Charlton defeated Huddersfied Town 2-0 in front of the Sky television cameras at The Valley last night to go seven points clear at the top of League 1. Huddersfield's much lauded undefeated run of 43 games was brought to an end, confounding concerns that I and others had that the draw specialists might go home to Yorkshire with a share of the spoils. Instead the Terriers were advised by the Covered End to stick their record where the sun doesn't shine.
It's interesting to see that The Times record the defeat in a small paragraph at the bottom of a column. The media hype has been ludicrous: apparently one of the commentators on Sky was comparing the Terriers to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest yesterday evening! But now the media will have to find a new hero or zero (Chelsea having replaced Arsenal in that role).
Huddersfield are a robust side with a lot of skill and I expect to see them in contention at the end of the season, so beating them is no small feat. The one downside was Kermit being stretchered off, but apparently it was not as serious as it looks and he doesn't have to play on Saturday anyway.
Deustche Bahn had added on extra platforms on Marylebone to make it easier to get in there. You usually have to wait a couple of minutes at the mouth of the tunnel, but we were there for 10-15 minutes last night. Fortunately, I set a record last night from Marylebone to The Valley of just 45 minutes: straight on to a Bakerloo train, straight on to the Jubilee line and then jumped on a 161 at North Greenwich whose driver did not hang about.
This set me up well for the match, but it was crowded outside and many Addickted arrived after the game had started which is what happens with a night game. It is also interesting to see the likes of Paul from Bexleyheath resplendent in a suit, once again giving the lie to the claim that Charlton supporters are pikeys.
I thought that we were quite nervous in the opening ten minutes or so and Huddersfield piled on the presssure which they are well capable of doing. Most of the game was being played out in our half and the Terriers got a lot of corners (indeed if the game had been decided on corners, they would have won). However, the important thing is that we stood up to it and didn't buckle. There may have been nerves but there was no real panic and that is a measure of the current team.
The Terriers would no doubt argue that our opening goal came against the run of play, but you have to capitalise on your set pieces (the visitors failed to do this with one or two truly woeful efforts). After a rather harsh award to Huddersfield by the referee that had led to a corner, even he could not ignore Rugby League play when it happened right in front of him. Green put in a superb curling ball and a seemingly unmarked Kermorgant was able to move forward to connect with his head and put the ball in the back of the net, stunning the Terriers behind the goal.
The second goal was created by a shot from Wright-Phillips. The ball rebounded but Ephraim was alert and ready and put in a shot that was sufficiently powerful and well directed to evade the keeper. Huddersfield's tally of away goals conceded had now increased by a third.
Half time: Addicks 2, Terriers 0
Town took off Tommy Miller after the break and brought on incredible hulk Anton Robinson. Within minutes the charm merchant had been warned by the referee about his fouls. Eventually the referee found where he had put his cards, having brought his Oyster card on instead in the first half, and gave the charm merchant a well deserved yellow card.
Talking of hulks, Parkin was not as much a threat as many of us had feared and his legs appeared to be carrying a big load in his upper body. All muscle no doubt, but he didn't look fully match fit.
An early effort by Keromorgant came off the bar, but the visitors also renewed their acquaintance with the woodwork, hitting the crossbar while Hamer had to push the ball off the post to make a save.
The mood around me grew increasingly tense as the half wore on with fears that there might be another goal and it could be Huddersfield's. They kept their shape well, while we started to look a bit ragged with the service to our strikers deteriorating.
It was very open play and there was a lot of the ball alternating between the two keepers, sometimes via a defensive header. However, the Terriers were exposing themselves at the back so we could have scored a third, while our defence held firm even if they had to make the odd hoof.
There was genuine joy at the final whistle. The fun is coming back to watching Charlton. Health warning: we will lose another game this season and it may not be to a top side.
Ivy the Terrible was spoilt for choice in awarding the Silver Bone and had to consult semi-retired match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound who had been watching the match on television at home. Homer thought that the whole team deserved a Silver Bone, but instead it was decided to give them all a commemorative Silver Biscuit embossed with the legend 'Defeat of the Invincibles'. The Silver Bone went to Chris Solly who had a truly outstanding performance. Chris Powell kept the faith with him when some of us had our doubts and he is really developing as a player.
Hamer made a really outstanding save in the second half, pushing the ball on to the post. If the Terriers had scored then, they could well have gone on to produce one of their famous draws. I do wish that he would steady the ball when he has the time to do so rather than kicking it right away. Distribution is an area for further work, but no one can argue with a clean sheet and it was good to see how pumped up he was saluting the East Stand after the match. Taylor got the Man of the Match award from Sky and he was clearly thrilled to receive it. I am delighted for him as he and Morrison have given us at last a truly solid central defence. Very little gets past them. A friend who has a season ticket at Huddersfield e-mailed me this morning to say, 'Your defenders closed down our attackers very well.' Wiggins had another excellent game and it is a delight to watch such an intelligent footballer. Russell had a rather uninspiring start and was withdrawn at half time, but I think there is more in him and hopefully he will be used again on Saturday. Hollands had a good game, in particular making some important defensive interventions. Ephraim showed what he was made of with a very well taken goal. I also noted some good defensive work. If we can sign him up in January we should do so. He is one of those players who has been undervalued where he is. He looked genuinely touched by the warm standing ovation he got when he left the pitch. Green put in an excellent free kick to score the opening goal and is delivering on his promise. The goal by Kermorgant was well taken and we would certainly miss him as Brad's strike partner if was injured. Wright-Phillips has the ability of a true striker to suddenly drift into promising positions unmarked, unfortunately it didn't quite come off this time and it probably wasn't his best game of the season. He was getting too readily by Huddersfield's offside trap.
The mark of a good manager is making the right substitutions at the right time. Part of the critique of Chris Powell as an 'inexperienced' manager that was advanced in some quarters earlier in the year was that he would not be able to do this. I don't know whether Russell had picked up a knock, but in any event it was the right decision to bring on Hughes at half time. His signing attracted some criticism, but once again the experienced player gave his all for the cause and was really thrilled at the end of the game. I also thought that Wagstaff came on at just the right time when we were tiring and his running could unsettle the Terriers. Hayes only had a cameo after Kermit's injury, but he did make one important intervention.
Juneau the Soccer Cat did not have to consult her assistant Fleur to give the Hiss of the Match to referee R East. Despite his name the folically challenged official was not too popular in the East Stand. I thought he was one of those referees who tries to show he is not a 'homer' by giving very few decisions to the home side. Lots of fouls by the visitors were ignored, but every time a Terrier fell over, to then stage a recovery once the free kick was awarded, the referee was there to come to their aid. I would add, however, that I thought that the East Stand lino knew what he was doing which was a welcome change.
Incidentally, a new feline commentator and the first boy member of our team, may be joining us shortly. Look out for news of Reg.