We've been a bit spoiled lately, so I guess it's inevitable there will be some that will be disappointed with last night's draw against lowly Bristol Rovers, especially having to come from a goal down. Rovers had gained a very well earned point away at league leaders, Brighton, on Saturday and so it shouldn't have come as any great surprise that they had no intention of rolling over easily for us to continue our winning run. I didn't think Rovers were great, but in truth, as was the case against Yeovil on Saturday (of whom I was quite impressed with), the gulf between top and bottom in this division is not obvious enough for any game to be considered easy.
It was interesting to note that the statistics for the game (via the BBC) had possession at 50% - 50%: I would have said the Addicks had more of the play, especially in the first half. We certainly had the better chances, although you had to admire the quality of finish to their goal. Our goal, wrongly credited to Reid by the PA announcer at The Valley, was a scrappy affair, but most welcome when it came from the shin of Benson.
In my keenness to write this post before I get deep inside my work for the day, I haven't breezed over my fellow Addicks blogs as I would normally do, so please excuse me if I repeat anything wrote elsewhere. Not that I expect that the views of the fair-minded Addick would differ that much. What we saw last night was a decent, hard working performance with positive signs and almost excusable down-sides, notably the gaps left by important absentee's and the effects of the heavy fixture list of late. We could well have had a win but for two first-class saves from their keeper, firstly from Benson's close-range shot in the first half and then from Sodje's diving header in the second. I thought after both incidents that it may not be our day. I feel worn out with 3 trips to the freezing cold Valley inside a week, so I'd forgive the players for being a little bit leggy. I'll be pleased to see Anyinsah back soon as I think his pace and movement would have made a difference tonight. I'd like to offer a special mention to Francis, who I thought played well last night. In my opinion, he seems to have had some rather unfair criticism this season. Generally, I thing the quality of set-pieces from both him and Jackson have dramatically improved an area that has been such a weakness in our game for as long as I can remember. They are not perfect, but this is League One.
None the less, I'm hugely encouraged by the spirit shown after we conceded. Perhaps in recent years this is a game we would have gone on to lose. We seemed to pass with a greater confidence and purpose (that comes with winning games, of course) and this must be encouraged even if we do make a mistake every now and again. I can see a shape to the team that was so desperately lacking against Brighton. Of course, we all know if we are to push for promotion this season, we will need to turn draws in to wins, especially at home, but the signs are far better than this time last month.
One notable disappointment from last night was the crowd. Officially noted at 13,468, I suspect it was actually far lower, which is a real shame. Quite what is keeping the casual or occasional fans from attending more regularly (or the season ticket holders, for that matter), especially with the team on a good run and nicely placed in the league, I don't know.
And so on to Saturday and another trip to The Valley. This time it's the FAC and I welcome a break from the far more important pressures of the league. Luton will bring a big following and they will be lively and loud: it will be a tough and uncomfortable afternoon. For the good of the club's finances, I hope we sneak a win in the hope we can draw a big premiership team at home in the 3rd round. It will be the first time I will have seen Charlton in the 2nd round of the FAC. As was the case with the 1st Round, I hope it will be my last for all the right reasons!
And worst of all, this week I forgot my hot soup for the journey home!