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Better late than never (we hope)

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Paul Armstrong | 00:21 UK time, Sunday, 10 September 2006

I'm writing this in the early hours of Sunday morning following a very lively Premiership afternoon and evening.

It's pretty much impossible to sleep until 3am or so after editing an MOTD, so I may as well use the time to send another blog entry into the ether.

At the time of writing, I can vaguely remember why we decided to do what we did with the show tonight, so will try to explain in due course!

On the vast majority of Saturdays nowadays, Match of the Day is much more sympathetically scheduled than it was at certain times in the past.

When Des Lynam left the BBC in 1999, he had been unhappy for some time at the erratic slots which he, and the team, were regularly enduring.

On-air times changed from week to week, but were heading in the general direction of midnight and beyond.

Since the contract returned in 2004-5, we have consistently been on the air at 10.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

That's become 10.15 and 10 o'clock respectively so far this season.

The only exceptions are for major traditional Saturday night BBC events, namely The Festival of Remembrance, Last NIght of the Proms and The Eurovision Song Contest.

Unfortunately for us - and for viewers looking for an early night - one of those events fell tonight, before a show featuring eight Premiership matches, all with a decent story attached.

At least the whole programme goes out again on Sunday morning these days, and the odd clash with a major event is a price we understand we occasionally have to pay for working for a mass audience network.

The BBC has a public service remit and an obligation to its audience which extends across all genres. That said, sport - and particularly football - is currently treated with considerable care and attention within that framework.

Anyway, tonight's running order was a real headache.

A good headache in that there was merit in every game, but if you're a Bolton or Watford fan and watched the whole show live, I'm well aware that you sat up well beyond midnight to watch your five minutes.

I hope it was some consolation that fans of the Premiership champions had to wait almost as long for their edit. In both cases, the rationale was that a home win, though hard-fought, was the expected result.

Even if, in Bolton's case, it was very harsh on their opponents

Everton, Portsmouth and Man Utd all won at home, too, but each topped the table in turn as a result of their staggered kick-off times, so it seemed right to lead with those three games in chronological order.

Fulham's win at Newcastle was arguably the surprise result of the day so that came next, followed by Boro's battling draw at a still-winless Arsenal.

It was one of those days where 100 different football followers would probably have come up with 100 different, but entirely legitimate, running orders.

We agonised for a while, but eventually went with the day's only 0-0 next, ahead of Chelsea and Bolton.

We did so largely because something very unusual had happened, in the form of three penalty misses.

As I've mentioned before, the second balancing act, once we've drawn up a match order, is that between action and analysis.

Tonight, we commented on every game bar Chelsea v Charlton, but mostly kept the analysis fairly brief.

On a couple of occasions - the penalty decisions at Bramall Lane and the two goals conceded by Newcastle -we revisited the major turning points of a game; while elsewhere we looked at key players (Jonathan Woodgate and Andy Johnson) using our Piero analysis kit and various examples, some of which had not featured in the edits.

And in the case of Portsmouth and Watford (and their great start to the season/ bad luck thus far, respectively) we found room for chat without accompanying VT.

Again, 100 different people who'd tried to keep across all 8 matches from 1245 until 1910, and had spoken to the various producers, commentators and pundits watching each, would probably have come up with 100 different plans of action.

In the end, all we can do is our best: we can only call it honestly as we see it.

Somehow, it all added up to our allocated 79'30" exactly. if it wasn't the same 79'30" you'd have come up with, or if you sloped off at our normal off-air time, our sincere apologies.

It's now 1.40 am,The Killers are just closing the repeat of the Jonathan Ross show on BBC1, and I really should go home.

I'm actually away for a few days as of tomorrow, so please don't think I'm being rude if I fail to respond promptly to any comments sent in.

By the way, if anyone reading this is making a return visit, you may recall that I also had a recent weekend off for a wedding. Don't worry, I am aware of my duty to the licence-payer and will be paying heavily for this slight dereliction of duty with a particularly punishing schedule for the rest of 2006!

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