Thursday, January 2, 2014

Johnnie Jackson to play Doctor Who?

Johnnie Jackson and New Years Day, they go together like sofas and Doctor Who. Remember the look of unadulterated passion on the face of our skipper twelve months ago during that epic encounter at Vicarage Road? Move forward a year to the day and he's back at it, doing what a captain does best, wearing his heart on his sleeve and rescuing a point. We may not yet need to hide behind him like you would a sofa, but quiz many an Addick with reference to New Years Day and our sergeant-at-arms could well be the first words uttered.

I confess I was not one of the travelling supporters this time around, I had hand picked a Sutton United away fixture to lug my tiresome frame to, knowing full well I was going to welcome the New Year in inebriated fashion. Hayes & Yeading was the destination, or more precisely Woking where they currently ground-share.

I stupidly hadn't factored in this diabolical weather we're enduring, unsurprisingly meaning a waterlogged pitch like the majority of not only the Conference South but most non league football in the bottom half of the country. An announcement of postponement at eleven o'clock meant last ditch plan alterations. The scooter wasn't going anywhere, I took the soft option and went for a televised game between Paul Benson's Luton Town and Barnet, completely farcical by half time on a pitch far worse than ours was for that infamous Doncaster game. The Luton players, at two up at the interval, interestingly never felt the need to appear with forks though.

The pitch at Portman Road despite the persistent rain was more than playable and the seven hundred or so that made the journey were guaranteed a game to watch. Being in the heartland of the tractor, it would have been nothing less than common decency to have returned with a few tips on how to get the best out of our own playing turf. Whether that be knowledge on grass maintenance or, as a last resort, pointers on growing vegetables and crop rotation.With more rain forecast for the week ahead, Charlton have arranged a pitch inspection prior to Friday lunchtime for Saturday's FA Cup visit of Oxford. They may well incorporate one for the following weekend's league visit of Barnsley while they're at it.

Charlton's team sheet rang the changes in along with the New Year, both first choice full backs returning and Bolton loanee Marvin Sodall starting up front in place of Simon Church, chastised for his late miss against Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday. From all accounts Sodall did slightly more than his name implies before limping off with a presumed hamstring injury just before halftime. Could this be held accountable due to a lack of regular football? Again I highlight the shortfall of the absence of a reserve side.

The Bolton man, playing what could be his last moments for us should Wanderers, as has been suggested, somehow want him back, was replaced by Jordan Cook who leapfrogged Church from the bench. Michael Smith is due back from AFC Wimbledon this month, how he must be rubbing his hands together.

Having been beaten by Ipswich at the end of November, for a long time it looked like the Suffolk outfit would do the double over us. Halfway through the first half Richard Wood turned an Ipswich cross past his own keeper and, on top of this, as usual the officials did their best to halt our progress.

Cameron Stewart, also playing what may well be his last football for the club was brought down in the area just as he went to shoot. Rather than being awarded the 'stonewall' penalty it warranted, our tricky midfielder was booked for diving. It wasn't the only penalty decision of the day to impact the match. Ipswich had had a reasonable shout themselves ignored earlier but Stuart Attwell did finally give way and gave the hosts a chance to double their lead ten minutes from time.

Ben Alnwick superbly touched the ball onto the post and away for a corner. Still 1-0 and with renewed belief Charlton made their final change and Captain Marvel entered the fray.

With the ninety minutes already up, Kermorgant and Church (who came on himself for a twenty minute cameo) lined up Jackson for a shot from the penalty spot which, although cleanly struck, needed a deflection to beat the keeper. The 'arms outstretched knee-slide' from twelve months earlier was replicated, the relief and devotion as heartfelt as ever. We drew, but we felt like we won and we remained unbeaten over Christmas.

There has been no more talk of Roland Duch√Ętelet and his proposed takeover as I write, but if he is still debating a proposal he can rest assured that, yes he may be buying a bottom six club, but he'll be buying one built through fervour and that refuses to lie down.

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