Another season got under way at The Valley yesterday – and fans were back too. The match didn’t live up to the hype, but KEVIN NOLAN didn’t mind.
There was plenty going on during a busy opening day at The Valley; before the awkward encounter with newly-relegated Sheffield Wednesday kicked off, that is. That’s when the real business began and things became serious.
A hectic schedule included the restoration of Floyd and Harvey as club mascots(?), farewells to a couple of long-serving women players and the introduction of the 2021-22 distaff squad.
There were lengthy interviews, expertly conducted by Scott Minto, with Thomas Sandgaard and the man of the hour, Alan Curbishley on the occasion of the woodenly named East Stand being re-dedicated in his honour. The Great Man wears well, spoke well and struck the perfect balance between pride and humility. The mutual respect he shared with a corps of his ex-players was obvious. Those were great years.
Curbishley’s anecdote about seeing The Valley for the first time at the famous Who concert in 1974 stirred a musical response from Thomas Sandgaard. He picked up his guitar and toured the stadium accompanying “Valley Floyd Road”, while proving effortlessly he’s no Pete Townshend.
Ladies and gentleman, Mr Alan Curbishley 🙌
— Charlton Athletic FC (@CAFCofficial) August 7, 2021
Metallica’s Master of Puppets rounded off the proceedings (“I will help you die!”) before silence proved yet again that it’s golden. It was certainly a far cry from good old Billy Cotton’s boys bouncing through Red Red Robin. But different, there’s no getting away from that.
During the noisy, chaotic doings, almost 3,000 bemused Owls fans bided their time in the Jimmy Seed Stand. It’s hard to say whether they felt entertained or not. Probably not.
The natives, meanwhile, were restless. They’ve seen it all before. Make a fuss of the Addicks and you’re inviting trouble. Bitter experience has taught these fans that their heroes do not respond favourably to the spotlight. It was bad enough being on Sky TV without all the hoop-la. Low key is in their great old club’s DNA, as is their chronic inability to beat Millwall. Some things are best accepted with resignation.
The game itself hardly lived up to its prolonged build-up. That was too much to ask. What we got was an earnest but unimaginative clash of few clear-cut chances which was always destined to end scoreless.
Most of those chances were created by Charlton while the best of them was missed by spiky veteran Barry Bannan in the game’s dying throes. Both sides are expected to feature in this season’s promotion race and will no doubt settle for the point which sent them on their way. It was easy, however, to imagine the sound of TV channels being changed across the country as the tedium repeated itself.
With three newcomers making their debuts, Charlton took time to settle down but coped easily enough with their visitors, who were unfortunate to lose Callum Paterson to a nasty head injury after just 10 minutes.
Wednesday were still a distracted mess when Liam Palmer’s foul on Diallang Jaiyesimi gave Albie Morgan the opportunity to showcase his setpiece skills. From the right flank, Morgan’s free kick picked out Jayden Stockley, unmarked 10 yards from goal. The striker’s header was almost deliberately aimed wide of the right post.
Morgan was less accurate with the free kick he sent tamely over the bar, following Sam Hutchinson’s crude challenge on Sean Clare. Before the break, Conor Washington came within inches of converting Akin Famewo’s inviting pass. Darren Moore’s Wednesday had made little impression, not that the Addicks were especially dominant in a forgettable first half.
The second period changed little. Again the Addicks held the edge, with Morgan blazing Clare’s cute cutback wildly into the North Stand and Jaiyesimi driving a self-created chance wide of Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s left hand post.
Again, the Owls had been toothless until Bannan, whose sole contribution had been in picking up a booking for a spiteful off-the-ball foul on Clare, turned his attentions to more legal matters. After latching on to Craig McGillivray’s wayward clearance, he kidded his way through Charlton’s floundering defence, picked a spot to the right of the keeper but dragged his shot risibly wide. The chance, luckily for the Addicks, had fallen on his right foot, the one Bannan uses only to balance the “wand” which all left-footed playmakers possess, at least according to timeworn cliche.
So a predictable draw it was, a result which pleased Nigel Adkins, who felt “we looked fit, we looked strong, we had a big variety in our play. The players were great…young Charles Clayden makes his debut” (a pointless three-minute stint but it counts), Jayden Stockley was outstanding…and we talk about DJ, wow! he was unplayable today, wasn’t he!”
The manager’s positivity is infectious. A bit hard to justify at times when some slight criticism seems in order, but easier to take than negative nitpicking.
Charlton: McGillivray, Matthews Famewo, Inniss, Gunter, Dobson, Jaiyesimi, Morgan, Clare, Stockley, Washington (Clayden 89). Not used: Harness, Pearce, Davison, Watson, Ghandour, Elerewe. Booked: Matthews.
Wednesday: Peacock-Farrell, Palmer, Brown, Hutchinson, Iorfa, Adeniran, Bannan, Paterson (Kamberi 16), Green (Johnson 64), Wing, Hunt. Not used: Wildsmith, Byers, Luongo, Dunkley, Corbeanu. Booked: Hutchinson, Iorfa, Bannan.
Attendance: 17,639 (2,712 visiting). Referee: Will Finnie.
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