Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton continued their winning start to 2013 with a disciplined defeat of managerless Blackpool on Saturday.
Goals from Johnnie Jackson and Scott Wagstaff paved the way for a first Saturday home success of the season with former loan striker Nathan Eccleston’s late volley a consolation for the Seasiders.
Jackson opened the scoring in the 23rd minute with his sixth goal of the season, dispatching a low shot into the bottom corner of the net.
It was his 33rd goal for the club and puts him out on his own as the top overall marksman on the roster.
And the man currently in bronze position on that list, Wagstaff, snapped up a second in first-half stoppage time to put further daylight between them and the troubled Seasiders, left in limbo on the eve of the game as former manager Michael Appleton defected to Blackburn Rovers.
The winger, in from the cold and starting his first Championship game in Charlton colours this season, gobbled up his second goal of the campaign – and 22nd overall - after Yann Kermorgant’s header was brilliantly saved.
Blackpool huffed and puffed in the second half but found a stubborn Addicks rearguard hard to break down.
They did register at the death through Eccleston’s eye-catching volley, but Charlton had done enough to register their first double back in the Championship.
The last side these sides met in SE7 in April 2009 Charlton’s relegation from the Championship was confirmed after a 2-2 draw and its fair to say the two clubs have gone down very different paths before meeting again three seasons later.
While the Addicks toiled in League One, the Seasiders enjoyed a play-off final victory and a season in the Premier League that was only ended on the final day of the season.
They reached the Wembley final again last term before losing to West Ham, and despite a promising start to this campaign, are now searching for a third different manager.
Ian Holloway left to join Crystal Palace with Appleton not even in charge for 10 weeks, and they now sit behind the Addicks in the table as Chris Powell’s side continue to make strides forward.
A 1-1 draw against Derby County was followed up by the epic 4-3 win at Watford on January 1st and Powell’s reshaped side shrugged off their FA Cup exit to extend their good recent run.
The manager, who celebrates two years at the helm early next week, will go into his third in high spirits after a good display on an ice-cold afternoon.
Never afraid to move the ball backwards to get t forwards Blackpool fashioned the first opening of the afternoon after three minutes when a header from the evergreen Kevin Phillips was smuggled against the post by Matt Taylor.
The defender would soon be swathed in bandages following a clash of heads, and his side grabbed the lead in the 23rd minute as Jackson converted into the bottom corner.
After a poor clearance was gobbled up by Wagstaff and spread to Chris Solly, the ball eventually arrived at the feet of the skipper Jackson, who steered a shot home.
Blackpool’s diagonal danger faded after that as the Addicks settled into the ascendancy on a chilly afternoon, and Wagstaff was gobsmacked after being sent spinning when clean through but not even garnering a foul.
It might have been much, much, worse for the visitors as the assailant was the last man, but the Tangerines were reprieved.
But Charlton did double their tally on the stroke of half-time through the ever-willing Wagstaff.
After great work from Kermorgant, in spreading the play wide, he met a centre from Lawrie Wilson, and although Matt Gilks made a fine save he could do nothing as Wagstaff thrashed home the rebound.
Blackpool started the second half strongly but the Addicks weathered the storm to maintain their healthy cushion.
Liverpool-target Thomas Ince was far more prominent, but was mainly wayward as the hosts defended from back to front, and front to back too.
It was hard to imagine that this was a first league start of the season for Taylor as he effortlessly rekindled his solid rearguard partnership with Michael Morrison.
In front of him Dale Stephens was outstanding and there was industry aplenty from skipper Johnnie Jackson, Bradley Pritchard, Lawrie Wilson and Wagstaff.
And up front Kermorgant produced a line-leading masterclass as he hassled and harried the Seasiders backline as well as dominating aerially.
It was just a shame the hosts could not add a clean sheet to their repertoire at the end of the afternoon as substitute Eccleston swooped to crunch home a volley from the edge of the box.
But that proved a minor blemish as the Addicks held firm to make it back-to-back Championship victories in the new year.
In terms of team news there was a first ever Championship start for Taylor at the heart of the defence with the suspended Dorian Dervite joining the injured Leon Cort (hamstring) on the sidelines.
There were also recalls for Ben Hamer, Chris Solly, Morrison, Jackson and Wagstaff in a side that showed five changes from the one knocked out of the FA Cup by Huddersfield Town last weekend.
Hamer was back in goal for David Button, one of the few success stories from last week, while a rested Solly was back at right-back allowing Wilson to push further forward.
Suspension-free Morrison, who came on for the closing half hour against the Terriers, was back alongside long-time central partner from last season, Taylor at the back.
Skipper Jackson returned to the midfield ranks with winger Wagstaff back in an attacking role with Jordan Cook, Salim Kerkar and Bradley Wright-Phillips all missing out.
There was a 50th start for Stephens in midfield while there was a bench debut for young professional Semi Ajayi with Powell’s defensive options stretched to the limit.
Hamer was back between the posts for the home side with Taylor and Morrison, who last played together with league points on the line on the final day of the 2012/13 season, flanked by Solly and Cedric Evina at the back.
A three-man central midfield unit was comprised of Stephens, Pritchard and Jackson with Wilson playing further forward off the right and Wagstaff on the other flank with Kermorgant and down the middle.
There was a youthful feel to the bench with centre-back Ajayi joined in the reserve ranks by fellow young professionals Morgan Fox and Callum Harriott. Button, Danny Green, Wright-Phillips and Ricardo Fuller completed the alternatives.
Blackpool were reeling from the departure of manager Michael Appleton to Blackburn Rovers on the eve of the game.
The Tangerines were caretaker bossed by Steve Thompson as the managerial merry-go-round affecting Blackburn Rovers left Powell facing a second surprise adversary of the season – the first being Blackburn’s Eric Black after the eleventh hour departure of Steve Kean.
Two dangermen at either end of their careers were in the visiting line-up in the shape of highly-rated Thomas Ince and veteran striker Kevin Phillips.
There was also a strike threat from Nathan Delfouneso, on loan from Aston Villa while borrowed striker Nathan Eccleston was on the visiting bench.
Stephens was wayward from range in the first minute but there was a let off for Charlton as the clock reached three.
Delfouneso’s trickery worked an opening on the right and his cross found an unmarked Phillips on the right. He headed down and back across goal with Taylor turning the ball onto the post before it was smuggled clear.
Basham scuttled forward but stabbed wide after powering past Morrison and there was a stoppage on the quarter hour after a clash of heads between Issiah Osborne and Matt Taylor.
The visiting midfielder eventually headed down the tunnel for further treatment while Taylor was swathed in bandages.
After the pair retuned to the field, the defender met a 21st minute Stephens corner on the far side but his looping header was cleared close to the line by Delfouneso.
It dislodged the defender’s head gear, but he had a chance to sort it out after the Addicks grabbed the lead two minutes later.
Skipper Jackson was the man on target with his second Championship goal in as many matches.
The goal owed much to Wagstaff for intercepting a clearance from Matt Gilks and with the keeper out of position, Chris Solly’s pass fed Jackson whose scuffled shot rather trundled in to the bottom left corner of the net.
As any coach will tell you it doesn’t matter how the ball crosses the line, as long as it does, and the Addicks were ahead with Jackson heading straight for groundsman Nathan Chapman to celebrate en masse on the far side.
Taylor, meanwhile, discarded his headwear as the match kicked off for a second time, and Hamer was always behind a good strike from Osbourne as the visitors tried to respond.
The Addicks, meanwhile, were left fuming soon afterwards after Wagstaff was sent flying by last defender Neal Ardley. Incredibly, bearing in mind Wagstaff was clean through on goal, referee Mike Jones saw nothing from and allowed play to continue.
Powell was fuming on the touchline, as was Wagstaff on the pitch, leaving one to wonder if it ‘wasn’t’ a foul then surely the winger should have been booked.
Having sprayed a purposeful array of passes from the back in the early stages, Blackpool’s direct approach yielded next to nothing as the half continued.
At the other end a Pritchard shot cannoned behind for a corner off former Rangers man Kirk Broadfoot, and his central defensive colleague Alex Baptise saw an overhead effort at a free-kick routinely saved by Hamer.
But the Addicks doubled their money in the first of three added minutes through the returning Wagstaff.
The winger was well-placed to hammer home from close range but the goal owed plenty to Kermorgant.
First, the mercurial Frenchman spread a glorious pass out to Wilson on the right before sprinting into the box and meeting the cross with a bullet header.
It would have been a magnificent goal had the ball nestled in back of the net – but the fans didn’t have long to wait.
In fairness to Matt Gilks, he made a superb save, but could do nothing as Wagstaff gobbled up the rebound to net his second goal in as many starts at the Valley this season.
In the dying embers of the half Ince inside and saw his low shot saved by Hamer and the Addicks went into the break in fine fettle.
After Wilson’s foul on Phillips soon after the restart a Ludovic Sylvestre free-kick from presentable range clattered behind off the wall.
Stephens picked up a booking for a challenge before a wonderful low cross from Eardley eluded all and sundry in the box before a grounded Solly put it behind.
The visitors, clearly looking to get Ince involved more, were certainly carrying more of a threat in the early stages of the half.
Pritchard shot wide after a good break from the hosts and that triggered a decent spell for them including three corners in rapid succession.
Blackpool had already introduced Gary Taylor-Fletcher before Eccleston replaced Delfouneso, and Ince saw a shot from range fly wide.
Youngster Harriott was introduced for the tiring Wagstaff on 74 minutes and straight away was involved, showing nifty footwork on the touchline to win a corner.
Another flag-kick sequence came to nothing and Ince was wayward on the run for Blackpool before Tiago Gomes replaced Phillips.
After more good work from the lively Harriott, the ball span to Stephens to shoot over and the impressive midfielder drew healthy applause as he made way for Fuller late on.
Basham went close in injury time when he met a Crainey cross with a header well saved by Hamer and Blackpool got on the board in the third and final added minute through a familiar face.
Another good from the left was headed out and Eccleston was well placed on the edge of the box to volley into the back of the net.
There was little time for the visitors to fashion one last hurrah so the goal came as a minor irritation as the hosts continued their winning start to 2013 in the Championship.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Evina, Taylor, Morrison; Pritchard, Stephens (Fuller 88), Jackson; Wilson, Wagstaff (Harriott 74)
Subs (not used): Button, Ajayi, Fox, Green, Wright-Phillips.
Goals: Jackson 23, Wagstaff 45
Booked: Stephens 57 (foul on Basham)
Blackpool: Gilks; Crainey, Eardley, Broadfot, Baptiste; Basham, Osbourne (Taylor-Fletcher 60), Sylvestre; Ince, Delfouneso (Eccleston 68), Phillips (Gomes 77).
Subs (not used): Halstead, Cathcart, Martinez, Harris.
Goals: Eccleston 90
Referee: M Jones
Att: 16,846 (810 Blackpool)