The first sell-out crowd at The Valley in seven years saw Charlton Athletic beat Doncaster Rovers after extra time and penalties to make it to the League One play-off final at Wembley.
Charlton will play Sunderland on Sunday 26 May – 21 years after the two clubs met at Wembley in a play-off final to reach the Premier League. Back then, the Addicks won 7-6 on penalties after drawing 4-4 after extra time in one of the greatest games the national stadium has seen.
The 25,428 crowd was the biggest since eccentric Belgian electronic magnate Roland Duchâtelet took over the club in 2014, precipitating a decline which has seen the Addicks marooned in the third tier of English football, with attendances slumping as longstanding fans boycotted the club.
It was an even more dramatic day for Charlton captain Patrick Bauer, who became a father in the afternoon before leading his side to victory in the evening.
Many fans set aside their boycott to come to The Valley last night as promotion back to the second-tier Championship should make the club more attractive to potential buyers – although Duchâtelet is still reported to be insisting that new owners repay the money he has lost in his disastrous spell in charge of the club.
Charlton took an early lead when Krystian Bielik’s second-minute header made it 3-1 on aggregate, after the Addicks won Sunday’s first leg in South Yorkshire by two goals to one. But Rovers fought back amid a hesitant second-half performance from Charlton to lead 2-1 after 90 minutes – 3-3 on aggregate.
Former Millwall striker John Marquis scored for Doncaster after 100 minutes, but Darren Pratley capitalised on an error by Rovers keeper Marko Marosi just a minute later to make it 2-3 on the night and 4-4 on aggregate.
After the match went to penalties, Charlton sealed the win when Doncaster captain Tommy Rowe missed the fifth spot-kick of the shoot-out, sparking a joyous pitch invasion at The Valley. The last pitch invasion was three years ago, when Charlton were relegated, in protest at Duchâtelet’s ownership.
The Addicks now have over 36,000 tickets for Wembley – sale details are available on cafc.co.uk.
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