The race to be the first side relegated from the Championship this season hotted up this evening as Charlton conceded another 1-0 half-time lead to a 2-1 reverse before levelling matters with only five minutes to go. The point wasn't enough to shorten our lead at the bottom as Norwich moved 11 points clear by beating Cardiff at home. Southampton could only draw 1-1 at home to Derby to maintain their 10 point differential and Barnsley, who drew 1-1 with Birmingham, are still 12 points away. With 9 games left now we can expect relegation to be confirmed in four or five games time.
Having suggested it was the time for a number of player changes in readiness for League One football, Parky made just two and neither of those will benefit us next year; Zheng Zhi started in a five man midfield as Deon Burton was sacrificed for the lone Kandol and Tom Soares was brought back for Lloyd Sam. On the basis Zheng Zhi and Tom Soares will be just behind Darren Ambrose out of the Valley come 3rd May, this makes no sense to me but then I am not trying desperately to save my job, unlike Phil Parkinson. Why should he sacrifice points now for possible benefit in August when the only real hope of him being here in August is by finishing strongly?
We got had a good first half, having plenty of possession, quietening the "Mad Stad" (righto) before our only candidate for Player of the Season, Nicky Bailey, scored his eleventh of the campaign as he converted Racon's cross having been played on by Soares. Reading hit the Charlton woodwork three times in the opening half to give notice of what Addicks fans knew they would face second half.
Both sides emerged with their respective manager's words ringing in their ears and it took Reading 15 seconds to equalise. Darren Ward was harshly judged to have brought Shane Long down but Long got up to convert the spot-kick nonetheless. The Addicks should have have a penalty seconds after the re-start when Nicky Bailey was brought down but the referree "bottled it" according to the CAFC TV commentator (Tildesley?), who was much better than some of the numpties we've had to endure in recent weeks. Charlton continued to press from midfield, especially Racon and Bailey, but it was Reading who scored again on 67 minutes when Long headed in from a corner to take the lead.
Ambrose was brought on for Soares after 77 minutes but it felt like deja vu. Nicky Bailey had other ideas, however, and he picked Hudson out at the back-post on 85 minutes from a free-kick and big Mark headed home an unlikely but deserved equaliser. I am pleased for Hudson because I think he's had a bad press recently. He was at fault for Watford's third goal but he has been one of our better players this season.
The referree had a stinker by all accounts and we came off worst in some very poor decision-making. It's just as well we're so far behind because it would be a hard pill to swallow if two additional points here would have made much difference.