BY LOUIS MENDEZ
Charlton’s worrying run of form continued as Accrington Stanley ran out 2-0 winners at The Valley on Friday evening.
The defeat means the South Londoners have won just twice in 10 league outings and not at all since mid-December. They’ve now been beaten twice on the spin after last week’s reverse at Hull and looked much less cohesive than an Accrington side who were playing for the first time since December 19thafter a run of postponements due to coronavirus outbreaks.
Boss Lee Bowyer made four changes from the side beaten at the KCOM Stadium last week but was unable to find the performance needed to dig his players out of the rut they’ve found themselves in.
Liam Millar came straight into the starting line-up after joining from Premier League giants Liverpool, with Paul Smyth in on the other flank as Bowyer went for a 4-3-3 formation from the off. Deji Oshilaja returned in defence, in place of the suspended Darren Pratley, with Alex Gilbey also in from the off.
John Coleman’s side were quicker out of the blocks, with both Joe Pritchard and Matt Butcher sending shots wide from the edge of the area – but the Addicks soon gained a foothold in the game through the pace of Liam Millar.
The on-loan Liverpool man looked lively on his debut and forced a save from visiting keeper Nathan Baxter, before the Chelsea loanee then made a superb stop low on his right to keep out Jake Forster-Caskey’s drive.
The Addicks – who have now only kept one clean sheet in 11 outings – saw their poor defensive record continue as the visitors broke the deadlock in farcical fashion nine minutes before the break.
Stanley stopper Baxter launched the ball forward and the Addicks allowed it to bounce before Pearce left Amos woefully short with a header back. Bishop nipped in to lift the ball past the Charlton goalkeeper and roll into the empty net.
Charlton’s defensive frailties left them with a mountain to climb once more but they almost responded immediately as a loose ball fell to Alex Gilbey on the edge of the area but once again Baxter reacted well to preserve his side’s lead.
Bowyer shuffled his pack at the break as Chuks Aneke, so effective from the bench this season, replaced the quiet Conor Washington.
The South Londoners’ top-scorer was involved straight away as he tried his luck from a tight angle only for Baxter to intervene again.
Canadian winger Millar had faded since the opening exchanges but did well to link up with Maatsen inside the Stanley area, although the dangerous low cross was hacked clear.
Accrington always looked a fluid threat going forward and it took last-ditch block from a combination of Pearce and Maatsen to deflect an effort from Pritchard over the bar – before the referee waved away tame penalty appeals from Millar at the other end as the debutant took a tumble in the Accrington box.
Bowyer threw Jonny Williams and Marcus Maddison into the mix for Millar and Albie Morgan with just under half-an-hour to play but they hadn’t had time to make an impact before Stanley put the game out of sight.
Once again, the South Londoners looked leaky at the back as Bishop sent the returning Oshilaja the wrong way with a deft turn and fired into the bottom corner.
The Addicks looked bereft of ideas, although Maddison’s cross into the area did cause a moment of panic for Accrington but his evening was brought to an abrupt end as he limped off with a knock late on.
The Charlton supporters watching on at home did see a brief glimpse of new signing Ronnie Schwartz as he entered the fray late on – but overall they would have seen little from their side to warm the cockles on a bitterly cold and disappointing night at The Valley.
PHOTOS: KEITH GILLARD
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