Friday, October 9, 2015

Fulham 2 at Charlton 2 (League Championship) - October 4, 2015


After an EPL doubleheader on Saturday, Sunday promised more excitement. I would spend the next couple of nights at a friend's place near Greenwich, close to the Olympic Stadium where Ireland and Italy would face off in the Rugby World Cup in the late afternoon. As luck would have it, the only major soccer match in London that day was a noon start at The Valley, a short bus ride away from Greenwich. Charlton were hosting Fulham in a League Championship battle (the level below the Premier League). Both teams have been in the EPL, in fact I saw a match at Fulham in 2010, the year they made the Europa League final. Sadly, they were relegated in 2014 campaign after 13 seasons at the top level.



We left my friend's apartment about 75 minutes before kickoff, but the buses were not very helpful that Sunday morning. and we only arrived with minutes to spare. At the box office, a gentleman offered us a couple of tickets for below face value, thus we avoided the queue and hurried inside. We were so rushed that I didn't even grab a shot of the exterior of the ground. Our seats were in the second row of the West Stand, near the south end; a great view though the sun shone in our eyes for a good part of the match.



We were next to the South Stand (above) where the supporters spend their time chanting, which they do throughout the game. Across the way is the East Stand obviously, with The Valley painted on the seats. The picture below was taken after the game, once fans had dispersed.



There's not much else to write about here, since I was limited to the West Stand and had no time after the game to look around either. Food options were typical for English sport, but large lineups at halftime precluded any purchase.



The game was a cracker as they say. Fulham scored first just past the half-hour when Ross McCormack (44, below) took a free kick that was poorly handled by keeper Nick Pope. The ball bounced right to Ryan Tunnicliffe who had no trouble driving it home for the only goal of the half.



At halftime, we went into the concourse to get out of the sun for a few minutes, and I noticed on TV that McCormack was at 7/1 to score the next goal. I wondered who would made such a silly bet. Of course, early in the second half, McCormack did score the next goal, taking a pass from Tunnicliffe and beating Pope with a perfect shot into the bottom right corner, making some gamblers very happy. The visiting fans went crazy, while the Charlton contingent reacted with the amusing chant "You're nothing special, we lose every week".



This week, though, would be different. With just 10 minutes to go, Charlton had a corner kick. Manager Guy Luzon brought on Johnny Jackson, who is a fan favourite but apparently not in Luzon's good books. Anyway, Jackson took his spot in the box and the ball curled in from the left side, over the heads of a couple of players and right into the path of Jackson, who headed off the crossbar and in. The photo above is the ball about to enter the net.



Suddenly it was a game again, and Charlton took to the attack. Four minutes of stoppage time were added but midway through, there was a clash of heads that took a couple of minutes to get sorted. During that time, a few fans decided to leave. Bizarre. Anyway, it was now unclear how much time remained, so Charlton attacked immediately and were rewarded when a cross from Karlan Ahearne-Grant was headed home by Jordan Cousins (second from the right in the photo above) to grab an improbable point for the Addicks. Cousins, a Greenwich native, celebrated right in front of us, quite a memorable moment. The highlights are here. There's the final below, and you can see my friend and myself in the shot; I've indicated us with the yellow circle. Pretty good seats.



This was a much more entertaining affair than the two EPL games I had seen the day before. The top level sees teams play a more cautious style, but here in the Championship, both clubs seemed to be trying to score. If you are in England and want a more affordable sports experience, consider the Championship instead of the Premier League.

Best,

Sean

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