Gary Haines reports from Ewood Park
Charlton’s perfect start to 2013 continued with a notable win at snowy Ewood Park on Saturday.
A howitzer from Dale Stephens and a header from Yann Kermorgant, either side of a customary strike from Blackburn hitman Jordan Rhodes guided the Addicks to a sixth away success of the season in the icy North West.
Stephens broke the deadlock with a superb 25-yarder after 26 minutes and the Londoners were good value for that lead at the break, and may even have been further ahead.
Rhodes levelled matters with a terrific diving header three minutes after the restart, his first serious contribution on an afternoon plagued by poor service.
New Rovers boss Michael Appleton must have fancied his side to go on and win from there, but they were rocked by Kermorgant in the 64th minute.
The big Frenchman rose to head his fifth of the season from a Bradley Pritchard centre and the Addicks would not be denied a second time as they reached 39 points for the season, the same tally they recorded on their last season in the second tier.
Few could have denied them the win either with Powell a happy man at the end, back on the ground he won a Championship title with the club – and first did his famous tunnel jump.
Moments after Kazim-Richards planted a free header straight at Ben Hamer, the Addicks grabbed a superb lead through Stephens.
A man who prefers the spectacular to the straightforward when it comes to goalscoring, Charlton’s quarterback collected a half-cleared pass before firing a terrific shot beyond Kean from 25 yards.
It was his second goal of the season following his freakish free-kick from way out against Cardiff City, and the visitors went very close to adding a second moments later as Kean parried from Jackson and Kermorgant’s follow-up was cleared off the line.
Solid at the back, Powell’s hard-working side stifled the home threat after that, but they were breached after that as the prolific Rhodes made his mark.
To say he was peripheral in the opening period would have been an understatement, but he showed poaching qualities to meet a cross from Colin Kazim-Richards with a diving header that nestled in the bottom left corner.
It was a really well-worked goal but Charlton responded with a towering header of their own from Kermorgant.
It came after a terrific cross from Bradley Pritchard with the big Frenchman leaping magnificently to guide a header into the bottom corner of the net.
Kazim-Richards was inches wide from responding with another header at the other end but the visitors defended valiantly across the pitch after that.
The home fans were far from happy as Appleton, whose former club Blackpool were beaten last week, tasted defeat in his first game at the helm across the North West.
In terms of team news Powell pitched in an unchanged side for the trip to Ewood Park.
So Matt Taylor kept his place in the centre of defence despite Dorian Dervite’s return from suspension and Scott Wagstaff continued on the left of a 4-5-1 formation.
There was also a return to the bench for the injury-free Rhoys Wiggins after his recovery from a foot injury.
Ben Hamer was between the posts for the visitors with Taylor and Michael Morrison central at the back – and magnificent to boot - and Chris Solly and Cedric Evina the full-backs.
Skipper and top scorer Johnnie Jackson was in a three man central midfield unit alongside Pritchard and Stephens with Lawrie Wilson and Wagstaff supplying the width and supporting sole frontman Kermorgant whenever possible.
Dervite was back on the bench where he was joined by Wiggins, making his first squad appearance since September. Danny Green, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Ricardo Fuller and youngster Callum Harriott completed the reserve ranks.
Blackburn introduced their third manager of the season, Michael Appleton, shortly before kick-off, as he took charge for the first time after leaving Charlton’s opponents last week Blackpool in the build up to that game.
His first decision was to field an unchanged side and that team contained former Addick Danny Murphy as well as Chelsea loanee Todd Kane.
The elusive Rochina was in an advanced midfield role with Simon Vukcevic and Kazim-Richards flanking dangerman Rhodes up front.
Vukcevic was wayward with an early sighter for the hosts while Morrison got across well to cover after Rochina got the better of Solly on the Rovers left. The lively midfielder drifted in from the opposite flank soon afterwards but shot off target.
The best opening arrived midway through the half from a Rovers corner, forced after good interplay between Vukcevic and Kane. Rochina slung in the flag-kick and Kazim-Richard’s header was gathered by Ben Hamer. A yard either side or the hosts may well have been celebrating an opening goal.
Instead it was the Addicks supporters who rejoiced on 26 minutes as Stephens struck in sublime fashion.
After a purposeful burst from Solly saw the youngster’s cross half cleared, the midfielder was stationed some 25 yards out and took a steadying touch before smacking home a beauty past Jake Kean.
As the natives showed their discontent, the Addicks almost banked a second two minutes later.
Rovers were opened up as Stephens slipped the ball through to Jackson and Kean spread himself to save the skipper’s shot. Kermorgant stretched to try and convert the loose ball but it was smuggled off the line as the hosts drew a sizable sigh of relief.
Charlton were working hard with and without the ball to render Rovers chanceless as half-time crept into sight.
And the interval arrived with the Addicks deservedly in front although Rhodes, quiet in the opening period, steered wide on the stretch under heavy pressure from Taylor.
The striker then did even better three minutes in as he levelled matters.
Kazim-Richards was the supplier, crossing from the right and the maser marksman dived in and guided a header beyond Hamer and into his bottom right corner.
It was a body blow to the visitors as Powell’s half-time team-talk went out the window early doors and a home crowd, largely subdued before the break, finally found their voice.
Charlton wasted a great opportunity to snatch back the lead moments later as Stephens this time fluffed his lines.
After a cross into the box caused all manner of problems, Pritchard watched it drop but his shot was blocked but only to Stephens who was around 12 yards out.
Unlike his goal, the midfielder’s connection was wretched and his sliced effort flew well wide as he held his head in his hands in despair.
As Rovers grew in confidence, Murphy eluded Morrison and picked out Kazim-Richards whose curling shot was tipped away by Hamer.
At the other end Wagstaff sent Evina away on the left, after clever link-up play, and his cross was sliced into his own side-netting by Scott Dann.
Two corners followed and when the second was returned to Jackson, he found Pritchard to his right and the midfielder’s superb cross was met by a soaring header down and into the bottom corner by Kermorgant.
It was another fine goal for the Addicks to put them back ahead but Rovers almost hit back straight away as Kazim-Richards rose well and headed inches wide of the right post.
Whether Hamer would have got it was open to question but luckily for the Londoners it went the right side of the post from their point of view.
In between times Wilson’s low shot was saved by Kean as the home fans, fully aware at club owners Venky’s being present, chanted ‘there’s only one Jack Walker’ in homage to the man that paved the way to their Premier League riches.
Morten Gamst Pedersen was on for the hosts 20 minutes from time and Nuno Gomes (for Rochina) and Dervite (for a tiring Wagstaff) were then unleashed.
The Addicks move saw Pritchard switch to the left and Dervite stiffened the midfield ranks and Powell’s men continued to put it in to keep their hosts at bay.
Solly was well positioned to clear behind in the last regulation minute after a hopeful ball in, and Rhodes headed a Pedersen centre over after a minute of added time.
A late corner for the hosts was punched out to Martin Olsson and he hoisted over in surely the hosts’ last chance with the hard-working Wilson making way for Harriott deep into stoppage time.
The youngster wastefully shot wide late on when he might have held the ball, but there was scarcely time for the restart as the final whistle sealed another superb away win.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Evina, Taylor, Morrison; Pritchard, Stephens, Jackson; Wilson (Harriott 90), Wagstaff (Dervite 78), Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Button, Wiggins, Green, Wright-Phillips, Fuller.
Goals: Stephens 26, Kermorgant 64
Blackburn: Kean; Kane, Olsson, Hanley, Dann; Lowe, Murphy, Rochina (Gomes 78); Vukcevic (Pedersen 70), Kazim-Richards, Rhodes.
Subs (not used): Usai, Givet, Morris, Rosado, Goodwillie.
Goal: Rhodes 48
Referee: D Coote