Olly Groome reports from The Valley
Charlton fell to a 1-0 defeat to promotion-chasing Derby County at The Valley on Saturday afternoon.
For the third consecutive game, the Addicks could ask themselves how they did not come away with the points after an impressive performance did not yield the deserved result.
Indeed, the game hinged on referee Darren Bond’s decision to wrongly disallow Jorge Teixeira’s goal just before the hour-mark, leaving the Rams to go straight down the other end and take the lead through Johnny Russell, knocking the hosts, who had been well on top, out of their stride.
Jose Riga made just one change to the side which suffered an undeserved defeat at Queens Park Rangers last weekend, with Johann Berg Gudmundsson recovering in time from a perforated ear drum to replace Yaya Sanogo, who limped out of the clash at Loftus Road with a hamstring complaint.
Four minutes were on the clock when former Addick Scott Carson was the first of the goalkeepers to be called into action, making a routine save to keep out Callum Harriott’s low, curling effort from the edge of the box.
The Addicks were certainly holding their own in the opening exchanges, with the winger causing constant problems down the right, while the Rams struggled to see much of the ball before the 15-minute mark.
But with 19 minutes gone, Nick Pope pulled off a stunning double save to deny Derby from their first real attack of the game.
When a ball across the box found Tom Ince at the back post, it looked as if the former Liverpool man would complete the easy task of slotting home, only for the stopper to stick out a foot and make an incredible save on the line against all the odds.
Then, with the ball falling to Chris Martin in the box, his powerful shot was heading under the bar until Pope reacted brilliantly, tipping it over the bar and earning a standing ovation from every side of ground as the Valley faithful stood to applaud one of the greatest displays of goalkeeping seen in SE7 for many a year.
At the other end, Charlton came close when a lovely move ended in Vetokele slipping in Gudmundsson with a clever pass, but just as he was about to pull the trigger from 12 yards, Cyrus Christie slid in with a goal-saving tackle to deny the Iceland international.
The game opened up as the half approached the half-hour mark and Rams midfielder Russell sent a good-looking shot whizzing past the post from distance, before George Thorne turned and fired wide shortly after, while Harriott fired wide for the hosts.
Three minutes before the break, Ademola Lookman pulled a fantastic bit of trickery out of the bag to set Charlton on their way before Jordan Cousins teed up his fellow academy graduate Harriott to fire a right-footed piledriver towards goal, missing the top-left hand corner by a matter of inches.
Charlton were handed an early opportunity when Vetokele was pulled down by Thorne 30 yards from goal, allowing Lookman to swing in a delivery which was met by Rod Fanni.
His flicked header, however, was saved on the line by Carson.
With the Addicks on top, Fanni was involved again before the hour when he stormed into the box before squaring for Vetokele at the near post.
But although the forward slid in well to get there first, his effort was well blocked.
Moments later, Vetokele flicked on a header which looped over Carson, but came bouncing off the post, before Charlton were on the wrong end of a hugely contentious decision.
With a looping cross delivered into the box, Teixeira challenged the Derby keeper, winning the header which finished in the back of the net, only for the referee to disallow it for a foul on Carson.
However, replays showed that it was completely the wrong decision and the Addicks were robbed of a perfectly good goal.
That injustice would prove to be an even more sickening blow when the Rams went straight down the other end to take the lead with Russell claiming it, leaping to nod home a header after a set-piece was flicked on.
There was no doubt that the home side had been the better of the two up to that point and they would continue on the front foot with Harriott firing wide from an angle, before Lookman’s dipping free-kick was tipped over by Carson.
The ball was cleared from the resulting corner, but only as far as Cousins who showed great technique to fire in a powerful drive from 20 yards.
But with Carson rooted to the spot, the shot flew inches past the left-hand post.
Ince had a pair of half-chances for Derby, first placing a shot wide of the post before firing straight at Pope as the visitors enjoyed their best spell of the game, while the hosts remaining spirit began to fade.
Martin probably should have finished things off two minutes from time when he fired over from close range, but the solitary goal was enough to push Charlton further towards the relegation trap door.
Charlton: Pope; Solly (Motta 78), Fox, Teixeira, Fanni; Gudmundsson, Cousins, Diarra (Makienok 83), Harriott; Lookman (Bergdich 90), Vetokele.
Subs (not used): Mitov, Lennon, Jackson, Suk-Young.
Booked: Fox 90+2 (Spat with Christie)
Derby County: Carson, Christie, Bryson, Keogh, Martin, Russell, Shackell, Butterfield (Hughes 70), Ince, Hanson, Thorne.
Booked: Butterfield 66 (foul on Lookman), Keogh 61 (foul on Vetokele), Christie 90+2 (spat with Fox)
Goal: Russell 60
Subs (not used): Mitchell, Buxton, Bent, Camara, Blackman, Weimann.
Referee: Darren Bond
Att: 15,857 (2,584 from Derby)