Better late than never I suppose?
There is probably not much I can add to what has already been written in relation to what impact this has on our season, except to mention that Palace have won at Stoke since the rest of the thoughts have been shared.
However, I was firmly of the belief that our season was over after the defeat at Ipswich, and nothing has changed my opinion since then. Had we hung on for a draw against Wolves and I would be thinking a little differently, but it didn't happen and I just cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel getting bright enough quickly enough for us not to run out of games before we can catch all the teams above us. This is assuming that even if we played 100 games a season we would eventually find a settled side that would win back to back games.
Anyway I have no interest in going over the same old issues, Plymouth away?
After a ridiculous wake up time of 5am I made my way over to my Dad's and then we drove down to Plymouth where we were going to stay on Saturday night. I can't say that there was a lot of excitement or even expectation for the game ahead, but I managed to continue to convince myself that the Devon coast on April would at least be sunny and warm.
The ground, despite what I've read elsewhere, impressed me. I noted from their program that they had a crowd of 17,511 for the visit of Watford, so it is clearly bigger than The Valley was in 1998, and even though they have one old stand the other three sides wrap 'round and for a club that has spent much of it's history nowhere near the top flight it is impressive.
The away end is situated (well I was) at the very end of the wrap 'round. Thus I was close to the main stand and had a plentiful supply of sun on my face for most of the game. For a fair bit of it I had a bit of a smile on my face too.
The game was too young to draw any conclusions when Weaver went off. He has been a decent 'keeper all season, his only criticisms have come from those that thought he is a bit too routed to his line. Well, he wasn't routed to his line on Saturday! From behind the goal it was clear that he was going to have to come for the ball, which, of course, he did, but as he approached the edge of the box it was clear that the ball was not going to reach him, so he left his area. What happened next was, in my opinion, more an act of randomness. He jumped and presumably thought he'd head the ball away, but it went over his head and left him with two decisions; let the ball go past me with a forward about to join it; or have a little touch to take it out of his (the forward's) route. The rest is history.
At that point the fatigue of having been up a good four hours earlier than I normally am started to feel like I'd made a mistake. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting a great game, I have to confess to having so little faith in the team right now that I didn't even expect to get a draw, but the thought of having to hold on for the last twenty minutes to avoid letting in a fifth goal was starting to gnaw at me.
I needn't have worried. As is often the case the eleven men couldn't cope with the change in the game plan and attitude of the ten. It was just great to see us so blatantly waste time. I mean I hate it as a rule, but we have seen so much of it this season that I was more than happy to dish some out for a change. What it really confirmed to me was that we actually have a strong bunch of players. I didn't think we were particularly lucky during the game. We didn't have a dozen or so saves to make and to be honest (well probably a little biased) I thought we looked the more likely to win the game for most of the afternoon. We have demonstrated this 'steel' before, of course, at Southampton - another away game I attended.
As I'm sure that by now you will have read several reports written by better writers than me I will not give a description of the match, but rather my observations of the players in relation to my previous comments.
Man of the match would clearly have to be Lita, who scored two good goals and really looked like he wanted to celebrate with the fans, without any of that kissing the badge rubbish. I doubt that he will be here next season (although I'd like him to be) but he has, for me, justified his visit. It's a shame that we didn't sign him at the start of January, but with Reading wanting big money for him and the issues with him being eligible for the playoffs if he's signed then I guess I can't complain. For the record I have no idea what the rules are about loan signings and the playoffs, I'm just speculating. Halford, again, looked very competent. It was also a real boost to have his long throws when we clearly needed every chance going forward, and the opportunity to get the ball right up the park when we were defending. Thatcher was, also, a real contributor on Saturday. Maybe it's because I don't normally sit behind the goal, but I did notice that he seems cool and pretty much every time played the right ball and always found out of our players or touch with every kick or header. It is perhaps more to do with the need to defend in games like this that the defenders come away with most credit, but based on what I saw I'd be happy with both the full-backs at Charlton next season.
To be fair there were no players that I was disappointed with (including Weaver) but another mention had to go to Iwelumo who had a massive impact. Again, it could have been due to the defensive nature of the game, but I was impressed. Also Rob Elliot. He just slotted in like he was born there. He has a rather weird way of kicking the ball, not unsuccessful to be fair, but just looks strange, but he demonstrated that we have a real strength in depth there. His save in the dying minutes was a highlight for me. It's almost (ok, maybe not really) as exciting to make a great save at the death as scoring, and from behind the other goal the way he got down to the ball was very impressive, and I won't be told otherwise.
I suspect that Randolph will play on Saturday just to ensure that we have played more players this season than any other club in the history of football, but I wouldn't be too worried with Elliot in between the sticks, although clearly I'd want a reserve 'keeper on the bench.
Over all a very nice day out. It was capped off with dinner in the evening at a restaurant (sorry can't remember the name) in (or near) Plymouth Hoe. I met a couple of Plymouth fans that were very friendly and gracious in defeat even though they thought we were poor and they were poorer. Possibly, but who cares, it was warm, I sat in the sun, we won and we only had ten men!
Up the Addicks!