BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Goals from Lyle Taylor and Joe Aribo ensured Charlton Athletic came away from this League One play-off semi-final first leg with their noses in front.
The Addicks have not lost at home in the league since October and were so close to having a bigger cushion for the decisive return on Friday.
But Matty Blair headed in a late goal for Doncaster Rovers which means there is still plenty of work to be done if Charlton are to reach Wembley.
The Addicks will be favourites to get the job done in SE7.
Charlton took a grip on this contest in the opening 45 minutes as Taylor notched his 24th goal of the season – with Aribo moving into double figures.
The Addicks had a chance to open the scoring on 21 minutes but Josh Parker’s header from a Ben Purrington cross dropped wide of the left upright.
Rovers had their own moments of joy. Dillon Phillips was forced to dive full length to his left to push away James Coppinger’s curling effort on 26 minutes.
Soon after the Addicks crossbar was left shuddering by Danny Andrew’s peach of a free-kick.
Charlton scored twice in the space of two minutes.
Albie Morgan did excellently to cut inside of Mallik Wilks and find Josh Cullen at the back post – although Taylor’s original effort was blocked the Addicks number nine followed up to head home.
Charlton had a 2-0 lead on 34 minutes. Taylor teed the ball up for the overlapping Aribo and his cross-shot was only palmed unconvincingly into his own net by Rovers keeper Marko Marosi.
Morgan was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself in the 41st minute. Neat build-up play by Aribo and Taylor presented the youngster with a shooting chance, Marosi finger-tipping away for a corner.
Doncaster’s corner kicks were testing and Josh Cullen cleared one of his line.
A Parker header was plucked out of the air by Marosi but the former Gillingham man was one of two relatively early changes in the second period as Morgan also made way – Jason Pearce coming on at the back with Krystian Bielik pushed forward into his more familiar defensive midfield role. The experience of Darren Pratley was also utilised as Charlton boss Lee Bowyer aimed to keep his two-goal cushion intact.
Charlton’s first shot on target after the break came on 70 minutes but left-back Ben Purrington’s effort was a straightforward take for Marosi.
The same could not be said four minutes later. The excellent Aribo was on to a misplaced pass in a flash and Taylor’s cross was met by the head of Cullen, the Doncaster stopper turning around the base of his left post.
Aribo was too powerful and too classy for Doncaster to contain. He showed his strength and stamina late on as he burst into the box but the cross was just too high for Taylor.
But Rovers got the lifeline they wanted just before the end of normal time. Wilks’ cross took a kind deflection and Blair headed in the looping ball at the back post.