Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton suffered their first Championship defeat of 2013 after a dramatic fightback from Sheffield Wednesday at The Valley on Saturday.
Two goals in the final six minutes from Reda Johnson and ex-Addick Leroy Lita completed a terrific turnaround from the Yorkshire side, who had trailed to Johnnie Jackson’s seventh goal of the season.
The skipper finished off a flowing team move two minutes into the second-half and the Addicks looked set for a fourth successive league victory as the clock ticked down.
Wednesday reacted well to falling behind but Charlton had negotiated some testing moments in a dogged display before Scott Wagstaff hit the post.
The pendulum swung six minutes from time as the towering Reda Johnson sent a tremendous header looping over Ben Hamer and in and the Addicks were out of luck in the last minute as debutant substitute Lita, a former loan man in these parts, scored via a sizable deflection.
There was no way back from that as the Addicks were doubled for the first time since Walsall collected six points from them in April 2011.
Defeat was extremely harsh on the Londoners who worked tirelessly throughout the game and clung valiantly to a lead given to them by their captain.
But on the flip-side, the Owls deserved at least a point for their efforts, particularly after falling behind – although the late sting in the tail was hard to take for the hosts.
The opening period was more notable for commitment rather then quality in an SE7 slugfest, although both sides could have lay claim to an interval advantage.
Predictably, the best openings came via set-pieces and Anthony Gardner was left all alone midway through the half but his header cannoned off his own teammate Michail Antonio.
Up at the other end Michael Morrison met a nod-back from his own teammate Matt Taylor but was denied by the face of the crossbar.
And right on half-time, Reda Johnson snatched a second ball in the box after Hamer had spilled under pressure, but the left-back, a real threat at set-plays, could only poke a shot wide.
Jackson did much, much better two minutes after they restart as he cracked a shot home via the same post following a decisive break – from a Wednesday corner.
Claimer Hamer was the catalyst and Lawrie Wilson and Chris Solly did great on the right before Pritchard set up the skipper to fire in.
Wednesday hit back strongly and Antonio’s fierce curling shot flew inches wide, as did a similar effort from Jermaine Johnson while substitute Lita was foiled by the fingertips of Ben Hamer.
The hosts hit back with Wagstaff narrowly wide before the winger checked in from the left and thudded a shot against the post.
The game was stretched at this juncture but it was the Owls who drew level with six minutes remaining.
It was Reda Johnson who was well placed on the left to meet a cross from Lewis Buxton and steer a header over Hamer and in.
And there was twist as former Addick Lita, a livewire presence after emerging from the bench, netted with a defected strike to seal the win and break home hearts.
In terms of team news Chris Powell named an unchanged side for the home match against the Owls.
The most significant news was a return to the bench for fit-again centre-back Leon Cort as Powell kept faith with the same starting XI that had beaten Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers.
Hamer continued between the posts for the home side ahead of an unchanged backline of Solly, Cedric Evina and central defensive duo Matt Taylor and former Owl Morrison.
Jackson, Pritchard and Dale Stephens made up the three-man midfield axis with Wilson and Wagstaff out wide.
Up front there was a 50th start in Charlton colours for Yann Kermorgant.
Cort was back on the bench where he was joined by David Button, Dorian Dervite, Danny Green, Callum Harriott, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ricardo Fuller.
The visitors, who clinched a 2-0 win at Hillsborough shortly before Christmas, handed a debut to Danny Pugh and there were three former Addicks in their matchday squad.
Miguel Llera was in the heart of the defence with midfielder Jose Semedo and striker Lita, another Friday signing, on the bench.
Antonio and Jermaine Johnson started up front with Rhys McCabe, whose blistering shot opened the scoring at Hillsborough, also in reserve.
After a weaving run inside four minutes a Jermaine Johnson shot took a deflection off Solly before Hamer saved, and moments later a strong challenge from Giles Coke on Stephens earned the Owl a deserved booking.
A bobbler from Wagstaff, after a cute flick from Jackson, was held by Kirkland while an instinctive jab from Kermorgant in the middle, after a Wagstaff centre, looped off target.
The visitors came south with a good set-piece pedigree, and from their first flag-kick of the afternoon midway through the half they went close.
After no end of jostling in the box, Antony Gardner was left totally free to head goalwards only for the ball to cannon off an unwitting teammate in the shape of Antonio before being scrambled behind.
Antonio controlled, swivelled and curled a shot over from the edge of the box just after the half hour mark, while there were faint Addicks claims for a penalty as a Pritchard drive cannoned off the upper torso of Llera.
Buxton was booked after sending the lively Wagstaff tumbling and from the 35th-minute free-kick the Addicks were a lick of paint away from taking the lead.
Taylor peeled round the back to head Stephens' deep delivery back across the box and amid a cluster of players Morrison and Buxton converged together and the ball clattered back off the bar via the home defender
Set-pieces at both ends were certainly looking the most likely source of a goal with bodies packed in the respective boxes.
And, a minute before the interval, after a half-cleared centre, Hamer lost the ball under pressure amid another personnel cluster, and Reda Johnson’s eyes lit up. Sadly for the visitors he couldn’t cash in, steering the best – and last – opening of the half wide of the right post.
Jackson fared far better two minutes after the restart, putting a shot the right side of the same upright to give the hosts the lead.
It was a magnificent team goal too, started by a terrific claim from Hamer after a Wednesday corner.
The keeper quickly bowled the ball out to Wilson who in turn fed Solly way upfield on the right.
It was a brilliant burst from the full-back, and much better was to follow as Pritchard controlled his cross and teed up Jackson to steer his shot home via the right post.
The Valley erupted to celebrate one of the goals of the season and Llera cracked a presentable-looking free-kick into the wall as the visitors looked to respond.
Then Antonio cut in from the left – a la Danny Haynes against Derby – and sent a curling effort inches wide of the right post.
It was a decent response from Dave Jones’ side and he sent on Lita who was quickly involved and had a shot deflected behind off Morrison.
Johnson then surged through the middle and fizzed a shot just wide of the same upright as Antonio, who had switched to the right after Lita’s arrival.
The sub span sharply in the box and his shot was tipped away from danger by Hamer soon afterwards.
Jermaine Johnson was a tad further away 20 minutes in as his speculative effort cleared the bar – and the Jimmy Seed Stand to boot – leading to cheers of derision from most inside SE7.
In a rare home raid, Wagstaff cut inside and shot wide of the far post from the edge of the box and Wednesday quickly introduced Gary Madine for Pugh.
Having weathered Wednesday’s early storm, improving Charlton were denied a second goal by the woodwork midway through the half.
Wagstaff again was the purposeful host, bursting in from the left and seeing his shot clatter off the left upright before spinning to safety.
Hamer was then left grounded by a thunderous challenge from Reda Johnson, after which the hosts broke, unbeknown to them that their keeper was down.
After a cross from Kermorgant, the ball broke invitingly to Stephens some 25 yards out but he was unable to match last week’s heroics against Blackburn as he blazed over when was able to take a touch or two.
Wilson was unable to find a bursting Jackson after a nod down from Kermorgant but the Owls swooped to level matters six minutes from time.
As mentioned before, the presence of Reda Johnson in the opposite box regularly caused problems, and he met a Buxton cross with a superb looping header over Hamer and inside the far post.
The Jimmy Seed Stand erupted as parity was restored – and better was to come for the visiting fans.
After Johnson bobbed and weaved in from the right, he found Lita and the sub’s shot took a sizable deflection to beat the wrong-footed Hamer and nestle in the back of the net.
It was as rapid a turnaround as you are likely to see and Powell unleashed Green, Wright-Phillips and Fuller for Evina, Stephens and Wilson. Semedo also arrived for the visitors in added time, of which there was five minutes.
Wright-Phillips headed a Green centre off target, and there were handball claims against Gardner following a late Green corner in the desperate dying embers.
Kermorgant was booked after angrily reacting to some Llera time-wasting, an act that saw the Spaniard also booked, and despite throwing Hamer forward for the free-kick, the ball was headed clear - and the final whistle followed instantly.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Evina (Green 90), Taylor, Morrison; Pritchard, Stephens (Wright-Phillips 90), Jackson; Wilson (Fuller 90), Wagstaff, Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Button, Dervite, Cort, Harriott.
Goal: Jackson 47
Booked: Kermorgant 90 (foul on Llera)
Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Buxton, R Johnson; Llera, Gardner; Lee (Lita 55), Prutton, Coke, Pugh (Madine 67); Antonio, J Johnson (Semedo 90).
Subs (not used): Bywater, Taylor, Mattock, McCabe.
Goals: R Johnson 84, Lita 89
Booked: Coke 5 (foul on Stephens), Buxton 35 (foul on Wagstaff), Llera 90 (time-wasting)
Referee: G Salisbury
Att: 20,292 (1,936 Sheff Wed)