Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All to Play-Off For!

Charlton have been in the play-offs, whatever the guise, on three occasions; twice they were successful, and once they were not. It is a sobering thought, as we approach our next post-season play-off venture, that the only club we have beaten over 90 minutes in any play-off game is Ipswich.

Back in 1986/87, the play-offs were a new phenomenon, having only been introduced that year as one of the ways that the top division could reduce it’s numbers from 22 down to 20 (as required by Europe’s governing body UEFA). The club finishing fourth from bottom in Division One, the top tier of that time, had to play the fifth placed team in Division Two, while the teams finishing third and fourth played each other. The winners of both two legged ties would then meet in a two-legged final. That way, either four clubs went down and three up to Division One, or three went down and just two came up.

Charlton met Ipswich at Portman Road in the first leg, and it was a pretty dour match with no goals scored. Charlton had the best chance, when Colin Walsh’s penalty was saved early in the first half. The atmosphere was tense, and the crowd (a many 80’s crowd’s were) fairly volatile. The return leg a few days later saw Jim Melrose score twice to give Charlton a comfortable lead. However, a late consolation goal did see Charlton playing out the match in a very negative manner, holding on to their winning aggregate, with Bob Bolder (left) marshalling his defence superbly.

The play-off final was against Leeds, who had beaten Oldham for the right to play Charlton. On the police’s insistence, Charlton had to forego the right to have the advantage of being at home in the second leg, and another Melrose goal late in the first game was enough to give Charlton a lead going up to Yorkshire. On a very intimidating night, the Addicks players were magnificent in holding out, especially after Robert Taylor had scored after half an hour to give Leeds hope of winning the tie. With the scores level on aggregate, a replay on a neutral ground was arranged, and late in May both sets of fans descended on St Andrew’s in Birmingham for the deciding tie. Once more, it was a pretty intimidating place to play, and get to, as Leeds fans outnumbered Charlton’s by eight to one. Hunched together in one corner of the ground, the Charlton fans looked on as Leeds once more outplayed there higher division opponents for much of the game, but no goals came for either side, and in truth, neither team looked likely to score. Into extra time, and a John Sheridan free kick snuck under the bar to give the Yorkshiremen the lead, and I even said to my father that I doubted Charlton would come back from that. I hadn’t reckoned on another Yorkshireman though, and two late, amazing, Peter Shirtliff (top pic) goals brought the Addicks back from the brink and broke many northern hearts. After a few minutes celebration, it was a mad dash back to the train station, not only to catch the penultimate train back to London, but to avoid the hordes of Leeds fans who had been kept in the ground while we made our escape down the road.

In 1995/96, Charlton struggled toward the end of the season, having been well placed up until Xmas. Having crept into the play-offs in sixth place in League One (Tier two), it was no surprise to be beaten in both legs of the semi-finals by a team from Croydon. The atmosphere at the home leg, which was played first, was hot, though not as hot as in those games against Leeds, but Charlton went down 2-1 despite a Shaun Newton (below pic) goal after just 55 seconds. In the return leg, Charlton never recovered after going a further goal behind early on, despite showing considerable fight and being unlucky to lose on the night.

Two years later, and Alan Curbishley saw Charlton challenge for an automatic promotion place right up until the last weekend of the season, only to fall short in fourth place as we have done this year. Ipswich were fifth, and the away tie was settled by a Jamie Clapham own goal in the fifteenth minute. Danny Mills was stupidly sent off in the first half, but Charlton hung on and were well worth the overall lead in the tie. A few days later back at The Valley, and a beautiful early summer’s evening was lightened up by Shaun Newton’s crisp left footer that soared into the net after half an hour. Charlton hadn’t conceded a goal in weeks leading up to that game, and the confidence was such that nobody thought Ipswich could score once, let alone twice to bring them hope in the match; and that proved to be the case.

A 2-0 aggregate victory saw Charlton through to a Wembley play-off final against Sunderland. Most Addicks fans know what happened that day, but suffice to say that our clean sheet record was smashed, Clive Mendonca (left) became a Charlton legend, as did Sasa Ilic, and most of the rest of the players too.

With Charlton now meeting Swindon over two legs for a chance to play again at the rebuilt Wembley, the stakes are high, and the tension will be enormous. Omens are being sought, and similarities discussed, but I do think that form and history count for nothing in this post-season phase. Four teams go into battle, and only one will come out victorious. I think it’s horrible!

"Four teams go into battle, and only one will come out victorious. I think it’s horrible!"

Still better than the alternative of Millwall being automatically promoted.
Maybe so...

Oh, and the deliberate mistake is that we have beaten Leeds over 90 minutes, not just Ipswich! Ooops!

Great post Pedro. As we know full well and as Cardiff proved last night, it isn't just about 180 minutes.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Enter your email address below to subscribe to Charlton Athletic Online!

powered by Bloglet
Sports Business Directory - BTS Local
Custom Search