ONE moment of telling enterprise from Charlton's midfielder Shaun Newton last night earned his side a place in the First Division play-off final. Victory over Sunderland at Wembley on 25 May will return a club which came within a whisker of extinction in 1984 to the top flight for the first time in eight years.
After their time in the wilderness, at Selhurst Park and Upton Park, Charlton have returned to their roots. The Valley, which has not seen top-flight football since 1957, was filled with raucous optimism inspired by the home side's 1-0 win in the away leg four days beforehand. The Charlton faithful were rewarded by a display that was always efficient - and Newton's moment in the 35th minute, which was special.
Drifting in from the right wing, he negotiated a series of challenges on the edge of the box to earn a clear sight of goal, whereupon he drove the ball high and handsomely past Richard Wright with his left foot.
Ipswich, whose performance up to that point had been muted, proceeded in virtual silence, rarely looking likely to break through the defence which maintained its ninth consecutive clean sheet - a club record.
In retrospect, the high point of the visitors' game may have come when they realised that Charlton's top scorer, Clive Mendonca, was absent after pulling a muscle in his back while warming up on Monday.
"It was one of those crazy things," said Charlton's manager Alan Curbishley. "But the players took it in their stride. I think the club as a whole deserves a day out, although obviously we've got to win as well. I think the board should have done a lap of honour today. The last 10 years have been a concerted effort from everybody."
Ipswich's manager George Burley remained stoic after seeing his side fall at the same point as they had the previous season. "For the same thing to happen two years running was a big disappointment," he said. "But some of the football we have played this season has been very exciting. Charlton are a very difficult side to break down."
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Ilic; Bowen, Rufus, Youds, Barness; Newton, Kinsella, K Jones, Heaney; Bright, S Jones (Mortimer, 82). Substitute not used: Allen, Brown.
Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Wright; Uhlenbeek, Cundy, Venus, Taricco; Stockwell (Sonner, h-t), Dyer, Holland, Petta; Mathie (Scowcroft, 61), Johnson. Substitute not used: Clapham.
Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn).Reuse content