I experienced a strange euphoric feeling as I left The Valley today. Charlton had played well, had not conceded a goal and scored three against a team in the play off places at the beginning of the game. As a result, they have gone up to 18th in the table. Of course, it's just one game, but it may give the team some much needed confidence.
It was good to see Henderson back in goal and he made some excellent saves. The last time we won was at Reading when he was in goal and I sometimes think that not enough weight has been given to the effect his absence has had. He gives confidence to the defence in front of him.
Roger Johnson was derided as a useless signing, but he was much more solid than the off form Bikey whom he replaced. He marshalled the defence, giving instructions to the likes of Morgan Fox who had come on when Wiggins was injured.
We got the up front pairing of Watt and Vetokele that we wanted. Watt has a traditional centre forward's eye for goal and, even if he did not score today, he unsettled the Brentford defence. Igor Vetokele had an excellent work rate today and took his goal well.
Then there is Bulot. He was very poor last week, but a revelation on the wing today and took his goal well. In Voice of the Valley today, Steve Dixon asked, 'Is there any point in examining the contribution of Frédéric Bulot?' Perhaps professional gloom merchant Dixon will think again.
I was surprised to see elves around The Valley when I arrived, but Voice of the Valley has been brought out two weeks early because of 'the crisis engulfing the club'. The second part of the interview with Derek Ufton was excellent and the Rickster gave space to an article which looked critically at some of the excessive sentimentality that surrounds the notion of 'our Charlton'. Nevertheless, VOTV does increasingly seem to be the refuge of disgruntled former employees. Those who want changes at the club must be careful to avoid going back to the future with the Valley Party. As a fellow fan remarked to me, having looked at his copy, 'positive spin as usual.'
Gudmundsson scored decisively on 27 minutes after Vetokele had turned provider. The moaners behind me had been quiet up to then, as even they could not fault Charlton's standard of play, but became nervous and vociferous after we went ahead. The Bloke Behind Me believes that we should man mark every opposition player, but how we could do that and engage in any creative play or attacks is beyond me.
Charlton doubled their lead 10 minutes after half-time when Watt dragged defenders towards him and set up Vetokele to finish well. Alex Pritchard had the best chances for Brentford but his free-kick and snap-shot were both comfortably saved by Stephen Henderson. A resounding win was completed late on when Dean allowed Bulot a free run on goal and he struck a left-footed shot.
As for Brentford, I got the notion that they somehow felt they just had to get on to the pitch and easily claim three points against a poor team. When things started to go wrong, they increasingly resorted to fouling, but even an elbow in the stomach for Johnson received nothing more than a quiet rebuke from the lenient referee. Their fans final chant of 'You're going down with the Fulham' gets a prize for face saving irony.
I had real difficulty getting to the game today with no trains from Coventry, the line from Leamington closed by a landslip and the M40 shut by a major accident. I was late getting to Marylebone, but probably had the fastest trip ever from there to the ground by tube and bus, just 35 minutes. It was a good omen.
Millwall lost at Leeds, while I enjoyed listening to the final phase of Crystal Palace's cup defeat as I drove back from Banbury.
A Brentford fan interviews Charlton fans in the pub after the game, good quality podcast: Besotted Brentford
Stephen Henderson was man of the match for me. In command of his area, the Bees couldn't get past him. His kicking out was also usually central. Ben Haim wasn't prominent, but did his job well. I have seen some comments that Johnson was slow and not up to it, but I thought that he looked reliable and had a good effect on other defenders. Solly had a faultless game as far as I could see. Wiggins was playing well, until he succumbed to the first of two first half injuries. The other was to Jackson who had been looking useful, but was able to come out of the tunnel at the end of the game to do the Chris Powell jump. Gudmundsson took his goal well. He does drift in and out of games a bit. Cousins showed some real touches of skill. It was good to see us dispossessing the opposition in midfield, rather than the other way round. He also showed great determination and had an excellent work rate. Bulot was a revelation on the wing.
Watt would also be a nominee for man of the match. He showed real character and gave the opposition no quarter. He displayed some excellent ball skills. Vetokele was tireless and combined well with Watt. Fox is not as skilled or experienced as Wiggins, but he played a decent game of honest endeavour. Buyens started the season well, but has faded badly. His first action on coming on to the pitch was to spoil a promising attack by putting the ball out of play. His passes forward were often over hit. Wilson had a cameo after Vetokele was withdrawn, but seemed a bit out of his depth.