Graft and grit not enough for Charlton Athletic as they can’t slow Brentford’s assault on Championship top two

BRENTFORD 2
Benrahma 75 pen Pinnock 85
CHARLTON 1
Bonne 8
BY RICHARD CAWLEY AT GRIFFIN PARK

This defeat stung. If Charlton had even hung on for a draw then it would have been a triumph for grit and graft, not to mention another crucial step towards Championship safety.

But Brentford, as has been the case since football emerged out of lockdown, were not to be denied.

Former Dulwich Hamlet centre-back Ethan Pinnock’s 85th-minute goal made it six straight victories for the killer Bees. Thomas Frank’s young, talented and exuberant side have lost just once since February and still have a live chance of making the top two.

It is absolutely no disgrace to lose to Brentford. They are the division’s top scorers and have conceded the fewest goals. In fact they had chained together five successive clean sheets going into Tuesday’s contest, but it took Charlton just eight minutes to beat David Raya as Macauley Bonne claimed his 10th goal of the campaign and first since Boxing Day.

And the Addicks went close to making it 2-0 soon after. Josh Cullen’s inswinging corner came off the bar and Jason Pearce struck almost the identical area with a first-time volley as the ball rebounded into his path. When you are facing a side with Brentford’s firepower then a two-goal cushion would have been invaluable.

Lee Bowyer had been at Griffin Park on Saturday to watch the hosts sweep aside Wigan Athletic. He knew that he needed to cook things a little differently with his tactics and went with a 5-2-2-1 formation which saw Jake Forster-Caskey and Jonny Williams both playing in a number 10 role behind the hard-working Bonne.

Charlton’s pressing and closing down were excellent in the first period and they were never truly uncomfortable in the opening 45 minutes. In truth, they would have preferred just to keep on playing.

No two halves are usually the same in the Championship.

And Brentford were better on the ball when the action resumed, also finding more space as the hard yards covered by Charlton’s players began to take a toll on their legs.

Trying to shut down the hosts’ attacking threats is a huge challenge with the quality that the likes of Rico Henry, Josh Dasilva and Said Benrahma possess, although 23-goal Ollie Watkins struggled to make an impression.

The Bees produced wave after wave of attack in that second period and it was no surprise that Benrahma, one of the outstanding performers in the division this season, was involved in their equaliser.

The Algerian went down in the box under a challenge from Josh Cullen and referee John Brooks pointed to the spot. The playmaker casually slotted into the bottom left corner of the net for his 15th goal of the campaign.

Bowyer had made substitutions to try and freshen up his under-the-cosh troops but it did nothing to quell Brentford’s superiority.

Phillips could only watch as Dasilva’s left-footed curler came back off the upright.

And it was the same player who whipped in the ball for Pinnock to glance in the decider.

We’ll put down Charlton’s inability to properly close down from the short corner to fatigue.

“These ain’t going to be the games that define whether we stay in the division,” said Bowyer. “I’m proud of the players – you’ll not hear me saying that often when we lose.”

A heavy defeat in west London could have had repercussions with the Addicks having a marginally better goal difference than Middlesbrough and Hull City. It could be that tight that it becomes a decisive factor.

Sitting deep and hoping to hit Brentford on the counter was the best approach.

The pace of Jonny Williams and Alfie Doughty down the left created Charlton’s opener – the latter’s cross being headed towards goal by Forster-Caskey with Bonne’s touch vital in deceiving Raya.

You have to give credit to Brentford for cutting off the supply line to Bonne in the second half. He was left chasing lost causes as Charlton only had 30 per cent possession.

Brentford completed 517 accurate passes with their opponents ending on 162.

“A nice little stat is that of the current top four teams they [Charlton] have only lost tonight against us,” said Frank. “They beat us last time and beat Leeds. Two times they have drawn with Fulham and West Brom. So they are very good against the top sides and they showed that today.

“They are very, very difficult to break down. All respect to them. I think they will survive and stay in the Championship.”

Charlton’s record against the other six sides at the foot of the Championship reads won four, drawn two and lost six.

Tomorrow’s home game against Reading is huge. The Royals have ended any fears of the drop with their last couple of results but the fact they no longer have pressure on them could arguably work in their favour.

Charlton put in a mammoth effort at Brentford only to eventually fall short, but in their perilous predicament there isn’t time to feel sorry for themselves.

They have to dig deep again in the final four matches to ensure Frank’s prediction becomes a reality.

Charlton (5-2-2-1): Phillips 7, Matthews 7, Lockyer 7, Pearce 7, Sarr 7, Doughty 7 (Oshilaja 72), Field 7 (Pratley 56, 6), Cullen 7, Forster-Caskey 7 (Morgan 72), Williams 7 (Lapslie 56, 6), Bonne 7 (Aneke 79). Not used: Amos, Purrington, McGeady, Davison.

PICTURES BY KYLE ANDREWS


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