Monday, 12 March 2012

Keep The Faith...

It's always been my preference to write a piece a day or two after a game. This way I let the dust settle a little, make sense of my mind state and I can attempt to avoid over-jingoistic or, perhaps more importantly, over-critical posts.

Had I have written this post in the hours straight after Saturday’s game it may well have been mixture of the two emotions noted above based on the truly awful first half performance and the much-improved second.

At half time on Saturday I said to the blokes I sit with that knowing Charlton's habit of Jekyll & Hyde performances, we'll come out second half all guns blazing and we'll end up agonizingly close at 3-4, which, in many ways, would have rubbed salt into the wounds still further. It looked for a while as though my throw-away comment was going to come true as Charlton scored two early goals and flooded forward with all the verve that was missing from the first half. Had the generously proportioned referee given Charlton what appeared to be a stonewall penalty on the hour mark, things may have been different and I could well have been writing about one of the greatest comebacks ever witness at the Valley (other than that one)! In the end, it was as if that moment took the wind out of Charlton's sails and we never really looked like scoring again. As positive as the response was second half, it just doesn't hide how bad we was in the first.

Ironically, the general response from the Addickted has been reasonably measured, compared to earlier in the season when the team was getting some really unfair criticism and on occasions despite winning games. Even on Twitter, which tends to attract some real brainless idiots, there has been an overwhelming ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ attitude, which has been encouraging to read. That approach is totally correct: after all, Charlton are 10 points clear at the top on merit, and Sir Chris and the team deserve a greater level of faith from every fair-minded Charlton fan.

How I despise those who left at half time on Saturday and especially those who seem quite proud of themselves for doing so. The Valley was absolutely rocking in the first 30 mins of the second half as Charlton, cheered on by real supporters, halved the deficit and fought back in splendid fashion. 

The trouble is, no matter how illogical it may appear to some, our lead at the top will always feel perilously fragile to me right up until the very second it becomes mathematically impossible for us not to go up. After all, it just wouldn't be Charlton if we done the unthinkable and won this bloody league at a canter! I’d like to think of it as not getting complacent rather than suspecting Charlton will fall short, but it’s likely I’m subconsciously guarding myself against disappointment. It was interesting that on Five Live 606 following the Bournemouth game the pundits spoke briefly regarding the race for promotion in League One and never mentioned Charlton once, as if to suggest we was already up.

So even following two straight home defeats, Charlton remain in an enviable position, with the finishing line just visible in the not-too-far distance. Repeat once again (and as required thereafter): Keep Calm & Carry On!

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Charlton is not those teams below them; it is the battle going on in their own minds. After all, it's far easier to get to the very top than it is to stay there. And let’s face it, Charlton’s lead is so big you could hardly even refer to Sheffield United (in second place) as ‘breathing down our necks’. Furthermore, the tension amongst the chasing pack will almost guarantee more twist and turns from which Charlton will benefit from, as we did following the Bournemouth game.

As things stand we need 7 wins from our last 10 games to guarantee automatic promotion, but the reality is that we are unlikely to need quite that many victories as those around us will drop points along the way. Another way to view things is that we’d need to show relegation form in the final 10 games to slip up now, and I just don’t believe that will happen.

For what it's worth, I think we may be looking at Wycombe at The Valley on 21st April to break open the Champagne!

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