Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Charlton Athletic 2 v 0 Stevenage

Saturday 25th February 2012
Football League One
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: £5.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 26,546
Match Rating: 4

An all too rare return visit to the Valley - indeed, my first Saturday afternoon visit since I allowed my season ticket to lapse after Charlton's relegation from the Championship three seasons ago, inspired by yet another imaginative offer  by the club of reducing all ticket prices to just £5.00.

Description of The Valley can be found during a previous visit here, and I took the opportunity to choose a seat in what is usually the most expensive part of the stadium, in the Upper Tier of the West Stand, virtually on the half way line. In my opinion, Charlton have always produced good, interesting programmes, and so today's 60 page issue proved.

Even as a naturally sceptical fan of Charlton, promotion to the Championship is looking increasingly likely, as they still find themselves well clear of the chasing pack - indeed, they have been on top of the table constantly since mid September. Going into this game, Charlton were seven points clear of second placed Sheffield United, and twelve points clear of third placed Sheffield Wednesday. There has been a relative blip recently. Although unbeaten so far in eight league games in 2012, they have "only" picked up three draws - against three lesser teams in Bury, Tranmere Rovers and Rochdale - in their last four games. Stevenage have been the real surprise package this season, inside the play-offs and currently in sixth place, a position they have occupied since Boxing Day. Since I last watched Stevenage just over a month ago, when they caused an upset by beating Reading at the Madejski Stadium in the FA Cup Third Round - a competition they are still in, after drawing 0-0 with Tottenham Hotspur in the Fifth Round last weekend - they have lost their manager Graham Westley. When the two teams met at Broadhall Way earlier in the season, Stevenage inflicted the first of just two defeats all season on Charlton with a 1-0 victory.

With the game less than 1,000 short of a sell-out, the first half was a rather dull affair, with Stevenage always looking to break up play and disrupt Charlton's play, whereas Charlton seemed to surprisingly lack ideas. Both sides had half chances, but a goalless scoreline at half time was of little surprise.

Within four minutes of the restart however and the deadlock was broken, and in fine style too. A long throw in into the box was headed out of the box, falling at the feet of centre back Michael Morrison, who controlled the ball before unleashing a 20 yard rocket into the top corner. The game completely changed from this point, as Charlton dominated the rest of the match and Stevenage had the air of a team aiming for damage limitation. They had numerous golden chances to score, most notably top scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, who had not scored in his last eleven games but he could easily have had a hat-trick today. In the end he had to settle for the one goal, scored in the 64th minute, when he raced wide to the edge of the box, beat the defender to the ball and his cross-shot was turned in by Ronnie Henry on the goalline, although Wright-Phillips' shot was going in anyway.

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