I didn't write anything yesterday evening because I wanted to collect my thoughts after one of the most incredible matches I have seen at The Valley. Of course, I have seen a 4-4 draw before: I remember us coming back from 2-4 down against Norwich to equalise in the dying minutes of the match. Yesterday it was Millwall who took advantage of five minutes of injury time to deny the Addicks three points.
I had expected that this derby would end in a draw: local derbies tend to. I had not anticipated, and I don't think anyone had, that Charlton would go 0-2 behind, recover to 2-2 through two penalties (when often we are denied any penalties); go ahead through a Nicky Bailey wonder strike; see the Spanners equalise again; go ahead again through an own goal, Morison's third of the match; and finally concede.
As a spectacle, it was edge of the seats stuff and it certainly had the nerves of the Addickted jangling. I think one has to give credit to Millwall for the way they set out their stall as Curbs use to say. It was clear that they had come to The Valley to win and although it was kick-and-rush football, it unsettled a fragile Charlton defence.
In the programme there was a report on the defeat by Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup and it was said that our Academy players 'lacked a bit of composure when we got on the ball.' Unfortunately that was true of our first team yesterday. Too often panic clearances from the defence went straight to a Millwall player or possession was lost in midfield. The team looked nervous to me and that is not surprising when it seemed to contain more relatively inexperienced youngsters than the visitors.
It could be argued that we should have done more against ten men, but in fact it is not that easy to play against ten fired up men as we have shown ourselves this season. The stats showed that we had only six goal attempts as against 13 by the Spanners. Four of ours were on target as against six for the opposition.
There is no doubt that this is two points lost and it is galling to lose them in a derby match. Quite frankly, I find the lower middle class angst of the Nigels and Nigellas more irritating than the raw emotion of Millwall whom I regard as a more authentic football club. But then perhaps that was because my wife's father was Palace.
Norwich won convincingly at home against a Huddersfield side that looked impressive when they came to The Valley. They have clearly been staying off the cooking sherry and look like the main challengers for the second automatic promotion place. However, I am more than happy with being four points clear in second place at this stage of the season.
We can also take some heart from an attendance of 19,105, although not all of them were in the ground as some were trapped by the snow in Kent villages. However, it is nearly 5,000 more than those who saw Darren Ambrose fail to score from a penalty at Sainsbury's.
I arrived at The Valley relatively early (around 2 p.m.) A group of Millwall fans was stretched across Floyd Road, largely blocking it, although they were coralled by the police and it was possible to walk along the pavement. Same old Millwall: always trying to intimidate.
I saw it going off a few times in the ground, but my attention was on the pitch. Some fans have expressed concerns about the stewarding. One commented, 'At the Jummy Seed end, the "Peter's Pies" [who they? ed] boarding was kicked to pieces by the Spanners and one board flew very close to a Steward and how did they respond? From where I was they simply escorted the offender back to his seat (not that any of them sat down at all). [I also saw this incident]. Surely a piece of obvious vandalism like that is worthy of an ejection. [An alternative view is that it happened accidentally when the Spanners were carried away by the excitement of scoring and that throwing them out could have caused even more trouble]. The East Stand was even more comical: there was a group of around 12 Spanners there and there were at point 20 stewards and 6 policemen surrounding them in a circle. They then moved them down to the bottom and then marched them up to the top where they seemed to be taken out.'
Another fan reported, 'It nearly got nasty in the west/North corner when a bloke jumped up when they scored their first goal, They were obviously Millwall supporters but they were not causing trouble. The problem was that the stewards took 15 minutes to turn up to chuck themout and because of that it could have got nasty. Some idiot Charlton supporters tried to attack them which was really brave considering two of them must have been in their 60's. Having said that they should not have been there.'
There was a certain irony in seeing a group of Millwall supporters on the balcony of the flats overlooking The Valley with a large St.George's Cross flag displayed declaring their loyalty to the Spanners.
The train back was full of Spanners, most of whom would probably have failed the breath test. However, we had no trouble from them. One expressed the view to me and my companions that we had been 'merde', but that was probably the view of some Charlton supporters as well. One young woman said that she had been in the Covered End for the whole match.
Let's not forget that this match was dedicated to fighting street violence and that the families of two young men who had been murdered, one a Millwall supporter and one a Charlton fan, bravely came on to the pitch before the match. It must have been difficult for them, but the applause from both sets of fans shows that they have real sympathy from the community. It was also good to see the players of both teams shaking hands after such a hard fought match and the two goalkeepers conferring.
Millwall's first goal scored by Morison was gifted by a Charlton defensive error involving Wagstaffe. Their second resulted from the referee giving a corner that should have been a goal kick. With my sports journalist hat on, I can say that really was the case. However, we should have been sharper in the box to prevent Morison from scoring. On other occasions we gave the Spanners space in the danger zone, but fortunately they were not always able to take advantage.
Andy Frampton fouled David Mooney in the box. At first I thought we had been lucky, but someone who was in the Covered End assured me that it ws a penalty. Deon Burton, who even the most grudging Addicks must acknowledge has played his part this season, stepped up to score.
A professional foul led to a red card for Millwall charm merchant Nadjim Abdou who was reluctant to go and then trudged off at snail's pace, presumably to delay the penalty. After the referee had gone round all the players explaining what a penalty was and they musn't encroach, Burton was finally allowed to put the ball in the back of the net.
Half time: Addicks 2, Spanners 2
Some Addickted were speculating at half time that Parky might bring on Shelvey in place of Sam who was in danger of being sent off, but equally had the chance to be a match maker. I'm not sure that Shelvey would have coped well with such an occasion.
Nicky Bailey put in a superb volley from distance immediately after the break to make it 3-2. It's quite a while since I have seen him do that.
However, the visitors were not going to give up and Dave Martin brought the Spanners back on term from close range. This goal annoyed me as the whole move started with a free kick given against us when Semedo had won the ball entirely fairly.
Morison then obligingly put us ahead again by putting the ball into his own net. Quite how he did it I don't know as I thought the ball had been played out, but it went in off the post. It was certainly his best goal. Millwall had brought on masked man Tony Craig to strengthen a defence that seemed to be tiring - but then we were as well.
However, it was evident that Millwall were likely to equalise and they did this with a shot from Danny Schofield.
Ivy the Terrible has awarded a special Christmas Silver Bone with added tinsel to Deon Burton. Burton took his penalties calmly and confidently under considerable pressure, but also led the line well. It was quite a surprise when goalkeeper Rob Elliot came out in the programme as a social constructivist. It is something that could happen at Charlton, but not at Millwall. I think that his youth and inexperience is sometimes a problem but I wouldn't particularly blame him for the four goals conceded. Omozusi is no Richardson and it is pleasing to hear that our first choice right back may be available on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, I thought that he showed some nice touches. Christian Dailly is normally Mr Reliable, but he was certainly caught our for the decisive fourth goal. Sodje generally had a good game, although one is never certain where his headers in defence are going to go. I think that the real problem in defence was Grant Basey and his expression at the end of the game shows that he knew it. Two of Millwall's goals were scored from approach play down the right wing and he was certainly at fault in relation to the decisive fourth goal. One of the issues I have with Charlton fans is that they are excessively sentimental about Academy players. Basey is still developing, but whether he will be the finished product remains to be seen. The fulcrum of our team Semedo was run ragged by Millwall in this game which is perhaps why there were no chants reminding us that he comes from Portugal and hates Millwall.
Bailey was certainly up for it and his goal was superb. He also tried to do his best to shore up the defence. Sam was his usual self: occcasionally showing us why he may attract a bid from a higher level club in the transfer window, but also fading out of the game from time to time. I am afraid that this was an occasion when the relative inexperience of Wagstaffe was in evidence. He had his moments, but for most of the time he was out of it, even leaving aside the mistake that led to the opening goal. I thought that Mooney as the most advanced player could have made more of a couple of half chances to provide an assist early in the game, but no one can fault his commitment. The injury looked quite serious, even though he didn't need the stretcher and was able to limp off. I thought that the pace of McKenize gave the Spanners a few problems when he came on. Akpo Sodje tried to play his part but was unable to change the course of the match. Spring was brought on late on to try and use his experience to steady the ship, but it didn't work.
Hiss of the Match This has been awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to referee M Jones. Six yellow cards were issued in the match and it wasn't that dirty. In the first half he gave one to Sam and the Millwall player who had been marking him and they both laughed and commiserated with each other afterwards. When he gave a talking to a player or players, it went on for ever as he obviously liked the sound of his own voice. The epitome of fussiness, he was very concerned about the exact placing of the ball in the corner quadrant. Thank goodness there were relatively few corners.
Crowd rating The Covered End tried to match the Spanners in the Jimmy Seed, but it wasn't always easy. 7/10.