Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton suffered a third successive Championship defeat at the hands of improving Ipswich on Boxing Day.
The Addicks’ miserable festive period continued as first-half goals from DJ Campbell, who had earlier missed a penalty, and Daryl Murphy laid the foundations for the Suffolk side’s success.
Danny Haynes’ fourth goal of the season after the break, the second spot-kick awarded by referee Mick Russell on a rain-lashed afternoon, gave the home side a foothold.
But they could not find a leveller amid a second-half deluge and are now without a win in their last five games.
Little went right for the home side in the opening period and despite missing from the spot, Ipswich deserved their interval advantage.
Charlton could point to a free-kick against the post from Dale Stephens, but most of the attacking enterprise came courtesy of the visitors.
Their penalty arrived in the 17th minute after a crass error of judgement from Emmanuel Frimpong saw him concede a spot-kick.
His challenge on former Addick Lee Martin was as reckless as it was unnecessary but Campbell could not capitalise as he fired wastefully wide from 12 yards.
The striker was superbly foiled by Hamer moments later and Stephens curled a free-kick against the post for the hosts before Campbell finally made amends on 35 minutes. After a catalogue of errors at the back, he was left all alone to find the corner from around 10 yards.
Things got even worse on the stroke of half-time as Murphy poached a second from a narrow angle after the impressive Martin was foiled by Hamer, who may rightly question where his defenders were in the aftermath.
Haynes pulled a goal back from the penalty spot on 73 minutes after Martin clumsily upended Solly in the box, burying home a shot for his fourth goal of the season.
Suddenly the outlook – albeit not the weather - was brighter and had Henderson not made a smart save with his legs to foil Hulse the game would have been all square.
Stephens cracked a late volley wide for the hosts, who were much improved after the break, but it was improving Ipswich that held firm to collect all three points.
In the first game of the second half of the season the Tractor Boys look a side reborn under their new manager Mick McCarthy.
Well-drilled, disciplined and with a cutting edge, from being dead and buried towards the foot of the table, they are suddenly breathing down Charlton’s necks with mid-table in sight.
That was in stark contrast to a side struggling for confidence when the clubs met at Portman Road in September.
The Addicks, meanwhile, are in a dip in what has been a roller coaster season, and Powell will be keen to arrest that slump when The Valley hosts Derby County in three days.
In terms of team news Powell freshened up his starting XI for the visit of Ipswich with four changes from the weekend loss at Sheffield Wednesday.
Stephens returned from suspension while there were recalls for Danny Green, Ricardo Fuller and Hulse.
Michael Morrison assumed the captain’s armband as Johnnie Jackson dropped to the bench while Lawrie Wilson was suspended and Salim Kerkar and Yann Kermorgant also missed out on a starting berth after the Hillsborough loss.
Wilson’s place on the right was filled by Green as the singer made a 50th appearance for the club a year after scoring his first goal at Yeovil Town.
Stephens came in for Jackson while Kerkar’s place on the left was filled by Danny Haynes as Fuller and Hulse started up front and Kermorgant dropped to the bench.
The Addicks started with Ben Hamer in goal and skipper Morrison and Cort were flanked by Solly and Dan Seaborne at the back.
Stephens and Frimpong were the central midfield axis with Green and Haynes out wide and Fuller and Hulse the frontline threat.
With David Button sidelined by an ankle complaint, John Sullivan provided the goalkeeping back-up on the bench and there was a welcome return to the reserve ranks to Cedric Evina.
Jackson and Kermorgant were joined on the bench by Dorian Dervite, Bradley Pritchard and academy product Callum Harriott.
Visiting Ipswich, much improved under new manager McCarthy, fielded a familiar face in former loan man Martin.
He started on the left while Murphy was fit enough to start up front alongside Campbell, like Hulse on loan from QPR.
There was a poignant minute’s applause before kick-off in honour of the late, great club historian Colin Cameron, a man whose presence in the press room before the game will be sadly missed. The home players wore black armbands.
When the action begun Aaron Cresswell curled an early free-kick off target, while at the other end Stephen Henderson had to scramble back and tip a hanging cross from Haynes over his bar for a corner.
Town skipper Carlos Edwards failed to read a pull-back and sliced horribly wide and Frimpong then showcased both sides of his game in the space of a few minutes around the quarter-hour mark.
First he slid in to make an impeccable challenge in the box, a stirring contribution that roused the crowd, but the natives were stunned as he gave Ipswich a late Christmas present on 17 minutes.
There seemed little danger as Martin sauntered left across the edge of the box – and on his way out of it – but the Arsenal loanee had already committed to sliding in and sent the winger sprawling.
If there was ever an example of a cast-iron penalty than this was it and there were no complaints as referee Mick Russell pointed to the spot.
Sadly for the visitors, Campbell could not exact full retribution, and fired a shot well wide of the left upright from 12 yards.
It was a let-off for the hosts but they continued to come under the cosh as the half continued.
Indeed, a minute later Andy Drury slipped a great pass through for Campbell but again the striker couldn’t cash in as Hamer spread himself to make a goal-saving block.
Fuller’s shot slammed against Tommy Smith and was eventually cleared but the visitors carried more threat match reached the half-hour mark, with nothing sticking up top for the Addicks.
Fuller got away from Smith and saw his low shot saved by West Ham loanee Henderson and Hamer saved a similar effort from Campbell.
Charlton then fashioned their best moment of the game as the clock reached 33.
After winning a free-kick some 25 yards from goal, Stephens stepped up to curl a free-kick over a wall that looked suspiciously closer than 10 yards, but his shot rapped against the left upright.
The loose ball just eluded Haynes as the visitors drew a collective sigh of relief.
And there was reason to be cheerful for the away end as their heroes grabbed the lead two minutes later.
In terms of defending, it was not Charlton’s finest hour. First Martin was allowed to centre from the right after twisting and turning, and although Edwards was guilty of another swing and a miss, the visitors kept the ball alive after the Addicks switched off.
It was Murphy that hooked the ball back in from the right and the ever-eager Campbell was left all alone to steer a shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
It was a wretched goal to concede on a manner of levels, and left Powell’s side behind once more.
After Morrison’s rash challenge on Andy Drury earned him a booking, a well-worked Ipswich free-kick was switched to Creswell who shot wide.
The dark clouds had already engulfed the skies around The Valley by the time Ipswich doubled their lead in first half stoppage time.
After Stephens gave the ball away, Martin surged forward and saw his shot expertly turned away by Hamer.
Once again, Ipswich were quicker and brighter in the aftermath and Murphy was lurking on the right to fire the loose ball into the roof of the net from a narrow angle.
Suddenly Powell’s 100th half-time team-talk was a lot tougher and he made two changes at the break, sending on Pritchard and Jackson for Green and Frimpong.
Jackson, the skipper’s armband back in his possession, cut a frustrated figure early on as Fuller snatched possession when he looked primed to get a shot away from closer in.
A Hulse header was then pouched by Henderson as the hosts returned with added zest while Martin served notice of Ipswich’s threat by cutting inside and floating an effort over the bar.
The rain was falling by this stage and Jackson’s free-kick looped behind off the wall after Fuller was bundled over 20 yards out.
Nigel Reo-Coker, a triallist at the club earlier this year, came on for Drury just past the hour mark and there was a delay soon afterwards after Seaborne’s challenge sent Edwards into the corner flag, snapping the pole.
The free-kick came to nothing after a replacement pole was eventually found.
With the erratic Henderson still vulnerable at crosses, hope still lingered for the home sides and the keeper got away with a flap at a whipped Jackson corner before the ball was smuggled to safety.
And Charlton were back in it on 72 minutes courtesy of the game’s second penalty.
After a clever interchange on the right, Solly skipped into the box and was caught by Martin’s dangling leg.
It was another easy decision for Russell and it was Haynes who assumed penalty duties, smashing the ball into the left side of the net from 12 yards.
Charlton’s tails were up and Hulse was brilliantly denied by Henderson with his legs after the ball sat up nicely in the box.
Kermorgant came on for Fuller, suffering the effects of an injury picked up a few moments earlier, eight minutes from time and Stephens immediately curled a dangerous-looking free-kick just wide.
The rain was teaming down by this stage with Luke Hyam replacing Campbell as the clock ticked down.
There were four minutes of added time for the hosts to manufacture something with Cort pressed into emergency service up front.
Murphy made way for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and after a spell of head-tennis in and around the box, Stephens crashed a volley just wide from the edge of the box.
There was time for one last corner deep into added time as Hamer dashed forward to join a scrum of players, but the visitors survived as Kermorgant’s overhead effort looped onto the roof of the net.
The game was up at this juncture as Russell blew for time seconds later to consign the stuttering Addicks to defeat.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Seaborne, Cort, Morrison; Green (Pritchard 46), Frimpong (Jackson 46), Stephens, Haynes; Fuller (Kermorgant 82), Hulse.
Subs (not used): Sullivan, Evina, Dervite, Harriott.
Goal: Haynes pen 73
Booked: Morrison 37 (foul on Drury)
Ipswich: Henderson; Orr, Cresswell, Chambers, Smith; Edwards, N’Daw, Drury (Reo-Coker 61), Martin; Campbell (Hyam 87), Murphy (Emmanuel-Thomas 90).
Subs: Loach, Higginbotham, Scotland, Chopra.
Goal: Campbell 35, Murphy 45
Referee: M Russell
Att: 18,380 (1,319 Ipswich)