George Jones reports from Loftus Road
Charlton suffered stoppage-time heartbreak against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon.
In another performance where José Riga’s men gave absolutely everything, Jordan Cousins’ second-half equaliser, which cancelled out Matt Phillips’ controversial opener, looked to have earned the Addicks a more-than-deserved point.
But, despite dominating for long spells after the break, they were unable to find a winner and Rangers replacement Abdenasser El Khayati then compounded things by curling home the winning goal four minutes into stoppage time.
With other results again going against Charlton, the defeat leaves them 10 points from safety with five Championship fixture of the season remaining.
Head Coach Riga made just the single change to the starting XI that performed so well at Ipswich in midweek with Johann Berg Gudmundsson - out with a head injury - making way for Igor Vetokele.
An important block in the opening minute from Chris Solly saw him get in the way of Junior Hoilett’s strike at goal, before Yaya Sanogo tried to thread Callum Harriott in, only for the forward’s pass to be overhit.
Vetokele slid the ball across the face of goal for the Addicks with seven minutes on the clock, but experienced defender Nedum Onuoha was well positioned to hack the danger clear.
It was proving to be an open start to proceedings and, after receiving possession from Hoilett on the edge of the box, home midfielder Massimo Luongo let fly, though his effort flew high over the bar.
Morgan Fox, under pressure from Phillips had to be alert to clear Hoilett’s low centre soon afterwards from inside his own six-yard box and Vetokele was then just unable to wrestle off the attention of Onuoha after latching onto Cousins’ lofted through ball.
The Addicks carved out a good opportunity on the 18-minute mark. Ademola Lookman cut in front the left-hand side and teed up Harriott, who aimed a curling strike towards goal that home stopper Alex Smithies to well to palm behind for a corner.
From the resulting set-piece, Fox nodded back across goal but Sebastian Polter was able to clear the danger for Rangers.
The home side came close to breaking the deadlock on 31 minutes when Tjarron Chery flighted in a free-kick from the right but, after bouncing off a crowd of bodies inside the Addicks’ six-yard box, the ball popped up and Nick Pope was able to collect.
Rod Fanni met a Harriott free-kick that sailed a couple of yards wide of Smithies’ goal and, at the other end, an inswinging delivery from Chery failed to beat the first man, with Cousins in the right place to clear.
QPR went in front on the stroke of half-time, and in controversial circumstances.
They worked the ball out to Phillips on the right flank, he cut inside and delivered a cross into the box that Hoilett, standing in an offside position, tried to flick into the net. The ball flew beyond him and nestled into the corner and despite lengthy and justified protestations from the men in red, the goal was allowed to stand.
In the opening act of the second hald, Chery shot well wide and some superb skill from Harriott then sam him come within inches of drawing Charlton level. He skipped away from Jack Robinson on the corner of the box before curling a strike towards the top corner that bounced away off the crossbar.
Rangers responded with a good chance of their own as Chery shot goalwards, forcing Pope to extend himself and tip his strike behind for a corner.
Smithies was out quickly to smother at the feet of Vetokele as he chased down Harriott’s through ball, and then Pope - as the game’s end-to-end pace resumed - did excellently to deny Phillips with his feet, with the winger clean through on goal.
The Addicks levelled the tie two minutes after the hour mark. Harriott and Chris Solly linked up down the right and the latter squared for Cousins, who allowed the ball to come across his body before curling into the bottom corner with his left foot.
Not content with just an equaliser, a swift counter attack brought Riga’s side another chance four minutes later. Cousins released Harriott on the right and he cut inside before firing a low strike at goal that Smithies got down to hold.
Vetokele wrestled possession off Rangers defender Grant Hall to get onto a high ball inside the box but, after being bumped to the ground - fairly according to the referee, the chance was gone.
Substitute Cole Kpekawa was well placed to get Cousins’ fizzed cross clear on 75 minutes and Polter then wasted a good chance for the hosts when he dragged wide from inside the penalty area.
As the clock began to tick down, Simon Makienok tried to pick out Harriott with a clever cut-back after the winger had peeled away from the crowd inside the box, but Karl Henry reacted first in intercept his pass.
Five minutes from time the visitors went close again. Vetokele bravely put his foot in, before getting clattered by Onuoha, to find Lookman in the box. He cut inside but could only blaze over the bar.
If any side were going to grab a winning goal, it looked like it was going to be Charlton, and they came even closer to finding it as the clock struck 89. Cousins broke forward from midfield and slipped in Vetokele; with only Smithies to beat the Angolan aimed for the corner but the goalkeeper was there to produce a stunning save.
The Addicks had given their all, but sadly their performance would count for nothing as in the 94th minute El Khayati was found on the left and he curled into the top corner to break Addicks’ hearts.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies, Hall, Onuoha, Phillips (Gladwin 72), Chery, Henry, Luongo, Hoilett (El Khayati 85), Perch (Kpekawa 55), Polter, Robinson.
Subs (not used): Ingram, Washington, Faurlin, Petrasso.
Goal: Phillips 45, El Khayati 90+4
Booked: Kpekawa 66 (foul on Vetokele), Onuoha 86 (foul on Vetokele), Gladwin 90+1 (foul on Cousins)
Charlton: Pope, Solly, Fanni, Teixeira, Fox (Lennon 83), Diarra, Cousins, Harriott, Lookman (Lookman 89), Sanogo (Makienok 34), Vetokele.
Subs (not used): Henderson, Bergdich, Motta, Ba.
Goal: Cousins 62
Referee: A Madley.
Attendance: 15,834 (1,106 from Charlton)