Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wobbling in Wiltshire

Swindon Town 2 Charlton Athletic 1

It wasn’t an easy experience watching this game on TV, though I suspect that it may have been a little easier on the eye from behind the goal at the Country Ground last night, simply because you wouldn’t have had to see so many action replays of Swindon efforts on goal...

One must acknowledge that Swindon were the better team, deserved to win, and unless Charlton are to finish the season with a whimper, they really do need to find something or someone inspirational for Monday night’s game.

With (a not-really-fit) Sam Sodje restored to the defence, the first half was all cagey and tactical; Swindon did carve out some headed chances for Charlie Austin as he strode past a static Charlton rearguard but thankfully Darren Randolph continued his good form and kept these efforts out. The Addicks really had little to show other than couple of weak left footed Nicky Bailey shots that went well wide. Charlton had plenty of possession, but just could not get anywhere close to goal, and when they did get a cross into the box, it was either mis-directed or adequately dealt with by the Swindon ‘keeper or defence. The home team were being allowed to play at their tempo, and with Dave Mooney, Lloyd Sam and Deon Burton all unable to hold onto the ball for any period of time, the impetus was with the Robins of Swindon.

Still, this is a long tie, and at half time, only a quarter done. Charlton actually looked brighter early in the second period, and when Bailey cut in from his left wing slot and unleashed a right foot shot of some power, you hoped it would curl past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net. Sadly, it was an inch or two out, and the ball thudded against the post and was put behind for a corner (one of many for Charlton) by a defender. A couple of minutes later, and Austin rose above Gary Borrowdale to meet a cross and the ball was in the back of the net – 1-0 Swindon. Charlton tried to get back into the game quickly, but Borrowdale (still looking for his first ever goal in senior football…) put a free kick from a good position high over the bar. Maybe now was the time to let Bailey, Sam, or even Therry Racon try a dead ball delivery, as Borrowdale seems to hyper-ventilate when given the chance.

After another Charlton corner, Swindon broke quickly, but Racon made a wrong decision and allowed Austin to run free rather than bring him down early and take a booking. The Swindon forward fed Ward and he scored with a crisp left foot shot past the helpless Randolph – 2-0 Swindon. Thankfully, Charlton did not capitulate completely, and after a Swindon foray was hoofed clear by Randoph, Burton put his head in where it hurts and just got to the ball ahead of the Swindon ‘keeper to head home the loose bouncing ball. It was a lucky goal in some respects, but dragged Charlton right back into the tie.

For a few minutes, Swindon were there for the taking, but efforts just would not sit right and crosses slipped past attackers by the merest margins. Having missed the chance to equalise, Parky made substitutions (Nicky Forster for Mooney, Scott Wagstaff for Sam, and Akpo Sodje late on for Burton) and tied the game down hoping to bring it back to The Valley well balanced.

That was the plan, but Swindon rose in confidence again, and should have extended their lead, most notably when sub Pericard headed against the post when it should have been easier to score in the dying seconds of added on time (Sodje again at fault).

2-1 then, and still all to play for on Monday. The worry is that Swindon, even without their top scorer Paynter, looked very capable of scoring while Charlton had lots of possession but little cutting edge. On a positive note, Charlton did show that they can put pressure on the Wiltshire team, and that they wobbled at times. If The Valley can be turned into a cauldron of noise, and if Charlton can get level early on, then this could yet turn out to be a good result, though I do suspect that Charlton will need at least two goals to take the tie into extra time and three to win outright, something they haven’t achieved since before Xmas.

Roll on Monday!

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