Iain Liddle reports from Elland Road
From Tehran to Thamesmead they are celebrating this evening after Reza Ghoochannejhad scored his first Charlton goal.
From Tehran to Thamesmead they are celebrating the goal which gave Charlton a fantastically memorable victory at Leeds United on Tuesday evening.
From Taunton to Thamesmead they are celebrating the stupendous penalty save, in added time, from West Country boy Ben Hamer which meant Ghoochannejhad’s effort was not in vain.
There is something about these Tuesday nights.
Under José Riga Charlton have now won three of the his seven games in charge, each one by a goal to nil and each on a Tuesday evening.
Dorian Dervite’s header against AFC Bournemouth in added time was a special moment, but it does not compare on the delirium scale to this evening at Elland Road when Hamer guessed the right way and repelled Ross McCormack’s effort.
There is still much to do if Charlton are to avoid relegation this season and this win has only opened a meagre three-point gap.
However, the stunning goal from Ghoochannejhad and equally-superb save from Hamer made the night feel more significant.
It feels like the most significant night of the season so far in many ways and, with single-digit fixtures to come, it is truly something to build on with more crunch games to follow.
Head Coach Riga made a change for every goal his side conceded at Derby County on Saturday, with Astrit Ajdarević, Dorian Dervite and Joe Pigott all included.
There was no switch in formation however, with the Belgian persisting with his so-far favoured 4-3-3 formation with Ajdarević and Ghoochannejhad given license to roam behind the young academy graduate.
It did not take long for the home side to create the first chance with powerful forward Matt Smith showing early intent by attacking a cross, but just missing it as the ball flashed wide.
There was another scare for the travelling fans after eight minutes when the otherwise assured Hamer slipped in the area, before recovering just in time, and soon after Michael Tonge should have done better when clipping over the bar from 10 yards.
The fit-again Dervite likes this ground. He scored here last season and went close to repeating the feat after 19 minutes when he strode forward from defence and forced Butland into a solid stop from his 30-yard drive.
Less than 60 seconds later, back-four partner Rhoys Wiggins had to be at his best to stop McCormack’s progress after Jordan Cousins had given the ball away.
It was that sort of first half. Both sides looked confident in spells without having the cutting edge to look truly dangerous.
Charlton’s Iranian star was the standout in the first half as he looked to drop deep regularly and link play with Ajdarević and Pigott.
Ghoochannejhad was involved in the action again on the half-hour mark when Wilson made an intelligent interception to prevent a Leeds breakaway and fed the Iranian, who beat a man before shooting straight at Butland.
Charllton were clearly determined to play football across the smooth Elland Road playing surface, with Pigott the intended focal point even if he was regularly outmuscled by defender Jason Pearce.
Leeds continued with their physical approach, but Charlton matched it with an energetic one and were successful in regularly forcing the Whites to play back to goalkeeper Butland – to the growing frustrations of the home crowd.
Leeds were also set up in a formation capable of playing a containing style with winger Sam Byram and Aidan White traditionally more at home at full-back than higher up in midfield.
With the Addicks opting for a more patient passing game, they looked confident in possession and ended the half strongly as the home fans began to show greater unease.
A clever one-two between Wiggins and Ghoochannejhad was halted by the offside flag, Cousins shot over the bar after breaking from midfield and Ajdarević stung the palms of Butland from distance just before the whistle blew.
Just as they did in the first half, Leeds were quicker out of the traps in the second and had the first meaningful shot after the restart.
In fact, meaningful is probably an understatement when, after Diego Poyet slipped, McCormack picked the ball up 30 yards from goal and cannoned an effort which nearly broke the crossbar in two – such was the ferocity with which it was struck.
With the visitors on the back foot, Riga called for a dose of direct pace with Jonathan Obika replacing Pigott, who had shown nice footwork on his return.
Charlton were growing in belief and it was two of the winter transfer window signings who combined after 54 minutes to score the decisive goal in the contest.
Ajdarević clipped into the path of Ghoochannejhad, who had space to run at Pearce and cut inside before curling a beauty past Butland into the top corner.
Charlton were growing in confidence with every passing minute and continued to pass the ball with aplomb.
A special mention to Cousins, Poyet and captain Johnnie Jackson who continue to defy fatigue as they run for 90 non-stop minutes twice a week.
Leeds continued their physical approach, without reward, but looked an injection of adrenaline by introducing pacey substitute Dominic Poleon with 20 minutes to play.
Soon after, Poyet made a cruncing but brilliantly-timed challenge on the halfway line to prevent a Leeds break and ensure the momentum swung back in Charlton’s favour.
A penalty appeal on Obika was waved away with a quarter of an hour to play, before Alex Mowatt was booked for pulling Poyet’s hair to prevent a counter-attack in a move straight from the playbook of a bad guy in professional wrestling.
Dervite went close again with a bullet free-kick on 80 minutes but from then on it was backs to the wall.
While Charlton tired, their effort never waned. Which was just as well with 15 minutes of solid defending to follow.
With five minutes of added time announced, there was one final push needed and it looked as though Charlton would hold out for the win.
However, with three of the five played, referee Scott Duncan pointed the spot after Poyet was adjudged to have held back a breaking Whites player in the area.
It looked the correct decision in real time, but that was no consolation.
The contest came down to Hamer versus the clinical McCormack.
Hamer bounced on the line in a bid to put his man off.
McCormack looked confident in the face of the posing. He stepped up confidently, struck the shot sweetly…
Hamer guessed correctly and produced a moment of magic which could prove hugely significant at the end of the season.
Charlton were victorious and every player rushed to their goalkeeper at the final whistle.
Everyone in a red shirt sensed the importance of the victory and, while nine games remain, the impetus is back with the Addicks in their bid for survival.
Charlton: Hamer; Wilson, Wiggins, Morrison, Dervite; Cousins, Poyet, Jackson; Ajdarević (Harriott 78), Pigott (Obika 53), Ghoochannejhad (Petrucci 84).
Subs (not used): Phillips, Wood, Négo, Sordell.
Booked: Poyet (foul on Hunt) 90+3.
Goals: Ghoochannejhad 54.
Leeds United: Butland, Wootton (Poleon 70), Warnock, Pearce, Lees; Byram, Tonge, Mowatt, White; McCormack, Smith (Hunt 46).
Subs (not used): Cairns, Murphy, Pugh, Brown, Stewart.
Booked: Tonge 51 (foul on Poyet), Wootton 67 (foul on Wiggins), Mowatt (pulling Poyet’s hair), Pearce (foul on Ghoochannejhad).
Referee: S Duncan