It was twenty years ago today

Are we about to spend the next few months watching our team never quite performing badly enough to drop out of play-off contention but never well enough to make the top six a safe bet?

Will the late goals and dropped points continue to drive us mad with frustration? Will we be watching Rotherham disappear from view? Seeing Bradford recover form under their new manager?  Looking over our shoulders at the marvel which is Plymouth? Wondering how Shrewsbury can continue to be so good ? It doesn't bear thinking about.

What better way to regain some sanity than to consider events of twenty years ago?

Tuesday February 17th 1998 saw fifth place Charlton preparing to host QPR at The Valley. Despite the fifteen point difference between the two teams, expectations were low as our team had gone five games without a win since the 2-1 win at Oxford in mid January. A home draw with Wolves in the FA Cup had been followed by a 0-3 reverse up at Molineux.  This was the match in which Matty Holmes's career was ended in the fifth minute by a Kevin Muscatt "tackle".

There had been a 2-2 draw at Maine Road on January 28th. Mike Salmon had twisted knee ligaments colliding with a post in the first half and Steve Brown took over in goal at half time. Twenty first placed City were reduced to ten men when full back Shelia was sent off in the 70th minute but they still managed to take the lead with a Kit Symonds goal in the 88th. Steve Jones scored his second goal of the night in the 90th minute to secure the point.

The following Saturday there were 15,288 at The Valley to see Charlton held 0-0 by second to bottom club Bury. Andy Petterson had taken over the gloves for Charlton but it was the opposition goalkeeper - one Dean Kiely - who had caught the eye. 14,616 of those present were home fans -  a figure which represented the highest number of Charlton supporters at The Valley since the return to The Valley.

A week later the team lost 0-1 up at Bradford. Keith Jones was injured in the warm up and it was beginning to look as if the wheels were starting to fall off. Counting the Cup game it was now four and a half hours since they had scored a goal.

Alan Curbishley's programme notes were headlined "There is certainly no panic!". He argued that "we enter the game on the back of a couple of disappointing results and perhaps some disappointing criticism from certain quarters but I think we can use that in our favour"

It was not to be. In the 22nd minute Paul Murray was put through by a ball over the top and, in the words of Voice of the Valley, "Bowen's hopeless left foot challenge brought him down for a clear penalty." It was Gavin Peacock who subsequently took the spot kick - "his first ever goal on the ground where as a small child he had watched his father play"

Charlton equalised three minutes before half time when John Robinson scored from 12 yards out after good work by Newton and Jones, but that was as good as it got. In the second half "The Addicks played all the football and were virtually camped out in the QPR half, but the visitors still carved out two inviting openings and could have won the game by taking either". Fortunately, their centre forward Iain Dowie headed "painfully wide" from a corner.

Next week - Off to Edgeley Park to play sixth place Stockport County.