Charlton’s U18s continued their outstanding season by booking their place in the Professional Development League 2 play-off final with a hugely-dramatic victory over Barnsley at The Valley on Saturday afternoon.
After finding themselves two goals down early in the second half, the young Addicks were made to fight back and they did so in some style.
Daniel Kanu’s goal 14 minutes from time set them on the comeback trail, before Ryan Huke’s 89th-minute leveller looked to have forced extra time.
But Nathan Asiimwe’s header deep into injury-time secured victory for the south-Londoners who now progress to the final for the right to be crowned national champions.
The hosts were given a scare in the opening moments of the game when Barnsley had the ball in the net, but it was ruled out for a push as a Tykes forward headed into the net.
It was 12 minutes before the Addicks registered their first shot on target with Jason Adigun stinging the palms of visiting stopper Kieran Flavell with a powerful drive from the edge of the box.
Toby Bower was next to come close on 28 minutes when he fired wide from Kanu’s lay-off just inside the penalty area, while Tolu Ladapo headed off target as Charlton grew into the half.
But the best opportunity of the first 45 when the way of Barnsley just before the break with Fabio Jalo wasting a good chance by blazing over a volley from eight yards while in space at the back post.
The Barnsley man would make amends early in the second half, however, as he fired his team into the lead with an effort which found the bottom corner.
In the 58th minute, Jalo would strike again with a carbon copy of his first – again coming in from the right before finding the bottom left-hand corner with a nicely-placed effort.
Charlton needed to respond and very nearly did almost immediately when Mack Reilly was played into the box, but Flavell got out well to keep him out.
The Addicks continued to probe and did finally get themselves back in it with 14 minutes remaining as Kanu reduced the arrears to bag his 40th goal of a prolific campaign.
Picking up possession just outside the box, he forced his way from right to left to get into the box and slotted a left-footed shot into the bottom right-hand corner to give his side some hope going into the closing stages.
In truth, Charlton were deserving of an equaliser as they continued to chip away with the clocking ticking down to the 90, and with one minute left of normal time, they made their breakthrough to draw level.
Substitute Huke grabbed the all-important equaliser, beating the offside trap to get on the end of Jason Adigun’s slipped pass to prod the ball home past Flavell.
The Addicks did not want to stop there, however, and continued to push for a winner to avoid extra time. Huke came so close to doing just that when the ball fell kindly for him in the box, but placed his shot over the bar with plenty of time, but there would be one more twist to come.
In the fifth minute of injury time, Huke was played into the box and, despite having his shirt pulled by a Tykes defender, forced a corner with his shot – and from Bower’s resulting corner delivery, Asiimwe proved to be the hero, rising to head home the winner to seal Charlton their deserved place in the Professional Development League 2 play-off final against either Sheffield United or Colchester United.
Charlton U18s: Kone, Hobden (Laqeretabua 66), Mitchell, Asiimwe, Bower, Dench, Anderson, Adigun, Ladapo (Leaburn 59), Reilly (Huke 76), Kanu.
Subs (not used): Molyneux, Kedwell, Toure, Kamara.
Goals: Kanu 76, Huke 89, Asiimwe 90+5
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