BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Dillon Phillips reckons that he can deal with anything thrown at him in the rest of his football career after his error in front of a Wembley crowd of 76,155 on Sunday.
Sunderland drew first blood in the League One play-off final – but the damage was self-inflicted as the Charlton goalkeeper fatally took his eye off Naby Sarr’s backpass.
It went down as an own goal for the French centre-back.
Ben Purrington’s first goal in an Addicks shirt drew Charlton level before the break with Patrick Bauer sparking pandemonium with a winner in the final seconds of second-half stoppage time.
It meant that Phillips could perform media duties at the national stadium in rueful mood.
“I made a mistake,” he said.
“He [Sarr] has passed it back to me, I’m looking at my next pass and it’s skipped off the surface and just beaten me.
“It’s a freak thing that hasn’t happened all season. Trust it to happen at Wembley in front of 76,000, or whatever it was.
“But we move on from it.
“I looked at the clock and thought ‘we’ve got 85 minutes to turn it around’.
“I believed in the boys – every single one of them – and they did the job at the end of the day.
“I’m not really religious but I was praying to someone – I don’t know who.
“I can’t thank them enough.
“I was happy I got the chance to make a save about five minutes later [from Grant Leadbitter] and that calmed me down a little bit.
“The supporters were great for me, they backed me all the way, as they have since I came back into the side.”
Phillips will not be haunted by his momentary slip as Charlton ended their three-year stay in League One.
He had already seen his mistake time and time again before he had even left Wembley.
“I’ve just sat in the manager’s office for five minutes and I’ve seen it 15 times,” he said soon after the match had finished. “I’d like to see the winning goal more! A couple of us had a little chuckle about it at half-time and said we were back to where we started – it’s 0-0 and lets go again. I knew they’d do it.
“I don’t think anything will faze me after that – I have made a mistake on the biggest stage and we’ve bounced back from it.
“I’m over the moon, I can’t wait to go out and enjoy it.
“I say it all the time – I don’t ever want to get too high or too low. When it happened, it happened. I just wanted something to happen – and it did five minutes later [when he had to deal with Leadbitter’s shot]. Then we scored the equaliser and it was upwards from there.
“I didn’t have much to do in the second half, we played really well. They kept me out of the way.
“Football is a funny game, isn’t it? I played the first six games, sat on the bench for [the next] 20 games and you think it is never going to happen for you.
“But what a place – and what a day.”
The bookies are predicting a fight against the drop for Lee Bowyer’s side – priced at 5/2 to be relegated, the same as Millwall. League One champions Luton (5/1) are fancied to steer clear of the dogfight but Barnsley, who just pipped the Addicks for the second automatic spot, are 15/8 for an instant return to the third tier.
Not that Phillips is worried about any external views on what lies ahead for the South Londoners.
“I can’t wait for that challenge, I think everyone in that changing room is good enough to be playing Championship football,” he said. “We’ve got to go and prove it.”
Keeping the likes of Bauer and Joe Aribo – just two of a number of the squad whose futures are up in the air – would improve their fortunes.
“We want them to stay,” said Phillips. “I think they’d want to stay, deep down.
“But that’s for them to sort out another time, let the dust settle.”