As I got off the train at Coventry this evening, some Coventry fans said to me, 'I can't believe you were beaten by Walsall.' Leaving The Valley I heard one fan say, 'I can't believe what I have just seen.' A Charlton fan on the train to Charing Cross said, 'They played as poorly as I have ever seen them.'
I have never been a believer in reading results off the table, especially such a fluid one as League One. I thought that today's match would be difficult: Walsall had nothing to lose as the underdogs and all the pressure was on Charlton. But I did expect to get a point. Before the game Paul from Bexleyheath and I agreed that the most likely result was 1-1.
So what's the explanation? Right from the start our play was disjointed. We couldn't keep possession or make a decent pass. Our attacking threat was limited and the midfield seemed to disappear. Rob Elliot commented in the programme, 'Even when we haven't played well, we've still got results, which I think is the sign of a good team.' Perhaps we got caught out at last.
I got the impression that the players were tired and because Walsall were bottom of the table they perhaps thought they just had to turn up on the pitch and win. Parky did try to turn things around by making a double substitition at half time, but it didn't really make a great difference.
When the Walsall goal came, as it inevitably did, it was easy for them. The Saddlers' win was well deserved: one only has to take a look at the corner count. But they weren't very good as their wayward shooting showed. We just looked worse.
So what happens now? It's a question of keep calm and carry on. There will be the kind of reaction there was after the Brighton game. If the new owners come in, they may want a change: personally, I have always thought that there was a limit to what any manager could achieve with this bunch of players. But the other teams in the division aren't that marvellous anyway so we could achieve a play off place. If the club isn't sold, we might have to go into administration which would kill off any promotion hopes.
I heard from a reasonably reliable source that four individuals (apart from front man Peter Varney) are involved in the consortium that is seeking to buy the club and that one of them is a 'bit dodgy'. They have enough money to keep us going, but not enough to splash the cash.
Ivy the Terrible awarded the Silver Bone to Jon Fortune who was solid in defence and actually put together a reasonably fluent attacking move once. There had been concerns about whether Rob Elliot was fit and fortunately he was as we only had a youth team keeper on the bench, Ross Worner having fallen ill. His positioning could have been better for the Walsall goal and often his judgement seemed to be poor: he is too inclined to palm the ball away. I don't blame for him for coming up for the corner at the end of the game, but he did rush out rather dangerously another time to clear the ball. But he did make a good save with his foot when he was one-on-one with a Walsall player. Doherty was solid enough most of the time.
Francis was a total disaster. His crosses were poor. At throw ins he kept throwing the ball back to the defence instead of moving it forward. Fry was not very prominent in the first half and was taken off. Semedo was given the captain's armband, but had a poor game. When he did get the ball, he tended to lose it. Racon made very little contribution throughout the game. Jackson was not up to his usual standard and most of his free kicks were disappointing. With Wagstaff you are never sure what you are going to get: flashes of inspiration or a generally dire performance. This was one of the latter. Anyinsah was anonymous apart from one attempt on goal and was withdrawn. Benson was the proverbial powder puff. He tried to get himself into promising positions but failed to connect with one scoring opportunity.
Reid showed plenty of pace and enthusiasm, but his final ball was usually poor. Martin was also enthusiastic, but he needs to watch his temper. Sodje made very little difference when he came on.
Hiss of the Match Juneau the Soccer Cat felt unable to blame the officials for anything. Instead I have given it to the steward with whom I had the following dialogue on entering the passageway into the East Stand:
Steward: Where are you going?
Me: To my seat?
Steward: Do you know where it is?
Me: Yes, I have a season ticket [and have had the same seat since shortly after the East Stand opened].
I suppose he had been on a customer care and was trying to help, but it struck me as odd.
Crowd rating The crowd tends to get on the players' backs very quickly which is perhaps why Charlton often do better away. The performance was abysmal, but I am not sure that constant criticism helps when confidence is ebbing away. This is third division football or hoofball and it is often mediocre.