Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton’s home-sickness continued on Saturday as they suffered defeat against in-form Middlesbrough.
Three unanswered goals in the second half earned the ruthless Teessiders a terrific win at The Valley.
They came from behind too, to record a fifth straight Championship victory after Rob Hulse had got Charlton off to a perfect start.
Striker Hulse crashed home a 12th-minute drive to brighten the mood in SE7, a barren place for home fans in recent times.
But that dark cloud just won’t go away and by half-time former England star Jonathan Woodgate was left all alone to head them level.
Charlton were then put to the sword thanks to some clinical finishing after the break as McDonald capitalised on another mistake, this time from Michael Morrison, to double Boro’s tally nine minutes in.
Emmanuel Ledesma lobbed home a third on 64 minutes and sub Lukas Jutkiewicz had hit the post before fellow replacement Richard Smallwood set the seal on the win in added time.
Charlton’s fine form in recent seasons has been built on strong foundations at the back and despite their patchy home form in recent weeks (three straight defeats and two points from the last 18 on offer since an opening day win) had yet to taste defeat by more than one goal – until today.
In Boro they met a team at the top of their game having knocked near neighbours Sunderland out of the league cup in the week and in terrific form in the league.
The Addicks were not half bad for long periods of the opening half, and were ahead through Hulse’s first goal for the club.
The big target man, on loan from Queens Park Rangers, took a pass into his stride and crunched home his first goal since April 2011 and a team desperately seeking a home win were on their merry way.
But Boro hit back three minutes shy of the half hour mark with Woodgate ending a long drought of his own.
You have to go back to February, 2009 for the last time he registered on the scoresheet, for Tottenham Hotspur at Hull City.
Whether he was afforded quite as much time and space in the box at the KC Stadium as he was in SE7 remains in question, but Addicks boss Chris Powell would have been tearing his hair out as he was left all alone to head home a free-kick.
The Addicks carved out the better chances after that with Michael Morrison heading down and wide at the far post and Johnnie Jackson whipping a free-kick inches over from the edge of the box.
Powell’s pre-match plans had been knocked with the news that Cedric Evina faces surgery after picking up a knee injury in training in midweek, and in order to keep Lawrie Wilson out on the right flank he summoned Salim Kerkar to deputise there.
Sadly for Powell there was yet more injury misfortune shortly before the break as Wilson picked up a knock and was unable to make it out in the second half.
Last season the Sparrows Lane treatment room was often empty, another foundation of the club’s success you could say.
Now its standing room only with Wilson the latest on a long list of those unavailable to Powell. Clearly, it doesn’t rain but it pours.
There was more reshaping at the break as Dale Stephens entered the fray and the Addicks experimented with three at the back for a sustained period in a bid to try and turn things round.
After Wright-Phillips was denied on the line by ex-Addick Nicky Bailey, Boro grabbed the lead in the 54th minute after another faux pas.
You can count the mistakes made my Morrison in his time at the club on one hand, but the defender was at fault as he carelessly gave the ball away in midfield and as quick as a flash, Josh McEachran sent McDonald to race away and score with aplomb.
Boro then netted again as a booming clearance from Jason Steele was flicked on to Ledesma who supplied a sumptuous lob over Hamer and in.
Despite having plenty of time left, in truth the Addicks looked a spent force as Boro poured forward at will on the break.
And after Jutkiewicz hit the post Richard Smallwood had the last say with a far-post tap-in to send a healthy away contingent home hugely happy.
Their heroes now sit second in the table while at the other end of the spectrum the Addicks are slipping ever-closer to the relegation zone ahead of a home match with table-topping Cardiff City on Tuesday.
It doesn’t get any easier…
The big team news for the hosts saw the return up front for Bradley Wright-Phillips in a 4-4-2 formation.
And a training ground knee injury picked up by the unlucky Evina in the build-up to the game meant a defensive alteration for the Addicks.
With Powell deciding to continue with the right-sided axis of Chris Solly and Wilson that had served the side so well in the two recent away draws at Leeds and Wolves the boss turned to Kerkar to deputise on the left with long-term foot injury victim Rhoys Wiggins still a way off full fitness.
He operated behind Johnnie Jackson with Bradley Pritchard and Dorian Dervite in the engine-room, the latter making his Valley debut.
Hamer continued between the posts for the home side with Solly and Kerkar flanking Morrison and Leon Cort at the back.
Wilson and Jackson were the wide outlets either side of Pritchard and Dervite with Hulse, starting a first ever game in SE7, joined up top by Wright-Phillips.
There was positive news in the reserve ranks with Dale Stephens and Danny Haynes fit to take their place on the bench after hamstring problems.
They were joined in reserve by David Button, Matt Taylor, Danny Hollands, Danny Green and Jordan Cook.
There was a familiar face in the Boro line-up in the shape of former Addicks skipper Nicky Bailey.
The midfielder netted 26 goals in 95 games for the club at this level before heading to the North East, his last act a missed penalty in the heart-breaking play-off semi-final defeat to Swindon Town.
The visitors, whose Capital Cup win at Sunderland was a fifth win on the trot, were outside the top two places on goal difference alone at the start of play.
They had also won their last four away matches in the Championship to propel themselves into promotion contention.
Boro boasted England U21 keeper and London Olympian Steele between the posts while McDonald, with three goals in his last two games, was supported by Faris Haroun and Ledesma.
The hosts were quick out of the blocks and went close to an opener with just 70 seconds on the clock.
Pritchard fed the ball wide to Wright-Phillips on the left and suddenly there were red shirts tearing into the box.
Hulse ducked as the ball was clipped in to allow a sprinting Pritchard to head narrowly over the bar.
It was a positive start and Kerkar passed his first test of the afternoon, outmuscling Haroun as he chased an angled pass into the left side of the box.
Ledesma, operating just off McDonald in the early stages, walloped a shot high and wide from range, and Cort stuck out a long leg to make a lunging block on McDonald as the Australian chased a diagonal through pass.
But it was the Addicks who seized the initiative in the 12th minute through Hulse.
Pritchard did well to win the ball in midfield and suddenly he had support to his left and right from the two home strikers.
He opted to pick out Hulse to his right and the frontman took the ball on before cracking a sweet strike into the bottom corner of the net.
Having spurned a host of chances to make himself a hero at Wolves a week earlier, this was some way to announce himself to The Valley faithful on his SE7 bow.
Better might have followed in the ensuing moments as Andre Bikey upended Wright-Phillips on the left side of the box, and was perhaps a little lucky to escape a yellow card.
Jackson’s free-kick was headed out to Wilson whose follow-up flew wide, and Wright-Phillips was also off target after cutting in from the right soon afterwards, although had Pritchard picked out an unmarked Hulse to his left, the striker might have been in for a possible second.
At a corner Morrison teed himself up for an overhead effort which flew just over, while Bailey, back in front of The Covered End, forced a save out of Hamer with an angled effort from the left.
Haroun was off target from range but Boro were back in it on 27 minutes.
Powell will be far from happy at the defending as Woodgate was given the freedom of SE7 as Grant Leadbitter slung in a free-kick, and the former England man planted a free header past Hamer.
It was a body-blow for the hosts as parity was restored and Jackson dragged a shot well wide after Wright-Phillips had got the better of Bikey on 33 minutes.
Charlton were in again four minutes later after a quick piece of thinking from Solly.
The right-back’s quick throw caught Boro left-back George Friend napping and Wilson gathered the ball in the box and clipped the ball across for Hulse, who headed narrowly over the bar.
Friend was booked six minutes before the break after ploughing through Wilson on the right, and the Addicks almost cashed in from the free-kick as Jackson’s cross was headed down and wide at the far post by Morrison.
Boro were certainly vulnerable when attacked in the final third and Woodgate was booked for hand-ball just outside the box with Jackson taking the free-kick, and whipping a shot inches over the bar.
Hamer gathered a looping header right under his bar after a corner at the end of the half with the sides locked together at one apiece at the break.
There was a change at the break as Wilson, injured at the end of the half, making way for Stephens.
He slotted into central midfield with Pritchard moving out to the right.
Haroun fastened onto a half headed clearance before seeing a deflected shot claimed by Hamer in the early running.
Hulse was well wide from range but the Addicks were a lot closer from a corner as Morrison was blocked and Wright-Phillips’ bouncing bomb was cleared from close to the line by Bailey.
Stephens fired the second rebound over the bar, and it was Boro that grabbed the lead on 54 minutes.
Again there was a mistake in the goal’s evolution as Morrison gifted the ball to Josh McEachran in midfield and the Chelsea loanee slipped the ball into space for McDonald.
The Australian took the ball in his stride on the left and despite the desperate attempts of Cort to get across, confidently cracked the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was a fine finish from the in-form Aussie and the hosts were behind at home once more.
Powell quickly switched to three at the back as Dervite dropped back alongside Morrison and Cort with Solly and Kerkar providing the added width.
Jackson saw a shot blocked by a defender and Wright-Phillips span sharply to draw a save from Steele.
But Boro were a ruthless force in front of goal and grabbed a third goal on 64 minutes.
Ledesma was the scorer this time, dashing onto a flick from McDonald and coolly lifting a lob over Hamer and in.
An uphill task suddenly became mountainous but Jackson spurned a good chance to pull a goal back when he steered an effort agonisingly wide of the post.
Lukas Jutkiewicz replaced goalscorer Ledesma and as Boro continued to purr only a brilliant diving save from Hamer denied McDonald a second.
Wright-Phillips and Cort made way for Cook and Haynes as Powell rolled the dice for a final time 14 minutes from time.
A tantalising cross from Haynes from the left just eluded Hulse in the middle, and drifted just wide of Steele’s left upright.
But Boro broke quickly again six minutes from time with Jutkiewicz denied by the post.
Kerkar dawdled in possession, eventually losing out to McDonald and the striker bore down the middle before picking out the sub to his right.
Jutkiewicz took the ball on but his attempts to beat Hamer at his left post saw him hit the inside of the post with the ball rolling across the face of goal and to safety.
Solly got back to challenge Haroun after more unselfish play from McDonald and Woodgate produced a brilliant block to deny Hulse in the last regulation minute, an act that would no doubt have delighted boss Mowbray.
Haroun made way for Justin Hoyte at the start of four added minutes at the end with Richard Smallwood on for McEachran.
Hamer saved brilliantly from McDonald in the third added minute, but Boro hit a fourth second later from one of the new faces.
Smallwood arrived at the far post to turn a terrific low cross and make it 4-1 – and it might have been five in added time as Jutkiewicz picked out Hoyte who couldn’t quite connect.
Four was more than enough, however, as the Addicks’ miserable home form continued.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Kerkar, Cort (Haynes 76), Morrison; Wilson (Stephens 46), Pritchard, Dervite, Jackson, Wright-Phillips (Cook 76), Hulse.
Subs (not used): Button, Taylor, Hollands, Green.
Goal: Hulse 12
Booked: Pritchard 72 (foul on Friend)
Middlesbrough: Steele; Parnaby, Friend, Bikey, Woodgate; Haroun (Hoyte 90), Leadbitter, McEachran (Smallwood 90), Bailey; Ledesma (Jutkiewicz 67); McDonald.
Subs (not used): Leutwiler, Zemmama, Halliday, Reach.
Goal: Woodgate 27, McDonald 54, Ledesma 64, Smallwood 90
Booked: Friend 39 (foul on Wilson), Woodgate 41 (hand-ball)
Referee: G Scott
Att: 17,744 (1,694 Middlesbrough).