With Sunderland facing Charlton Athletic this weekend in the Sky Bet League One Play-Off Final, we thought that it might be good to look at their season and how they made it to the final.
In the summer of 2018, Lee Bowyer was still the interim manager of Charlton as the club went through a prolonged period of uncertainty relating to a potential takeover.
Lyle Taylor and Darren Pratley were the only two players through the door in the summer, both arriving on a free transfer.
The season began with a trip to the Stadium of Light, and the Addicks led for a long period before Sunderland turned the game around in the second half winning 2-1.
Such was the difficulty of the summer, Charlton lined up with just five substitutes on the opening day.
August was not a kind month for Bowyer’s side as they picked up just one win, against Shrewsbury Town at home.
September saw the team pick up greatly as they won four in a row against Southend United, Wycombe Wanderers, Bradford City and Plymouth Argyle – that propelled them back up the table and into the play-off positions.
October was a less kind month as the team struggled, three defeats and just won win left the team in 13th place with 22 points from 15 games.
A 1-0 loss to Rochdale at the end of October was the turning point the team needed and four straight wins followed against Doncaster Rovers, Walsall, Bristol Rovers and Burton Albion in November.
Those results put Bowyer’s men in the play-off positions and three wins from their first four in December kept the team in a healthy league position.
Two defeats over Christmas away at Coventry and Barnsley did seem to knock any aspirations of automatic promotion away as the team were sat in sixth and eight points from second.
January saw the team back on track with three wins and two draws – including a 1-1 draw with Sunderland at the Valley.
February was a less fruitful month with Bowyer seeing his side pick up just one win in the month – away at AFC Wimbledon.
The 1-1 draw with Doncaster to start March had the team sat in fifth place but 10 points away from automatic promotion.
Eight wins from their next 10 games was enough to put the Addicks back in the automatic promotion mix and prior to their 2-1 away defeat at Oxford, Charlton were just three points back of second place Barnsley.
Three final wins to end the season was not enough to squeeze into the automatic promotion places, but it did put Charlton third in the table and gave them the advantage of playing sixth placed Doncaster in the play-offs.
The first leg was a dominant affair and Bowyer’s men could have counted themselves unlucky to not have scored three – they had to settle for a slender 2-1 lead thanks to a late Donny goal.
Charlton were ahead after two minutes in the second leg – meaning they were 3-1 up on aggregate but they let that dominance slip and Doncaster got the game level at 1-1.
Andy Butler then headed Doncaster level in the tie on 88 minutes which led to extra time.
The hosts struggled to get to grips with the game and Donny were ahead for the first time in the tie in the 100th minute thanks to a John Marquis goal.
Charlton replied immediately through Darren Pratley to send the game to penalties.
The Addicks were prolific from the spot and won the shoot-out 4-3 meaning that they were going back to Wembley for the first time since 1998 when they defeated Sunderland in the Championship Play-Off final.
Lee Bowyer’s side have enjoyed a great season and are fully deserving of their place in the final, but they face a Sunderland side keen to avenge their Wembley defeat from earlier this season.
Either way, this tie is a must-see for football fans around the country.