Charlton secured their first away win since March thanks to a fine display at St Andrew’s on Saturday afternoon.
The Addicks came away with a 1-0 victory over Birmingham City and it was Johnnie Jackson who, once again, was the talisman, scoring the second-half winner as Karel Fraeye’s side celebrated back-to-back wins and a move up the table, out of the bottom three and into 20th spot.
Fraeye made three changes to the side which earned victory over Sheffield Wednesday prior to the international break.
After impressing in that 3-1 win at The Valley, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis started in place of the injured Chris Solly at right-back, while Jordan Cousins made a return from his thigh strain by replacing the suspended El-Hadji Ba in the centre of the park.
But the big news pre-match was that 18-year-old forward Ademola Lookman was given his first start in professional football alongside Simon Makienok up top, as the academy graduate continues his remarkable ascension through the ranks.
Lookman’s inclusion saw Rez Ghoochannejhad drop to the bench, with the Iranian having faced a gruelling week of travelling on international duty, only returning to Sparrows Lane on Friday.
The hosts fired the first shot of the afternoon with just 90 seconds on the clock when Jacques Maghoma cut inside and fired a shot straight at Stephen Henderson, although the Addicks did make a bright start, with Lookman proving a real handful in the opening exchanges.
The nippy striker’s quick feet led to the award of a free-kick on seven minutes which saw Johann Berg Gudmundsson force Blues stopper Tomasz Kuszczak into a low save down to his left.
The early action was fairly open as both sides looked to create chances. On 12 minutes, a swift Charlton counter sent Makienok away down the right and the Dan did brilliantly to beat his man before squaring to Lookman at the far post.
Taking a touch, the confident youngster put the ball on his left foot before firing a shot into the side netting.
11 minutes later, it was another academy starlet who came close when Holmes-Dennis brilliantly skinned Jonathan Grounds on the right, before cutting inside and drilling a low shot towards goal.
But Kuszczak was equal to it, getting down to his right once again to stop the effort from sneaking inside his near post.
Moments later, at the other end, Morgan Fox put in a fantastic block to deny Demarai Gray from 10 yards, while the winger’s mazy run set up Jon Toral just after the half-hour mark, but Henderson hit the ground to make a good save, denying the forward.
The home side began to see a fraction more of the ball in the latter stages of the first period and they had another half-chance when big striker Nicolai Solomon-Brock was played in around the back of the Londoners’ defence, only for Henderson to advance quickly, sliding in to stop the Dane.
With four minutes remaining of the half, the Addicks pulled off an eye-catching passing move forward which saw the visitors display slick passing from back to front. The one-touch move played in Jackson, who in turn tried to release Lookman inside the box, but a vital interception denied the full debutant a clear chance at goal.
Second later, however, Lookman did get a shot away when he twisted and turned before firing just over the crossbar from 15 yards out as the sides retreated for the break all square.
Lookman and Gray were seemingly the catalyst for each side during the first 45, and early in the second the duo showed their individual threat again.
First, the exciting Charlton youngster ran rings round the Blues’ defence before seeing his shot well blocked on the edge of the box, while Gray showed good skill to get into the box and force Henderson into another fine save with a powerful drive for Birmingham.
And on 51 minutes, Blues came closer still when Gleeson thumped a first-time effort inches wide of the post as the game remained on an even keel.
Another chance fell to the hosts in the 56th minute when Maghoma curled shot inches wide of the right-hand upright, but with an hour gone, it was the Addicks who took the lead, courtesy of Jackson’s 50th goal for the club.
Lookman was heavily involved, holding up play well before teeing up Holmes-Dennis.
The full-back put on his thrusters to burst past Grounds and deliver an inch-perfect cross on his ‘weak’ right foot for the incoming skipper, who placed his header into the bottom right-hand corner from 10 yards out.
Immediately following the goal, Lookman was replaced by Ricardo Vaz Te for his Charlton debut as Fraeye’s men looked to see out their first league win on the road this season.
The Londoners had their tails up and a chance fell to the head of Makienok with 21 minutes remaining after Gudmundsson had delivered the ball from the right, but it was ever so slightly too high for the Denmark international, who headed over from eight yards.
The Blues struggled to provide an immediate response, prompting boss Gary Rowett into a double change, after which Gray was quick to send a reminder of the threat which he possesses, firing narrowly wide after another marauding run down the wing.
Meanwhile, Holmes-Dennis was continuing to be a painful thorn in Birmingham’s side with his own bursts forwards and with 16 minutes remaining, his sumptuous ball into the box nearly caught everyone out, missing the outstretched boot of Vaz Te by millimetres, while Kuszczak had to improvise to prevent the cross from bouncing straight in.
With five minutes left on the clock, a Charlton attack was sparked by the unlikely source of Patrick Bauer, who won a tackle in his own half before bounding forwards to the Birmingham box.
Once there, he laid off Gudmundsson, who tried his luck with a low, stinging drive which Kuszczak did well to get behind.
With the clock ticking into injury-time, the Blues provided a real scare with Grounds popping up at the back post, looking certain to score, only for Holmes-Dennis to get his head in the way, preventing what would have been late heart break for the battling Addicks.
The final whistle brought sweet relief to the 650 hardy travelling fans from south London who braved the bitter-cold temperature in the West Midlands, and with Charlton securing six points from their last two outings, things are certainly looking far more rosy at The Valley.
Charlton: Henderson; Holmes-Dennis, Fox, Bauer, Sarr; Diarra, Cousins, Jackson, Gudmundsson (Ghoochannejhad 90+3); Lookman (Vaz Te 62), Makienok (Ahearne-Grant 90+5).
Subs (not used): Pope, Bergdich, Lennon, Charles-Cook.
Goal: Jackson 61
Birmingham City: Kuszczak; Grounds, Gray, Gleeson, Maghoma (Brown 72), Toral, Spector, Davis (Soloman-Otabor 72), Morrison, Caddis, Brock-Madsen.
Subs (not used): Legzdins, Eardley, Kieftenbeld, Shinnie, Lowry.
Referee: D Drysdale
Att: 16,514 (650 from Charlton)