Doncaster – is it really a lottery?

It is often stated that the play-offs are a lottery, but Charlton's record would suggest that this is not the case. Our previous five appearances in the format have on the whole reflected League position and performance over the season.

Back in 1987 we finished 19th in the old First Division and were subjected to the ignominy of having to see off two Second Division clubs if we were to retain our top level status. Ipswich were duly despatched and the final saw us beat Leeds 1-0 at Selhurst but lose by the same score at Elland Road. Instead of a penalty shoot out we witnessed the legendary third game at St Andrews, Birmingham. Two Peter Shirtliff goals in the second half of extra time saw us home 2-1. It had been close, but the club in the higher league position had prevailed.

In 1996 we finished 6th in the First Division with 71 points and played third place Palace who had 75. Despite a Shaun Newton goal after fifty five seconds at The Valley we lost the home tie 1-2 and were finished off 0-1 at Selhurst three days later. No upset there. Palace did subsequently lose the final to Leicester who had finished below them but we shed no tears about that.

Two years later our 88 points saw us claim fourth place and a game against Ipswich who had finished five points adrift in fifth. We comfortably beat them home and away. Yes, it is true that losing finalists Sunderland had finished above us with 90 points but, given the margin of victory, it can hardly be seen as a lottery-type win on our behalf.

The 2010 play-offs were the only occasion when we have lost to a team finishing below us. However,  the difference between Charlton and Swindon over the season was just one place and two points and there is still a chance that, when Nicky Bailey's penalty kick ball eventually returns from outer space, it might just drop in the net.

Last season we finished sixth and a full sixteen points behind third place Shrewsbury. The semi-final reflected this. Although the aggregate score was only 2-0 we were in reality well beaten.

This year the situation is reversed with Doncaster trailing us by fifteen points. Of course we could have a player sent off early or we could lose a key player to injury but there really is no reason why we should fear a team who finished so far below us, particularly over two legs.

Excitement is growing for the trip to The Keepmoat on Sunday with nearly four thousand Addicks supporters travelling. This is a far superior Charlton side to the one which faced Shrewsbury a year ago and all the momentum and confidence is with us. Donny have a decent home record with only one defeat (1-2 v Accrington) in the last fifteen and, yes, they have danger men in Marquis, Wilks and Coppinger. But we have Dillon, Naby, Patrick, Joe, Albie, Lyle and the rest, and maybe this will be Josh's day.

If you are reading this on Friday there are only two sleeps to go.

If you prefer to do your reading on Saturday morning then there is only one more sleep.

If it is Sunday, you'd better get going.  Kick off is 12.15pm.