The match ball was waiting on a plinth. Shit had gotten serious at the Keepmoat. “It’s all a bonus,” said Mike as I passed him pre-match. And he wasn’t wrong. Blue sky, relatively full house, big noise, genuinely affable Rovers side. Nowt to lose and all to love.
Especially in a first half hour where Rovers matched their undeniably stronger opponents. James Coppinger almost upped the feel-good factor, his shot from distance denied only by a brilliant one-handed save. Danny Andrew thwacked the bar with a free-kick.
But on half hour Rovers were undone by a set-piece. Andy Butler’s flick on from a cross inadvertently playing Josh Cullen onside, and his cut-back was eventually bundled in by Lyle Taylor.
Within a couple of minutes Charlton had doubled their lead. Breaking to capitalise on unconvincing defending and squeeze a low shot beneath Marko Marosi. Just three poor minutes in 90 all it took to steepen the gradient of an already uphill task.
A change was undoubtedly needed, though Tommy Rowe for Coppinger was still a surprise. A flat second half ensued, Rovers just about held the visitors at arm’s length but never quite found a route in behind.
Only in the final minutes, when Mallik Wilks switched wings and his deflected cross was nodded in by Matty Blair, did hope and promise emerge. Cue a gung-ho five minutes of vociferous forward thrust, but sadly it came to nothing.
It’s not over yet, but we go to The Valley in hope rather than belief.
by Glen Wilson