us there will be nothing riding on it, the play offs are only just mathematically possible with the aid of a protractor and Bristol City already know their fate and have a sell sell sell policy put in place. Good job I'm not a gentleman then as it's most definitely going down to the wire for the Wolves.

Just as a footnote, the picture at the top of this post is of the teams walking on to The Valley pitch prior to kick off. Now I know we have a couple of mascots for the little kids (well they like that sort of thing the little 'uns), Floyd and Harvey, but I remember them being a cat and a dog. So can anyone tell me what that red thing is in the stand behind the tunnel? Yes that's the thing, the one with the huge eyes that looks like a deserter from Monsters Inc.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One Step Beyond

Cardiff City had become the nearly men of the Championship, synonymous with falling at the last hurdle. Tuesday evening they went one step beyond and secured promotion to the promised land, keeping in line with the hopes demands of their new businessmen owners.

A pitch invasion at the end was beamed into the homes of football fans everywhere showing how a capacity crowd were enjoying the fruits of both Malky Mackay's leadership and a bucket load of cash from Malaysia. Not that I begrudge them, promotion is a feeling second to none but if I were in that position I'm sure (easy to say when it isn't you I know) I'd be watching non league football having sent my season ticket back, therefore watching the pitch invasion of jubilant friends and colleagues on my television set with the rest of the country. As they say on twitter, #againstmodernfootball.

Charlton had arrived in Wales on the back of their greatest ever away victory, the Bluebirds were going to have to work hard for their long awaited half a century return to the top flight of English football and the chance once again to tackle fierce Welsh rivals Swansea City.

The Addicks for all their valour gave a strong performance but it was never going to be a night where the Londoners made the headlines. We can reflect on taking four points off undoubtedly the best team in this division over the two games and also take heart that, as we approach the finishing tape, we have not only had a respectable campaign but also got through it unscathed as a squad. We feared all along that Chris Solly and Dale Stephens to name but two could depart for international fame and wads of cash at such alluring places as The Boleyn and Villa Park. They stayed put, Chris Powell kept his head and we sit ninth with only three games left to go. That came round quick didn't it!

I've no idea what next season will bring but I promise you one thing, if Slater and Jimenez change our kit to blue, nickname us the Blue Peters or we become The Charlton Nike Red Bull Jets they will be receiving my season ticket recorded delivery as quickly as the Royal Mail can humanly deliver it.

As Cardiff were celebrating in Wales, just across the border at Ashton Gate, Bristol City were realizing the gravity of a situation that in all honesty had been written on the wall for a couple of months now. The Robins were the first side to fall through the basement trapdoor into League One. It's a feeling we still remember far too well and if they're not managed at all levels particularly well next season, they could be playing counterparts Rovers far quicker than they ever anticipated. You only have to look at Portsmouth and to a slightly lesser degree Scunthorpe this season to see money will be harder than ever to come by, and fans favourites on the pitch equally as hard to hold on to.

As Charlton fans enjoyed their final midweek away day of the season, I was stationed far closer to home at The Hawth theatre in Crawley to be precise. The star of the night in West Sussex was Madness frontman Suggs.

This wasn't a Madness gig or even, as has become trendy of late, a solo acoustic set. This was Suggs telling us his life story. He had turned fifty, his cat had died and he felt the urge to tour the country reflecting as he went on the rather bizarre and dysfunctional events of his childhood, the search for the truth about his father and those carefree days as a young musician. At £25 a head I'm guessing his need for a little income may too have influenced his decision to tour small town theatres!

A sell out crowd included many a familiar face. Local men that were once skinheads, soul boys, Mods and scooter boys, there was a large selection of Fred Perry polos and Adidas trainers as many of these gents still carried their youthful exuberance with style and a swagger, even if the bodies were getting larger and the hair harder to comb. I cannot really comment though as i stood there equally trapped in time resplendent in ten hole cherry red DM's, crombie and gingham check Ben Sherman shirt. Suggs himself looked just as dashing in a green check three button slimfit suit. A life in the public eye certainly hadn't increased his waistline by too much!

I hadn't too much idea of what to expect other than this you tube clip from an evening earlier on the tour. Suggs was far funnier than I imagined, his comic timing superb whilst running two or three story lines simultaneously and switching back and forth when you least expected it. Interspersed with this were tuneful interludes as he sang excerpts of a handful of well known classics accompanied by the only other person on stage, a lad in smart polo and Weller haircut, on the piano.

The jokes and the stories reminded us all of some great old days past, Suggs hinted how knowing what we do now, wished he'd given a kick to a certain cigar smoking Top Of The Pops presenter when he had the chance, yet also showed a real talent when he impersonated the great Tommy Cooper to perfection. A lot of what he said went over the head of my young wife, yet even she left knowing she had witnessed something quite special. I left finally knowing for sure that Jerry Dammers didn't call his record label '2 tone' out of reverence to his teeth.

A good night all round then, especially for those Cardiff supporters. As for the Malaysian owners however, rubbing their hands with glee at the giant money pot they've just prised open, can I just say on behalf of all football fans that value the history and heritage of their clubs, in the words of a man mourning his cat,  you're an embarrassment!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Let that be a lesson to you.

If you should ever feel an urge to pull on a Crystal Palace shirt be warned, Charlton will find out and will come to get you! Seriously though, poor old Barnsley had to don the Palace away kit on the demands of the match officials last week, and as if that wasn't embarrassing enough, they then had to endure Charlton's biggest win in forty one years the following week. How they must hate South London.

They did perhaps deserve it mind, remember those rotten Tykes did come down to SE7 in October for our 'carnival' atmosphere of 'football for a fiver' (a Charlton idea to entice a new generation of supporter to The Valley) and play us off the park ruining what would undoubtedly be some poor young lads first ever experience of Charlton Athletic.

Barnsley 0 Charlton 6 (six). It hasn't sunk in yet, I'm not convinced it ever will. Barnsley received a couple of red cards late on but don't let this influence your opinion of the result in any way. The first goal came after four minutes, the second after nineteen. This had all the hallmarks of the type of job Bolton should have done on us a couple of weeks ago. The difference was we didn't sit back content with what we had. No sir, we smelt blood and were going to give out a long overdue thrashing! Even bringing on Salim Kerkar didn't quash our appetite, the lad scoring with, I believe, his first touch.

It's great acclaim to the squad that all six goals are credited with different names. The full list is
Pritchard 4, Jackson 19, Kermorgant 48, Harriott 59, Kerkar 80, Fuller 90. Two strikers and four midfielders. It's the goals of the midfield that have perhaps put us in such a strong position now for the season finale, the captain's more than anybody. At the start of the campaign we really wondered if Johnnie Jackson had enough quality to make it at this level, now nearing the end there is no doubt whatsoever that his eleven goals have been pivotal in not only survival but the reality of a top half finish.

A certain Andy Lopata, a name many Addicks will know, made a very valid point on twitter today. We are witnessing our best form of the season and it coincides with the return of a certain Andy Hughes to the side. During our successful title campaign in League One last season our best form came with Andy at the heart of the midfield. If I'm correct his contract ends this summer. He may be 35 now but surely he deserves the offer of another year?

Back in the 60's scoring six goals in a game wasn't so rare. A 6-6 draw with Middlesbrough in October 1960, then two months later a pair of matches against Plymouth Argyle both ending 6-4, one to us and one to them. You have to go back to the 30's though to remember Charlton scoring six in successive games. To match that would mean a rout at Cardiff on Tuesday evening which would completely spoil a party. A draw against us will be enough to finally see the Bluebirds (yes, i know but I'm old fashioned) back in the top flight and alongside Swansea too. I wonder how many suits and businessmen north of the border in Glasgow will be spitting feathers in their jealousy?

I'm left with just one puzzle from today though. How on earth are the BBC going to fit six goals and two red cards into ten seconds of highlights on the Football League Show?

Oh well, it's their problem, I'll concern myself with another glass of this bubbly! Same old Charlton, taking the p**s..................

Sunday, April 7, 2013

League Of Blogs 2013

You may have heard of The Football Attic, two lads that fondly remember football how it used to be before Sky, Sepp Blatter, and Malaysian businessmen got their 'not grubby enough' hands on it.

One of the highlights last year as a football blogger was their League Of Blogs which was an opportunity for us all to amaze each other with our creative skills. A certain blogging friend of mine even stole his children's gel pens for the exercise. This eventually culminated with a sticker album and a wallchart (which still hangs proudly in our lounge) displaying all 92 entries. Well, this year it's back and claims to be bigger and better than before!

Once again we have blank Subbuteo style men to colour in, adorning both home and away kits to represent our blogs, and as a special treat we get to design a blog team badge which, in true Panini style, is depicted on a foil type background with a possibility of one day being a real life foil sticker! A boyhood dream on par with scoring the winner in the cup final.

For my badge I made sure all three elements in the title got a fair showing. Obviously based on the Charlton badge, the hand proudly holds a cross rather than the sword. This particular part of the design was done by Heidi, my wife, two or three years back as a birthday surprise t-shirt for me. To give the whole thing a little punk rock feel, the loud Ramones shout of Hey Ho Let's Go! has been circled around the main badge. A great rallying cry for punk rockers everywhere, yet I think you'd agree with me a fantastic dressing room shout before running out at The Valley too.

Now last year my kits started life as coloured pencil drawings before being transformed into the 'iconic' designs they became. This year I had no intention of ruining a perfectly good formula.

My templates for last season somehow went under the radar and weren't taken by any of the big guns in football kit manufacture. Now I could have remained undeterred and continued in my solo quest to improve sportswear as a whole, or I could sell out and rip off a tried and trusted idea. I chose the latter.

Admiral have, in my opinion, created the greatest football kits known to man, their most exceptional work came during that glorious period of the late seventies, and herein lays my inspiration. If only Charlton had worn that truly iconic (and I mean iconic in the true sense of the word this time) tramline kit. We were lucky enough to have the greatest sponsor ever in FADS, throw in an Admiral classic and I'd be drooling!

Click on the image to view it full size
With a big 'in your face' Admiral logo setting the whole ensemble off (I love a big logo) and we have a kit that the Addicks sadly missed. Luckily I was there to save the day and still make it Charlton's.

I've saved my second team (Sutton United) too and gone amber and chocolate with my away offering, again using a classic old Admiral template.

With Admiral's four chevron chest plate boldly dominating the shirt, the shorts and socks have small Admiral logo's detailing the taping. There is absolutely no doubt that my side would look as good away from home as they would in South London.

If you write a football blog I can't urge you enough to get involved, the fun I had reverting to my childhood and creating these pieces was unmeasurable, and don't worry if your computer skills aren't adequate enough, the boys at the Attic will gladly help.

If you don't write a blog but just have a healthy interest in 'proper' football get yourself up into the Attic and read about some long since abandoned piece of football history that you'd completely forgotten about. You may even find something written by yours truly.

It just leaves me to say a big thank you to Rich and Chris for once again coming up with the idea, for letting 'erberts like myself join in with the fun, and also for the hours they have put in to make the whole project happen.

This could well become a habit and a yearly event. Perhaps we should be sending their wives a condolence card?


Some of the best in the world are guilty of it but in the words of Jake Burns and Stiff Little Fingers, it doesn't make it all right.

I lost count of just how many times myself and those around me in the Covered End screamed at the referee and his partners in crime for being so oblivious to this blatant flouting of the rules. We even got to give an ironic cheer as Leeds had an opportunity to claim for the same infringement late on. Handballs aside, this wasn't to be a happy anniversary for Leeds United who ten years ago this weekend had an unfortunately far too memorable victory in SE7 to the tune of 6-1. The Leeds side of today led for the moment by Charlton old boy Neil Redfearn aren't a patch on that team.

Momentum certainly favoured the home side, an historic comeback against Bolton last week followed by a gutsy draw at Brighton on Tuesday evening had let the pride and commitment of this famous club shine brightly through. Leeds on the other hand had lost their last three and only gained three points from the last six games.

Chris Powell reverted to the eleven that started (or perhaps didn't start) against Bolton a week before. Yesterday they came at Leeds from the off. Charlton had the better of the first half, great chances fell to Michael Morrison who thought he'd try his hand at rugby conversions and Callum Harriott who ran circles around a couple of defenders before unleashing a great shot from distance which whistled past the post. I felt upbeat at half time, we were on top and had shown we were capable of making that pay.

Three thousand travelling Leeds supporters had been in good voice during the first forty five. As football fans go, Leeds come in for more than their share of critics but full credit to them yesterday. With the team faltering on the pitch and very little in real terms left for them to play for, they packed the away end travelling down alongside Barnsley who were at Selhurst yesterday. The M1 services may have been interesting to the casual observer!

How quickly three thousand men in full song can be silenced. Andy Hughes, a Leeds cult hero (who didn't put a foot wrong all day) struck a well placed shot into the box which caught an outstretched Leeds leg, Charlton skipper Johnnie Jackson was there to calmly deal with the loose ball and put the hosts in front. If we continued in this vein I couldn't envisage any way back into it for Leeds.

Now let me put my hands up and admit I was the first to slate Chris Powell when he made his first substitution. With just the one goal cushion and us still looking confident enough to add to the tally he hauled off Ricardo Fuller for Salim Kerkar. Fuller really didn't want to go and looked as bemused and disgruntled as we did in the stands. I'd picked holes in the Bolton tactics last week for 'going defensive' with only a small margin, and here we were seven days later doing the same, albeit bringing on an attack minded midfielder rather than a defensive one.

Four minutes later and 'I told you so!'. Luke Varney (it would be wouldn't it) had come off the bench and equalized. There was far more than just a hint of handball in the build up yet the man in the middle who resembled an old chap on a roller coaster missed it completely. Must have been the cheese sandwiches. We'd sat back a little, invited them to bring their game forward and they had punished us. Rightly or wrongly, they were level and we had once again been the architects of our own undoing.

Slate Chris Powell's tactics at your own risk though, he still had a little joker up his dapper sleeve by the name of Jonathan Obika. Charlton had been rallying to the cause, Chris Solly being denied twice with great efforts must have wondered what more he could of done. Four minutes were added on for stoppages, Charlton pressed but must have thought they had ultimately been cheated out of all three points.

Leeds didn't enhance their reputation on the pitch when their full back went down under a collision with Kermorgant, the visitor reeling around like he'd been shot. Most of the four minutes seemed to be spent getting him off the field and it seemed an age before the referee started proceedings again. Then with just seconds left on the clock Rhoys Wiggins sent in a beautiful cross (and there was me, earlier during the game, wishing for a return from Cedric Evina) which Obika, completely unmarked, nodded home. No matter how much you thought the place erupted last week after pegging back Bolton, nothing but nothing compared to this. This was justice, this was right, this was lawful football winning through to keep us all absorbed and immersed with the beautiful game. This was OUR Charlton, the one you can't describe to anyone who doesn't understand.

Seven points in a week, top half of the table, can we now please stop all this talk of not being safe. There are so many clubs who would gladly trade places, Chris Powell under his hardest test to date has come up smelling of roses and guided us to another year of Championship football. I don't need it to be mathematically sound to state that either.

After the game I enjoyed a rare visit to Bartram's for a post match pint with a couple of faces I haven't seen for far too long (you know who you are) before setting off for home feeling upbeat and with perhaps too much of a spring in my step. Once at London Bridge i decided to try the impossible of running for a connection which was due to leave at the same time as the train I was pulling in on. Sure enough I missed it, and tumbled into a heap in the process as I lost my balance sprinting across the footbridge. It goes without saying that every single person at the busy station watched my fall from grace, my embarrassment far outweighing any pain and I darted for some dark shadows to examine my wounds. My hand was bleeding badly on each knuckle, it had taken the brunt of the impact.

To the untrained eye it looked like a hand that had been hit by a fast moving football on the build up to an illegal Leeds goal.

Monday, April 1, 2013


You didn't see that coming did you? As the Football League show on the BBC were happy to point out late on Saturday night, we had the worst home record in the league and as Bolton Wanderers scored their second after twenty minutes you were left in no doubt as to why.

Changes were aplenty within Chris Powell's starting eleven after the teams dismal last outing against neighbours Millwall two weeks ago (never has an international break been more welcomed). Button and Taylor were outed from the defence opening a return for Ben Hamer in goal and Dervite in a central berth. Fuller was preferred to Danny Haynes up top whilst their was a very welcomed return for Andy Hughes in the middle.

Last season Danny Hollands was a regular in midfield for Charlton, and during the season he got through partners and quite a rate. From my perspective Hughes was the best of the bunch and we never looked more solid as a unit than we did with him battling away at our heart. Injury however has kept him out of the side for far too long but hard work pays off and the 35 year old returned when many others may have hung their boots up for good.

Hamer unfortunately was the first of the returning Addicks to hit any headlines as his report card was blackened only five minutes into the match. Marvin Sordell twisted Dervite inside out before beating a rather out of position Ben Hamer. Albeit through a little grace, Charlton could have been in much deeper trouble by then, it was the third good effort by the visitors as they played the ball around the pitch beautifully, Charlton really were chasing shadows. This would continue further and you could sense the unrest around the ground. Those of us who had already renewed our season tickets were seriously contemplating the rashness of the decision. How often can you say "it's been coming" to a goal scored in the fifth minute? Only at Charlton.

One chap in the second row of the Lower North stand directly behind Hamer's goal had seen enough already, rather than leave early he'd come prepared and got his newspaper out to read. For me that was a first, I've seen papers read at half time but never during a game. He didn't even fold it in half, he just sat as bold as brass with the paper opened fully just like you would on the sofa at home!

Sure enough Bolton doubled their lead with a goal from Medo Kamara, a  Sierra Leone international I'd never heard of before. It was a nice goal, it had a little help from the woodwork but you don't mind conceding from a well struck effort like that too much. Unless you're now two down and not in the game at all of course. The boos rang out loudly, I for one could have quite happily made my excuses and made a hasty retreat to a warm drinking establishment for the remainder of the match to hear of our seven goal pasting in more comfortable surroundings. This is Charlton though and quite frankly the unexpected can be upon you when it's most, well, unexpected.

For five minutes after their second Charlton realised the gravity of the situation and rallied, Fuller coming close to finding the net prior to Johnnie Jackson (remember the start of the season when we felt he found it harder than anyone to make the step up?) leading  like a lion and darting through a packed penalty area before striking low through two pairs of Bolton legs and into the bottom corner. We were back in it, I looked and sure enough even newspaper man had returned his reading material to his bag feeling the on pitch activities could be more entertaining.

To go into the break level would have been wonderful but despite continued Charlton pressure, Bolton remained ahead. We had enough positives though. Hughes had been magnificent, young Callum Harriott had caused Bolton nightmares with his trickery and speed (although youthful exuberance could have caused us a headache or two) and Bradley Pritchard was popping up everywhere, I'm not his biggest plaudit but he was having his best game for us for a long time.

The second half started with the same gusto and it wasn't long before things started hotting up. Last season a certain Trevor Kettle gained notoriety in SE7 for his refereeing 'skills'. Well this season we'd only encountered him once before, a favourable day in Watford and on Saturday he continued to seek forgiveness from the Charlton supporters for last season's misdemeanors. Ricardo Fuller surged forwards and upwards only to be brought back down again (rather softly) by Sam Ricketts, the Bolton lad receiving a second yellow and his marching orders. You know Charlton though, we've found it hard against eleven all season, even harder against ten.

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman made what myself and my good friend Jim McGinty believed to be a fatal mistake at this point. Almost out of habit, duty or expectancy, he made a change before the resulting free kick was taken. Off went the dangerous Sordell and on came the defensive Danny Butterfield, on loan from Southampton and good friends with the gaffer from their Palace days.

Yann Kermorgant and Johnnie Jackson both fancied their chances from this distance but it was the big Frenchman who sent in a fierce strike from the set piece. The keeper got a diving hand to it knocking the ball back into the area for Dorian Dervite to guide home. The French connection. It was a run of the mill formality finish but being a centre half Dervite could have just as easily put it over the roof.

At two all we the the momentum, the numerical advantage and an attacking formation whilst Bolton were light up front. We'd have settled for a point before kick off and certainly twenty minutes in, yet there was half an hour to play and we could smell success.

Two minutes later Fuller was again assaulting their penalty area, dashing in from the left before being caught and theatrically and almost gracefully landing on the still atrocious turf. Trevor Kettle pointed to the spot whilst (in my imagination I hasten to add) winking to the North Stand.

Yann Kermorgant stepped up and placed it sweetly past their keeper even though he'd guessed correctly which side to dive. The place erupted. Not since the likes of the Cardiff match in early November had we seen such character and such passion from our team on home turf. We were now sitting on 21 points at home from a possible 60. More than that, we are one little step nearer to safety. We're not quite there but with others around us still picking points up, this weekend was more vital than ever to ensure victory.

If you thought that was that however you'd be mistaken, remember, here at Charlton we can undo all our good work just as quickly and we still had another twenty five on the clock. Andy Hughes was tiring and made way for debutant Mark Gower. the experienced midfielder continued where Hughes left off and impressed me with a solid no nonsense display, his passing impeccable, he was always there to 'mop up' and keep the ball moving.

Bolton finished with a flurry though and for fifteen minutes Charlton once again in typical fashion had us holding on to the edge of our seats as they struggled to put the game to bed. The visitors were lucky to survive until they did with ten men as Chris Solly was taken out by Craig Dawson in a manner more accustomed to grappling fans rather than football fans. I believe those in the ring call it a clothesline.

Seven minutes of injury time ensued, due mainly to a substitution of the linesman, and it was during this period that Kettle once again brandished his red card. Moments after booking Kermorgant for time wasting at one end he then had just cause to book Craig Davies for a very high frustrated lunge on Rhoys Wiggins at the other. It was a second yellow and Davies was the second Bolton player to endure the walk of shame.

Walking out of The Valley, we all had that extra little spring in our step. We don't expect to be challenging for silverware, the majority of us don't expect to be pushing for promotion but it's moments like these that renew our pride and remind us of why this football club holds such a dear part of our hearts.

We travel to Brighton tomorrow night, another performance like this and I think safety could be ensured. Don't count on it though, expect the unexpected.