Pleasant Valley Monday (well, apart from the result, anyway)

by Steve

We went along to the League One play-off semi-final between Charlton Athletic and Swindon Town on Monday. We’ve been popping down to see Charlton more and more, as our most local side, and generally it’s been worth it, particularly this season. It’s a pretty good, family orientated atmosphere, the football is of an OK standard and we can be home, or more likely in our local pub, in no time at all after the game.

Monday’s game was pretty special. Both teams were fighting for a spot at Wembley and one game to win promotion to the Championship. So, an incredibly high stakes game, and so a weird one for a pseudo-neutral like me. Of course I wanted my local team to win, but I wasn’t going to throw myself under a bus if they lost.

Which was a good thing, really, as Charlton lost in the worst possible way, on penalties, after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate, 2-1 to Charlton on the night.

In one of those peculiar ironies that football conjures up, it was Charlton’s captain and best-player-by-far-this-season, Nicky Bailey, who missed the decisive spot kick, and had earlier given the ball away in the lead-up to Swindon’s goal, that ultimately led to the shoot-out. Here was someone who has led from the front all season, in terms of attitude and technique, who had kept Charlton in games they should have lost. Yet, in his final kick of the season he condemned them to another season in League One. Cruel game, eh?

But what a game, and what an atmosphere. It made me wish that players always put so much effort into a game, not just the important ones. I’m sure that is what makes a good team great – the ability to push your opponents, chase every ball and strive, strive, strive, no matter what is at stake. Both sides and supporters gave their all, and it made for quite a spectacle.

If only every game could be like this…without the penalty defeat for Charlton, of course. But despite the result, it provided reason #5871 why I love football.