Blackburn Rovers 2 (Rhodes 6,19) Charlton 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from Ewood Park.
Horrified witnesses in a packed away end at Fulham two months ago will recognise the key components in Charlton's latest defensive debacle at Ewood Park. Lacking only the late coup-de-grace applied by the West Londoners' Hugo Rodellega on that chaotic occasion, this dismal defeat followed an otherwise eerily familiar pattern.
In front of only 318 battlehardened camp followers in the frigid Northwest, the Addicks stuck doggedly to their doctrine of playing out from the back and, as at Craven Cottage, were cruelly punished for their self-indulgence. They were actually served an early warning when Joe Gomez' misplaced pass led to a chance which Jordan Rhodes fired against Nick Pope's legs. But they didn't learn. No more than three minutes later, Rhodes faced Pope again in one-on-one confrontation. It was unlikely that as prolific a marksman would kick a second gift horse in the teeth.
Presumably under strict tactical instructions, Pope's pass out to Jordan Cousins placed the youngster under unwelcome pressure from Ben Marshall, who neatly abstracted possession before playing in Rhodes to his left. There was to be no second reprieve with the hitman's careful drive slotted across Pope into the bottom right corner.
The nightmare start almost went from bad to worse when Pope dropped a swirling skyscraper at Rudy Gestede's feet, hardly recommended practice with an in-form 12-goal striker on hand. Luckily for the badly rattled keeper, Gestede's instant shot cannoned off Morgan Fox's head to temporary safety.
By now it was essential that the panicky Londoners settled down before their disadvantage became unmanageable. Before the 20-minute mark, Rhodes disabused them of even that modest ambition.
Alertly on the move as Gestede flicked on Jason Steele's huge punt, Rhodes brushed through Tal Ben Haim's tissue-thin resistance, stumbled past a vaguely groping Pope and walked his 10th goal of the season into an empty net. The feeble hurdles he'd surmounted were typical of a first half, in which it's difficult to recall a single 50-50 challenge won by visitors who have frequently made a virtue of papering over cracks in their ability with spirit and determination.
Not this time. Weak on the ball and unable to cope with Rovers's unapologetic physicality, Charlton were easy prey for hard but fair opponents. And no case can be made for the extreme youth in their ranks. If you're good enough, you're also old enough has been a watchword we've come to accept. But you can't have it both ways. Whatever your age, you're expected to fight for the right to play. You need to toughen up, Charlton. And look after the ball better.
So with Blackburn unconcerned with improving their position and with the Addicks clearly incapable of doing anything about it, a turgid encounter dragged on for 70 further minutes. Coming from behind has hardly been one of the virtues of Charlton's campaign so far but at least the boredom gave us time to ponder Bob Peeters' growing problems.
Beset by injuries to key players, not to mention the untimely return to Arsenal of Francis Coquelin, a talented midfielder on whom he was beginning to depend, Peeters has shuffled his deck recently. On a needs must basis, Chris Solly has stepped into right central midfield before, in the wake of Saturday's early collapse, relieving left back Fox, whose confidence must have been shaken by his embarrassing removal on the half hour when, in fact, he was no worse than any of his experienced colleagues.
For what they're worth, some conclusions can be drawn and suggestions made, among them the immediate return to right back of Solly, with the willing Lawrie Wilson operating in front of him. The re-invention of Callum Harriott as a striker in support of Igor Vetokele must surely be reconsidered, with the skilful, if admittedly lightweight George Tucudean handed another chance. The memory of the last second matchwinning chance the Rumanian expertly laid on for Andre Bikey against Blackpool should be factored in by the manager.
Last but far from least, owner Duchatelet must be persuaded to stick his hand in his sky (that's yer pocket, Roland) and help out with a signing or two. A large, mobile target man, preferably a sturdy Brit,would be handy for starters before Charlton earn a reputation as a bargain basement outfit with contacts exclusively in Belgium. We can only dream of the likes of Rhodes and Gestede, of course, but the situation is precarious. It's handy to have 30 points but we can't stick on them, can we? We need to twist and get 20 more asap. It's 50 or bust and we all know what that could mean. Doesn't bear thinking about. Which doesn't stop me thinking about it.
Blackburn: Steele, Baptiste, Hanley, Duffy, Olsson, Tunnicliffe, Evans, Lowe, (Williamson 49), Marshall (Dunn 76), Gestede (King 76), Rhodes. Not used: Kilgallon, Eastwood, Varney, Conway.
Charlton: Pope, Gomez, Ben Haim, Bikey, Fox (Wilson 30), Buyens, Solly, Cousins (Bulot 73), Gudmundsson, Harriott (Pigott 46), Vetokele. Not used: Etheridge, Onyewu, Tucudean, Ahearne-Grant. Booked: Buyens.
Referee: David Webb.
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