Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bobbin’ Robins

Charlton Athletic 2 Swindon Town 2

Maybe it was the red, red, robin that I saw bobbin’ about my in-laws back garden this morning, but omens can work either way, especially when you are playing another team nicknamed the Robins!

In another crazy game, Charlton snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat, in much the same way that they had thrown away a victory in injury time last week. It is all the more remarkable that they did so playing with one-less man than the Lions did!

Manager Phil Parkinson made four changes to the team that drew with Millwall in that game last weekend; two were expected - Lloyd Sam sitting out his one-game suspension, and Dave Mooney injured - but two were not. Miguel Llera came in for the ill Christian Dailly and Matt Spring for Scott Wagstaff, as Charlton lined up winger-less, with Jonjo Shelvey and Akpo Sodje coming into the team.

Things didn’t start well for the Addicks, as Sam Sodje received a cut head after the second of two early corners, but slowly they found their rhythm and Deon Burton and Nicky Bailey both went close in the first quarter of an hour.

Then things got worse, as Sam Sodje, who missed about ten minutes of the match while his head was stitched and wrapped in bandages, was sent off with a straight red card after only 19 minutes following a late two-footed tackle. This left the Addicks not only one-man short, but with a completely reserve defence. It was Sam Sodje’s second red card of the season after he also received his marching orders at Yeovil.

Paynter then saw a header well turned over by Rob Elliot, before both teams came to terms with the uneven numbers in opposition. Charlton continued to dominate possession, but the pernickety referee upset fans and players alike with some strange decisions.

After 37 minutes, Shelvey picked up a loose ball and thumped home a great strike from distance to give ten-man Charlton the lead. Crazily, five minutes later, after Swindon goalkeeper Lucas was not penalised after handling the ball outside the area, Burton received a second yellow card for dissent, having received his first just a couple of minutes earlier. With Charlton down to nine players, the need was to hang on to the lead until half-time and re-organise. There was some desperate defending, and five minutes of first half stoppage time, but the Addicks hung on after some solid keeping from Elliot.

It was crazy for Charlton to have a two-man disadvantage at half-time, as Swindon had committed twice as many fouls as the home side, but that was the situation.

It was backs against the wall at the start of the second half, with relentless balls into the penalty area from Swindon, and just a couple of breakouts by Shelvey and Bailey offering any form of relief. A header was cleared from the line after a corner, and shots started to rain in from everywhere. Shelvey broke and drew a save from the Swindon ‘keeper, but then the equaliser came from Austin just eleven minutes into the half from Amankwaah’s cross.

The onslaught continued, though in a brief moment of respite Akpo Sodje won a corner from which Llera and then Shelvey went close. Basey was then booked for more dissent when he failed to be given a corner to add further pressure, before Leon McKenzie came on for Akpo Sodje – who had run himself into the ground - with 25 minutes left.

Elliot saved from Sheehan, but then Paynter turned home Austin’s cross to give the visitors the lead with fifteen minutes left. Bailey lost a ball in midfield but Elliot saved well, and then Scott Wagstaff came on for Elliot Omozusi with ten minutes to go in an attacking move. Then the back from loan Chris Dickson came on as the final substitute in a last throw of the dice (for Shelvey), with the Addicks lining up in a 3-3-2 formation.

Wagstaff created a late chance with a good cross that McKenzie couldn’t quite get onto, before the first Swindon player was booked for more dissent in the last minute. With Charlton struggling to get possession from the team with much greater numbers, time was running out for the Addicks, but at the death, Llera squeezed the ball home for an amazing leveller to send the home crowd delirious. It was dramatic stuff that had the commentators salivating…

This was the first home game I have missed this season, and at exactly the halfway point of 2009/10, the team sit proudly in second place. Playing well over half the match with nine men put a huge amount of pressure on the side but it is to their credit that the team did not lose that unbeaten home record that stretches back to March (even though it was very close!). The necessity is now to turn this team spirit into wins, beginning on Monday at Brentford, though with injuries and suspensions really hurting it will be tough to come up with a full bench unless some of the three players out on work-experience are recalled.

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Haven't seen this confirmed anywhere, but from where I was sitting (admittedly down the far end of the stadium), Burton's second yellow was for deliberate handball - the first was for dissent. Both stupid cards to pick up, even more so when you're down to 10 men.
I was at the south end of the east stand so had a good view of Burton's sending off. It was for deliberate handball; an attempt at a "hand of god" goal. He has been obstructed previously in the move, but, given the circumstances wasn't his brightest choice.

Sodje's sending off was right in front of me. The tackle was very rash. I don't the ref could have done anything but show a red card
Thanks. In not being there, I was reliant on Emma for much of the online commentary and the Swindon reporter for the rest of the information. A great point won, but the need is to get back to winning ways soon!

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