Top class defending

Well, I didn't expect the score-board to again be filled up like lights on a Christmas tree this week, but that's exactly what we got. Two points from two home games in the last week is not what we wanted ... but in the circumstances I am more than happy.

I have never seen the Valley erupt so loudly to a goal that only guaranteed us a point at home, especially to such meagre opposition ... but we were all convinced that despite such a valiant rearguard action, we had finally lost our unbeaten home record.

But it was not to be ... this team does not give in and there were some heroic performances on the pitch not least by Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo.

And arguably all of our best back four were off the pitch and they still did not collapse under the expected onslaught of the 2nd half. I was extremely concerned when it was apparent that Dailly was injured, but we would not have done any better even with him on the pitch.

This was a second half performance that will be remembered for a long time. Determination, passion, and a desire that the two players that were stupidly sent off were not going to provoke our first defeat since March at the Valley.

And both Parky ... with a decision to move to an attacking formation despite only having 9 men ... and the crowd ... who were at times louder than we have been since the Premiership ... fully played their part.

The draw last week felt like a defeat ... this week it felt like a win ... and it was good to shut up the gloating Swindon fans who seemed to believe they had a world-beating team just because they were winning against nine men.

Jose Semedo was superb after being forced to move back into defence ... as good a display, and at times better, than many of our normal defenders have given this season.

And Nicky Bailey was enormous ... determined and passionate, he was never going to give in, leading the team with a true captain's display.

Shelvey and Llera also deserve a special mention, not just for the goals, but for their overall display.

As for the sending-offs, they were both stupid and self-induced. Sodje's second red card in a few weeks was insane ... you just can't make that type of tackle and expect to stay on the pitch ... and it's a four match ban!

Deon should have known better than to argue with this referee (see below) for his first yellow, and a streak of madness must have overtaken him when he handled the ball to be sent off.

For the first 20 minutes, even when Sodje was off the pitch being patched up, we were all over Swindon, and I had the feeling that once we got going, it could be a big win.

But it was not to be due to the circumstances outlined above ... and I cannot let this posting end without mentioning the absolutely abysmal display by the referee. We have seen some poor displays by referees this season, but this has to be amongst the worse. He made so many mistakes, I lost count ... and relied continuously on the linesman by the West Stand to pick up decisions he had missed. And how Swindon only got their first booking in the last few minutes, and that only for dissent, I have no idea.

Elliot - some wonderful saves, did everything we could have asked of him.
Omozusi - a capable display, but I expected more after his display last week.
Basey - brave and committed, another good performance following on from last week.
S Sodje - stupid tackle, out now for 4 games, whatever his excuse it's not good enough.
Llera - excellent display rounded off by a very coolly taken goal.
Spring - could have scored, some great passing movements
Semedo - superb in defence, we definitely missed him in midfield, but one of the main reasons we did not lose.
Shelvey - you could see he was happy to be back and determined to show why he should be back in the team. I told my son he would score, and happily he did.
Bailey - what a game, my man of the match. He does not give in, a true captain.
A Sodje - ran out of steam in the end, and not always as effectual as I would like, but a constant thorn in the side of Swindon.
Burton - Deon, Deon, Deon why did you do that? I am not going to criticise him, he's had a great season - just don't do it again!
Wagstaff - nothing outstanding, but he didn't let us down.
McKenzie - still not fully fit in my mind, his best ... I hope .. is yet to come.
Dickson - personally I'm not happy he was on the field, but circumstances demand.

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A real derby

Well ... what can you say about that?!? It was my son's first Charlton Millwall game and it had everything except the final result ... red card, a plethora of yellow cards, an over-officious referee who loved talking, two penalties, a packed away end ... ohhh, and 8 goals.

The threat by Millwall to bring a 'tsunami' of fans and overwhelm Charlton did not, as most of us expected, materialise. There were pockets of Millwall fans in the home areas, but to be honest not that many, and probably less than we had at Gillingham ... so well done to Charlton for sorting this out.

The pitch has taken quite a battering in recent weeks but all credit to Paddy Powell and his team, it stood up well.

Both the Mizzen and Knox families received a well deserved reception before the game and it is appreciated that both clubs, and sponsors, supported the initiative.

The match itself was fairly dramatic and certainly took an early turn for the worse when the Spanners went two ahead. For most of the 1st half, our defence and midfield did not look like they were functioning very effectively. Perhaps the occasion got to them?

Then ... a penalty to Charlton! And I am not convinced it was a penalty ... in any event, I doubt Mooney would have scored.

And then ... another penalty!! This time it was cast-iron, and Millwall had a player red-carded.

Deon put away both away extremely effectively to get us level again.

Half-time at 2 apiece was probably fair ... we never really got going.

Second half and almost immediately after the re-start, a wonder goal from Nicky Bailey sending the Valley (ok, not the Jimmy Seed Stand) into raptures.

Second half Charlton looked a lot better but Millwall never looked like they only had 10 men, proving to be very resilient and leading to their 3rd goal.

Incredibly, Charlton then went on to score a 4th, albeit an own goal by the Spanners. When 5 minutes injury time was announced to no great surprise, I must admit that I still thought we would win the game ... but it was not to be.

Farcical defending and goal-keeping meant that the Spanners came away with a point, although the way their fans celebrated you would have thought they had been promoted ... and you don't care about us? Of course, you don't ;-)

And a word about the Mooney substitution ... I've been one of those supporting Mooney but as far as I am concerned, he can now clear off back to where he came from. Leaving the pitch after substitution, he threw his shirt on the floor, walking away to the tunnel, and then completely ignored the applause of the Covered End ... don't bother coming back Mooney.

Elliot - did not command his area as much as I would have liked, and committed some misjudgements, but he was definitely up for this game.
Omozusi - contributed a lot to the game and never stopped running, a few errors but did well in such an atmosphere.
Basey - excellent game, did not want to let anyone get past him.
S Sodje - not at his best, but strong at times. Too many mistakes.
Dailly - one of his weaker games, possibly his first. But still did enough to frustrate Millwall at times.
Sam - was very concerned after first half that he would be sent off, he was a target for both Millwall and the ref, but did enough for a good display. His booking means he will miss the Swindon game.
Spring - not on long enough to contribute.
Semedo - no way near as strong as usual ... did the atmosphere affect him?
Bailey - strong, committed, and just the sort of player you want in a derby game ... brilliant goal.
Wagstaff - had a good game, never scared to get involved and worried Millwall a few times.
McKenzie - not on long enough to tell, but had a few good runs.
Mooney - see above ... very lightweight today.
A Sodje - not as effective as he can be when coming on as sub but was involved.
Burton - excellent game and my man of the match.

And the fans ... well, Millwall took advantage of the better acoustics in the Jimmy Seed Stand first half, but there were times during the game when they were more like kittens. The Covered End came into it's best during the second half and contributed to a great atmosphere.

I love real derby games!

Incidentally, I fully agree with Parky's comments about the ref:

"I thought the ref was the person who got carried away with the derby frenzy more than anybody,” said Parkinson. "For both teams, there were too many stoppages. Every challenge seemed to result in a free-kick. There were so many decisions which were called wrong. For their third goal, Jose Semedo won the ball cleanly in midfield and he gave them a free-kick. I was disappointed with the ref.”

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Winning in the snow

This is the one ... this is the real derby for Charlton.

I've been looking forward to this all season, and it will be the first Charlton Millwall match attended by my son.

A few weeks ago I predicted that this would probably be one of the very few games that we would lose ... but you know what? The closer to the game we have got, the more positive I have become ... and it's snowing! For those that remember, what better omen for a 2-0 Charlton win.

Let's just hope that Greenwich Health & Safety and the local OB do not get too officious and cancel the game.

C'mon you Reds!!!!!!!!!

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Any win will do

We won.

I was going to leave it there and say no more ... it was the most important issue of the day and if we can win when most of the team has an off-day, then I'm delighted.

But it is worth making some comment. This is a game that I am sure we would have lost in the last 3 or 4 seasons ... ok, yes, we are in a lower division but getting a result when it is perhaps not deserved is how many teams end up being promoted. Look at Leeds ... they have had 3 or 4 games this season when even their fans admit a win was not deserved ... but they got it and that is the difference between automatic promotion and playoffs, playoffs and 7th.

Southend brought less fans than I expected but based on their home crowds I guess it was reasonable. They were in fairly good voice, although as usual the acoustics of the Jimmy Seed stand do help. Found it a bit ridiculous when they started singing 'Can we sing a song for you' just after the Covered End had been particularly vocal. And I hadn't realised how much they now dislike Nicky Bailey! Is he their Scotty Parker?

There were a few quiet spots from both sets of supporters, and once again the Covered End were better in the 2nd half and I am hoping that the reprise of "CAFC - we hate Millwall" gets a repeated airing in 2 weeks, as it is one song that currently appears to reach a high decibel level in the Covered End. Let's just trust that the Charlton fans will turn out for this game in their droves ... it is our real derby not the plasticness of Palaaarse!

As for the game yesterday, well perhaps the less said the better. I heard Phil Parkinson on the radio on the way home saying that it was messy and we did not look particularly good, but it was the result that counted ... I couldn't agree more. Not a sumptuous feast of football for the fans, but we all would have taken 3 points before the game whatever the display. There were times when we actually looked like the away side and not even a good one at that.

I said to my son before kick-off that I wondered how the lack of Semedo would affect us ... the display was not entirely due to his absence, but I believe it highlights his importance to us in midfield. Our passing game was non-existent, and we have proved many times that when we can get the passing going and keep the ball on the floor, we are as good as, if not better than, anyone in this division.

Elliot - not that troubled to be honest despite the possessional superiority that Southend appeared to have. Reacted well when called upon to do so.

Richardson - nothing special but it felt good to have him back. I hope the injury is not serious.

Basey - good game, totally committed but still a lot to learn. A concern about his lack of pace at times, but I think he brings enough into his game to counterbalance this.

Sam Sodje - very strong at times, but not at his best.

Dailly - better than most even he did not have one of his best games.

Sam - good runs, and did worry Southend at times, but not enough end result.

Racon - very worrying attitude in this game, and he showed once again why he has been the midfielder that has not managed to score this season.

Bailey - I thought this would be a giant performance against his former team but it was not to be.

Wagstaff - never stops running and can be a bit of a thorn in the side of the opposition. Like Basey, he is still learning but deserved his starting spot in the team.

Mooney - my mate was explaining to me before the game why he does not rate Mooney, whereas I do. He believes he is too lightweight and knocked off the ball too easily. Why did he choose yesterday to prove my mate right?

Burton - if I have a man of the match it is Deon. 10 goals so far and he could definitely be on course for 20 this season if his hernia does not affect him too badly. Always dangerous.

Omozusi - I am not convinced yet, but I am beginning to believe that there might be something there.

Spring - not as effective as I had hoped he would be, but to be fair, that may be down to the team performance as a whole.

Akpo Sodje - did not have a starring cameo this time, but I like having him on the bench as an effective sub.

So ... overall not the best, but we are still 2nd and widened the gap with some teams ... apart from Norwich. But they still have to catch us and those ... and their numbers were very high ... among the Charlton 'faithful' who were convinced we would be outside the top six by Christmas ... I just hope you are happy that you have been proved wrong.

Stockport next week who I believe are on the back of a 6 or 7 game losing streak - surely it must be the right time to play them!

And the week after ... the game I have been waiting for ... Spanners at home. Get those vocal cords well oiled Covered End!!!.

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