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Saturday, 1 May 2010

Charlton Athletic v Leeds Utd 1st May 2010

After what seemed like an eternity it was finally here.............matchday. The day we could possibly win promotion or fall out of the automatic spot or stay exactly where we were. The butterflies were already dancing about in the pit of my stomach as we boarded the train at Selby. The Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were on board aswell as we tried to figure first what team Larry would put out and then the likely score. 2.1 Leeds was the consensus with a safety net of "as long as we're still in 2nd spot come 5pm I'd be happy" Mmmmm not so sure?

The LAFTA awards kept us happy on the trip south ( I will post the winners Sunday) and we were soon in the pub next to Charlton station trying to enjoy a pre match pint. I say trying because a combination of Pre Match nerves and a temperature of about 40' inside the pub forced us back outside after I'd met a couple of Twittering Whites.

Now Charlton is only a Jellied Eel throw from Millwall but what a difference a couple of manor's makes. Both sets of fans mingled easily in the sunshine as we walked excitedly to the match in contrast to the military style police operation to keep both sets of fans apart when we visit Bermondsey. Strange?

News that Lowry was starting, Doyle returned to centre midfield and Beckford remained on the bench puzzled more than this Leeds fan. I thought Bradders had done enough in the centre of midfield to keep that position and Watt must have felt unlucky not to start.
The atmosphere at kick off was crackling with tension as the 3500 Leeds fans belted out the old favourites at full throttle. This was not a match for the faint hearted.

Within a minute the wobbly Charlton defence coughed up the ball to allow Mad Max a free run on goal...........................what a start........ just finish you Maxadino beauty......................but Randolph in the home goal spread his big frame to deny Gradel his moment of glory and the ball rolled meekly wide. Little did we know it but that would turn out to be the key moment of the match. An early goal would have settled so many of those Leeds nerves both on the pitch and in the stands. The first ten minutes saw both teams sparring with each other as both tried to establish their authority. Leeds were finding joy down the flanks and Mad Max was testing ex Leeds favourite Richardson's defensive qualities on the floor and when the ball was pinged skywards towards our ex captain Bradders was winning the headers. It was from such a header back across goal that Becchio so nearly opened the scoring as Leeds started to enjoy the better of the first half exchanges. Snoddy had a shot fizz over the bar. Things were looking good and the Leeds fans were in good voice. Could this be the day? It just might.

As if to shatter the creeping confidence of the Leeds hordes Burton took advantage of a Naylor slip and struck a goalbound shot that Higgs managed to turn round for a corner. 3500 whites fans hearts missed a beat in the stadium.

It was now nip and tuck with Leeds just edging the contest that was high on tension and low on skill. As half time approached more chances started to flow..............Mad Max tried an audacious overhead kick that went wide even Collins had a centre halves shot that ended in the crowd. I was feeling physically sick with the nerve jangling play when the news we thought was impossible came through...............Millwall were losing..............Cue celebrations in the Leeds end on a par with winning the cup. We only need one goal to get promoted! Leeds ended the half on a high and left the field with the roars of hope ringing in their ears.

So we were drawing 0.0 and Wall were losing. All we had to do was come out and play to our ability and snatch the win that would take us up. It was that tantalisingly close. It was like serving for the match at Tennis. As the Happy Chocker commented "what could possibly go wrong now"

What was needed was cool heads and some confidence to get the ball down and play. We needed players with ice in their veins and a focus that would blank out all the permutations and possibilities from their minds. To be fair in the first ten minutes that's what we got. Maxie got away from his marker and nearly got to a through ball before the goalie and then Snoddy drilled a shot too near Randolph when he should have done better. This was feeling good Now all we needed to do was score.

But the chances started to fall at the opposite end. Higgs did well to turn away a deflected shot and suddenly the home fans began to crank up the volume. Millwall losing was also a benefit to them as they chased an unlikely automatic promotion spot. The Leeds defence that had stood firm started to creak. A scramble in our goalmouth saw the ball go agonisingly close as it shaved the bar. By now my heart was well and truly in my mouth. Never has the phrase "Leeds don't do easy" been more appropriate as the ice in the veins started to seep out to the extremities as too many players began to freeze and take the easy option and ping the ball hopefully forward rather than get it down and play.

Lord Larry brought on Beckford for Snoddy with 25 mins left. 25 minutes to get a goal that would promote us. It was like smelling the aroma of fresh baked bread and not having any money to buy some. We even got another boost from Prenton Park when the unbelievable news that a certain Mr Robinson had smacked in a 2nd goal for Tranmere against Wall. The Leeds end erupted with joy and urged Leeds on even more.

But Leeds were their own worst enemy as they continually wasted possession. This was now officially a car crash waiting to happen as the better chances were occurring at the opposite end as the Reds pushed on for the winner. Watt replaced Doyle and then Grella appeared for the last 5 minutes as Grayson put all he'd got on snatching a goal.................and Beckford so nearly did as his deft flick was deflected into the side netting. So near yet so far away.

Then it happened.................what we'd feared. Charlton scored what appeared to be another own goal by Naylor and the ground erupted with the exception of the stunned away support. Just three minutes to go now. Not enough time to get 2 goals to take us up although Jermaine did power a header goalwards only for the redoubtable Randolph to again pull off a fine save. The final whistle went. We were still in 2nd and we'd even gained a goal better difference than Millwall! That's what we wanted at the start of the day. So why did we feel we'd just thrown a golden opportunity away? Because we had. We are the world's best at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. That's just the way it is. If we had performed anywhere near our capabilities in the 2nd half we would have won. But we didn't...........we froze.........promotion was there for the taking and we bottled it again.

It was a disconsolate train of Selby whites on the way home. Beefy was never going to watch Leeds again. The Happy Chocker didn't want to talk about Football and Turkey Twizzler and I ended up arguing about Gordon Brown's gaffe with Gillian Duffy. Whilst all this doom and gloom was going on the Quiet One appeared to have pulled a young girl wearing a Lincoln City shirt whilst swapping Paninni stickers............who says romance is dead?

So now we have the last of the last chance saloons against Bristol Rovers at Elland Road in front of 40,000 passionate fans willing them on to promotion. A win is enough that's all. Now how difficult is that? Seat belts fastened, 96th minute winner next week will do!

Can't wait.................honest!


Tom Foster said...

Are we going to do it, who knows. Let's hope it is not Wembley two years ago again!

Andrew Butterwick said...

Have faith my friend..............and also keep your fingers crossed!

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