Just over a week ago we had around 15 minutes when the dream of promotion was alive. Tonight we had longer and this time it hurts badly. We all know the financial consequences of not going up and just how many of those who trudged off at the end will take to the pitch for us next season remains to be seen. Plan B is going to have to come out of the drawer and I guess it isn’t going to be nice. Whatever. It’s done. And I’m still glad that we aren’t owned by those disgraceful Thunderbirds puppet rejects who are showing what they are made of. I hope Zola doesn’t settle and takes them to the cleaners in the courts.
I hope no-one’s looking for a proper match report. There just aren’t any words. The first half we played superbly, all through the team, and rounded it all off with what would have been a contender for goal of the season (although I’m glad that went to the second against Brentford, which alone justifies splashing out on another DVD that will ultimately be painful to watch). Swindon weren’t playing the same sort of game they had on Friday night (having been off to Amsterdam I’d missed out on the tickets but found a prime spot in front of a big screen) and we’d truly taken the game to them.
It was always going to be a little different in the second half, with them having time to regroup. But with the goals in the bag – and then what if I was reasonable I’d say was a tough sending off (he only got Burton in the chest; the Palace player against Sheff Wed got the goalkeeper in the throat and only saw yellow), which isn’t to say I didn’t howl for it – it was all falling into place. I thought then that even if they got one back at the death, 11 against 10 through extra time should be good enough; and I also thought we’d be able to see out the game and perhaps get another to really finish things off in style.
It just all fell apart. There’s no point laying blame. Yes, Bailey should have played the ball out left instead of cutting in and losing it, but how did we get caught short at the back with the game at that stage? Their goal was bad enough, but with Llera taking one for the team with another breakaway (no real complaints over that one) suddenly it was all square in numbers and into extra time. The game could have gone either way during the additional 30 minutes. They put one wide of the post and, although without Mooney and Reid we were less effective going forward (there was always going to be a need for fresh legs), we had the chance with just a few minutes left. Burton, who’d been excellent all night, put it agonisingly wide of the post.
Penalties? Cruel when you’re on the losing end. Only one miss in 10 but that was enough for them. There’ll be time enough tomorrow and in the days ahead for fair reflection, assessment of players’ seasons, thoughts about just how many will be let go/sold, and what will be realistic expectations for the next campaign. Tonight is just about being miserable as sin and even the cognac tastes sour. We were unlucky, the players gave everything they had, but we had it in our hands and couldn’t hold it. To call tonight a failure is harsh; it wasn't, but the season is. We know the reality is that its a fourth season in a row that’s turned out as bad as we could have feared. And the consequences are going to be tough.
So sod it. I’ll be there next season and bring it on. Well, I’ve already bought the season ticket so what the bloody hell else am I going to do? Charlton ‘til I die and tonight we paid back a little more for those years in clover. Let's have some time to mope and weep. But it don’t change nothing, not a thing.