George Jones reports from Ewood Park
Charlton suffered a disappointing defeat against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Saturday afternoon.
Having been indebted to two excellent early saves from goalkeeper Nick Pope, the Addicks settled into the tie and began to assert themselves in the game, with Tony Watt going close.
But Rovers crucially edged ahead in first-half stoppage time through Jordan Rhodes and Charlton’s tormenter-in-chief doubled his side’s lead after the break.
And with the game stretched, Tom Lawrence thumped home a third late on to compound the visitors’ misery.
Guy Luzon made three changes to his side that started in Tuesday’s defeat to Huddersfield Town, with the experienced Alou Diarra regaining his place at the heart of the defence.
Zakarya Bergdich came into midfield, while there was also a first appearance in the Championship for academy graduate Mikhail Kennedy.
The Northern Irishman found the net on his senior bow against Peterborough United in the Capital One Cup last month and was drafted in to line up on the right-hand side of midfield.
The middle third of the pitch was heavily occupied in the opening stages, with both sides struggling to get a foothold.
But Charlton carved the first opening on eight minutes when a cheeky nutmeg from Bergdich allowed him space to cross, though his centre just evaded the heads of Watt and Kennedy in the middle.
Less than 60 seconds later, the Addicks threatened again when Jordan Cousins picked out Watt after the Scot had spun his marker. Rovers stopper Jason Steele was quick on the scene, though, and Watt’s attempted lob dropped wide of goal.
Rovers responded. Ben Marshall’s ball over the top put Rhodes in the clear and he aimed at goal from a central position, but Pope threw out an instinctive arm to turn his effort away for a corner.
It was a magnificent save and, once the resulting corner had gone behind for a goal-kick, Pope received a deserved ovation from the Addicks’ traveling contingent.
Rovers were growing into the game as the Charlton, in turn, became sloppy and Pope was soon forced to excel himself once more.
A short backpass from Diarra sold the stopper short and Rhodes latched upon it. Again in the clear, the striker rounded Pope but an incredible recovery slide saw him block Rhodes’ goalbound finish.
The hosts were on top by this stage but a cheaply conceded corner by Adam Henley gave the Addicks the opportunity to nudge ahead on 20 minutes. Bergdich played a quick one-two with Kennedy before picking out Johann Berg Gudmundsson on the edge of the box and, first time, his low, curling strike was beaten away by Steele.
Fode Koita swivelled and fired straight at Pope shortly afterwards, and the same man attempted a spectacular overhead kick, which the keeper easily gathered, as the first half reached its halfway stage.
A great interception from Diarra thwarted a Blackburn attack on 27 minutes and he then fed Gudmundsson. The winger turned inside the centre circle and fed Watt who dragged wide from a narrow angle.
Having weathered the storm, the Addicks were beginning to look more threatening and Gudmundsson was again able to drop into a pocket of space to pick up possession. This time he found the free Bergdich on the left. The winger elected to cross when he justifiably could have gone for goal himself and the chance went begging.
Luzon’s side were now looking the more likely. Cousins seized upon a mistake from Shane Duffy and burst into the penalty area. Having got his head up, he picked out Watt in the centre but the ball got caught under the forward’s foot and he eventually skewed tamely into the arms of Steele.
The contest appeared to be heading into the break goalless but just seconds after one minute of stoppage time was indicated, Rovers edged in front. Grant Hanley met a corner from the right with a glancing header, and from almost on the goalline Rhodes touched home.
A good, headed interception from debutant Kennedy almost released Gudmundsson six minutes after the break but, after the ball came back his way, he overhit his first-time through ball.
A minute later Cousins won possession in midfield, gave possession to Watt and he pushed forward and found Bergdich. Stretching to shoot, the Moroccan hooked his leg round to push the ball beyond Steele and towards goal but Hanley was well placed to hack clear.
Craig Conway lashed wastefully over for the hosts after some decent hold-up play from Rhodes on the left flank and, just after the hour mark, the former’ brilliantly-flighted cross sailed inches wide of Pope’s far post.
A vital interception from Patrick Bauer took the ball off the toes of Rhodes following a low centre from Markus Olsson, while at the other end a cynical foul by Hanley deprived Charlton of a three-on-two break.
Duffy reached to prod a lofted through ball behind for a corner, with Watt sprinting to try and get in between defender and goalkeeper as Charlton pushed for a leveller in the game’s final quarter.
But Blackburn quashed any hopes of an equaliser by notching their second after 75 minutes. Lawrence, who had just come off the bench, advanced down the right and crossed for Rhodes, who turned home at the near post.
Despite trailing by two, Charlton continued to press and some neat footwork from Watt saw him find Conor McAleny inside the box but his first-time effort was turned behind for a corner by an excellent block from Henley.
From the resulting set-piece, Charlton left themselves open to the counter and Rovers embarked on a four-on-one attack. Conway led the charge and cut-back for Marshall, who was superbly foiled by the outstretched arm of Pope.
Blackburn did not take long to get their third goal though and Marshall was involved in its creation. He picked out replacement Lawrence in the middle and the Leicester City loanee hammered beyond Pope from close range, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
An important defensive header form Diarra denied Rhodes a chance for a hat-trick as Rovers continued to exploit space in behind the visitors’ backline, while at the other end Steele got his body behind a low strike from Gudmundsson in what proved to the the final action of a disappointing day for the Londoners.
Blackburn: Steele, Henley, Duffy, Hanley (c), Olsson, Marshall, Guthrie (Akpan 78), Evans (Williamson 89), Conway, Koita (Lawrence 74), Rhodes.
Subs (not used): Raya, Kilgallon, Delfouneso, O’Sullivan.
Goals: Rhodes 45, 75, Lawrence
Booked: Hanley 67 (foul on Watt)
Charlton: Pope, Solly (c), Diarra, Bauer, Fox, Gudmundsson Cousins, Kashi, Bergdich (McAleny 69), Kennedy (Vetokele 61), Watt (Ahearne-Grant 89).
Subs (not used): Mitov, Sarr, Jackson, Ba.
Attendance: 12,088 (346 Charlton fans)
Referee: Carl Boyeson