Football League Championship
The Valley, Charlton
Admission: Season Ticket
Match Rating: 2
After three Saturdays without Charlton having a home game, and my deciding not to go to their midweek home match against Bolton two Tuesdays ago, it seemed like a rare treat to be heading up to The Valley today.
Since the home draw against Birmingham on 4th October, Charlton have lost their unbeaten record, losing both of their away games against AFC Bournemouth 0-1 and then against Fulham 0-3, although they did win the home game against Bolton 2-1. Undoubtedly the effects of a somewhat paper-thin squad have been exposed, with injuries being suffered by midfielders Johann Gudmundsson and Frederic Bulot, defender Rhoys Wiggins and most painful of all, star striker Igor Vetokele, upon whom Charlton seems to be extremely reliant on for their goal scoring threat this season. Yoni Buyens also missed the Fulham game with a one-game suspension for totting up five yellow cards. Charlton still went into this game in ninth place with 22 points from 14 games, just four points adrift of the top six. Sheffield Wednesday were in 12th place, three points fewer than Charlton, having won four, seven draws and three defeats. An interesting point to note though is that they have fared much better on their travels so far this season, only one of their four wins coming at home, and only one of their three defeats away from home. As today would be the last home game before Remembrance Sunday, and to make the 100th year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, a number of poignant events took place, which included the unveiling of a commemorative plaque outside the West Stand, a period of silence, which was impeccably observed and which was immediately followed by a rendition of The Last Post. Today's programme also featured several articles relating to the club and its players during the First World War, and this edition enlarged by 16 pages cost an extra pound compared to normal editions.
On a murky but mild afternoon, the first half was a rather disappointing affair, with the game being played at a steady tempo and the home crowd being rather subdued, with not even the usual sizeable travelling support generating much noise. So it was rather out of keeping when the visitors took the lead with a fabulous solo goal by Dutchman Roysten Drenthe, formerly of Real Madrid and Feyenoord and currently on-loan from Reading on his first start for the club. Picking up the ball from just inside the Charlton half, he went on a mazy run towards goal, evading several defenders as they backed off, before finally slotting low into the bottom right hand corner of the net. Referee Andy D'Urso was having usual erratic performance, "highlights" of which in the first half included failing to give Charlton a penalty for handball in the area, and then deep into added on time, failing to award a free kick for a clear foul tackle on the edge of the area, after which the visitors went straight up the other end and came within a whisker of scoring their second.
Sheffield Wednesday probably just about deserved their slender lead at half time, and Charlton would certainly need a dramatic improvement in performance to get something out of this game. Gudmundsson was brought on to replace 17 year old Karlan Aherne-Grant, who had a poor first half although on just his second start, is a very raw talent indeed to be leading the line. The home side went on to create more goalscoring chances in the second half, and the introduction of Vetokele on 65 minutes certainly lifted the crowd when he was introduced. And it only took him five minutes to make his impact when he scored the equaliser. Left back Rhoys Wiggins made an excellent surge from the half way line on the left wing, squeezing through two covering defenders before playing a low cross which Vetokele tucked away from just outside the six yard box from a central position. Charlton certainly had the initiative and now looked the more likely to snatch a winner, although it was Sheffield Wednesday's turn to be denied a penalty when Andre Bikey fell Atdhe Nuhiu. It wouldn't have too much of a surprise had it been awarded, but perhaps Nuhiu's readiness to take a tumble went against him. It seemed that Charlton had won the game as it entered stoppage time, when substitute Lawrie Wilson turned George Tucudean's cross into the net, but the linesman's flag was raised for offside (apparently correctly so) and the score remained level, as it did at the final whistle.
A fair result overall, with Sheffield Wednesday the better team before the break and Charlton the better afterwards, and although this was a solid performance by Charlton, there was a real lack of creativity and momentum in their play. All of which probably reminds us Charlton fans that a mid table finish is about as good as can realistically be expected of this season, which would have been very welcome before the season started although hopes and expectations were raised considerably following the club's excellent start to the season.
Video highlights of this match can be found here