Monday, April 26, 2010

On The Line

Exeter City 1 Charlton Athletic 1

I didn’t think it was in; my seat was level with the edge of the penalty box with a pretty good view, and when the defender cleared it, nobody near me gave any other reaction other than that of a very near miss. Then the refree blew his whistle, the players stopped, Kyel Reid (shooting, left) turned to celebrate, and the arguments started. Neither of the two guys sat beside me thought it was a goal either.

Some minutes later, some of the last of the match, Nicky Forster had a similar shot, and that was blocked and cleared off the line too. That effort looked more over the line than the first one, but it wasn’t given. I didn’t think then, and I don’t now having seen the replay on TV, that it was stopped with a hand. It’s no surprise that the lino didn’t give the second goal or a penalty for that matter as he and the referee had been under some intense pressure for most of the second half, and certainly since the equaliser.

It wasn’t that the ref was biased, just that he had deemed to give a long series of free-kicks to Charlton, and the Addicks seemed to get every 50/50 decision too. For instance, the ball went out for a throw in; both teams raised arms to claim it. The linesman gave no signal, as he didn’t know which way it should go. The ref gives it to the away team, amid much abuse from the home crowd. It was just like that during the last half hour.

This was not a lucky point for Charlton though, but it was a game that they could easily have lost, and maybe on another day they would have. Deon Burton hit the bar with a header fairly early on after the Exeter ‘keeper had spilled a corner onto his head, but by then Darren Randolph had made an excellent low save to his left pushing the ball around the post for a corner. After half time, Charlton missed chances with Forster blazing over the bar and then drawing a good stop from Jones, while Miguel Llera – on as a sub for knee-knackered Sam Sodje – hit the post with a low free-kick. After the goals, Randolph had to make another very good save, this time pushing the incoming shot against his own post before it was scrambled away.

It was exciting stuff…

But no winner came from either team and the spoils were shared. Home boss Tisdale bemoaned the referee’s decisions all the way across the pitch, and Parky looked a little embarrassed as he walked off, aware that the point was enough to secure a play off place, but that he could have had either none or three, such was the game.

So we look forward once more, now having four, or maybe five, games to go in the season, bar a miracle. I don’t believe in miracles, so cannot see Charlton winning both their remaining games, Millwall failing to win again this season, and Swindon and Leeds both blowing it too, all of which need to happen if the Addicks were to still get to second place in the league table.

The management will have to make some decisions this week about who to rest, and who to play in the next couple of games, as both Sodje’s are now injured, and will need rest in order to have a chance of playing in the play-off matches; Lloyd Sam went off limping badly too during this game, and he looks to have pulled something that may take a couple of weeks at least to heal. Captain Nicky Bailey also has his shoulder problem, and now would be a good time to let that recover, as we could do with the once goal scoring midfielder back at his best during May. In the meantime, now would also be a good time to give Jonjo Shelvey a chance to rediscover some form, for Dave Mooney to provide some movement and a little pace up front, and for incumbents Therry Racon to get his ball control back and Deon Burton some match practice.

I know that the game next week has fans a little split over the possible outcome – if we win it helps Millwall, and if we don’t, then we may get them in the play-offs – and what is the best of the two evils. I’m not sure we can get anything from that game anyway, so let be what may be.

I also hate the play-offs, and have no confidence that we will be able to progress whoever we play, even if the rules changed and we had to face the current Stockport side! I hate the play-offs; I hate the play-offs, and I hate the play-offs! But that’s where we are. And if you had offered that at the start of the season, then I guess most fans would have said yes please without a thought. Just one team wins the play-offs, though four go into them. 25% chance – not good odds. Lots of pressure; lots of disappointment. The whole season on the line. Be prepared.

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But Pedro, if wasn;t for those pesky play offs we wouldn't have much left to play for!

I view them through 1998 rose tinted glasses. The season we got relegated from the Premiership I had an inkling we'd be in the play off final the subsequent year. so much for inklings...

Pembury Addick
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