Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oh Nicky Bailey…

Charlton Athletic 2 Swindon Town 1 (After Extra Time)
(Swindon won 5-4 on penalties)

I hate the play-offs…

For every Clive Mendonca and Sasa Ilic there is a Nicky Bailey and Miguel Llera; they just aren’t fair in my mind – too much is at stake on one kick of a ball.

For Bailey, that one (penalty) kick went high and wide and that, ultimately, was the difference between these teams over 210 minutes (plus injury time) of play-off football. Nothing could separate them in two league games, and only one point over a whole season – they are very well balanced!

It had all started so brightly for Charlton though, as a passionate crowd roared on their favourites and The Valley echoed with chants and cheers. Swindon lost their goalkeeper after a minute; having fallen on his shoulder in taking a cross, he left the field in excruciating pain. My worry was that it set up his substitute – Smith - to be either the hero or villain, or both.

After a fairly even opening, Charlton took the lead when Gary Borrowdale swung over a high corner, and with Dave Mooney blocking the ‘keeper (possibly legally), the ball bounced in and over the line off Ferry. The Valley erupted as only it can and Charlton took control. Kyel Reid and Lloyd Sam were causing lots of problems for the Swindon rearguard with their width, and many times only poor crosses or desperate blocks prevented chances for the home side. When, in the five minutes of first half injury time (of which all but a minute was due to the goalkeeper going off) Reid was set free down the left, his pull back was beautifully stroked home by Mooney to give Charlton the lead and the cushion on the night that they wanted.

Bartram’s was buzzing at half-time, but I discouraged talk of Wembley knowing that the third goal would be the crucial one (Curbishley’s Law).

Both teams seemed to attack even more in the second half, if that was possible. Play swung from end to end, with chances arriving and being missed. In honesty, there were too many to catalogue here, but Smith made some fine saves that kept Swindon in the game, and others went close.

With about half an hour left, with the game getting a little more tetchy as the pressure mounted on both sides, Greer was sent off, maybe harshly. His raised foot did probably leave deep stud marks on Deon Burton’s hip, but to me there seemed no intent or movement to kick Burton, and it didn’t look any worse than that done by Sam Sodje in at least three games late this season. Could Charlton dictate the game from then on in? They started to, but in some ways, as time dragged on, the crowd became more edgy wanting the Addicks to compound their lead and finish the job.

As on Friday in the first leg, Swindon scored after a breakaway, this time after 72 minutes. They broke quickly, but Charlton had numbers back this time; Borrowdale was wrestling with his winger off the ball, and got the worst of it as play continued. Crazily, the ball in the middle spun past the central defenders, and left the flying winger, now unmarked and cutting round the back after Borrowdale couldn’t hold him, free to poke past Darren Randolph. It brought the tie level once more, though Charlton still had the numerical advantage.

Even that did not last long, as Austin soon spun away from Llera, and his clumsy challenge brought him down on the edge of the penalty box. Was Dailly covering? Probably (I haven’t seen it on TV), but the linesman and referee both thought Llera was the last man, and he was shown red too. Ten against ten then.

Swindon were by far the more tired side, having played for much of the second half against superior numbers, but Charlton will have thought as the 90 minutes ended that they had missed their chance. Winning the game and one man up, they hadn’t been able to hold or increase that lead sadly. Even the players likely to create something had been sacrificed by Phil Parkinson (left) as Charlton tried to hold what they had – Lloyd Sam being replaced by Scott Wagstaff and Dave Mooney coming off for Nicky Forster – though every player tried their best.

Into extra time, and Charlton pushed forward as much as they could. With less players on the pitch, possession was key, and both teams saw quite long (in comparison) periods of holding the ball, trying to work out how to breakdown the others defence. Frazer Richardson probably came closest, as his crisp shot clipped the outside of the post. Therry Racon was now on, and he at last was running the show, probing, pushing, and cajoling his team-mates into those last efforts. But it wasn’t to be, and Swindon nearly stole it at the death with a shot that went just wide.

Despite the passionate and noisy crowd, and despite the considerable efforts of all the players, it came down to penalties. A spot kick from 12 yards with just the ‘keeper to beat. Was Smith the substitute to be a hero, or could Randolph (left) emulate Ilic’s antics and save? Well neither actually, as nine of the ten kicks went in without any coming close to being saved or missed. The second Charlton kick was the one that split the teams and gave Swindon that Wembley feeling.

Nicky Bailey, the love of our lives, took his captain’s responsibility, stepped up to take his penalty kick turn but side-footed high and wide of the right hand post. With the tie over and Swindon celebrating a few minutes later, he was distraught (top pic). It would be totally unfair to criticise Bailey for missing the spot kick: Nobody does that on purpose; nobody means to do that. We may all wish we had ginger hair too, but not last night, not with the hopes and Wembley dreams of 20,000 fans riding on our backs. Bailey had the guts to take a kick – could we have done so? So, he missed, someone was going to be a hero and someone a villain – it was Nicky Bailey’s turn to be a villain.

For ever Clive Mendonca, there is a Nicky Bailey…

I hate the play-offs.

Labels: , ,

Greer's challenge was throat high
Not malicious but stupidly dangerous, referee had not option
Dailly was certainly covering plus Llera and Austin clashed wide of the penalty area. Llera foolishly gave Swarbrick the chance to even things up but the red card was just plain wrong.
In both legs Charlton had players wrestled to the ground at corners which the officials ignored.
Whether any of these decisions effected the outcome is only speculation and they are only of the same miserable standard we have witnessed all season.
What did affect the outcome was Nicky Bailey twice losing his bottle, once to give the ball away for Swindon's goal when it was easier for him to set Charlton away on the break and 2nd when he gently scooped his penalty way way over the bar. A terrible shame for one of our better players of the last 2 years.
As one of very few marketable players still under contract and a Championship sized contract at that it is inconceivable he will not be sold by the end of August, the club not being in a position to decline any cash offers.
At least Bailey's heart was never in question and his reaction Monday night confirmed him as a proper Charlton player, sadly fallible but undeniably genuine.
Good luck to him wherever he earns his corn next season.
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