Saturday, 9 March 2013

Huddersfield 0 - 1 Charlton

It seems a long time ago now that we played Huddersfield at The Valley on a cold November Monday evening when they were unbeaten for 43 games and we thought that we, and they, would be contenders for the League One Title. That was the last time we beat them. We've lost up there since then. And drawn at home twice.

That game was one of the most exciting I remember going to. The anticipation, the (all be it third division) giants meeting to decide which team would keep it's run going and we came out victorious and, despite an onslaught in the last ten minutes from a team that were not used to losing, we never looked like not winning as soon as we went 2-0 up a few minutes before half time.

Huddersfield today are a shadow (again, in a higher division) of the team they were in November 2011, and truth be told, so are we. We are probably better than we were then and they are probably not - due to Jordon Rhodes leaving. However, today's game was important. Even though we are, neither, as close to the bottom of the division as we were to the top back then we both need a few more points to ensure that our promotions last season are not wasted by us falling back down.

Huddersfield started this season much better than we did but our consistency has been better than theirs and they have changed their manager again - like they did last season. Their recent form has been better, but they are still in the pack that could be caught of one (or two) of the bottom three go on a great run.

From what I read from today's game we were not terribly convincing and we took our chance and held on. That sounds familiar doesn't it? That's what Burnley did to us last week. It does signify, to me at least, that we have very small margins in most of the games we've played this season. We have not lost by more than one goal much, and we haven't inflicted any crushing defeats either. That suggests that we will, almost certainly, avoid relegation this season but more positively it suggests that with a couple of additions to our squad and the benefit of a whole season's experience for some of our younger, or less experienced, players we could make a genuine challenge for promotion next season.

I don't, actually, think that Huddersfield will be relegated this season but I also think that they would not have been promoted without the goals from Rhodes last season. This leaves them as a team we should be looking to get points from, and this season we have taken four from them. A much better return than the other promoted side who managed to take all six from us.

I have been very supportive of Chris Powell and I don't see the need to change that approach now. I am in the camp that believes that we have a limited (compared to many other Championship sides) squad and that we need to be more tactically astute and/or need to give more effort. I think we are getting there on the former and there have been very few games where I've been worried about the latter.

We have nine games left and even though the playoffs are, technically, still a possibility I think we all know that our goal is to avoid relegation and, to a lesser degree, finish as high up the table as possible.

Today's win, and specifically taking four points from the last two, takes much of the pressure off and leaves me feeling much more focused on Millwall next weekend than the potential three points at stake. They are in a terrible run of form and are genuine candidates for the drop. Eight defeats in nine, including losing to three of the bottom four, suggest that they could fall out of this division and still make an FA Cup semi-final. He latter would disappoint me but the former would please me no end.

We need to beat them to keep them on track for third division football next season. Ironically a win for them next Saturday would, probably, be enough to leave them with just a couple of lucky results to stay up.

At the end of the day it doesn't matter when the points come as long as we have enough by May but those four points in a week make me feel much more comfortable and I am not really looking forward to playing Millwall next weekend. Surely it's our time to win one of these derby matches.

Up the Addicks!

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