This week, Charlton Athletic have shown the importance of unity. The fans, the players and the Manager have come together as a club, and with backs against the wall have produced their two most solid performances of the season.
During the last campaign, and on the back of a 4-1 thumping at home to Middlesborough, Charlton welcomed Cardiff to The Valley. Under the lights, and with their Championship status hanging in the balance, the Addicks were 2-0 down almost immediately. With a ferocious noise pouring down from the Covered End, the team refused to give in, and as the fourth official held up the board announcing 6 minutes of injury time, the home side were 5-2 ahead. Two late Cardiff goals made for a nervy finish, but Charlton held on for one of their greatest results in recent years.
Following a poor performance against Millwall, and a disappointing result against Burnley, even the most casual Charlton fans were drawing comparisons with that now infamous night as the Addicks welcomed Nottingham Forest to The Valley. Back under the leadership of Billy Davies, Forest have begun to find the form that brought them so close to the Premier League in previous seasons. With Solly, Cort, Jackson and Kermorgant all still missing, it was once again time for the Addicks to dig deep and show the character that drove them to the League One title and a 9th place finish in the Championship.
With an atmosphere to rival that of the Cardiff visit, it didn’t take long before the task facing the home side became even steeper. Just two minutes in, ex-Charlton midfielder Andy Reid curled a free kick past Ben Hamer to put Forest ahead. Not that you would have known it if you were just listening to the game. The Charlton fans were mid-song as the ball hit the net, but simply increased their volume, blocking out the celebrations of the Forest fans in the opposite end.
Backed by a wall of noise, Charlton grew into the game and looked like a side riding high at the top end of the league, not one embroiled in an early relegation-zone scrap. Wilson and Wiggins looked dangerous down either flank, whilst Stephens looked constantly to provide the creative spark behind Church and Sordell. His ability to take games by the throat has been criticised in recent weeks, with the opinion that he goes missing too often and games pass him by. He certainly silenced his critics against Forest, and was at the heart of every Charlton attack, reminiscent of the cup game against Oxford.
Meanwhile, Cousins protected the back four with the assured confidence of a Premier League veteran, imposing himself on the game with a quality far outweighing his age. Whilst Sordell and Church lacked the potent threat of Kermorgant, the Addicks looked the more dangerous side, and created chance after chance against the somewhat blind-sighted visitors.
After the break the pressure on Darlow’s goal only increased, Charlton playing with a swagger that appeared to shell shock the away side, and they got their reward just 5 minutes after the restart, Sordell clipping a Wilson cross in to the back of the net.
Charlton maintained their pressure for the reminder of the half, including a corner, which led to 5 shots in a manic goalmouth scramble, but the away side clung on to a point. Whilst Charlton were unlucky not to take all three points, the draw stopped the rot, and reminded fans just how gutsy these players can be. After the match, Powell pointed to his heart, and pointed up to the Covered End. There was no escaping the part they played, and the importance of a vocal support was not lost on the manager or the players.
Whilst Saturday’s game with Blackpool lacked any real quality, Charlton took another point against one of the league’s early pacesetters. Stephens again looked dangerous, and with confidence returning to the squad, the club will be hoping that the players can return after the international break and really kick on in a campaign that hasn’t really got going for Charlton as yet. With big players still to return, it is important that the Addicks maintain their creative approach in the games against Blackburn and Wigan. The international break will give Powell time to get players fit, and hopefully the break will not curtail Charlton’s marked improvement in recent games.
With the financial restrictions and summer player-cull, this was always going to be a tough second season in the Championship. In the last two games, the Addicks have shown that they have more than enough to preserve their Championship status, and it’s important that they show this in more games and with more consistency. Powell continues to learn as a manager, but his calmness under recent pressure has to be commended, and he has lead these players through another tough period. If we can continue to show the same spirited unity through the remainder of this season, we can remind everyone why Charlton is such a great club. Blackburn away is a big test, but these players seem to thrive on the big tests. Bring it on!
In Powell We Trust