BY LOUIS MENDEZ
Charlton drop into the relegation zone for the first time this season as Middlesbrough leapfrogged their hosts with a 1-0 win at The Valley.
Paddy McNair capitalised on a wayward back pass from Ben Purrington to score the only goal of the game on 17 minutes as Boro tasted victory for the first time since New Years Day.
Boro Boss Jonathan Woodgate and Charlton chief Lee Bowyer remain close friends after their time together at Leeds during their playing careers but it was the former who came out on top on an important afternoon in the battle to avoid the drop.
Bowyer hoped last week’s 4-0 thrashing at Huddersfield would be the kick up the backside that his team needed – but they started like they were still suffering from the bruising.
Nervous in possession, the South Londoners were on the backfoot from the off. They had an early let-off as Adam Matthews managed to scramble a dangerous cross behind at the far-post with Hayden Coulson loitering with intent nearby.
Lyle Taylor and Andre Green had seen half-chances go by for the Addicks as they looked to make a mark on the contest but the visitors were gifted the opener before twenty minutes had been played.
A mix-up between George Lapslie and Deji Oshilaja had presented Karlan Grant with the opening goal at Huddersfield seven days ago and this time it was left-back Ben Purrington whose generosity was punished.
Purrington’s loose pass went straight to Rudy Gestede in the right-hand channel, with the Boro man squaring for McNair to poach his 5thChampionship strike of the season from ten yards out.
McNair nearly turned provider minutes later as his low-cross flew just beyond Gestede’s outstretched foot as Boro continued to dominate a flat Charlton side – with Bowyer opting to switch from a 4-1-4-1 formation to a 4-4-2 after half-an-hour to try and breathe some life back into his side.
They did force an opportunity as Green fired straight at Dejan Stojanovic in the Boro goal just before the break but the half-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos by the home support.
Bowyer threw Macauley Bonne into the mix at the interval with George Lapslie making way and the Addicks looked brighter after the restart.
Taylor found himself in the book for simulation after going down under a challenge from Harold Moukoudi inside the eighteen-yard box but the Addicks kept pushing.
Jonny Williams broke away down the right and floated a cross into the middle that was headed towards goal by Oshilaja but easy for Stojanovic – who was just a spectator as Darren Pratley then side-footed Bonne’s pull-back wide.
The Addicks were vulnerable to the counter attack as they continued to push forward and Lewis Wing could have finished them off, but mis-hit his volley when he latched onto a centre from Gestede.
Bonne then had a huge chance to draw his side level with twenty minutes left. Taylor fizzed a ball in from the left, and the former Leyton Orient striker toed it straight at Stojanovic at his near-post when he had time to take a touch and set himself properly.
Alfie Doughty and Tomer Hemed both were introduced from the bench as the minutes ticked down and a Dillon Phillips save from Wing’s drive kept the Addicks in it as we entered the closing stages.
The Addicks continued to rally but, despite a last-ditch header from Bonne just clearing the crossbar, they were unable to find a leveller on a crucial afternoon in the relegation battle.
PHOTOS: KYLE ANDREWS
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