When Charlton went to Fellows Park on May 21st 1963 for the final game of the season they were in twenty first place in Division Two and were two points behind their hosts. They had given themselves a chance of avoiding relegation by beating Southampton at The Valley on the previous Saturday with the winning goal from Cliff Durandt arriving in the 89th minute. Now they had to beat Walsall to complete the task. There were 18,820 present and at half time the score was 0-0 which wasn't good enough. The referee (Mr GD Roper of Swaffen Prior in Cambridgeshire) then took the decision to abandon the match due to the waterlogged state of the pitch.
The match was rescheduled for the following Friday evening with a 7.15 kick off. This time 16,761 turned up to watch. The first half, although goal less, was not without incident. The Saddlers inside forward Newton was a passenger after an eighth minute injury and their goalkeeper Boswell was helped off in the 41st minute with a broken cheek bone. Full back Palin went in goal and Walsall played with ten men for the remainder of the match. Keith Peacock (55 minutes) and Mike Kenning (63 minutes) put Charlton 2-0 up but Taylor got one back in the 72nd minute. When the referee (our friend Mr GD Roper of Swaffen Prior, Cambridgeshire) eventually blew his whistle twenty long minutes later, Charlton had survived. By the time the result came up on the TV news (under the heading "relegation match") it was well past my bedtime so I didn't know about it until the paper arrived on Saturday morning. Manager Frank Hill admitted after the game "We made hard work of beating a side reduced to nine and a half fit men". Walsall were not to return to the second division for another twenty five years while Charlton, after a disastrous start in which they conceded eighteen goals in the first five games, finished fourth the following season.
On Tuesday we go to the Banks's Stadium in less dramatic circumstances but still in dire need of a win. The early season bubble may not have burst but it is certainly punctured and supporters have noted that our opening nine games have included playing all five of the current bottom five. We have beaten only two of them (Northampton and Oldham). To make it worse, Plymouth and Gillingham have both only won one game this season. Yes, you know the answer.
Walsall will be buoyed by their first away win at Oxford on Saturday in which the diminutive Erhun Oztumer (late of Dulwich Hamlet) scored one goal and made the other for highly rated Tyler Roberts who is on loan from neighbours WBA.
Astonishingly, Walsall have made a profit for the last eleven seasons while maintaining a level of success appropriate for a club of their size. We can only assume that Roland Duchatelet will be travelling over for the game so that he can pick the brains of Saddlers chairman - long term fan Jeff Bonser - on how to run a football club without losing £35m while getting relegated.
It will be very surprising if Karl Robinson does not make some changes given how the team has already lost its sparkle. There are injury doubts over Billy Clarke and Jason Pearce and others, like Ahmed Kashi, look in need of a rest. Ricky Holmes's return should add some brio and there are strong arguments for a starting place for Konsa. Is there any chance of the fragile Ben Reeves making an appearance? Could Joe Aribo add a bit of steel?