Charlton 0 Wigan Athletic 3 (Massey 44, 70, Morsy 87).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Three consecutive home wins, all against moderate opposition, had deluded Charlton supporters into believing that The Valley had been turned into one of those "fortresses" we hear bandied about. Whereupon promotion-tipped Wigan turned up, played the Addicks off their rain-sodden turf and manipulated time to hand their hosts a chastening lesson in some of the game's darker arts.
The second half, during which Karl Robinson's troops were expected to besiege the Latics' goal in search of an equaliser, instead dwindled into a series of bad-tempered, tit-for-tat clashes, frequent stoppages while stricken visitors were nursed back to health and various cute ploys designed to eat up a remorseless clock. The addition of only four minutes at the end was a triumph for Wigan's artful game-management. By then, of course, they were 3-0 in front and their work was done.
Criticism of the Lancastrians' frequently nefarious tactics in no way diminishes their skilled deconstruction of in-form Charlton. Whipped on by indefatigable midfielder Michael Jacobs and provided width by the aggressive running of Nathan Byrne and Reece James, they wasted little time in showing their superiority. As early as the first minute, unmarked Gavin Massey was picked out at the far post by Jacobs' precise cross but headed tamely wide. His miss was promptly followed by the off-target header from Nick Powell which wasted Byrne's equally accurate delivery. Charlton had been served notice that the Latics were hunting all three points.
An even first period, during which Tariqe Fosu's fierce drive forced a fine save from Jamie Jones and an industrious Jake Forster-Caskey rattled the crossbar, ended in disaster. With equality at half-time clearly key to their chances, the Addicks abruptly capitulated. Jacobs' heads-up pass dovetailed with James' clever movement on the left flank. Turning sharply in space, the wingback drilled a low cross, which left Massey a simple tap-in at the far post.
Opening the second period positively, the visitors were twice foiled by Ben Amos. First the defiant goalkeeper beat away Powell's crisp strike, then he smothered Jacobs at close range as Wigan's engine room organiser made dangerous progress along the right byline.
Charlton, meanwhile, struggled to rise above the spoiling tactics introduced by their street-savvy rivals. Ricky Holmes had been identified as his side's danger man and was regularly- often illegally - closed down by two or three defenders. Pugnacious skipper Sam Morsy persistently led the posse but the irritated winger did himself few favours by a retaliatory hack on Byrne, which earned him a fourth caution of the season. An almost inevitable ban in the near future will hardly endear him to Robinson.
Elsewhere, the Addicks coughed and spluttered. A tiring Ahmed Kashi had been uncharacteristically giving the ball away and was replaced, on 68 minutes, by Ezri Konsa. Defensive spanners had been thrown into Charlton's usually efficient midfield, with Billy Clarke marginalised and Holmes sucked into ill-advised vendettas. Forster-Caskey laboured willingly, as had Fosu until substituted, alongside Kashi, by an anonymous Karlan Ahearne-Grant. But the customary workrate and gang-tackling were conspicuously absent. A solitary bright spot was provided by Clarke's resourceful flick, which sent Holmes' low free kick narrowly wide. It hardly needs mentioning -but let's mention it anyway - that the free kick resulted from a crude foul on Holmes, for which Alex Bruce was booked.
With their repertoire of time-devouring antics wearing thin, the Latics returned sensibly to the matter at hand. A second goal by Massey, struck firmly past Amos following a lightning one-two with Byrne, put the issue beyond doubt with 20 increasingly tetchy minutes still remaining. Then a late coup-de-grace was applied by Morsy, lucky to be still around after orchestrating his side's distractions and picking up a booking for tripping Konsa. Crime does occasionally pay.
Well beaten and brought firmly down to earth, Charlton must pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again, commencing with the suddenly fraught-with-danger trip to Gillingham on Saturday. How they react to this humbling experience could shape their season. An occasional setback -even one as sobering as this -was to be expected. So it's onwards and hopefully not downwards.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Bauer, Pearce, Dasilva, Kashi (Konsa 68), Holmes, Clarke (Dodoo 74), Forster-Caskey, Fosu (Ahearne-Grant 68), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Aribo, Sarr. Booked: Holmes, Forster-Caskey, Solly.
Wigan: Jones, Byrne, Burn, Bruce, James, Morsy, Evans, Massey, Jacobs, Powell (Toney 74), Grigg (Power 78). Not used: Sarkic, Elder, Perkins, Roberts, Thomas. Booked: Bruce, Morsy.