Friday, 17 May 2019

Charlton Athletic 2 v Doncaster Rovers 3 - Charlton won on penalties after extra time - EFL League 1 - Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg

Friday 17th May 2019
SkyBet EFL League 1 Play Off Semi Final Second Leg
at the Valley
Charlton Athletic (1) 1 - ET HT 2 - AET FT 2
Krystian Bielik 2,
Darren Pratley 101
Doncaster Rovers (1) 2 - ET HT 3 - AET FT 3
Tommy Rowe 11,
Andy Butler 88,
Jon Marquis 100
Attendance: 25,428 inc. 1351 away
Charlton won on penalties
Point & hope photo gallery: Click HERE
By rule of thumb, there are two places that everybody should avoid on a Friday afternoon, especially as it heads towards the early evening 'rush hour' period, and they are: the A1 southbound and the East Coast Main Line. So being the masochist that I am, I split my journey between both of them, driving as far as Peterborough and leaving my car parked there, while continuing on to London by train, as a fall back plan, just in case tonight's game went to extra time and even penalties, which would mean making a choice between missing my last train home or leaving before the end of the game.
There are plenty of later trains to Peterborough right into the wee small hours of the morning, so I had all bases covered, just to be on the safe side.
In the event, the Doncaster police who'd travelled to London, liaised with the LNER train operator and got the last train northout of King's Cross rescheduled, so that the Rovers fans would be able to catch it anyway.
This plan was meticulously arranged and widely communicated, and also stayed just inside the parameters of the ticket issuers rules, that state you are entitled to a refund if you train is delayed by thirty minutes or more. 
Though I'm sure that everybody who'd got home due to the train having waited for them, would be very grateful, and as such wouldn't be trying to get their fare back anyway... or would they AW!? ;-)
Although getting home wasn't going to be problematic, reaching Charlton in the first place was a complete nightmare.
Luckily, I'd set off early, planning on a 'shop 'til I drop' tour of my favourite London record shops, so I had a head start on most people. However, the A1 was gridlocked because of a mixture of the volume of Friday traffic and an accident several miles ahead of where I'd reached by 1.40PM, which was approximately 600 yards north of where I had managed to get to by 3.10PM.
Inevitably, I'd missed my train. So I explained my predicament... and that of several other Charlton bound travellers who were arriving at the station around the same time, to a member of LNER staff on the platform.
And FFS! He almost shrieked with glee, while informing us that our advance saver tickets weren't valid on any other trains and directed us to the ticket office where we'd have to pay again. 
I'd swear the guy (who bore an unhealthy resemblance to Leo Sayer) was so aroused, that he even leaked a bit of sex-wee while he was cheerily giving us the bad news.
Hmm... time for a plan B methinks. There was a train departing from Platform 1 in four minutes time that was going to London, so being a honest and upright, law-biding citizen, I boarded that one, with every intention of paying the guard any excess fare that I owed, figuring that if I queued for another ticket, then I would miss this one as well.
Well, blow me down with a feather! There wasn't a guard on board... and this train ran directly to London Bridge, where the train on the adjoining platform when I arrived, was heading to Rainham, via Charlton. And at Charlton, the exit gates at the station were wide open and completely unmanned.
Oh no! I've inadvertently become a fare-dodging criminal. How does my conscience let me sleep at night? Oh, and by the way... f*ck you Leo Sayer!
Alas, a whole lot of other travellers who'd set off later, got snarled up in the traffic congestion on the A1, while others were held up by the train services going awry again, as is the norm on Friday afternoons. Some friends of mine got in ten minutes after kick off... and one coach full of staunch Rovers die-hard supporters, didn't arrive until half time.
The Valley is only a few minutes walk from the station, so I nipped across to the ground, to buy a programme before going in search of some sustenance.
How much!? "Five pounds, it an end of season special".
Err, no thanks! A fiver for a League 1 programme, I don't bleedin' think so. Not even if it's a 92 page bumper edition... in fact, not even if it's leather bound and adorned in gold leaf.
Mind you... the 'Voice of the Valley' fanzine, is a very good informative read, that probably won't be getting invited to be Roland Duchâtelet's in house fan club magazine any time soon.
If you've never heard of Charlton's Belgian millionaire owner before, simply type 'not fit for purpose' or 'dodgy c*nt' into your Google search engine... and I'm sure that you'll soon be on his trail.
The Addicks are up for sale, but Duchâtelet has a clause inserted to the package that is presented to any prospective investors, inasmuch as, he wants a share of any rewards and profits any subsequent owner makes out of the club, as a consequence of their own successes.
So, it looks like he's going to be around for the long haul, because I can't imagine anybody being tempted by his off-putting terms. Which must set alarm bells ringing, given that he's rumoured to be planning a land grab of the Valley stadium (and training facilities), with a scope for property development on both sites. How the effing hell are these sort of people even allowed near football clubs?
Anyway, I've prevaricated and rambled on about all manner of peripheral issues for quite long enough. Shall we have some actual football now instead?
Charlton took a one goal cushion into tonight's game. after winning 1-2 at the Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday, and just one minute and fifty seconds into this second leg tie, they increased their lead when Krystian Bielik met Josh Cullen's free-kick and powered a header past Marko Marosi.
As the ground erupted with noise, a small scuffle broke out to my right, in the middle of the Jimmy Seed Stand, that was half Charlton supporters and half Doncaster tonight, with a token nod towards some kind of segregation in between them. Apparently the seats were freed up, in what is usually the visiting fans end, to meet the demand from home supporters.
I was under the impression that the Addicks fans were boycotting home games this season, but either that must've been resolved, or the local population found the visit of Donny Rovers too much of a temptation to stay away tonight.
There were still massive gaps all over the visitors section, with many of the latecomers still en route.
But just as another couple of coach loadsof stragglers began descending the stairs, looking for a decent vantage point, right on cue, Herbie Kane teed up a chance for Tommy Rowe, who smashed the ball into the back of the Addicks net from the edge of the area... it was nice of Grant McCann's team to wait until the away section had started filling up, before giving the stragglers something to cheer about after being stuck on a bus for as many as seven hours.
This evenly matched game was a great spectacle, swinging from one end to the other, with both sides looking to progress to Sunday's final against Sunderland, who reached Wembley last night, after drawing 0-0 in their semi final second leg at Portsmouth.
Charlton were the favourites to win, but Rovers were matching them every step of the way and putting in a superhuman amount of effort to compete for each and every ball and more than match their hosts for lengthy spells of a most enthralling game.
The play offs this season have certainly thrown up a good few all action games, packed to the brim with twists, turns and drama.
Both goalkeepers were in the thick of the action, as the score remained 1-1 on the night at the interval, but Charlton thought that they should have had a penalty just before the break, when Josh Cullen's shot bounced away after crashing into Andy Butler... it was one of those 'ball to arm' moments when you support the defending team, and 'stonewall penalty appeals' if it's your team that is on the attack. Either way, Cullen shot straight at the Rovers defender, who couldn't get out of the way or amputate his arm quickly enough to avoid any confusion. I've seen them given, but no deliberate offence was committed... so I'll sit on the fence and let the referee run the game as he sees fit.
Lee Bowyer strung five players across midfield in the second half against a Rovers side who were deserving of another goal, as they went toe to toe against the South London side, and, if anything were looking like the more dominant side no,  but time was running out.
Then it happened, with just three minutes remaining the visitors won a corner. I turned to my friend and joked: "Greeny my good man, right now would psychologically, be a very good time for 'Donny' to score". And bugger me... they did!
The score was now level on aggregate and extra time was imminent.
There are God forsaken souls in this world who don't even like football... and subsequently they've never been present on at wholly absorbing game like tonight's, not even as a neutral (like me). What kind of a morbid existence they must lead.
90 minutes: Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 2 - Agg: 3-3
Never mind how late it was going to be when I eventually get home, who wouldn't want to stay and watch another half hour of this enthralling contest.
Taylor, the overall man of the match in the first leg, went close during the opening exchanges of extra time, but from Rovers next attack, Mallik Wilks broke forward, feigned as if to shoot, then dashed forward to the dead ball line and picked out Marquis who headed into the back of the Charlton net from close range.
But, within a minute, the Doncaster fans celebrations were curtailed, when Darren Pratley bundled the ball over the goal-line at the other end, from Taylor's quality delivery.
Hmm, imagine having both Taylor and Wilks in the same team, battering away at opposition defences as a two pronged battering ram attack.
And that was that, both sides had given everything they'd got, either of them could've nicked the result, but extra time saw the tie finish 4-4 on aggregate... and it was all going to be decided on penalties.
Chris Solly, Josh Cullen, Lyle Taylor and Joe Aribo all found the net with the Addicks first four penalties, while Ben Whiteman, Keiran Sadlier and Ali Crawford, successfully converted the first three of Doncaster's spot kicks, but Dillon Phillips saved the fourth from Jon Marquis.
Which meant that, if Nabby Sarr scored with Charlton's fifth kick, it was game over.
But the drama wasn't over yet, as Marko Marosi pulled off a save, that even had the police officers in the away section celebrating. Tommy Rowe stepped forward, knowing that his strike could level things up and take the contest into an instant death stage, but he blazed his shot wide... and Charlton were heading to Wembley, even though Grant McCann's side could be very proud of the shift they put in tonight. 
FT AET: Charlton Athletic 2 v Doncaster Rovers 3 - Agg 4-4 - Charlton won on pens
Whoops!
Within few minutes of Rowe's stray kick, I was back on Charlton Station, awaiting a train to King's Cross/St. Pancras International... and the second one to arrive went straight there. The A1, north of Peterborough, was virtually deserted by now... and I was home by 2.10AM. 
Plenty of time to get a few hours kip before driving north for the 3PM Saturday game, between Berwick Rangers and Cove Rangers, in the Scottish League 2 play off final then ;-)

Footnote 18-5-19: I slept in on Saturday and didn't go to Berwick-upon-Tweed after all. D'oh!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Leeds United 2 v Derby County 4 - Agg 3-4 - EFL Championship - Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg

Wednesday 15th May 2019
SkyBet EFL Championship - Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg
at Elland Road
Leeds United (1) 2
Stuart Dallas 24, 62
Derby County (1) 4
Jack Marriott 45, 85,
Mason Mount 46,
Harry Wilson 58 pen
Attendance; 36, 326
Leeds United:
Casilla, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper (C), Dallas; Philips; Hernandez, Shackleton, Klich Harrison; Bamford
Unused Subs - Peacock-Farrell, Jannsson, Brown, Clarke, Struijk, Gotts, Bogusz
Derby County:
Roos, Bogle, Keogh (C), Tomori, Malone; Holmes (Marriott, 44), Johnson, Mount; Wilson; Bennett (Huddlestone, 59), Lawrence
Unused subs - Carson, Jozefzoon, Evans, Cole, Knight
Wow! Just wow!
And so it came to pass, that Frank Lampard did have a plan B all along after all.
The Rams deployed a 4-4-2 formation, with a midfield diamond, and though it took a while for them to get into top gear, once they had, there was no stopping them.
Having already beaten Derby three times this season, Leeds looked to have taken a massive stride towards Wembley Stadium, when Stuart Dallas slotted home a rebound, to put the hosts 1-0 ahead on the night, and 2-0 on aggregate, in the twenty fourth minute, after Liam Cooper had headed Kalvin Phillips' free kick against the right hand upright.
Both teams hit the woodwork as a lively first half progressed, but even though it was a high tempo game, as of yet, there wasn't any kind of hint pertaining to the drama that was about to unfold.
Photo usurped from t'internet... I didn't take any tonight.
With the clock ticking down towards half time inside the cauldron of noise that is Elland Road, Lampard made a switch, bringing Jack Mitchell on in place of Duane Holmes and the former Peterborough man had only been on the pitch thirty three seconds, when he chased a flick on by Mason Bennett towards the Leeds area and the ball fell to his feet, after Cooper collided with his own keeper Kiko Casilla as they both attempted to make a clearance, a minute before half time.
And then a minute after the restart, Derby were ahead on the night (and level on aggregate), when Harry Wilson set up Mason Mount for an emphatic finish. Game on!
Within a minute, Casilla did well to save from Mount, showing the flip-side of his unorthodox approach to the game. The Spanish keeper certainly takes the old adage that 'all goalkeepers are mad' to new extremes at times, when he appears to take on the mantle of a frustrated midfield play-maker.
Dallas went close with a curling effort, that was pushed away which by Roos and when Hernandez reached the loose ball first, his effort was blocked.
Once again, Dallas wasn't far away from finding the net, when he volleyed over the bar... but as paly switched to the other end of the pitch, Derby were awarded a penalty, when Bennett was tripped by Cooper... and Wilson buried the resulting spot kick. Advantage Derby, 3-1 up on the night and 3-2 ahead overall.
And to think... this used to be the Leeds v Derby game that everyone always talked about.
Just after the hour mark, the aggregate score was level again, when Dallas left two opponents for dead before rifling a shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Luke Ayling went close twice for Leeds, but the home side were then reduced to ten men, when Gaetano Berardi was dismissed for a second yellow card offence, when he fouled Brad Johnson.
Wilson hit the post as Derby tried to force the issue, and then, with just five minutes remaining Marriott scored again, when he chipped Casilla, to inflict Leeds with the hammer blow that was about to condemn them to a sixteenth consecutive season outside the top flight... and send the Rams through to the SkyBet EFL Championship Final against Aston Villa on Monday 27th May,
Dallas almost forced the game into extra time, but he was thwarted by Roos. And in spite of the late  dismissal of Scott Malone, 'Frank Lampard's Derby' saw the game out, to claim a quite breath-taking victory.
FT: Leeds United 2 v Derby County 4 (Agg 3-4)

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Mansfield Town 0 v Newport County 0 - Newport won on penalties after extra time - EFL League 2 - Play Off Semi Final 2nd Leg

Sunday 12th May 2019
SkyBet EFL League Two - Play Off Semi Final - 2nd Leg
at Field Mill - One Call Stadium
Mansfield Town (0) 0
Newport County (0) 0
Newport won on penalties after extra time
Attendance: 7361 (inc. 1118 away fans)
Point & hope photo gallery: Click HERE
To round of an indifferent run of form, that has seen them wobbling unconvincingly through their last twenty League 2 outings, Mansfield Town won just one of their final five league games... and by virtue of having lost the last three of them, missed out on an automatic promotion spot, finishing the season three points behind both second placed Bury and third placed MK Dons. With the latter of them beating the Stags 1-0 at Stadium MK last Saturday afternoon, to condemn David Flitcroft's side to the play offs. Yet there were rumblings from behind the scenes at the club, in the build up to the first leg of the semi final at Newport, that their was disharmony in the camp over certain parties wanting bonus payments for having qualified for the play offs.
But let's not beat about the bush... they didn't qualify. A lack of consistency and some questionable leadership, actually saw the Stags fail miserably in their quest to win promotion and unless rewarding failure was an option, then no extra payments were warranted.
The play offs were merely a consolation prize, for a team that should've had a top three berth and a place in League 1 sewn up, long before their fate this season, ever went down to the wire.
If David Flitcroft is relieved of his duties any time soon, then that might look like a rash and harsh decision to any onlooker, watching on from the periphery of a campaign that was steeped in so much promise for such long time... but I reckon that such a move is almost inevitable. Though it must be said, that is merely my own opinion... and everybody else is entitled to their own too.
Tonight's visitors: Newport County, who did genuinely qualify for the play offs (as opposed to plunging into them, from a seemingly impregnable higher position, like Mansfield did), on the back of a ten game unbeaten run, were promoted into the Football League at the end of the 2012-13 season, after beating Wrexham in the the Blue Square Bet Premier play-off Final at Wembley (the first ever all Welsh final to be played at the stadium).
That was, of course, the same year that the Stags, then managed by Paul Cox, won promotion back into the league as Conference champions, after suffering relegation at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Cough! It is concealing, not consealing. Just saying.
As an aside, I don't know if this is a first or not, but with Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green Rovers making up the quartet that are competing to gain a place in League 1, alongside the other promoted clubs: Lincoln City, Bury and MK Dons all four of this year's League 2 play off contenders have previously played in the Conference.
Incidentally, Tranmere beat Forest Green 1-0 at Prenton Park in the first leg of their semi on Friday night and meet again tomorrow night to determine who'll play Mansfield in the final on Saturday May 25th.
In the first leg of this semi final, played on Thursday night, it finished all square at Rodney Parade, with a late goal from Padraig Amond rescuing a 1-1 draw for the Exiles, when he pounced onto the loose ball after Conrad Logan had saved his penalty kick, that had been awarded after Adebayo Azeez tumbled over Logan. as the Stags keeper pushed the ball away at the Newport substitutes feet.
In the first leg of this semi final, played on Thursday night, it finished all square at Rodney Parade, with a late goal from Padraig Amond rescuing a 1-1 draw for the Exiles, when he pounced onto the loose ball after Conrad Logan had saved his penalty kick, that had been awarded after Adebayo Azeez tumbled over the Stags keeper as he pushed the ball away at the Newport substitutes feet. Logan got to the ball before both players momentum caused the collision that saw Azeez to go to ground... and though the referee had no hesitation in awarding a spot kick, I personally thought that the decision was harsh on Logan, who'd pulled off a string of top drawer saves on the night, to preserve the Stags one goal advantage, that CJ Hamilton had given them with an angled strike, from Tyler Walker's well weighted pass in the twelfth minute.
Tonight, as a consequence of a penalty shoot out victory, after extra time, as the two sides played out a goalless draw, and couldn't be separated over two hours of pulsating football, it is Newport County
who will be heading to Wembley, to vye for the opportunity of playing League 1 football next season, thanks to their goalkeeper Joe Day who saved Tyler Walker's penalty, Mansfield's third spot kick, while Newport successfully converted all five of theirs.
The visitors were by far the best team during the first half, but Mansfield got into the game more after the interval and going into extra time. But ultimately, it was Michael Flynn's Newport side who perhaps had the better of things overall.
Perhaps the final outcome was harsh on Mansfield, especially after a couple of glaring refereeing mistakes in the first leg at Rodney Parade, but that said, sometimes in life you reap what you sow and the dice had been cast long before tonight's lively encounter.
Josh Sheehan went close twice, with Logan keeping out his first chance from twenty yards with a good stop, before he put the ball wide from close range after being picked out by  Dan Butler's delivery into the Stags area.
Padraig Amond almost broke the deadlock from a tight angle, before Ben Turner did well to block Robbie Willmott's effort that was otherwise destined for the back of the net.
Newport also hit the crossbar twice before half time, through Joss Labadie and a deflection off of Turner, who'd put his body in the way and taken one for the team again.
Mansfield stepped up the ante after the break, and Walker drilled a shot wide just wide of the target, while Danny Rose hooked the ball over the bar from CJ Hamilton's cutback from the dead ball line.
But the visitors still had a big say in the second half too, with Scot Bennett crashing a long range shot against the bar breakthrough for County with a thunderous 25-yard drive, but it rattled against the crossbar as Newport hit the woodwork for the third time, before Sheehan's well struck volley was brilliantly pushed away by Logan at full stretch.
Meanwhile, at the other end, Day got his fingertips to the ball to deny Walker's fierce strike.
With extra time beckoning, Logan once again denied Newport, thwarting Jamille Matt, while Walker missed a great chance to wrap up the game, with the goal at his mercy and 'man of the match' Alex MacDonald headed narrowly wide.
Both sides created further chances during a frantic half a hour of extra time, and it especially looked like 'game over', when Day denied Walker, saving with his legs from a point blank range shot and Regan Poole blocked the ball on the line, from Rose's shot on the rebound. But it came to pass that a whole season: ten months, forty six league games and two play off semi finals, would all be decided by a penalty shoot out.
Newport, in front of their own fans, started the penalty lottery... and netted with all five of their subsequent efforts, even though Logan got a hand to Amond's strike. Nicky Ajose and Hamilton both found the net for the Stags, but then Day kept out Walker's effort. Krystian Pearce, Mansfield's captain, advanced forward from the centre circle to put a supportive arm around the disconsolate Walker as he trudged away from the scene. 
Mal Benning converted Mansfield’s next penalty, via both posts (as if there wasn't enough tension and drama already!). But then Matt Dolan stepped up and comfortably put away his side's fifth kick, meaning that there would be no need for the Stags to take their last one... Newport were going to Wembley and Mansfield are still a League Two club.
FT: Mansfield Town 0 v Newport County 0
David Flitcroft was brought in last season, at no small expense, with the mandate to finish off the job that his treacherous predecessor had started and take the club into League One. Following an indifferent start to his tenure, the team fell some way short of that aim. But, he's been backed to hilt to finish the job off this term instead... and though fourth place and a crack at the play offs will be seen as a reasonable return by many, that isn't the end product that he was employed to deliver.
And I strongly suspect that his days at Mansfield Town will be numbered now.
Footnote. Added Tuesday 14th May:
David Flitcroft is no longer the manager of Mansfield Town. John Dempster, the club's Academy manager (a former Stags player himself) has been promoted to take over the first team job. 
Newport County will now face Tranmere Rovers at Wembley Stadium, in the League 2 play off final, after they drew 1-1 in the second leg of their semi final at Forest Green Rovers, and won the tie 2-1 on aggregate.

Doncaster Rovers v Charlton Athletic - EFL League 1 - Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg

Sunday 12th May 2019
SkyBet EFL League 1 - Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
at the Keepmoat Stadium
Doncaster Rovers (0)1
Matty Blair 87
Charlton Athletic (2) 2
Lyle Taylor 32, Joe Aribo 34
Attendance: 11,140 inc. 3,688 away fans
Point & hope photo gallery: Click HERE
One more year!
Doncaster Rovers:
Marosi, Andrew, Butler (c), Wilks, Whiteman, Marquis, Kane, Blair, Sadlier (May 84), Coppinger (Rowe 46), Downing.
Unused Subs - Jones, Crawford, Anderson, Smith, Lewis
Charlton Athletic:
Phillips, Dijksteel, Bielik, Bauer (c), Sarr, Purrington, Cullen, Morgan (Pratley 61), Aribo, Parker (Pearce 66), Taylor.
Unused Subs - Maxwell, Page, Forster-Caskey, Williams, Lapslie
Charlton missed out on automatic promotion to the Championship, by a solitary league position and three points, when they finished in third place, behind champions Luton Town and runners up Barnsley.
Rovers, for their part, claimed the last available play off spot, when they won their last home game 2-0 against Coventry City., while a draw or defeat against the Sky Blues would've seen Peterborough United claim sixth place instead.
Doncaster went into the play offs, as long odds underdogs, having finished a massive fifteen points behind Lee Bowyer's in form side.
But as the hosts manager Grant McCann pointed out in the build up to the game, 'Donny' have been underdogs all season. That said, having lost at Charlton in the league earlier in the season,  went back to the Valley in the FA Cup and beat this afternoon's visitors, while the reverse Championship fixture at the Keepmoat, finished one apiece, So it has been pretty much honours even between these two respective sides in recent times. Mind you Charlton, have played eleven more league games since they drew at Doncaster... and their sequence of results in towards the end of the season are: lost one, drawn one... and won nine!
Rovers are probably even more of an underdog side, now that Charlton Athletic hold the advantage after a narrow first leg win at Keepmoat Stadium this afternoon. But it is better to travel in hope, than not to make the journey at all.
Following an opening half hour during which time Rovers acquitted themselves quite well, Lyle Taylor put the Addicks in front, as he stooped to conquer... and headed the ball past Marko Marosi.
A section of the home fans (i.e. approximately 99.7% of them) were incensed and reckoned that if VAR had been in use today, the goal would've been chalked off, because Josh Cullen looked to be in an offside position, when he delivered the ball across Rovers six yard box. But the referee and his assistant, saw Albie Morgan's delivery into the box, ricochet towards Cullen off of a Rovers player and as a consequence reached the decision that he wasn't offside. Was he offside when Morgan initially put the ball into the area though? Because he was certainly interfering with play.
Taylor was involved in Charlton's second goal just two minutes later as well, playing in Joe Aribo with a threaded pass, who clinically picked his spot to double the visitors le
To all intents and purposes, if things were to carry on like this, it was beginning to look as though Rovers could be heading for a sound beating, that would all but render their hopes of progressing beyond the second leg at the Valley, in a game that was threatening to become a mere formality, inert.
But Matty Blair's opportunist strike, late in the game, when he diverted the ball past Dillon Phillips, after Malik Wilks' cross had deflected into the air in front of him, has kept the tie alive, ahead of Friday's second leg. The winner will go on to face Portsmouth or Sunderland at Wembley, on Sunday 26th May. The Mackems won the first leg of that semi final last night, in front of a crowd of 26,610 at the Stadium of Light, the return leg will take place at Fratton Park on Thursday night.
James Coppinger was thwarted twice by Phillips, from a brace of long range shots inside the opening twenty minutes... and before Taylor had opened the scoring with his twenty fifth goal of the season, Danny Andrews was desperately unlucky when his firmly struck, thirty yard free kick, crashed against the crossbar.
But despite their decent start, Rovers had a hill to climb after Taylor and Aribo netted within two minutes of each other... while thecomfort of a two goal cushion meant that Lee Bowyer's side could sit back and absorb everything that Doncaster could muster up to throw at the visitors, while hitting them swiftly on the counter attack.
Josh Parker went close to adding to the Addicks lead, heading narrowly wide from close range before the break, while Morgan's well caught half volley, was destined just inside the upright, until Marosi got his fingertips to the ball.
With just five minutes remaining, Rovers were banging away at Charlton's defence like a tribe of Duracell rabbits during mating season, but the South Londoners were hanging on to see the game out... and in the meantime, almost added a third, when Taylor narrowly failed to make contact with Aribo's cross from the right. But with just three minutes remaining, Blair found the net from a goal-hangers position, right on Phillips' goal line... and 'Donny' just about live to fight another day.
FT: Doncaster Rovers 1 v Charlton Athletic 2
I've decided, that I'll be making the journey to Charlton on Friday, for the second leg of this game... but right now, as of at this very moment in time, I'm en route to Mansfield, to watch the second leg of the Stags v Newport County League 2 Play Off Semi Final game.
It's all go, innit!?

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Derby County 0 v Leeds United 1 - EFL Championship - Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg

Saturday 11th May 2019
SkyBet EFL Championship - Play Off Semi Final 1st Leg
at Pride Park
Derby County (0) 0
Leeds United (0) 1
Kemar Roofe55
Attendance: 31,723 (inc. 2,800 away fans)
Point & hope photo gallery: click HERE
Derby County
Roos, Tomori, Keogh, Wilson, Mount, Lawrence (Huddlestone 86), Johnson, Holmes (Bennett 70), Nugent (Marriott 64), Bogle, Malone.  
Unused subs - Carson, Jozefzoon, Evans, MacDonald.
Leeds United
Casilla, Ayling, Cooper, Berardi, Dallas, Phillips, Forshaw (Shackleton 24), Klich, Hernandez, Harrison, Roofe (Clarke 81).  
Unused subs - Peacock-Farrell, Brown, Struijk, Gotts, Bogusz.
Part one of my five game play off semi final week, that will encompass all three divisions of the Football League... saw Leeds United 'marching on together' to Pride Park, where the Rams of Derby County lay in wait, to do battle with their West Yorkshire visitors, for the right to face either Aston Villa or West Bromwich Albion at Wembley Stadium.
The second leg of this semi final, will take place at Elland Road on Wednesday night.
I got hold of a ticket for that game this evening, from a Derby fan who said she is unable to get to Leeds... or who more likely doesn't fancy the Rams chances in light of today's outcome.
But hey! As convincing as Leeds win was at Pride Park, it's effectively still only half time and there's only a solitary goal separating these two sides.
Earlier today, the first leg of the other semi finished 2-1 to the host side at Villa Park.
The second leg of that game will take place at the Hawthorns on Tuesday night.
Derby finished their scheduled league fixtures nine points behind this evenings opponents, but more importantly for them, they also had a single point more than Middlesbrough, and subsequently claimed the last play off berth by the skin of their teeth.
Six of those nine points were gained against Frank Lampard's Rams, when Leeds beat them in both previous Championship games between these two sides this term; recording a 1-4 victory at Pride Park back in August, and a 2-0 win on home turf at Elland Road in January, a game that saw Leeds open up a five point lead at the top of the table, that was, of course, embroiled in the saga that became known as 'Spygate', and led to 'the Peacocks' being fined £200,000 after their manager Marcelo Bielsa admitted to sending one of his aides to watch a Derby County training session during the run up to the game.
By all accounts, Leeds Argentine manager took full responsibility for the apparent espionage and paid the fine out of his own pocket.
While not wanting to look like I'm taking sides or 'owt, because I'm most definitely not doing,  it seems to me that certain people are treated differently to others when it comes to football's governing bodies., and I'm certain that you wouldn't find a single Leeds fan who'd disagree with those sentiments.
That said, on the strength of listening to some of the visiting supporters, who were on the same train home as me, you'd be hard pushed to find many Leeds fans who are currently allowing themselves to be anything more than very cautiously optimistic about the second leg, given the by now, almost traditional annual event, that sees their team blazing a trail towards the promised land, before falling at the final hurdle... again.
As the eloquently dis-positioned and well heeled young lady, in the vestibule of coach C said, when one of the attendant police officers asked her if she was looking forward to her trip to Wembley: "We haven't got there yet. This is Leeds! And we always fuck everything up... every fucking time!"
Kinnel! Don't beat about the bush missus!
Though I wouldn't condone any of their transgressions, other clubs break various rules too and the punishment metered out to a good few of them, is disproportionate to the level of 'wrist-slapping' that the Elland Road based club receive, on quite a regular basis. Bielsa's side went into the play offs, minus one Patrick Bamford, who was serving two match ban after being found guilty of simulation during their recent draw with Aston Villa. Imagine that! Getting banned for play acting in a game that Jack Grealish was also taking part in, and displaying all of his his usual traits.
Bamford's despicable actions wholly warranted being sanctioned of course; but he wasn't the only blatant cheat on the field of play that particular afternoon. Just saying.
Norwich City and Sheffield United claimed the two automatic promotion spots in the Championship, while Leeds, who had their usual untimely wobble in form, picking up just one point from their last four games; slipped down into third place, some six points adrift of the Blades, after looking like a good bet to reach the Premier League, sans the lottery of the end of season play offs, for much of the 2018-19 campaign.
Those last four games, included a reversal at bottom club (and already relegated) Ipswich Town at the weekend, that must've breached the déjà vu limit on the scale of inevitability, while Derby had finished their campaign with a six game unbeaten run, that reached it's grand finale on Sunday, when they beat fellow play off qualifiers West Bromwich Albion 3-1, to secure their place in tonight's semi final first leg.
As for today's game... well, in my humble opinion, an away win was entirely the right result, and though Frank Lampard, the Rams manager, seemed to want to blame the match officials for his own side's shortcomings; in the event, the fact that his team didn't even muster a single shot on target between them for the entire ninety (plus four) minutes, was actually a very massive contributing factor, that led towards Derby's downfall, and paints a more accurate reflection of the game, than a post-match gambit by a losing manager, in the immediate aftermath of defeat. And, to be fair to Leeds, they contained their hosts very well, and stopped the Rams playing how they wanted to, for large parts of the game, which in no small way added to the woes and frustrations of the Pride Park faithful.
I'm not sure if Mr Lampard has a plan B, but if he has, then it would appear that he must be saving it for the second leg.
Derby showed good intentions early on, and in the fifth minute, Tom Lawrence went close from twenty five yards out, but his effort flew past the wrong side of the post.
Harry Wilson showed some good skill (with or without Derby, he looks destined to be a Premier League player), to create a chance for David Nugent, but Gaetano Berardi  moved in quickly to make a blocking challwenge... and the chance went begging.
Having withstood some early pressure, the visitors began to get a foothold in the game, and Mateusz Klich wasn't far away from opening when he nudge the ball wide from a corner, while Stuart Dallas was unlucky to see his long range free kick, curl just past the top corner of the Rams goal.
Mateusz Klich sliced a shot at the Derby goal, while well placed, but Liam Cooper got his head to the ball and directed it towards Kemar Roofe, who attempted a mid-air scissor-kick, but couldn't keep his effort on target.
Adam Forshaw limped out of the game in the twenty third minute, and was replaced by Jamie Shackleton, but the substitutes inclusion was a seamless one, that didn't alter Leeds shape, or approach at all.
Derby found a chink in Leeds armour and Wilson was then played through into the visitors area, where he went one against one Kiko Casilla, but the former Real Madrid keeper had the presence of mind to stay on his feet until the last possible moment and pulled off a great save.
The longer the first half went on, the more Leeds grew in stature and the hosts will have been pleased as the two teams went in for the interval all square.
The visitors made an encouraging to the second half, with Jack Harrison getting onto the end of a delivery from Klich, but Jayden Bogle got in the way and made a timely block.
Ten minutes after the restart, Leeds were ahead... and it had been coming, when Roofe, tearing into the Derby area through the right channel, met a pinpoint delivery from Jack Harrison and thumped the ball past Kelle Roos.
And within a minute, Roos had to make two important saves from Roofe in quick succession, as Leeds threatened to take over.
Shackleton broke quickly on the right flank swung a low delivery into the Derby area, but Pablo Hernandez stabbed the ball wide.
Cooper had a penalty appeal turned down at one end, but a short while later, Derby thought that they had been thrown a lifeline, when the referee blew up and pointed to the spot after Bogle went to ground in the Leeds area under the close attention of Harrison.
An assistant's flag summoned the attention of the referee, and following a touchline consultation and deliberation, the penalty award was overturned.
A quick look at the incident straight after the game, on my phone (isn't technology brilliant!?), confirmed that it wasn't a penalty and the decision to amend the original error was justified.
When I got back to the station, a Leeds fan who hadn't made it to the ground, but who'd watched the game in the pub, confirmed that several TV replays had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that it clearly wasn't a penalty. This guy was almost seven feet tall and had hands the size of shovels... which qualified him to be 100% correct about everything and anything, and I didn't see anybody contradicting what he said either.
Roos kept Leeds advantage down to a single goal, with a worldly of a save from Harrison late in the game, while Derby scrambled away Luke Ayling's dangerous ball into their six yard box, right at the death.
FT; Derby County 0 v Leeds United 1
The police held the train I was on back until they have squeezed as many Leeds fans on board as was humanly possible... and as the locomotive creaked out of Derby, pulling it's over laden cargo, it was like being forced into playing a game of sweaty, booze breathed Twister; long before three burly Football Hooligan Intelligence Officers had shoved their way in amongst the claustrophobic hordes.
While everyone was trying to remain tight lipped and avoid making eye contact with them, one bright spark piped up: "If you three are really the Police... which one of you is fucking Sting!?"
Thankfully the constabulary saw the funny side: "Bloody hell, you're showing your age there pal!" and a friendly, chatty ambience soon developed, out of previously strained atmosphere. "You lot must be getting plenty of overtime in, working on a Sunday, jump off at Chesterfield and get the beers in lads!", joked one bloke... who couldn't possibly get any more ale down his neck given how royally pissed he already was.
Even though there were a few Derby fans on board, there was no unpleasantness between the rival factions, but even so, I was glad that I was getting off at the first available stop, before I choked to death on the stench of beer trumps.