To get the cliché of a joke out of the way both quickly and early on, it is perhaps appropriate that the first match of the new season to be abandoned on account of the weather should have come on the Saturday of an August Bank Holiday weekend. Not, of course, that this will diminish the sense of disappointment felt by the supporters of Doncaster Rovers, whose trip to London to play Charlton Athletic in the Championship yesterday afternoon ended in soggy farce with the match being called off thanks to a waterlogged pitch at half-time with their team leading by three goals to one.
The three Doncaster goals came in the first half of the first half, with Paul Keegan giving them the lead after two minutes and Chris Brown adding a further two goals to send the South Yorkshire club coasting to a three-goal lead before inclement conditions kicked in and made their influence felt. Three minutes after Brown scored Rovers’ third goal, play was suspended with the pitch being practically unplayable, and the crowd was then treated to the somewhat bizarre sight of the Doncaster ground-staff and two of the team’s players out on the pitch with pitchforks, prodding the ground and trying to rid it of its excess water. It looked for a little while as if this plan might have actually borne fruit when the referee summoned the players back out onto the pitch and restarted proceedings, but this was about as the away side’s afternoon got. After a delay of thirty minutes, the remainder of the first half saw Charlton pulling a goal back through Simon Church with nine minutes of the half left to play and Keegan sent off for picking up a second yellow card just before the interval, before the referee finally abandoned hope and called the match off at half-time.
After the match, the two managers were at least able to be somewhat magnanimous about the afternoon’s proceedings. The Charlton manager Chris Powell said that, “I know Paul will be despondent and rightly so.” There was probably nobody at The Valley yesterday who heaved a bigger sigh of relief than Powell. After promotion back into the Championship two years ago, Charlton finished in a highly creditable ninth place at the end of last season, but his team has had a tepid start to this season with just one point from their opening three matches, including an opening day of the season defeat at the hands of a Bournemouth team that is widely expected to struggle this time around. In the current trigger-happy environment in which managers find themselves, the abandonment of this match might even have saved his job, for now.
For Doncaster Rovers, though, there was only frustration. The team started the season with a home defeat the hands of Blackpool and this was followed up with wins against Blackburn Rovers and Rochdale and a creditable point away to the FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic. In other words, this is a team in good form, and a two-goahttp://twohundredpercent.net/wp-admin/post-new.phpl win yesterday afternoon would have lifted them to ninth place in the table. Ultimately, though, the referee has little alternative but to consider whether the pitch is playable or not and the safety of the players and he was left with little alternative but to call a halt to the match when he did.
It has been suggested that players are mollycoddled in comparison with the players of the past, but the abandonment of matches due to sudden downpours has long been a part of the game and it is only in recent years that television cameras have started to appear at every match in order to document what was going on. One example of the television cameras and bad weather meeting head-on came in September 1983, when the BBC selected the match between Leicester City and Southampton as one of its featured matches for that evening’s Match Of The Day. On a Filbert Street pitch which made yesterday’s at The Valley look like the Gobi desert, the two teams played out twenty-three minutes of something that resembled a cross between football and water polo before the referee, Bob Nixon, ended the match with the scores goalless. After the match, the Leicester manager Gordon Milne described the abandonment of that match as “premature” and commented that, “it was the sudden intensity of the storm that caused problems – after about half an hour it would have been alright.” You can judge for yourselves with this couple of minutes of highlights, which were shown on Match Of The Day that evening. The match was finally replayed at the ed of November 1983, with Leicester City wining by two goals to one.
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So, hard lines for Doncaster and a get out of jail free card for Charlton Athletic, then, and, considering how difficult conditions became for the players, something of a relief that the weather stepped in when it did. And it is work asking the question of what sort of influence this abandonment might have at the end of the season, with this division having been as it has been over the last couple of years or so. Nice weather for ducks indeed and, if we’re honest with ourselves for a moment, nice weather for Addicks, too.
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