AFTER cheering on his hometown club to play-off glory from a holiday bar in two of Doncaster Rovers’ greatest moments, Andy Butler is desperate to toast a special achievement of his own in nine days’ time.
The much-travelled defender, who hails from the Doncaster suburb of Balby, has been regaled with plenty of tales from Rovers’ halcyon days in their last two delicious experiences in the end-of-season lottery at Wembley in 2008 and the Britannia Stadium in 2003.
Another glorious chapter in club folklore could again be written later this month, although this evening’s opponents Charlton – backed by a home support in excess of 24,000 – will have plenty to say about that .
Trailing 2-1 after the first leg, Rovers must do it the hard way.
Just as they did at the end of 2002-03, when some penalty shoot-out heroics from former goalkeeper Andy Warrington in the Conference play-off semi-final at Chester booked a final date against Dagenham and Redbridge at Stoke City.
That feted day in the Potteries saw Rovers survive a strong fightback to prevail 3-2 thanks to an unforgettable ‘golden goal’ in extra-time from Francis Tierney, who secured the club’s return to the Football League and earned himself an honorary ‘knighthood’ from fans in the process.
Five years later, Rovers made light of their underdog status to stun Leeds United in the League One finale at the home of football, when James Hayter etched his name firmly in the club’s history.
Both were episodes that Butler would dearly love to recreate.
He said: “I did watch the Leeds final, but I was on holiday at the time. But when you walk around the streets and even when you take the dog for a walk, you bump into people and they say: ‘I was there when we beat Leeds and were outnumbered three to one or whatever it was.’
“ Even after the game, they would say that they were walking down the street and there were Leeds fans pushing us.
“I am guessing that if we got there again, it could be similar because of the clubs in the play-offs have all been ex-Premier League ones who are well backed.
“I remember that game at Stoke as well and I was on holiday again. If we could get to Wembley, it would really rank up there and be a massive boost for the town as well.
“Hopefully, we do get there because it would be a big lift for everybody.
“I know a lot of people who went to those games and they have reminded me that they (Rovers) got promoted and I did not – apart from once, but not to the Championship.
“I was with the squad at Blackpool when they got promoted (2009-10), but I have never played at Wembley and want to tick it off. It is every player’s dream and I am not getting any younger.”
Comebacks have been the order of the day in recent times from Derby County’s astonishing turnaround at Elland Road on Wednesday evening to the miraculous Champions League events at Anfield and the Johan Cruyff Arena last week.
It has provided a wholesome reminder to Rovers that while they have plenty of work to do to extend their season at The Valley tonight, it is a far from insurmountable task, with the pressure firmly on the hosts, according to Butler.
He added: “Anything can happen in a match. They (Charlton fans) will come to see their team take another step to promotion and ours will, too. To handle the pressure of that many fans’ expecting (victory) means there will be a lot of pressure on them.
“Our fans expect, but their fans think they are a Championship or Premier League club and the pressure is all on them.
“They have sold out and will make a big deal of that, but you know that extra fans means extra pressure on them. They will be the ones getting booed if they are losing, not us.
“People are writing us off, but we are not and we are well and truly in the game.”
A window of opportunity was provided courtesy of Matty Blair’s late goal on Sunday, even if the scenes at the end from the jubilant 3,700 Charlton following suggested that the Addicks felt they had one foot in the Wembley final after those events at the Keepmoat Stadium.
But, as far as Butler and his team-mates are concerned, the tie remains on a knife-edge ahead of the pivotal second meeting.
The centre-back said: “Sometimes, you sense a little bit of over-confidence and whether they thought they had got there already, I do not know.
“After two goals in two minutes, maybe they thought a third was coming.
“We have got to wipe all the negativity away and it is a fresh start and one goal gets you back into the game.”
Last six games: Charlton Athletic WLWWWW; Doncaster Rovers WLLDWL.
Referee: G Ward (Surrey).
Last time: Charlton 0 Doncaster 2, December 2, 2018; FA Cup.