Charlton crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday, falling at the third-round hurdle with a 2-1 defeat at Colchester United.
The Addicks found themselves two goals down at the break after George Moncur and Marvin Sordell had fired the home side in front and there would be no way back, despite Reza Ghoochannejhad’s late consolation, with the Londoners’ search for a victory now extended into a ninth game.
Karel Fraeye made seven changes to his side, with new arrivals Diego Poyet and Roger Johnson both making their second debuts for the club.
Nick Pope made a return between the sticks, while academy graduate Regan Charles-Cook made his second senior start at right-back.
There were also starting berths for Cristian Ceballos, his first since his injury in August, and Franck Moussa, while Igor Vetokele made a long-awaited return to the bench after getting 45 minutes under his belt during the development squad’s midweek cup clash with Brentford.
After a quiet opening period, the Addicks had their first sight of goal with 11 minutes gone when U’s full-back Richard Brindley cut out Ghoochannejhad’s ball forward, only to drop as far as the feet of Simon Makienok.
With the keeper off his line, the Dane tried his luck from 25 yards, but his first-time effort flew well over the bar.
Six minutes later, Poyet found space from a similar distance and although he kept his shot down, he could not hit target as the ball curled narrowly wide off the right-hand upright.
At the other end, the hosts enjoyed their first opportunity when a chance fell to the feet of ex-Addick Sordell in space and 10 yards from goal. But although the former Olympian’s shot beat Pope, it spun inches wide, hitting the stanchion rather than the back of the net.
Colchester came closer still in the 25th minute, only denied by an excellent stop from Pope, who dived low to his right to keep Alex Gilbey’s shot out of the bottom corner.
Minutes later, however, the U’s took the lead courtesy of Moncur.
Sordell was the man to claim the assist, playing through the forward, who shifted onto his left foot and dispatched a calm finished to make it 1-0 to the League One strugglers.
The Addicks looked for an immediate response. Makienok’s deflected effort bounced just wide of the post, before Ceballos drilled a shot against the inside of the post seconds later.
But 10 minutes before the break, Charlton were struck another blow as Jordan Cousins was added to the injury list.
The skipper pulled up with a knee injury before receiving treatment in the centre circle and that would signal the end of the midfielder’s afternoon, with Vetokele replacing him for his first outing since September’s trip to Blackburn Rovers.
And it was to get worse for the Londoners.
A defensive lapse let Sordell through on goal with just Pope to beat and he made no mistake, slotting past the keeper to put Colchester into a deserved 2-0 lead.
It would have been three before half-time but for another fine save from Pope, who reacted well to keep Chris Porter’s volley out.
Deep into first-half stoppage time, meanwhile, Charlton had a glorious opportunity to reduce the arrears. Makienok dug out a shot which stopper Jake Kean did well to save, and with the ball falling to the feet of Vetokele, the Angola international could only put it wide from a tight angle.
Fraeye made a change at the break, replacing Ceballos with Rhys Williams, who slotted into the centre of midfield alongside Poyet, as the Addicks desperately searched for a way back into the tie.
But there were no early signs of a comeback after the restart.
Indeed, Pope was drawn into another stop at his near post on 52 minutes, before Sordell skied an effort from a threatening position, and the hosts maintained their control.
Fraeye played his final hand on the hour mark when he threw on Ricardo Vaz Te to inspire his side. The forward replaced Roger Johnson as the Addicks went 3-4-3 and although they began to take back control of possession, chances were hard to come by.
Pope was called into action again with 20 minutes remaining, keeping out Moncur’s placed shot, while Vaz Te’s deflected effort was well held by Kean at the other end.
On 82 minutes, the Charlton’s best chance came and went when Vaz Te saw his drilled shot parried by the U’s stopper and with the striker following up with a similar effort, Brindley was on hand to make a vital block on the line to frustrate the visitors further.
A breakthrough would finally come deep into injury time when Ghoochannejhad headed home Moussa’s right-wing cross, but it was too little too late.
Attention now turns to the all-the-more-important league clash with Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium on Tuesday evening when the Addicks desperate to pull themselves out of the Championship’s bottom three.
Charlton: Pope; Charles-Cook, Fox, Sarr, Johnson (Vaz Te 61); Poyet, Cousins, Ceballos (Williams 46), Moussa, Ghoochannejhad, Makienok.
Subs (not used): Henderson, Konsa, Lennon, Umerah.
Booked: Williams 52 (foul on Gilby), Makienok 71 (dissent)
Goal: Ghoochannejhad 90+2
Colchester United: Kean, Garvan (Edwards 73), Briggs, Wynter, Gilbey, Porter, Moncur (Vincent-Young 87), Massey, Eastman, Brindley, Sordell (Bonne 82).
Subs (not used): Parish, Wright, Kent, Lapslie.
Booked: Garvan 72 (foul on Moussa), Gilby 77 (time wasting)
Goals: Moncur 28, Sordell 41
Referee: C Kavanagh
Att: 5,742 (1,804 from Charlton)