Derby County 2 (Knight 10,77) Charlton 1 (Taylor 83,pen)
Kevin Nolan reports from Pride Park.
The cracks in Lee Bowyer's constantly re-jigged squad are beginning to widen and threaten to become unmanageable. Their miserable failure to beat Derby despite the home side being reduced to 10 men for all but a quarter hour of this desperately disappointing game was ominous. The strain is starting to show, with the wretchedly ill-timed loss of Boxing Day hero Macauley Bonne to suspected hamstring damage guaranteed to add another furrow to Bowyer's already fevered brow.
Bonne's magnificent two-goal performance which destroyed Bristol City inspired hope that with Lyle Taylor back in scoring form, the Addicks had at their disposal a strike force to match any in the division. Instead, Bonne now joins the panel of patients in the New Eltham dispensary while Taylor is still feeling his way back to full fitness. With the January transfer window supplying its usual mishmash of truth and fiction, we're likely to hear as much from their agents as Charlton's medical staff. Know what I'm saying?
Passive and timid, Charlton sleepwalked their way into this vital fixture. Less than a minute had elapsed when Jason Knight sent Martyn Waghorn sauntering through their dozing defence to confront Dillon Phillips. Practised and successful recently in these one-on-one duels, Phillips spread himself to save splendidly with his legs.
The visitors wilfully ignored the warning. Starting from a free kick rolled back to Tom Lockyer by Chris Solly, their passing from the back was ponderous and ill-conceived. As space became constricted, Naby Sarr's vague loss of possession allowed right back Andre Wisdom to cross from the touchline. A suspiciously offside Waghorn touched on for Knight to bravely head home at the far post despite Solly's earnest attempt to decapitate him. Charlton's catalogue of defensive errors continues to multiply.
Just five minutes after the goal, the Rams villainously compromised their bright start. The viciously late -and possibly premeditated - challenge launched by Krystian Bielik on regular target Conor Gallagher left referee Jeremy Simpson little alternative but to produce a red card. Moronically booed for his pains, Gallagher was mowed down again by Wisdom before the interval but Simpson remained unsympathetic on this occasion. Still only 19, the supremely talented Chelsea kid clearly has a price on his head. Widely popular during his successful loan spell at The Valley last season, Bielik was an out-of-character bounty hunter.
Their man-advantage failed to galvanise Bowyer's lethargic side. The best they mustered was Deji Oshilaja's routine header at an untroubled Ben Hamer and Bonne's weak effort over the bar. Bonne's obvious discomfort before the break saw him replaced by Taylor for the second half. That's the way it goes for the Addicks lately. As one door opens, another slams shut.
Taylor's neat lay-off for Gallagher to slice wildly over the bar began the second period promisingly enough. When Alfie Doughty drew a smart save from Hamer with a swerving shot, there was a further flicker of life but the Rams were hardly under siege. Jack Marriott broke through but missed the target woefully from the 18-yard line, then forced Phillips into a sharp save with a fiercely angled crosshot. But with 13 minutes left, Knight's second goal doubled the lead.
Loitering with intent to the right of goal as Duane Holmes fed Max Bird on the left, the young Ram was unchallenged as he volleyed his second senior goal from four yards. That was not quite that as Curtis Davies became the latest footpad to assault Gallagher, his offence carelessly committed inside the penalty area. Taylor duly reduced the arrears from the spot and Charlton briefly sensed a chance of redemption.
Hamer did his bit to preserve Derby's precious three points by brilliantly saving from substitute Ben Dempsey, then regaining his feet to smother Taylor's attempt to convert the rebound. An equaliser, while more than welcome, would have obscured the unvarnished truth that Charlton are in deep trouble, not altogether of their own making, but trouble nonetheless. Bowyer has been able to rely this season an unquenchable spirit in adversity. At Pride Park, that indispensable asset went missing. His side was listless, lethargic and ultimately lifeless. They need help. They need re-invigorating. They need new bloody owners!
Derby: Hamer, Wisdom, Davies, Clarke, Bird, Holmes, Bielik, Lowe, Knight, Marriott (Whittaker 90), Waghorn (Forsyth 90). Not used: Roos, Dowell, Martin, Sibley, Malone. Booked: Holmes.
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Lockyer, Sarr (Davison 69), Purrington, Oshilaja (Dempsey 69), Pratley, Morgan, Gallagher, Bonne (Taylor 46), Doughty. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Matthews, Pearce, Ledley. Booked: Gallagher, Pratley, Solly, Dempsey.
Att: 26,058). Referee: Jeremy Simpson.