Iain Liddle reports from the DW Stadium
A late sucker-punch was followed by a devastating knockout blow to ensure Charlton left the DW Stadium with nothing to show for their fantastic efforts on Saturday.
Marvin Sordell’s goal in the third minute gave the Addicks a lead which they held for the next 85 minutes, but unfortunately it was still not enough.
Wigan Athletic manager Uwe Rosler called on the riches at his disposal on the substitutes’ bench and, sure enough, two of them scored the goals which turned the contest on its head.
Marc-Antoine Fortune and Jordi Gomez each scored in a three-minute spell in the closing stages which leaves the South Londoners in an unenviable position in the Championship’s bottom three.
This was not a case of a team paying the price for surrendering any attacking initiative after taking the lead.
Charlton remained a threat for the most part, with the new-look attacking trio of Sordell, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Astrit Ajdarević showing flashes of a promising group understanding.
The post-match statistics belonged to Wigan, but it’s harder to measure the way the reshuffled Addicks fought for each other and also showed class at times, especially in the form of young academy graduate Diego Poyet.
At 85 minutes it was tempting to look ahead and wonder whether this may prove to be the best victory of Powell’s tenure, given the quality of opposition, number of debutants in his own side and manner in which they performed.
Instead, by the 94th minute, the Charlton manager had to reflect on what may be one of his most sickening defeats.
Ghoochannejhad, Poyet, Ajdarević and Loïc Négo were all handed full league debuts, while Yohann-Thuram Ulien returned between the posts following Thursday’s departure of Ben Alnwick.
It took less than two minutes for the first shot on goal, and it came via a mistake from the man awarded a new contract until 2018 on Thursday, Wiggins.
After winning possession, his foray forward was intercepted and Nicky Maynard who took a touch before shooting and low and wide of Thuram-Ulien’s post.
Where one loanne, from West Ham, was wasteful, another at the other end was then beautifully clinical.
A defensive error from the hosts allow Johnnie Jackson to thread a ball into the path of Sordell, who purposefully took it in his stride and slotted underneath the advancing Al Al Habsi.
For a striker who has at times to struggle to find his best form this season, for whatever reason, in one split second who showed the killer instinct which brought him to national prominence at such an early age.
Charlton could not have asked for a more perfect start, and that sixty seconds set the stage for a first half in which the ball continually raced from end to end.
There was immediate bad news for the visitors afterwards, however, when Wiggins became the second full-back this season to commit his future to the club and then suffer an injury soon after.
A seemingly innocuous collision forced him from the field and, for the second successive Saturday, academy graduate Harry Lennon was summoned from the bench to fill in at left-back.
As became the theme, Wigan then took their turn to attack and warmed the palms of Thuram-Ulien for the first time as Ben Watson’s shot was punched away from danger.
The teenager instantly showed he was not awed by the occasion, or his opponent – Callum McManaman, by keeping up with the winger for pace and producing a fine sliding challenge.
It prompted gasps of the wrong kind from Charlton fans, though, as he stayed down and held his ankle. After some treatment he hobbled on to negotiate McManaman’s direct speed with one creaky wheel. Good luck.
The winger, a star performer in last year’s FA Cup final, was a menace all over the pitch and then produced the Latics’ best opportunity of the first half and drilled a shot at goal from a tight angle, but Thuram-Ulien once again stood up to the test.
Wigan were not lacking for tempo, nor would their hyperactive manager Uwe Rosler allow them to be, but it was Charlton who then came closest to the game’s second goal.
A clever one-two between Ghoochannejhad and Ajdarević freed the latter on goal and the Iran international’s shot from 20 yards was turned away by Al Habsi.
The danger not cleared through and the man nicknamed ‘Gucci’ then rattled the woodwork from the edge of the area with a stunning effort. The new Addicks fans in the Middle East would have to wait slightly longer.
Wigan were dominating the possession statistics, but Powell’s side were looking just as dangerous.
The Londoners had another glorious opportunity after 35 minutes when Sordell was played in once again and, rather than shoot first time, he attempted to take it around the Oman stopper who took it off the striker’s feet.
An unsung performer in the first half was Jordan Cousins, a constant runner and harrier on the right side of a midfield and he ended the opening period by winning a free-kick when his foray forward was curtailed by Jean Beausejour. Selfless work, but oh so important to the team.
The second half began in dramatic fashion when the ball nestled into the bottom corner of Thuram-Ulien’s net, but appeared to have done after the final touch came off a Charlton defender.
The referee ruled it out for offside, but his assistant was flagging. After a quick conversation the original decision stood and Charlton could breathe again.
It was backs to the wall from then on as cross after cross, free-kick after free-kick and through-ball after through-ball was headed, blocked or hacked away.
As you’d expect from a team shaped in Powell’s image, they stood up to everything. And the attacks, and tempo from Wigan, continued to be relentless.
Watson’s low shot was held by Thuram-Ulien and Emmerson Boyce headed wide.
Next it was Beauseour’s overlapping down the left, to take a pot-shot from a tight angle and Thuram-Ulien, in his own unorthodox manner, parried to safety.
Rosler continued to make attacking changes and his final one proved decisive as Gomez’s introduction changed the course of the game.
The tricky Spaniard was a constant threat and kept the ball ticking over in dangerous areas. Charlton’s work-rate was excellent. They were matching Wigan for every yard. Their lead remained on a knife-edge, however.
Fortune’s header prompted a goalmouth scramble which Charlton were fortunate to survive, before Négo made his most telling contribution of the day was a superb back-post header to deny McClean.
Powell made changes to try and stem the tide with the big frame of Dorian Dervite the final substitution, a move which left the determined Ghoochannejhad – who enjoyed an impressive debut – as Charlton’s main threat on the counter-attack.
Watson went close again and Leon Barnett should have done better when presented space to head home from close range soon afterwards.
While sometimes a constant failure to convert chances allows the side on the back foot some breathing space, none was forthcoming from the gung-ho hosts.
Finally, a breakthrough came. Gomez fed McEachran, who slid a ball through a slight gap in the Addicks’ defence to Fortune who scuffed an effort past Thuram-Ulien.
The disappointment of seeing three points reduced to one, was quickly replaced by the sheer despair of leaving with nothing to show for a momentous collective effort.
A free-kick was given away on the edge of the penalty area and, the star turn, Gomez, curled it past the wall and into the bottom corner of the net.
Charlton left Wigan with nothing. Not in terms of points anyway. Nobody wants to hear it at the moment but the sheer guts and collectiveness of a team thrown together at short notice speaks volumes about the spirit which remains in the dressing room.
It was the worst possible ending for those of a red persuasion and next week’s game against Birmingham City now takes on an even greater importance.
On a disappointing day, the positive is that this is a team who knows no other way than to the battle to the end.
Charlton: Thuram-Ulien; Nego, Wiggins (Lennon 8), Morrison, Wood; Poyet, Cousins, Jackson, Ajdarević (Dervite 81); Sordell (Pritchard 72), Ghoochannejhad.
Subs (not used): Phillips, Hughes, Green, Church.
Goals: Sordell 3.
Booked: Lennon 65 (unsporting behaviour).
Wigan Athletic: Al Habsi, Boyce, Perch, Barnett, Beausejour, McCann (McEachran 57), Watson, McArthur (Gomez 74), McManaman, Maynard (Fortune 57), McClean.
Subs (not used): Nicholls, Crainey, Espinoza, Browning.
Goals: Fortune 88, Gomez 90+1.
Booked: Beausejour 45 (pulling back Cousins), McEahran 62 (infringement).
Referee: Mr Michael Bull.
Att: 14,341. (729 Charlton).