Charlton 0 MK Dons 2 (O'Keefe 7, Barnes 57).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
There's more than one way to lose a football match. There's losing and then there's...really losing. It's no disgrace, for instance, in going down to a better team, provided you leave every ounce of effort behind you on the pitch. It happens, even to the likes of bland, colourless MK Dons. You deal with it, heal your wounds and press on to the next hurdle.
But when you've been not only outclassed and outfought but dismissed with almost contemptuous ease by ordinary opposition like Buckinghamshire's finest (not too much competition there, granted), there's real cause for concern. Especially when you've capitulated with barely a whimper.
This 2-0 rout sent an apprehensive shiver through a Valley all too briefly united in memory of Keith Palmer. For if one setback brought home the very real threat of relegation, look no further than this one. Charlton were individually lightweight, collectively abject, totally awful. Only favourable outcomes elsewhere spared them further damage (cheers, Millwall, best of luck at Gillingham on Saturday, by the way... you can safely leave Southend to us). They say you shouldn't rely on other results to determine your fate. Well, that's true but that's all the Addicks have going for them lately. Should they avoid the drop, they might be said to have backed into safety. They're certainly not doing it by themselves.
This defeat by the Milton Keynes franchise featured several depressingly familiar ingredients, most significant among them the concession of an early goal, one in each half on this woebegone occasion. Just seven undistinguished minutes had pottered by when teenaged Leicester loanee Harvey Barnes, a rare handful for Chris Solly, collected George Baldock's inconclusively cleared cross before trying his luck with a crisp snapshot. Already moving to his left, Declan Rudd adjusted athletically to a treacherous deflection, managed to keep it out as it headed inside his right post but could do little to stop Stuart O'Keefe from burying the rebound. With their own recently paltry scoring record, falling behind is disastrous for Charlton. As so it proved again.
Their initial reaction was mildly promising. Good work on the left by Joe Aribo set up Ricky Holmes to jink in from the right but his low drive whizzed harmlessly wide. Skipper Johnnie Jackson's brave block of Ed Upson's close range blockbuster provided the right kind of defensive example, with Solly showing the same kind of grit to smother Barnes at even closer range. The visitors were never less than comfortable, though, as the first half meandered along without incident. Josh Magennis' long range strike disappeared into Lee Nicholls' midriff but Charlton's output was otherwise powderpuff. Twelve minutes after the break, any faint chance they had was blown away by Dons' second goal.
Having easily won a midfield tussle with Tony Watt, Upson moved into the home half and found Barnes out wide on the left flank. Dribbling straight at Solly, the youngster cut inside and placed a low right-footed drive across Rudd and sweetly inside the far post. You could say his goal technically sealed the issue but Charlton's was already a lost cause. So too is this season unless they pull themselves together. It's later than they think.
There wasn't a whole lot more to report from this routine defeat. Trust me, I've written it all too frequently this miserable season. And unless you've lost interest along with your will to live, both of which I'd entirely understand, you've read it as often. In reaching for something positive, I offer the fact that substitute Kieran Agard hit the post late on and thereby failed to dent a goal difference that might yet save the Addicks.
Salvation -that's what it's all about right now. That might disappoint those among us who view relegation as a useful lesson for the club's brass to learn. As Tommy Edwards so memorably crooned all those years ago, "Many a tear has to fall...but it's all in the game."
Tommy was talking about love, not football, but poor bloody infantry like me can do without tears from any source. I prefer my nose set squarely in the middle of my face because the spectre of League Two frankly scares and depresses me. Mind you, there's always Accrington. Never been there. Nah, belay that, I'll still pass. So c'mon you Lions! We''ll get by with a little help from friends like you.
Charlton: Rudd, Solly, Bauer, Pearce, Dasilva, Jackson (Byrne 56), Holmes, Aribo, Forster-Caskey, Watt (Botaka 75), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Chicksen, Crofts, Ulvestad, Texeira. Booked: Pearce, Watt.
MK Dons: Nicholls, Baldock, Upson, Walsh, Lewington, Potter, Reeves (Brittain 90), O'Keefe (Bowditch 90), Muirhead (Agard 76), Downing, Barnes. Not used: Burns, Ngombo, Tilney, Maynard. Booked: Downing, O'Keefe, Reeves.
Referee: Andy Haines. Att: 10,943 (visiting 446).