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The Valley
Charlton Athletic v Chesterfield
League One
Saturday, September 24th, 2011, 3pm
By Chris Connolly

(Chesterfield fan)

Offering tickets at £5 a time is a clever way of attracting a bumper-sized crowd and so Charlton well deserved the 22,000 plus (including well over a thousand Spireites) who attended this game. Driving to the ground was much easier than anticipated and one of our party had received some inside knowledge about parking which we took advantage of and left the car in a nearby megastore car park for free.
The Antigallican is as good an away fansí pub as could be found anywhere and we also discovered a decent chippie up the road. Although they gave me mushy peas rather than the beans I had asked for the chips were damn good and neatly filled the hole which had developed since we left Chesterfield early in the morning. There were plenty of Police around but they were good-humoured and low-profile and there was no hint of any antagonism at all.
The stadium, like many these days since floodlight pylons became unfashionable, is invisible until you are right next to it, but when you find it, you are immediately reminded of the colour of Charltonís shirts since everything is painted red, red, red. Itís a very nice ground too, although the Jimmy Seed Stand, for away fans, looks and feels a bit anachronistic. Of course, the important thing to remember is that this whole place would have been built over years ago were it not for the heroics of those Charlton fans who worked their red socks off to get the football club back into the area. For that they deserve a good stadium, and they have one which, at League One level, is excellent indeed.
I was looking forward to hearing Into The Valley before kick-off so it was a disappointment to get The Red Red Robin instead. The most notable thing about the public address system though was not its content but the decibel level, which is the loudest I have ever come across. Iím surprised the neighbours arenít complaining about the noise. When we arrived there was a diva on the pitch singing Land of Hope and Glory with so much oomph that we were all deaf by the time the teams came out onto the field. We had a good view of the action when the game started; too good, in fact, since Charlton tore the Spireites apart for the first half hour and took a 2-0 lead which looked likely to develop into something embarrassing. There was a 1970s retro moment when an infiltrator was frog-marched out of the away end but I suspect he was not a Charlton fan at all but just a local hooligan attracted by the admission price and the chance for some inexpensive aggro.
At half time the volume was turned up even further before the action recommenced. Chesterfield were much more up for the game now and pressed forward encouragingly. Manager John Sheridan became so enthusiastic, in fact, that he got himself sent off for abusing a linesman over a penalty which wasnít awarded. 15 minutes from time the Spireites pulled a goal back and it was end- to-end stuff from then on but in stoppage time, with our lads committed to attack, the homesters broke away and notched a killer third goal.
Getting away from the ground was no problem at all and in spite of the result the whole day was an enjoyable one. The stewards are friendly but capable of dishing out justice when they need to do so and the home fans seem happy to enjoy the game without indulging in any naughtiness at all. Iíd be happy to come back again, certainly, although I expect to have to pay a lot more for the privilege next time.

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