Charlton Athletic 1-3 Doncaster Rovers
Hardly one to tell the grandkids about, but they came, they saw and they experienced what we hope will be a footballing turning point in this annus horribilis which will unfondly be recalled as 2020.
Today it was all about the fans. Sure, three precious Sky Bet League One points were at stake with both Charlton and Doncaster expected to be involved in the shake-up come the conclusion of the season. But for those 1,000 Addicks followers lucky enough to gain admission to The Valley as a part of the governments ‘pilot matches’ – intending to get supporters back into the stadiums, it must have felt – as it did for this reporter – as if their birthday and Christmas had all come at once.
Of course, as those of us who hold dearest a club with little forward momentum will testify, that childhood emotion of unravelling a beautifully wrapped but ultimately underwhelming gift would swiftly return. Nevertheless, having waited patiently since March 7, when 18,080 saw Middlesbrough snaffle the points in SE7, I’d imagine the feeling of relief far outweighed frustration as the game took a small step towards normality.
Conor Washington drilled across goal – Alex Gilby a whisker away from giving the returning few the perfect start.
Gilbey was denied by Josef Bursik at the foot of an upright, while Macauley Bonne perhaps should have done better when presented with a free header by Charlie Barker.
But the enthusiastic few were left rocking back in their seats midway through the opening period. Madger Gomes fizzed a right-footed strike beyond Ben Amos from distance – The silence, albeit briefly, was deafening!
The goal visibly Jolted Lee Bowyer’s side. Richard Taylor and Tom Anderson went close to doubling Doncaster’s advantage – that age-old right to ‘sound-off’ became instantly recognisable from those, less than impressed, in the stands.
And the mood darkened three minutes after the start. Addicks defender Barker forcefully turned Ben Whiteman’s centre high beyond Amos for Doncaster’s second of the afternoon.
Bursik used his feet to good effect, denying Washington a lifeline, while Darren Pratley’s header was off target as the home side tentatively stepped up their efforts. But just after the hour, Doncaster put the contest beyond reasonable doubt. Tyreece John-Jules provided a terrific finish after cutting in from the right – Rovers home and hosed with some to spare.
But having waited just over six months to see their side live, even the likelihood of it only being a consolation, Addicks fans roundly roared Conor Washington’s powerful close-range header from Jake Forster-Caskey’s centre like a last-minute winner.
Charlton back in it? Evidently not! Gilbey’s fierce drive struck the bar as Charlton soldiered on. The crowd regimentally filed out – a reminder that these are still uncertain times. But taking into consideration their disappointment after 197 days away – if you asked them to do it all again, I’d wager every one of them would snap your hand off!
Charlton Athletic: Amos, Barker (Williams 61’), Pratley, Oshilaja, Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Morgan (Lapslie 86’), Gilbey, Doughty, Bonne, Washington Subs not used: Oztumer, Levitt, Davison, Maynard-Brewer, Vennings
Goals: Conor Washington 67’
Doncaster Rovers: Bursik, Halliday, Anderson, Wright, James (John 77’), Gomes, Whiteman, Taylor, Richards (Coppinger 82’), Tulloch (Lokilo 13′), John-Jules Subs not used: Okenabirhie, Jones, Amos, Williams
Booked: Reece James (foul), Ben Whiteman (foul)
Goals: Madger Gomes 25’, Charlie Barker (own-goal) 48’, Tyreece John-Jules 63’
Referee: John Busby
Assistants: Paul Kelly and Anthony Da Costa
Fourth Official: Scott Williams