BY KEVIN NOLAN
Charlton’s unbeaten sequence of seven unbeaten League One games, six of which were victories, came to a shuddering halt at bottom-of-the-table Burton Albion, where Lee Bowyer’s rotation system rebounded on him.
His curious selection which preferred Omar Bogle to Chuks Aneke and rewarded Albie Morgan’s outstanding display against Gillingham with a place on the bench was compounded by the pallid first-half contribution of Marcus Maddison, who responded to his overdue substitution by Conor Washington with uncalled-for petulance.
The visit to the lowly Brewers seemed no more than a necessary if inconvenient stop on the way to tomorrow’s far more important clash with Ipswich Town.
The trousering of three easy points at Pirelli Stadium would be excellent preparation for the more serious business at Portman Road.
That seemed the attitude of the navel-gazing, elbow-crooking dandies who were played off the park by Jake Buxton’s exuberant side during a first half of excruciating embarrassment; a dishevelled rabble who seemed hell-bent on sealing their own fate with a series of catastrophic mistakes born of their slavish attachment to the modern mantra known as “playing out from the back.”
Only eight minutes had elapsed, during which Albion had already shown their greater hunger for victory, when Chris Gunter’s dreamy backpass was intercepted by Lucas Akins. Initially foiled by Amos’ fine block, Akins pounced on the loose ball to set Charlton’s train of disaster in motion.
Amos himself caught the bug before the interval when he dawdled in possession and absentmindedly gifted the ball to Joe Powell, who promptly doubled the Brewers’ lead. In each case, a basic downfield clearance would have solved a minor problem but that’s not the crude way it’s done these days.
Between the goals, Bowyer had acknowledged his error in omitting Aneke from the starting line-up.
Having played only briefly at Gillingham three days previously, there was no obvious reason to rest his burly striker, a point 38th-minute substitute Aneke made with another impressive shift, which included an early candidate for Charlton’s Goal of the Season.
Preferred initially to Washington, meanwhile, Paul Smyth grabbed his opportunity by reducing Albion’s lead before the interval with his first goal for the club.
Andrew Shinnie’s corner launched a bout of head tennis, with Smyth’s contribution blocked on the goal-line and smashed home at the second attempt.
Smyth was a lively participant in the three-man forward line, alongside Aneke and Washington, which belatedly took the fight to the briefly rattled home side after resumption.
All three of them should start at Ipswich in a side more concerned with the quality of its players than the abstract formation in which they are deployed. But they probably won’t.
Also making an irresistible case for inclusion in the weekend team was Morgan, who grows in stature with each appearance he makes.
He entered the fray with the Addicks 3-1 down, due to the close-range finish Sam Hughes applied to Charles Vernam’s cross, and made an immediate impact. His glorious pass sent Aneke haring to the right byline to shoot venomously across Kieran O’Hara, whose right foot diverted the drive on to Alex Gilbey’s head. A desperate last-ditch clearance foiled Gilbey but the Addicks were not to be denied.
Pulling the strings by now, Morgan supplied an even better delivery from the right flank, which Aneke, with his back to goal, expertly controlled on his chest before swivelling to dispatch a searing overhead volley past O’Hara into the top right corner. It was a magnificent goal by a charismatic striker and deserved better than to sink almost without trace in a game Charlton would prefer to forget.
It meant little anyway because Vernham restored Burton’s two-goal lead with six minutes left.
And so Bowyer’s chastened side press on to Ipswich for a confrontation of midweek losers.
The Tractor Boys were turned over 3-0 by Hull City, having previously won all six of their home games with the concession of just one goal before being mauled by the Tigers.
While without twin tower centre-backs Ryan Inniss and Akin Famewo, the Addicks’ winning streak had become a marvel of ingenuity and, let’s be fair, was due to end some day.
But at League One’s bottom club, whose solitary win had been over Accrington Stanley two months ago, it came as a hugely unpleasant shock.
With four days rest, rotation should be kicked into touch. These blokes, are, after all, playing football, not toiling down a coalmine. Just saying….
Star man: Chuks Aneke. Led from the front, both practically and figuratively. He won everything in the air, protected possession diligently and was a thorn in Burton’s side.
Best moment: The delicate chest touch which tamed Albie Morgan’s hard cross and set up the fulminating volley which gave Charlton hope.
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