Charlton’s U18s booked their place in the Professional Development League 2 national play-off final by beating Leeds United on Saturday morning.
The young Addicks’ second place finish in the league meant that they had to travel to the northern league champions and Alex Willis’ goal was enough to earn a date with rivals Crystal Palace for the right to be named national champions.
It proved to be a real battle in Yorkshire and Leeds came close to opening the scoring after 10 minutes when Jamie Shackleton glanced a header wide from close range, but it would be the visitors who would take their opportunity in the 23rd minute with what proved to be the decisive goal.
Willis took control of Jordan Zemura’s centre 20 yards from goal, took his touch and picked his spot, wrong-footing the goalkeeper with a low, powerful shot which dipped into the bottom left-hand corner.
The goal filled Charlton with confidence, but Alfie Doughty spurned a chance to stretch the lead just after the half-hour mark, poking an effort wide from 10 yards, before coming even closer on the stroke of half-time when he forced a fine save from Leeds stopper Harrison Male with his header from four yards after a corner.
Male pulled off an even better save five minutes after the restart, somehow keeping out Jeremey Sarmiento’s shot from six yards which looked destined for the back of the net, while the hosts began to probe for an equaliser at the other end.
The second half played out as a tight affair and Ashley Maynard-Brewer was not truly tested until the 89th minute when Clarke rose highest from an tight-wing cross, only to see his header well saved by the Addicks keeper.
The victory sets up a meeting with Palace in the final on Friday, May 4th at The Valley (7pm).
Entry is free for season-ticket holders and Valley Gold members. Admittance is otherwise priced at £3 adults, £2 concessions and seniors and £1 juniors.
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer, Birch, Pollard, Nwosu, Zemura, Sarpong-Wiredu, Dempsey, Morgan, Doughty (Powell 90+1), Sarmiento (Ocran 75), Willis (Carey 90+3).
Subs (not used): Harvey, Toby.
Goal: Willis 23