The second semi-final of the League One play-offs begins its journey on Sunday afternoon when Doncaster Rovers play Charlton Athletic for the right to take on either Portsmouth or Sunderland at Wembley Stadium later in the month.
Both teams will be eager to pick up the victory in this first leg to put themselves in a good position to win the tie at The Valley on Friday night but the main order of the day is to ensure they remain in the hunt heading to London later in the week.
There is no shortage of confidence at Doncaster Rovers, with one of their players stupidly branding themselves as the best team in the league not too long ago, but whether there is enough quality in their ranks to come through here remains to be seen. If there is a plus point or an advantage for Rovers it comes in the fact that they have already played one must-win match last week to get them into this encounter so that is something they should be able to draw upon.
The other positive for Doncaster is that their home form is pretty strong. Only three sides have left the Keepmoat with the three points this season and only Luton and Sunderland scored more goals on their own patch than Doncaster. Only Sunderland of the top seven have left Doncaster with a win this season so confidence should be quite high for the home side.
If form heading into the play-offs count for anything then Charlton Athletic can be crowned as winners already because they stormed towards the finish line this season and only a slip up at Oxford late on denied them automatic promotion in the end. Realistically though this was always the best they could hope for so they should be well prepared and ready to attack a second play-off campaign in succession.
The Addicks will have to put the memory of last season out of their mind, other than to use it as a motivation to make sure it doesn’t happen again here. Charlton head into the contest off the back of seven wins in their last eight and one defeat in 15 matches so in essence they just need to keep doing what they have been but that is much easier said than done at this stage of the campaign.
Doncaster Rovers have announced a fully fit squad to face Charlton in this match which means that Ben Whiteman could come back into their set up as they look to secure an initial lead in the tie. Alfie Beestin is also available.
Lee Bowyer is hoping that Jonny Williams will be fit for his Charlton Athletic side but he has been dealt a blow with the new that Igor Vetokele will miss the match through injury. That leaves Lyle Taylor carrying the pressure up front.
Charlton Athletic finished a huge 15pts better than their rivals over the course of the regular season and while I expect that to count for something over the duration of the two legs here, whether it will come into play in this first leg I’m less certain of but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if that does end up being the case.
I fancy this will be a tight first leg. Charlton are much improved defensively while Doncaster do struggle to score against the top sides even on their own patch. They scored twice against Luton but were kept out by Sunderland, Portsmouth and Barnsley so against the better sides they find it hard to break through. I don’t expect Charlton to be massively expansive in this game so under 2.25 goals could be the way to play this one.
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