Penalties, sweet penalties

Yes! Rich’s post from a couple of days ago has given me all the excuse I need to write about The Mighty Swindon Town’s indescribably fantastic triumph over Charlton in the League One play-off semi-final, second leg, at The Valley on Monday.

Clearly intimidated by the thunderous atmosphere and the second minute injury of their first choice goalkeeper, Swindon’s players were nervy throughout much of the first half, and were two goals down by the break. Sitting high in the South Stand, my fist bruised from banging the corrugated metal wall, I took solace in the fact that we were still in the same position of needing a goal to cancel out Charlton’s away point. Then, our beloved captain and leader Gordon Greer nearly whacked another chap in the face with his studs! This is what you get when you let Scots play in your team. Greer: red-cared; game over, surely, and I texted as much to all and sundry.

But hang on a sec… what’s this? A cheeky little prod past the Charlton keeper? Charlie Austin (ex-bricklayer from Poole as little as nine months ago, now Swindon’s second highest goal scorer) beating his man down the flank only to be pulled down, causing a Charlton player to be sent off? Extra time?!

Then: penalties. When, as an England and Swindon supporter have I ever been blessed with a positive penalty experience (quarter finals of Euro ’96 do not count, given they were cancelled out by the semis)? Did it help that so many of our penalty-takers were relative youngsters, and still full of the joyful exuberance of simply playing football; untroubled by the pressure and fear of failure that comes with the passing years? To use a Webbian phrase: who gives a fuck! We won! All five penalties firmly in the netting; one Charlton effort skied. Me, hugging men I’ve never met before. Best football experience ever.

And if ever there was an example of someone not intellectualising penalties, then it must be our star midfielder, the master of the pinpoint diagonal crossfield ball, Jon Paul McGovern. His refreshingly honest commentary is available for your viewing pleasure here. Next in this occasional series of posts about Swindon Town: the team takes a coach trip to a little-known corner of north west London!

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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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