Doncaster Rovers 1 Charlton Athletic 2
Back at Gatwick now with a very croaky voice and a head full of songs and dreams.
These last few years most of us, and very certainly me, have lost and forgotten what it was to be a Charlton fan. The fellowship, the connection, the unerring pride and hope handed down through generations or founded by those new to being an Addick. It was gone, perhaps forever. Don’t get me wrong the old bastard can’t sell the club a day too soon, but Lee Bowyer, his coaching team, and the group of players he has brought together has somehow, in spite of the owner, given us something to cheer and believe in.
The game started cagey, although Parker showed early intent when he put the ball in the net but was too over aggressive and was called back for a foul. The same player then headed wide but Doncaster started to spend more time down our end and Phillips made an excellent save low down to his left. Rovers were winning corners and then a dangerous free-kick cannoned off our bar. They were on top and our passing game was making no real inroads.
Then within a few minutes Taylor had a shot on the turn saved, and not long after we took the lead, Morgan crossed, Cullen controlled and put the ball back into Taylor whose first shot was saved, but he immediately put his head in amongst the boots to head home. The away end of the ground erupted.
Two minutes later we had a second, Taylor supplied Aribo out on the right and Joe squeezed a shot through the keeper. There was absolute carnage in the away end as arms and legs scrambled together in a sea of red. Addicks caught their breath and if possible upped the decibels to new levels.
Charlton were rampant as we threatened to get a third and Morgan’s shot was tipped over. The four of us drunk our half time beer with hands shaking and looks of disbelief.
There really wasn’t much to weather from Doncaster at the start of the 2nd half, but we were clearly out to just manage the game. Morgan was replaced by the bigger and far more experienced Pratley, who played well. Parker was out on his feet. The big lad was excellent and his 50-yard charge back to his own half to win the ball back was, outside of the two goals, one of the game’s highlights. He thoroughly deserved the standing ovation when he went off for Pearce citing a change of formation.
We were sitting back a bit deep, relying on breaks, but Aribo was absolutely outstanding, his Patrick Viera like legs winning seemingly impossible balls back in midfield. Cullen was everywhere and Bauer was marshalling the back five. Bayed on from behind the goal we streamed forward a fair few times on the break.
Purrington had a shot saved, Cullen almost headed in a Taylor cross, and then Aribo danced around tackles to cross for Taylor, but it was inches too high for the striker.
2nd half Doncaster were up on the possession stakes but had rarely threatened our goal but they are a good side, and kept going. With just a few minutes of normal time left a fluky deflected cross was scrambled home. The home fans found their voices, but Addicks had never lost theirs and we saw the game out mostly in the corner down our end.
Half-time of the tie then, nothing achieved yet but Bowyer and his team gave us a performance to be proud off. Hats off to the 3,800 Addicks who were tremendous and have us a day to remember. Allez, Allez, Allez.
Addicks at The Keepmoat: Doctor Kish;
Bow: “If you’d have said to me that we’re going to be going back to The Valley with a one goal lead then I would have bitten your hand off. My lads gave me everything today and put their bodies on the line.”
Elsewhere: On Saturday in front of their lowest crowd of the season Sunderland beat Portsmouth 1-0 in the other semi-final first leg.