It’s June. It’s time to box up the season and shove it up on the shelf, though maybe in a jazzier ring-binder than in years gone by. With other fine sites of this parish like bhappy and Vital Watford getting their summative player reports in bright and early, it falls to us to take a different approach, so here we present ‘Top Five Moments of the Year Week’ – a week-long series of the things that made this season special.
Without further ado, here’s today’s offering from October:
1. Abdi Free-kick at Charlton (02.10.12)
The air was still, the halo of light bursting out of the Valley into the East London night sky ushered in the feeblest of drizzles. As the action stopped, the 16 000 souls watching were silent. For those with red scarves lining three sides of the pitch, there was tacit frustration. Since going a man up on the stroke of half time, they had pressed, but not managed to get through a staunch rearguard, an impassioned flurry of brave defending and tireless running. In the cowshed, peering through a letterbox created by the low-hanging canopy, the sodden travelling fans rose tentatively to their feet to greet a rare break of pressure.
On the pitch, Almen Abdi set the ball down, and stood with his hands on his hips. For seventy five minutes, he had been the outlet. Watford had tried to play football, despite the man disadvantage that came with Fernando Forestieri’s second yellow card for simulation, but such good intentions in adversity take their toll. Like many on the pitch, he stood, andpanted wearily, his breath condensing and rising into the cold Capital air.
Then a whistle. A step. A ball swirling over the Charlton wall, darting outwards away from the keeper, and nestling in the side netting. An explosion. As fans embraced and jumped and cheered, Abdi was off, wheeling towards the bench, chased by his teammates. Weeks before they had been mercenaries, a rag-tag bunch of individual talents; a far cry from a cohesive team. There had been murmurings: a dire defeat to Ipswich, a severe thrashing at Derby.
But here, there was a team. Facing hardship, they had stood up to be counted. Belligerence had shone through the continental flair. And the relief that coagulated in that late-evening hug over by the half-way line cemented this collection as a Championship team.
Twenty minutes later, the job was done. We’d caught our first glimpse of Joel Ekstrand, a mainstay from here-on-in, amongst the spirited holding of our lead, and after briefly celebrating by the side of the pitch with a relieved and exhausted set of players, we flooded into the Greenwich streets, our souls lifted by what we had just seen.
That evening marked the first time that we won two consecutive games this season; it was only our fourth league win of the campaign. Previous games had seen the team punctuate periods of the attractive football we’d been promised with sloppy errors and thoughtless defending. Here was ninety minutes of hard work, a game that was approached with a steadfast focus and application, only broken by the celebrations following Abdi’s moment of magic.
Watford had arrived.
Part Two drops at 3.00pm tomorrow. Join us, won’t you?
Read our match report of the game here