BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Sky Sports’ EFL pundit Danny Higginbotham reckons the first goal will be “vital” in tomorrow’s League One play-off semi-final decider against Doncaster Rovers – even though we have seen a succession of big comebacks in recent high-profile matches.
The former Manchester United, Stoke City, Derby and Sunderland defender was an analyst for last night’s major Championship upset as Derby County won 4-2 at Leeds United to secure a Wembley final next weekend against Aston Villa.
And it is only the latest in a series of thrilling fightbacks, with Liverpool and Tottenham both overturning first leg deficits to reach the Champions League final at the end of this month.
Charlton are favourites to book their final spot as they secured a 2-1 victory at Doncaster Rovers on Sunday.
Higginbotham told the South London Press: “You would have thought last night [for Leeds-Derby] that the first goal was going to be vital – either game on or game over. But that was proved completely wrong [Derby hitting back from 2-0 down on aggregate]. It’s how you deal with the situation.
“Derby last night had so many young kids, they could’ve shrunk under an electric atmosphere. But they fed off it.
“Whether it has been the play-offs or the Champions League, we have seen some incredible comebacks.
“If you look at Charlton tomorrow, you would expect the first goal to be vital – because of Charlton’s home record. Only Luton have got more points than them at home.
“Doncaster’s away record is similar to about 12 teams at that level.
“Charlton go into the game as favourites. I thought they managed the first game really well, by and large, away from home.
“It is a timing thing. One second [Lyle] Taylor is close to making it 3-0, only for it to end up moments later as 2-1. The tie is still open, no doubt about that.
“Doncaster have quality players – Marquis, Wilks and Coppinger, I know he came off at half-time. But they have got players who can create.
“I was really impressed with Charlton’s young players – like Aribo. He was brilliant and Cullen was great alongside him – so was Morgan, the energy they gave them.
“The wing-backs were excellent and Parker’s work-rate was absolutely brilliant. I know there are only a couple of games left, but the way he is working it is only a matter of time before he gets a goal.
“Taylor is a player who can play in the Championship, no problem. I think he is a player who has developed so much over the last year or so. His work-rate was phenomenal and his movement is good – when he goes out to the wide areas it creates all types of problems. Charlton have got players with the intelligence to go into the areas he has vacated.
“The game is still very finely balanced but I do make Charlton favourites. But who gets the first goal could well change the dynamics of the game.”