'Very disappointing' was the verdict in Row Q after Charlton went down 1-2 at home to 10-man Watford. No doubt stronger verdicts were heard elsewhere in the ground. Given that Millwall and the Massives drew away, the Addicks remain outside the relegation places in 20th position for now. But we have a tough fixture away at Blackpool on Saturday.
This was not a match I was expecting to win. I reaffirmed my 2-2 forecast in our Row Q competition. It was a match I thought could go one of three ways, but I did not really expect us to lose. However, as my wife said before I left, 'they'll lose.'
The first half ended 1-1 with Ricardo Fuller replying to their opener. Just before the break, Italian charmer Forestieri was sent off with a second yellow for diving, although he is now claiming he slipped on the wet pitch.
Playing against ten men does not give an automatic advantage, however. A lot depends on how the other team responds. I thought that Zola was rather clever in putting five men behind the ball and then trying to hit us on the break - and Watford could break quickly. This is what they did after Cort very foolishly gave a bear hug to one of their players in a dangerous position.
We then mounted attack after attack, getting eleven shots on target against their nine, but they crowded the box and it was difficult to get a clear shot away. Over five minutes of time were added on, but it was one of those nights when we could have had an extra half hour and not scored.
I was a bit puzzled to read that it had cost one other Midland Addick £100 to go to the match. Deutsche Bahn charged me £18.70 return to Marylebone and then I had perhaps £10 or so on my Oyster.
I was not surprised to see large numbers of Japanese ladies with branded shopping bags getting on at Bicester North after a visit to Bicester Village. I was a bit more puzzled to see quite a few Japanese on the 472 from North Greenwich, one reading a Japanese paper that seemed to be aimed at the Japanese community in Britain.
I was quite optimistic about the game, as one has to be travelling some distance, but reading an article in the Sub-Standard about the match by Giuseppe Moro (from the Hornets press office) I noted that Zola thought that the slow start to their promotion push might help them. He had observed a positive shift in the mood at the club in the past week.
Walking past the station a swarm of Hornets emerged chanting 'Watford! Watford! Want any aggro?' which got no response at all in a SE7 where it was raining heavily.
One of the oddities of evening games is that Steve to my left and Paul to my right are wearing sharp suits, betraying their pikey connections, while I was clad in what is now a rather scruffy Alan Curbishley training top.
It was evident to me that Watford's game plan was to go for an early goal and Solly was soon called on to show his defensive skills. I thought that Kerkar and Wright Phillips combined well. Wilson made an excellent run down the right which admittedly only got a throw in but it was worth a try. The Hornets put in a shot from distance which Hamer gathered a little uncomfortably.
On 15 minutes Charlton won a free kick in a promising position to the right of the 'D'. Something happened in the Watford wall, possibly a handball, and the free kick had to be taken again. It took some time for the recipient of the yellow card to appear on the screen and it was allocated to former inmate Troy Deeney, apparently on the advice of the fourth official. It turned out that it had been given to Fernando Foresteri and this was to prove significant later.
Kerkar put in a decent free kick which won a corner but the corner itself was poor. By this time the rain was starting to ease off. A good cross came in from the left, but there was no one there to connect with it. A corner taken by Green led to some initially good pressure from Charlton, but it was not sustained.
Morrison got a finger wagging from the referee. A Watford free kick took a slight deflection off the back of a Charlton player. The corner was not properly placed in the prescribed area, but the bald dimwit of a linesman took no action. The ball came in and was headed in the back of the net. It was a bullet header and we thought it might have been an own goal, but in fact it came off Hoban. I have not seen it again, but my impression at the time was of sloppy defending. I think it would have been difficult for Hamer to save it.
Watford threatened to score a second from a break and Hamer had to save at the post. Impressive skill by Kerkar and a good pass by Stephens then set up Fuller for the equaliser.
Wilson dealt well with a Watford threat. A Charlton free kick after a push on Kerkar was saved, but it might have been possible to exploit a gap at the near post. Almunia had to save from Kerkar. Green provided good work on the right.
Morrison put in what many to be judged a fair tackle on Forestieri, although it was arguably slightly from behind. The free kick came off the wall and Forestieri put on a shot wide as he was booed. In the one minute added on, Watford won a corner and Forestieri dived - as far as I could see - to get a penalty. Hence, the referee was right to give him a second yellow and send him off. However, as I heard a Watford fan say later, 'If he hadn't have been sent off, we might not have won that match.
It had been an incident packed first half and the scoreline at half time reflected the balance of play. My notes were far more extensive than they had been against Blackburn.
Half-time, Addicks 1, Hornets 1
Playing against ten men is not necessarily easy as they can be fired up by a sense of injustice and Zola's handling of the situation was tactically astute. Wright-Phillips won Charlton a free kick. Abdi rolled around dramatically on the ground, securing the Hornets a free kick, and then walked away nonchantly without a care in the world. His drama lessons clearly pay.
Wright-Phillips drew a save. Neuton received a yellow card for a foul. Danny Green won Charlton a corner. For a short while it was panic stations in the Watford defence, but the ball was eventually cleared.
Wright-Phillips was chased by three Hornets. He was pulled back and should have gone down, but instead he shot over. Unfortunately, Kerkar overhit his cross following a Charlton free kick, but redeemed himself by winning the Addicks a corner. Green received a yellow card.
Then on 69 minutes Cort gave away the fatal free kick and the shot from Abdi went straight in the net. Hamer was called on to make a save shortly afterwards. Charlton won a corner, but our play was getting increasingly frantic and were inclined to spoil potential chances by overhitting the ball.
The referee then awarded a free kick for a back pass. He was right to do so, but you don't see them given very often, although I saw one in non-league earlier in the season. We also saw two awards for foul throws in the first half. Fortunately, the subsequent free kick was unproductive. Chris Powell made his double substitutions, although his critics argue this came too late. Wilson put in a good ball that led to a Charlton corner. Abdi went in the referee's book for a foul.
In the five minutes added on, Watford tried to slow things down as much as possible, making two substitutions. Almunia got a yellow card for his time wasting, but, of course, it was too late to have any impact. The one half chance in time added on fell to Dale Stephens who put the ball not too far over from distance.
Even two points from two home games, which was what I was expecting, would not have been good enough, but one is disastrous. So far, however, we have not lost by more than one goal and the standard of our passing has been generally good. But we are aware that we have stepped up a level. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, are in a play off position.
The attendance was 15,385. Given that there were 1,000 - 1,500 Hornets, this means that we sold only about 2,000 walk up tickets. It's always going to be difficult at midweek matches because of work commitments, but unfortunately the way things are going will not encourage people to turn up and take a look.
Was it worth getting back to Leamington at 12.30 p.m.? Should I have attended to my duties as secretary in the vice-presidents lounge at the Brakes and see them go out on penalties to Belper in FA Trophy (another team that doesn't do cups). Probably not, because whatever else one can say about the match it was not boring.
Ivy the Terrible has given the Silver Bone to Salman Kerkar. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, but he can show real skill as he did when he set up our goal. As a commentator on the Drinking During the Game blog eloquently put it, 'He's the best thing to come out of Ibrox since the taxman.' Arguably Hamer could have positioned himself better for their winning goal. Although the laser eye surgery has been beneficial, perhaps he could have some surgery for rushes of blood to the head. He sometimes rushes off his line dangerously, confusing the reliable Morrison. He should also moan a little less. I wouldn't fault Morrison for what happened tonight. He has made the transition to the Championship as well as anyone and is one of our best players. I am also quite a fan of Cort but it was a disastrous error that gave Watford their winning goal. I think that Wilson continues to improve. He certainly has some pace and puts himself about, unfortunately a number of his balls were overhit. Whilst Solly was not as prominent as he is in some games, I noted some good defensive work. He did enough to earn a chant from the Covered End. There are a lot of complaints about Jackson being too slow, but we always seem to miss him when he is absent. We have a continuing problem in central midfield. Hollands was rather anonymous last night and was eventually substituted. Stephens showed some neat touches, but he also made some errors such as passing to a Watford player. The more fundamental question is whether he is creative enough. Green didn't do as much as in the games since his reapperance in the starting lineup. He did make a contribution, especially in the first half, but his crossing is not always accurate. Fuller took his goal very well, but that was about the sum of it. The row behind was starting on Wright-Phillips before the match and there have been some complaints since, but I think he did his best. At one point he might have got a penalty, but honourably stayed on his feet. Arguments are being made that Chris Powell got it wrong by switching away from 4-5-1 or 4-4-1-1, but I think that formation limited us against Blackburn. When Pritchard came on he was his usual busy self. What he lacks in style and skill he more than makes up for in energy and commitment and I remain well disposed to him as a player. I didn't see much of a contribution from Hulse but the game was so frenetic by that stage that I could well have missed something.
Juneau the Soccer Cat had no hesitation in awarding a Hiss of the Match to the referee who I am now told was changed for a third time which means that I can't use any of my rather poor jokes about central heating or his wife's colour scheme. Admittedly he gave Watford a big collection of yellow cards, but that doesn't help us and it won't harm them all that much as they seem to be able to rotate. I thought that in the second half he was trying to even things up by not giving us many decisions.