Stevenage 1 (Long 11) Charlton 0
Kevin Nolan reports from The Lamex Stadium...
Many of them attracted by the novelty of visiting a new league ground, (I'm no nerd but I'm up to 87 now, by the way) more than 1500 Charlton supporters helped Stevenage record their biggest crowd of the season so far for the first ever league meeting between the clubs. And no doubt they wish they hadn't bothered.
For waiting to spoil their day was a team which attained Football League status as recently as 2009-10, then zipped into League One via last season's Old Trafford play-off final victory over Torquay United. Like 'em or loathe 'em, you just have to respect their achievement. They certainly outwitted Charlton on this bracing early autumn afternoon.
The likes of Stevenage (they've dropped "Borough" from their official name, possibly because it made them sound like a council depot team) - and a division below them - unloved Crawley Town at least remind us of the uniquely egalitarian nature of English league football, a system in which all comers can try their luck. Even the financial snobs of the Premiership, with their morally dubious owners, had to put up with Blackpool last season and are still aching to rid themselves of Stoke. And don't get them started on bloody Wigan. Let's face it, Ted Turnabuck, that loquacious Liverpool managing director, might have been shouted down over his comments about TV rights but he was only saying what the others are thinking. The elitist aim is to peddle their "product" to Sebastian the stockbroker, not Sid the plumber one day soon. Then schoolkids will do projects about football fans as an extinct species. So hang on to your programmes and memorabilia for your grandchildren.
Back in sunny Hertfordshire, meanwhile, Charlton proved dismally inadequate in dealing with the problems set for them by the up-and-under methods cheerfully used by the locals. A steady bombardment of skyscraper deliveries had been anticipated and The Boro didn't disappoint. They make no bones about their fundamentalism.
Some of their lusty wallops endangered low-flying air bird life but there's nothing illegal about their tactics. Neanderthal, yes, but not illegal. And it's up to their opponents to figure out a solution. Chris Powell had reacted to the aerial threat by benching excellent but diminutive right back Chris Solly in favour of towering centre back Leon Cort, with almost equally towering Michael Morrison moving over to cover Solly. Since Cort turned out to be Charlton's best player, the experiment met with qualified success but Solly's attacking instincts were missed. Better on reflection to make the opposition worry about your own strengths. Which might also be said to include Scott Wagstaff's pace and industry in front of his mate Solly, at the expense of the subdued Danny Green.
The 11th minute goal which separated the sides and inflicted on the table-topping visitors their first league defeat of the season ironically owed nothing to the airborne battering but just as ironically was scored by Stacy Long, a kid who learned his trade as an Academy Addick before being released. Long chanced his arm from 25 yards, enjoying a massive deflection which wrongfooted Ben Hamer on its way into the top right corner. Beaten in similar circumstances last week, Hamer is entitled to believe he's snakebitten.
Before the interval, Hamer got the better of Long in one-on-one confrontation after the sturdy midfielder broke clear on to Craig Reid's perceptive through ball. Charlton's best first half opportunity fell to aggressive left back Rhoys Wiggins, who combined with skipper Johnnie Jackson to elude Mark Roberts but shot scruffily wide with his weaker right foot.
Ten minutes after resumption, an even better chance was set up by Yann Kermorgant's cleverly headed pass, which sent Bradley Wright-Phillips accelerating away from Jon Ashton in the inside left channel. Drawing a bead on the opposite corner, the top scorer beat the advancing Chris Day with a low drive but missed the right post by a whisker. On his right foot, you'd have backed him to hit the target, not that footballers are happy to admit they have a weaker side. But they do, don't they? They're only human.
The scare was all the persuasion Stevenage needed to add strategic timewasting to their Battle of Britain game plan. Left back Scott Laird, for instance, made tortuous treks to take right wing corners while Day's mighty kicking became even longer and lustier. The Boro might, though, have doubled their lead had Ashton's header not directed Ronnie Henry's free kick against the bar. But Graham Westley's doughty men had already done enough to deservedly secure the points.
Suckered into fighting blitz with blitz, Charlton were left to ruefully ponder their obvious shortcomings. It's no a secret that sides will set out to bash them up legally and from time to time illegally. It's an unforgiving division out of which to climb and a first defeat in 13 games is hardly cause for despair but it remains to be seen how they react to this setback. Powell's thunderous brow at full-time probably means that the exchanges at next week's training will be lively. A fly on the wall would be advised to wear ear muffs.
Stevenage: Day, Roberts, Ashton, Henry, Laird, Wilson, Long (Shroot 68), Mousinho, Bostwick, Reid (Beardsley 56), Harrison (Byrom 81). Not used: Julian, Edwards.
Charlton: Hamer, Morrison, Taylor(Hayes 87), Cort, Wiggins, Green (Wagstaff 72), Hollands, Stephens (Evina 80),, Jackson, Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips. Not used: Sullivan, Solly.
Referee: Michael Naylor. Attendance: 4,724.