WANDERING OVER FOR ANOTHER SEASON

It has been a long road from a first day against Leyton to a last weekend at Wycombe but as the season winds to an end, we're hoping for a smoother journey next time round.

Back in September in the reverse fixture against Wycombe, Charlton won 3-1 to record Michael Appleton's first win at the helm. That evening as many of us wandered up the road, maybe we felt a faint sense of hope on the horizon.

Even Charlton's Village Greengrocer and his family of Addicks, as seen in the main picture, had high hopes for the era of 'Apples' bringing us a play-off feast. But the age of the journeyman northerner never really bore fruit and he was gone before the first seeds of spring sprouted. Having started out with another greater Mancunian, Dean Holden, at the helm we were on our third No 1 barely past Xmas.

Fortunately we soon had a new supremo in town; the man who infamously shares his name with a Bananarama cover song. Nathan Jones brought fresh lyrics to the sidelines and high hopes of setting The Valley rocking again. A series of respectable draws against the sides at the top of League One's charts followed.

Though it was never going to be a platinum winning season, a slow climb up the table began, breaking records of other kinds; some welcome, some not. Our sequence of games unbeaten has become a personal best, though of late we've been as likely to have a draw at the end of a Saturday evening as the organisers of the National Lottery. We're only three short of setting a record for most draws in a season but alas, or maybe thankfully, we're running out of games, with just this one to go.

Then there's the matter of finishing sixteenth in League One. On the surface, this lowest league position for ninety eight years doesn't make pleasant reading and could get worse if the team of the same name, directly below us, catch up on goals scored.

Yet - as pointed out by the manager in his end of season serenade after the Shrewsbury game at the weekend- that's better than where we feared we might end up just a few months ago. Nathan Jones came in to get a job done and end the rot we'd suffered in the fall and through a miserable winter. He has done that, even if the product has been unspectacular at times.

These past few months have been all about attaining the survival and stability needed for the sake of a fresh start. Through the first two thirds of the season, Dean Holden's greatest signing Alfie May carried the team on his shoulders with so many vital goals. By the final third, everything was so much more of a team effort in the scoring stakes. The defence was miles tighter too and the team as a whole has been more cohesive, perfectly imperfect at times, all without Miles - hopefully back soon as next season's talisman.

According to Rich Cawley of South London Press, Nathan Jones has promised that this won't be "a wasted summer" with a significant number of players brought in to build for the future. At the same time, this has been tempered with the promise of developing young talent within the club's ranks instead of an over-reliance on loan signings.

In one sense that will be music to supporters' ears, especially the additional promise of trying to get business done before the end of June. Of course, over-reliance on youth alone would be no real substitute for the experience we are potentially losing through having eight players out of contract by the end of June (including recent additions Kazenga LuaLua and Connor Wickham, plus Captain George Dobson who signed off (probably) with a great farewell goal v Shrewsbury Town).

We get a sense though that Nathan Jones really means business. From the way he talks, he's here to do business and sees himself as being in this for the long haul. This half-season he's had with us has been like a cover version of somebody else's song. Now, as we head into the summer, it's time for the Addicks to sing to his tune.

So strangely as we head into the close season we're heading to Wycombe in a similar mood to the way we left The Valley in September when we beat this Saturday's hosts 3-1. Hopefully next season will bear more fruit than the one we're leaving behind and we manage to rise head and shoulders above the rest of the division up at the top of the charts.

Despite being beaten by Peterborough in the EFL Trophy final at Wembley a few weeks ago Wycombe have enjoyed a good run in the league. Their last four games have all been away from home but they have won three and drawn one and look to have guaranteed a top half finish. They have their own unbeaten run (6 games) to defend and, with Garath McCleary continuing to show what Charlton have been missing, they will be hard to beat. 1600 travelling fans will be hoping at least  to see our unbeaten run maintained so that we can seek to extend it when we kick off again on August 10th.

Roll on previews of games against Rotherham, Wrexham, Stockport and all the rest.