Charlton 0 Huddersfield Town 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
So inevitably money didn't so much talk as swear. And Chris Powell, despite being poised to join Jimmy Seed and Alan Curbishley in Charlton's "greatest ever manager" musings was its victim. "Out, out brief candle!" A candle contemptuously extinguished.
For three years, beginning and symmetrically ending in Sheffield, the club had their own "special one" in charge, a man with gravitas, dignity and individuality. Not to mention a lifetime's experience in English football. He helped Charlton's supporters feel good about themselves. But he didn't suit an owner destined to be recalled by fans, with no disrespect intended, as "that Belgian bloke" ten minutes after he, himself, finally leaves the building.
Nothing personal, of course, strictly business. Now apparently we must all move on. But perhaps our future is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." We might not like where we're moving. Say we're farmed out to Belgium as sub-Standard Liege. You'd hear some sound and fury then.
"Time will tell if it is the right decision", M. Duchatelet reassured us in a hastily re-written matchday programme. Far from implying he's an idiot but that's a statement signifying an alarming lack of conviction. And maybe we don't need time to tell that his decision is ruinous to Charlton's reputation as an honourable club swimming against the tide in an ocean of corporate sharks. Our loss will be another fortunate club's gain.
Some of Chris Powell's class clearly rubbed off on the fans because, in the third minute of Wednesday's game, an unrehearsed minute's applause in honour of the great man began, swelled and spread over three sides of the ground. It wasn't sanctioned, it wasn't official but it didn't need to be to make its point. Even those who had questioned his savvy joined in. They're a bolshie lot, these Charlton fans, as they demonstrated to devastating effect a quarter century ago and they're still devilishly hard to control. But there was no malice, no spite, in what was a spontaneous salute to a man these people- or most of them- respect and admire. The Nolan throat doesn't go in for lumps as a rule but it had a little difficulty in clearing itself for a while.
It was equally obvious that the impromptu tribute was in no way directed in criticism of the new managerial incumbent. The king is dead (or reported dead until one day he returns, as return hopefully he will) and though it tempts fate in the ephemeral world of football management to say it, long live the king. Because, as almost an afterthought, there was an important football match to play and it was now Jose Riga's red-and-white army until further notice.
Unconcerned by the fuss, Huddersfield Town had stolen into The Valley to make it clear from kick-off that they had scant sympathy for local grief. The Terriers were organised, obdurate, obstinate. They were also bent on frustrating the Addicks in their intention to depart with a point. Familiarity has bred not quite contempt as understandable wariness between the sides following seven clashes within sixteen months. They know each other well and that knowledge dictated mutual caution.
Charlton's players had convened their own meeting shortly before the game to reaffirm their commitment to their club and their admirable resolve showed. They had the better of things but that chronic deficiency at the business end of the pitch again bedevilled them. In other words, they just cannot score a goal. Or even buy one. Twenty four in thirty one games now... with the ratio deteriorating.
In strict chronological order, most of the first half chances fell to the home side. Astrit Adjarevic's 30-yarder was smartly saved by Alex Smithies; Johnnie Jackson's corner cleared Peter Clarke's head but a surprised Michael Morrison sidefooted wide; Reza Ghoochannejhad volleyed another Jackson corner similarly off target; Adjarevic's cleverly curled shot was well saved by Smithies; Reza was narrowly beaten to Rhoys Wiggins' cross by Paul Dixon at the near post; Adjarevic managed a goalbound header from Jackson's latest corner but Marvin Sordell inadvertently blocked his effort.
It wasn't quite the relentless bombardment this account suggests and Town had moments of their own as they improved. Ben Hamer was required to save from the elusive Nakhi Wells, then defy good efforts from Jonathan Hogg and Danny Ward before the interval. Charlton's in-form keeper also had one second half scare when Wells rounded him but was unable to squeeze his shot past Dorian Dervite from a diminishing angle.
A revitalised Sordell began the second period by sending Harriott's pass wide before missing Charlton's best chance a quarter hour from the end. Sent clear by the marvellously precocious Diego Poyet's cunningly chipped pass, he shot on the run but was blocked by the alertly advancing Smithies. This game had "goalless" written all over it.
A rare visit to the post-game press room seemed in order but it was hard to work up enthusiasm for slick analysis or ingratiation. Mr Riga seems a thoroughly decent chap and will, of course, be cut considerable slack. But there was a void where Chris Powell's comforting presence should have been and the old mind wandered. Where recently it would have been restlessly weighing the pros and cons of a valuable point while worrying about its implications, somehow it didn't seem to matter as much. Let Bob Dylan, the Bill Shakespeare of our time, bring his usual pith to my dilemma: "I used to care but... things have changed."
Nah, forget that Bob, they've changed alright but I'll soon care again. We're at Millwall on Saturday. That's enough to concentrate anyone's mind.
Charlton: Hamer: Wilson, Morrison, Dervite, Wiggins, Ajdarevic, Poyet, Harriott (Cousins 85) Jackson, Ghoochannejhad (Pritchard 64), Sordell (Church 78). Not used: Thuram, Green, Wood, Nego. Booked: Poyet.
Huddersfield: Smithies, Woods, Clarke, Hogg, Dixon, Scannell (Hamill 75), Clayton, Wallace, Ward, Wells (Paterson 75), Southern. Not used: Bennett, Norwood, Gobern, Stead, Smith. Booked: Dixon.
Referee: K. Hill. Att: 12,974 (440 visiting).