Gary Haines reports from Pride Park
Fast-finishing Charlton’s late rally was not enough as they slipped to a third successive Championship defeat at Derby County on Tuesday night.
The Addicks found themselves three goals behind with 20 minutes remaining, but almost snatched an improbable point at Pride Park.
Danny Green scored one and made another for Yann Kermorgant in the space of three memorable minutes and substitute Salim Kerkar had an injury-time header cleared off the line.
But the hill would prove too steep for the Londoners despite, for the third time in as many games, ending the game like an express train.
What will concern Chris Powell, however, is their inability to gain momentum at the start of games.
It would have been an astonishing act of escapology, but the fact the Addicks were three down to start with hardly helped. At this level you cannot afford to give teams that much of an advantage and hope to get something from the game.
The hosts were off to a dream start as Ward volleyed them in front early in the game.
The striker connected sweetly after a headed clearance from Michael Morrison flew out to him at the edge of the box.
It was the second volley conceded by the Valley men in five days and Conor Sammon might have quickly added a second but hoisted a shot over after racing clear.
Derby’s high-octane approach was making life very difficult for the visitors and the Rams were as efficient in possession as they were out of it.
The fine margins of Championship football were then highlighted early in the second period as the hosts doubled their lead.
First skipper Johnnie Jackson saw a header from a corner cleared off the line by Gareth O’Connor and the Rams cashed in four minutes later as Bryson doubled their lead.
It came after a mistake at the back from Dale Stephens with Bryson eventually bundling home after Hamer had saved from Sammon.
Things got even worse when Green upended Ward for a penalty with the striker thumping home from 12 yards.
Then came what is now becoming the customary late Addicks rally.
First Green smashed home a stupendous shot from 25 yards on 70 minutes after a corner was half cleared.
And the hosts were on the ropes three minutes later after the increasingly-dangerous wideman sauntered in from the right and centred for Kermorgant to claim his second goal of the season from close in.
Amid more late drama Salim Kerkar had an injury-time header cleared off the line, but it wasn’t to be as the hosts clung on.
In terms of team news, Charlton made two changes for Tuesday night’s Championship clash at Pride Park.
With Rhoys Wiggins facing a two-month lay-off with two fractured metatarsals, Chris Solly was the solution to Powell’s left-back headache.
That meant summer signing Lawrie Wilson started a league match in Addicks colours for the first time.
There was a change in midfield too as Bradley Pritchard made way for Danny Green, who impressed from the bench during Friday night’s derby defeat against Crystal Palace.
Otherwise it was unchanged as manager Powell, a former Rams favourite, led a team against Derby for the first time.
Ben Hamer was between the posts with Wilson and Solly flanking Leon Cort and Morrison at the back.
Skipper Jackson and Green supplied the width either side of Danny Hollands and Stephens with Kermorgant and Bradley Wright-Phillips up front.
Pritchard dropped to the bench where he was joined by reserve keeper David Button, Dorian Dervite, Cedric Evina, Kerkar, Michael Smith and Ricardo Fuller.
The Rams made one change from their weekend defeat at Huddersfield Town with Paul Coutts coming on for Conor Doyle.
Another Conor, Sammon, was up front alongside livewire Ward.
Kermorgant rose to head a third minute corner from Jackson wide of the left post after Morrison, up for a free-kick, did well to force the flag-kick.
Stephens tracked back well to block a shot from the blonde-haired Will Hughes and in the aftermath the hosts were awarded a dangerous-looking free-kick.
Ward could not profit, however, drilling a low shot into the wall, and soon afterwards a Coutts shot was blocked out to Craig Bryson whose fizzing drive was well held by Hamer.
The hosts did claim an early lead, however, through Ward.
The striker let rip with a terrific volley, after Morrison had headed out to the edge of the box, and the ball flew past Hamer and nestled in the back of the net.
It was the worst possible start for the visitors, just seven minutes in, and it almost got worst as the clock reached 13.
Bryson slipped a delicious pass through to Sammon who sped away on goal but could only lift a glorious chance over the bar.
It was a nervy start from the all-in-red Addicks as the rain started to fall, and the hosts’ high-tempo pressing game was causing all manner of problems.
Wright-Phillips dragged a shot wide of the left upright from 20 yards after Stephens had stolen possession in Rams territory
After a loose Hamer clearance, Ward was well wide with a first-time effort and there was then a change from the Addicks as Wilson and Solly switched flanks at the back.
A great touch from Ward then triggered another Rams opening on 32 minutes.
Hughes collected possession and slipped the ball through to the striker, who had continued his run, and his shot rippled the side-netting.
Cort scooped the ball out for a corner after Hamer could only parry a John Brayford cross-shot, after a clever give-and-go from the right-back. From the resulting half-cleared corner a shot ricocheted off Wright-Phillips but an instinctive swipe in the box from Hughes could only turn the ball wide of the target.
Solly, back on the left, did well to block an effort from Coutts after the ball fizzed across from the Derby left.
And then, after a purposeful raid in from the right from Coutts in the last regulation minute of the half, the ball reached Sammon who could only splice a shot wide.
Four minutes after the restart Charlton were a whisker away from levelling matters.
A good overlap from Wilson had forced a corner on the right and from Stephens’ flag-kick Jackson rose brilliantly but his powerful header was cleared off the line by Gareth Roberts.
The Rams broke straight away and almost doubled their lead after a rapid raid ended with Bryson flashing a shot across goal and just wide, with Ward frantically trying to get a touch at the far post.
Bryson did double Derby’s lead eight minutes in, however, and it came after an Addicks mistake.
Stephens was culpable, his poor pass snaffled up by the hosts and although Hamer stood tall to block from Sammon, the ball squirmed loose and Hughes pulled the ball back for Bryson to bundle home from close range.
Having gone so close to levelling, the Addicks had a mountainous task on their hands with Wilson flinging himself in the way of a stinging Hughes drive.
Better for the visitors came as a great Green cross was headed just over by Kermorgant, who stooped to conquer in the middle, and before the restart Powell summoned Fuller and Kerkar to replace Wright-Phillips and Hollands.
The duo combined almost immediately with Kerkar robbing a dawdling defender before Fuller took over and buried a shot.
The Jamaican was offside, however, and the goal was chalked off.
Stephens was booked for a foul on Hughes and then the Rams were awarded the chance to extend their lead when Green clumsily upended Ward in the box.
The referee immediately pointed to the spot and Ward dusted himself down before firing into the bottom left corner.
Suicidal play at the back, this time from Wilson, almost let Ward in straight from the kick-off, but Hamer blocked from the striker.
The Addicks gave themselves a glimmer of hope on 70 minutes with an absolute screamer from Green.
After a corner from Kerkar was headed clear, Stephens hooked the ball to the winger some 25 yards from goal, and Green walloped an unstoppable shot past Frank Fielding and into the back of the net.
It was a superb strike and an early goal of the season contender, but there was work to do for Hamer as he saved a low effort from the hat-trick-hunting Ward.
Kermorgant’s presentable-looking free-kick hit the wall, before suddenly it was a one-goal-game as the Addicks struck again.
Green was the architect this time, thrusting in from the right and delivering a superb low cross for Kermorgant to bundle home from close range. Game on.
Memories of the hosts surrendering a two-goal lead in injury-time in the League Cup earlier in the season during a remarkable 5-5 draw with Scunthorpe were no doubt resurfacing amongst the more cynical home supporters.
After Bryson was booked for time-wasting, indicative of how the game had swung, Green then skipped in from the right, before eventually being denied near the right upright, and the hosts were rocking.
Kermorgant couldn’t quite get enough on a clipped ball into the box but James O’Connor was booked for a foul on the Frenchman before making way for Jake Buxton.
Kerkar curled the subsequent free-kick just over the bar from out on the right and hope for the Addicks came with five added minutes at the end.
There were claims for handball against Buxton after a Green long throw in the third of them – and there was more drama even deeper into stoppage time.
Kerkar met a corner from the right and his header looked to be dropping in only for a dramatic last-ditch clearance on the line.
Hamer had come up for the corner and there was panic as the hosts broke with the keeper upfield.
Morrison was booked at the death, but despite one last surge forward the Addicks could not find a leveller and ended empty handed again.
Charlton: Hamer; Wilson, Solly, Cort, Morrison; Green, Hollands (Kerkar 60), Stephens, Jackson; Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Fuller 60).
Subs (not used): Button, Dervite, Evina, Pritchard, Smith.
Goals: Green 70, Kermorgant 73
Booked: Stephens 62 (foul on Hughes)
Derby: Fielding; Brayford, Roberts, Keogh, O’Connor (Buxton 82); Coutts, Bryson, Hendrick, Hughes (Robinson 89); Ward, Sammon.
Subs (not used): Legzdins, Gjokaj, Freeman, Jacobs, Doyle.
Goals: Ward 7, 64 pen, Bryson 53
Booked: Bryson 77 (time-wasting), O’Connor 82 (foul on Kermorgant)
Ref: D Phillips