Oxford United 0 Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan comes apart as Charlton blow a last minute winner from the penalty spot.
If Ronnie Schwartz had converted the last kick penalty, won cleverly by fellow substitute Jayden Stockley, Charlton's desperately late success would have been subjected to the usual forensic examination that follows every football game. Did Charlton deserve to win? Did Oxford deserve to lose? Was the penalty really a penalty? Would a draw have been a fairer result?
It's all bunkum, as Henry Ford remarked about history. If Schwartz had buried the spotkick, you'd be hard pressed to find an Addicks fan even remotely interested in justice or feeling so much as a pang of guilt about the outcome. That's how it goes in football. Fairness has nothing to do with it. You take whatever comes your way because it's a never-ending process of swings and roundabouts. Your turn to suffer is always on the way. And you don't expect pity when it arrives. You just hug your chains; seethe and simmer; avoid human contact until the pain subsides; wonder why it all means so much to you. But it does.
So let me apologise for any inappropriate language you imagine you heard over Charlton's Valley Pass streaming service. It was probably me. That missed penalty was tough to take. To be fair, I was feeling grumpy anyway. I've just been barred by Pontins.
Hindsight is an irritating know-all but I swear I murmured to myself that "I don't fancy his run-up" as Schwartz prepared to take the fateful penalty. I used to say much the same thing every time Lyle Taylor hip-hopped up to take one. Then it goes in and you forgive 'em anything. But poor Ronnie picked a fine time to miss.
So it was a point apiece and where Charlton are concerned, an opportunity was missed to close the gap on several of the play-offs contenders. To be honest, none of them are all that much, with the Addicks no better or worse than any of the pack - and that certainly includes Oxford. A second 1-0 win on the road, featuring consecutive clean sheets, would have added impetus to their upcoming three-game home stand, which commences with Northampton's visit to The Valley on Tuesday evening.
The irony is, of course, in realising that until Jack Stevens plunged superbly to protect United's point, even a goalless draw would have been considered a useful result. The Addicks never actually looked like winning and were outrageously lucky when Anthony Forde's superb drive on the hour mark rebounded off the woodwork with Ben Amos comprehensively beaten. A scruffy, error-ridden game was lurching along to an entirely predictable conclusion until Stockley turned sharply on to Ian Maatsen's throw and was brought down by an unidentifiable defender. Regular penalty taker Conor Washington had been replaced by none other than Schwartz and the rest, as they say...
A more solid defensive outfit in the last two games than they've been for several months, Lee Bowyer's men coped efficiently enough with Karl Robinson's depleted side. Missing several key players, United were there for the taking but, sadly, Charlton lacked the wit or ingenuity to exploit a plight which was none of their concern anyway. Liam Millar curled a worthy effort wide of the far post as they hit their hosts on the break in the immediate aftermath of Forde's misfortune. And Stockley's first touch after beginning the second half instead of Chuks Aneke was a header which sent Chris Gunter's accurate cross soaring over Stevens but also over the far corner. There wasn't a whole lot more to report as the Addicks surrendered possession as frequently and inefficiently as Robinson's troops in an encounter which was hardly an advertisement for League One standards. Neither Stevens, until he distinguished himself in added time, nor Amos were called into serious action.
The dying embers of this forgettable game were flickering faintly when Charlton emerged from a period of mild pressure and attacked optimistically down the left flank. There was just time for one last throw of the dice - and indeed of the ball. Maatsen threw both, Stockley kidded his marker into diving in before going down willingly but not, it should be said, illegally. Referee Nield, no friend of the Londoners until that point, pointed firmly to the spot and over 90 plus minutes of largely tedium, boiled down to a 12-yard duel between Stevens and Schwartz.
"Da Doo Ron Ron Ron, Da Doo Ron Ron" I hummed for no reason except to say I could see our man needed every encouragement and I wanted him to know I was there for him. He hit it well enough but Stevens outwitted him. Not to mention prompted an outburst from me, which I bitterly regret because I gave up swearing for Lent. Anyway, you win some, you lose some, in this case you draw one. This one, though, felt more a loss than a draw - at least it will until next Tuesday when we go again.
Oxford: Stevens, Hanson, Moore, Atkinson, Ruffels, Kelly (Barker 68), Gorrin, Brannagan, Forde (Taylor 82), Agyei (Sykes 82), Shodipo. Not used: Eastwood, Hall, Grayson, Chambers-Parillon.
Charlton: Amos, Matthew (Gunter 17),Famewo, Pearce, Maatsen, Forster-Caskey, Watson (Jaiysimi 77), Smith (Shinnie 77), Millar, Aneke (Stockley 46), Washington (Schwartz 77). Not used: Harness, Oshilaja. Booked: Millar, Aneke, Watson.
Referee: T. Nield.