Sunday, 16 September 2007

Match 3 - Charlton Athletic

This game looked like a great match-up from the start. One of last season’s premiership teams and much fancied for a quick return, Charlton Athletic, brought with them two former Layer Road heroes from recent seasons:

  • Phil Parkinson: now the number 2 at Charlton, couldn’t really be looking forward to another visit after last season’s 5-1 thrashing here as Hull City manager which effectively got him the sack;
  • Chris Iwelumo: (aerial nuisance, but lacking in earth-based skills) the scorer of so many vital goals. Am I the only one who thought he couldn’t cross his legs properly let alone do much useful with his feet when the ball dropped nearby – unless of course it was a penalty or he was 6 yards out?

And in return we already have two of their escapees:

  • Kevin Lisbie, who can’t have expected he was going to partner Teddy Sheringham when he signed for us;
  • Kem Izzet: who left in 2001 before they found out whether he could play at this level.

I managed to grab a chat with one of the Special Constables before the game. Before I got ushered back onto the footpath he let on that he has been policing matches here at Layer Road for the last 23 years and has yet to get inside the ground to watch a match. How does he feel about this? Actually he’s not a footie fan, but I wonder if there’s someone at the club who would like to invite him to spend a Saturday afternoon or weekday evening watching a bit of action behind those tin sheds that border his patch.

As for the match, well it was almost like the glory days of last season with a great first half midfield display and some slick finishing up front. I’m beginning to see a bit of a likeness between Sheringham and another pensioner from the past – Ray Crawford. Just how lucky are we to have such silky smooth skills sported so sensationally on Saturdays? The crowd has found it’s voice once again – “Parky, Parky, what’s the score?” – the sun is shining brightly …

And then it happened! Two-nil up and we concede a goal just before half-time. Just like the Burnley match, only in reverse. And we trudge in for the break on a low.

It struck me today that the half-time entertainment gives the two sets of fans a break of a different sort. For 15 minutes or so they forget about baiting each other or trying to score points with their cleverly crafted song contest entries. We all sit or stand together in awe of the stuff that parades in front of, and around us:

  • We cheer together as the juniors take their penalties (including a first public appearance – and goal – for Lisbie Junior – but no appearance from Eddie the Eagle);
  • We jointly marvel at the skill of the substitutes in passing to each other so accurately – with no chance of a scything tackle (see later) or other form of harassment;
  • We laugh side by side at the ‘over the wall’ attempts that pass each side of the wooden defence;
  • We check our lucky tickets, hoping to win a few bob
  • We eagerly wait for the half-time scores and cheer as one when we hear that Ipswich are losing;
  • We puzzle over the delicate fork prods of the groundsman as he tends his lawn;
  • and we wait expectantly for the safety announcement … the safety announcement ...

… except that today, once again, the half-time entertainment leaves no time for this important piece of public safety information. So, for those who missed it before the game, here it is:

... ding, dong
This is public announcement. In the event of an emergency please remain calm, and await further instructions. Thank you.
... ding, dong

The second half was a mixture of revitalised opposition, frantic defending, cheating (Iwelumo, who went from hero to zero in less than an hour), poor officiating (failing to spot the cheating), an equaliser, and a scything follow through by Danny Mills on George Elokobi. It’s ironic that Mills’ own web site includes a prominent link to a sports injuries clinic! Is this how he makes his money?

All in all a fair result at 2-2 and a great afternoon’s entertainment. This was English Football at its best. Plenty of action, excitement, goals, controversy and plenty to discuss on the radio phone-ins and web site forums after the game. So, the positives we take forward to the next match:

  • 3 points better off than this stage last season;
  • at least 2 goals scored in every match so far (and at least 2 goals conceded in all but one of them);
  • 6 places higher than the corresponding stage last season (although the daft thing about tables this early is that we would have been 5th if we’d won);
  • Ipswich lost 4-0;
  • George Elokobi can sing ‘I’m Still Standing’ with pride;
  • we have a couple of warm-up away games before the Scunthorpe encounter in two weeks.

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