Doncaster Rovers 1 (Blair 87) Charlton 2 (Taylor 32, Aribo 34).
Kevin Nolan reports from Keepmoat Stadium.
At the risk of sounding churlish, let's begin this otherwise positive account of Charlton's vital victory in South Yorkshire with a minor gripe. Better make that a medium-to-major gripe because Matty Blair's scruffy, ungainly but potentially priceless goal for Doncaster changed the dynamic of Friday night's second leg at The Valley. There's a world of difference -psychologically for openers - between starting the second leg 2-1 rather than 2-0 down, especially when you've scored so late. Blair's lucky strike gave gritty Rovers a boost at a pivotal time.
And the gripe? That comes with the suspect, what-we-have-we-hold attitude Charlton adopted during a second half they virtually conceded to their inferior hosts. As they gradually gave ground, there was already an ominous whiff of legweariness about them by the time Mallik Wilks' left wing cross spiralled, via a wicked deflection, to the far post where right back Blair popped up to bundle the ball over the line. Significantly, it came as no surprise to either side. But it gave this semi-final fresh legs.
If he was irritated by the late setback, Lee Bowyer manfully hid his feelings."It's disappointing," he allowed, "because I think we worked so hard and shut up shop well." True enough, in which case Blair should have his collar felt for shoplifting.
With last March's fortunate 1-1 draw in mind, Bowyer set his troops out in a fit-for-purpose 3-5-2 shape, with full backs Anfernee Dijksteel and Ben Purrington advanced on the flanks to counter the raids on the break with which Donny caught them out so often during the contentious league fixture here. The adjustments did mean, however, that Krystian Bielik spent most of the game behind Dijksteel in what appeared to these tactically archaic eyes to be an orthodox right back position. There were none of those rampaging runs from his own half which instil panic in opposition ranks and frequently turn games on their heads. A newly swashbuckling Bielik might be unleashed on unsuspecting Rovers in Friday's second leg.
Until Blair's inconvenient intervention, a disciplined first leg performance was on offer for a packed away end, which held its collective breath when left back Danny Andrews free kick, awarded for Patrick Bauer's bookable foul on Kieran Sadlier, beat Dillon Phillips but clipped the bar on its way to safety. They also saluted their brilliant young keeper for diving full length to keep out veteran James Coppinger's venomous low drive. At the other, far distant end, the ineffable Lyle Taylor drew a similarly sharp save from Marko Marosi and Josh Parker headed Purrington's perfect cross wastefully off target.Just past the half hour, Taylor gave the Addicks a precious lead. And who better than the serial scorer himself to describe the goal?
"The ball came in (from Albie Morgan), it's flicked off Butler and I just saw Josh Cullen stood on the line and I thought 'what's he doing there?' It's gone straight to him. It popped back in the box and I thought 'I'm going to have my head taken off here but I need to score, I have to score. I'm going to have to head this,' so I just threw myself at it and thankfully didn't get volleyed in the head." And there you have it -the anatomy of a goal by its owner. No sub-titles necessary.
Two minutes later, Taylor had a hand in the Addicks' second goal. In the throes of another hectic goalmouth scramble, his adroit pass set up Joe Aribo to finish off Marosi's hand from an awkward position not dissimilar to Cullen's on the right byline. "Definitely a shot, not a cross", as clarified by Taylor by way of claiming an assist for Aribo's fourth goal in as many games and tenth of the season. Not for charismatic Lyle those guarded interviews favoured by so many players; when he's got something to say (and that's pretty often), he comes right out and says it without worrying if it frightens the horses.
With their two-goal lead nicely tucked away, Bowyer's talented troops embarked on their ultimately damaging safety first policy, with both second half subs statements of defensive intent. It might have been a welcome change to chomp on a cigar (unlit of course), sit back with feet up and relish watching them toy with Donny in an academic second leg but that was never going to happen. It's just not the Charlton way. So sit tight, folks, strap yourself in and get ready for a white-knuckle ride. It's worth more that way. Trust me.
Doncaster: Marosi, Blair, Butler, Downing, Andrew, Whiteman, Kane, Coppinger ((Rowe 46), Sadlier (May 84), Wilks, Marquis. Not used: Jones, Crawford, Anderson, Smith, Lewis.
Charlton: Phillips, Dijksteel, Bauer, Sarr, Purrington, Bielik, Morgan (Pratley 61), Cullen, Aribo, Parker (Pearce 66), Taylor. Not used: Maxwell, Page, Forster-Caskey, Williams, Lapslie. Booked: Bauer.
Referee: Oliver Langford. Att: 11,140 (3,688 vocal visitors).