Bonne 40, 77, Doughty 82
BRISTOL CITY 2
Weimann 46 Eliasson 60
BY KEVIN NOLAN AT THE VALLEY
On the evidence supplied by this bloodwarming, come-from-behind victory over promotion hopefuls Bristol City, the spirit sustaining sorely depleted Charlton continues to burn brightly.
The flesh, on the other hand, remains weak with key midfielder Conor Gallagher the latest casualty to hobble off painfully as part of the price paid for three vital points. Lee Bowyer wasn’t kidding when he wistfully commented that he was beginning to “run out of players”.
The dwindling survivors Bowyer still has available are doing him proud. There was a point, on the hour mark, when City forged ahead and apparently had the reeling Addicks at their mercy.
With will-o-the-wisp interval substitute Niclas Eliasson running riot on the right and firing the visitors ahead on the hour mark, the fear of collapse briefly loomed over an embattled Valley.
No chance of that as it turned out. Instead it was the West Countrymen who fell to pieces as Charlton gained sweetly symmetrical revenge for the heartbreaking last-minute setback they suffered at Ashton Gate on October 23, a defeat which began their run of 11 games without a win.
Setting out in the same 3-5-2 formation which finished in such style five days previously at QPR, Charlton coped comfortably with the Robins in a low-key first half. Savvy old stager Darren Pratley anchored the back three while Deji Oshilaja patrolled effectively in front of them. City offered little and duly fell behind five minutes before the break.
As a visiting attack foundered, Albie Morgan, a worthy replacement for Jonathan Leko, showed head-up awareness of the run begun from his own half by Macauley Bonne, with left Tomas Kalas a poor second in a two-man footrace. Reaching Morgan’s lofted pass before Daniel Bentley, Bonne lobbed over the advancing goalkeeper from the 18 yard line and had just enough mustard on the ball to find the net on one bounce, despite Kalas’ desperate effort to clear off the line.
Consolidating their advantage in front of the away end, where 12 of the 15 goals scored by visitors at The Valley this season have been conceded, was as usual problematic. A minute after resumption, their lead disappeared as Eliasson made an immediate impact. With an impressive ability to operate off either foot, the elusive Swedish winger turned infield from the right to pick out Andreas Weimann with an inswinging head-high cross, which the striker deftly glanced into the left corner.
On the hour, Eliasson provided a close range right-footed finish through Dillon Phillips’ legs after Josh Brownhill fed Andre Nagy for a low centre which caused chaos in the home defence. The away end jinx had struck again but this time the Addicks had a riposte for it. And it was the rampant Bonne who hauled them level with his second goal and eighth of a promising first campaign in league football.
Competing with Kalas for Phillips’ lusty punt, with headed touches provided by both Lyle Taylor and himself, Bonne showed unexpected Shearer-like aggression in shunting the Czech defender aside before positioning himself to leather a no-nonsense left-footed piledriver into the roof of the net.
No more Mr. Nice Guy was the message emphatically delivered by Charlton’s top scorer.
Five minutes after his important equaliser, Bonne claimed an assist for Alfie Doughty’s matchwinner. Played through the inside right channel by Tom Lockyer’s fine pass, he forced his way past two struggling Robins before drilling a hard low cross from close to the byline. Encouraged by his manager – a freewheeling, free-scoring midfielder himself – to attack the far post, Doughty by name and nature forced the ball past Daniel Bentley at the second attempt.
His first goal for the club received an ecstatic ovation from a crowd always ready to salute “one of our own”. In Doughty, Morgan and Phillips, Bowyer was well served by youth. The dependable Pratley, meanwhile, carried the standard for the more senior citizens.
So the 11-game monkey on Charlton’s back was removed, not without the usual palpitations it must be said, but for once and hopefully all.
The ongoing saga of the prospective owners still hangs over them but this admirable group of pros continue to defy the odds.
It’s far from over but Boxing Day might be a turning point. That depends equally on the medical as much as the playing staff. Get well soon, chaps.
Charlton (3-5-2): Phillips 7, Matthews 7, Lockyer 7, Pratley 7, Sarr 7, Oshilaja 7, Morgan 8 (Pearce 86), Gallagher 7 (Purrington 52, 6), Doughty 8 (Solly 90), Bonne 9, Taylor 7. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Ledley, Dempsey, Davison.
PICTURES BY PAUL EDWARDS
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