Charlton 2 (Taylor 5,pen, Reeves 33) Burton Albion 1 (Akins 18,pen).
Kevin Nolan reporting from The Valley.
Though war weary Charlton were mere shadows of the stylish side which outclassed Portsmouth three days previously, they got the job done by more pragmatic means against spirited Burton Albion. The loss of key players (hamstring injuries to Krystian Bielik and Jonny Williams being the price they paid for their thrilling victory over Pompey) has tested their resilience all season but, as Lee Bowyer observed, "sometimes you've just got to dig in and grind out results." Down among the muck and nettles, his gutsy squad answered the call and gamely ground their way to an identical outcome.
It helps the collective cause, of course, when individuals raise their game to meet the challenge, something Ben Reeves singularly did when replacing the massively talented Bielik at the weekend. Reeves continued the good work against Burton, scored a wonderful winner and otherwise acquitted himself with distinction. Yet it was his equally diminutive midfield colleague, Josh Cullen, who almost took on the Brewers singlehandedly, hoisted the Addicks on his shoulders and carried them over the finishing line.
As a multi-purpose midfielder himself, Bowyer is uniquely qualified to appreciat Cullen's prodigious contribution. Football's a statistics-laden business these days and the West Ham loanee certainly stacked up impressive figures on this frigid Tuesday evening. With the ball magnetically attracted to him, his number of tackles, interceptions and passes was phenomenal while his obvious will to win inspired his depleted team to see the job through. Some player, this kid. Mark him 10 out of 10.
At the heart of defence for Charlton, meanwhile, massive Naby Sarr has been in superb form recently. He continued in similar vein against Burton but not before he had lapsed briefly into the kind of absentminded errors which would try a saint's patience, much less that of his all too human manager. After only 30 seconds, he allowed himself to be dispossessed by Marcus Harness, whose clear run on goal was halted only by Patrick Bauer's alert intervention. A spate of errant passes followed before he pulled himself together and performed solidly at Bauer's elbow.
Up front for Charlton, Lyle Taylor was his usual feisty self. An early chance following a smart exchange with Ben Purrington was scuffed wide but a second opportunity arrived promptly. Played into the penalty area by Cullen's threaded pass, his quick feet lured John Brayford into a rash, lunging challenge in full view of referee Thomas Bramall. Taylor stuttered-stepped up to the spotkick before burying it into the bottom left corner. Lippy Lyle also kept a lid on the verbals and avoided the booking which would have brought with it a two-game suspension.
Charlton's lead lasted little more than 10 minutes, the time it took Bramall to rule that David Templeton's goalbound shot was handled by Bauer. Lucas Akins' somewhat harsh penalty was dispatched with all the authority of Taylor's effort. It left the Addicks with it all to do again, a task they approached with endearing enthusiasm.
A quarter hour after equalising, the visitors found themselves behind again. A multi-pass movement along the Addicks' right flank found Taylor foraging intelligently in space. A hip-high cross was delicately curved around left back Jake Buxton and was buried by Reeves' spectacular diving header at the far post. In a classic case of role reversal, Taylor claimed the assist while it was the scorer's name which, as usual, appeared unadorned in the papers.
Reeves' fine 33rd minute strike left his side with an hour to protect their lead, a historically daunting task unless, that is, a third goal could be added along the way. Given the fact that they last scored more than twice eight games ago at Shrewsbury on January 12th, that was, frankly, an unlikely proposition. But there's a new bloodymindedness about Charlton, a freshly acquired determination to hold on to what they have, which has seen them concede only five times in those eight games. They defended efficiently and were threatened only rarely, most dangerously by Brewers' 58th minute substitute Liam Boyce, whose near post header glanced Harness' accurate cross narrowly wide and whose low crosshot produced Dillon Phillips's only meaningful save on an otherwise untroubled evening. Charlton's progress towards three valuable points was steady, uneventful and acceptably routine. Just what the doctor -not to mention their manager - ordered.
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Bauer, Sarr, Purrington, Cullen, Reeves (Marshall 90), Aribo (Lapslie 73), Fosu (Vetokele 80), Parker, Taylor. Not used: Maxwell, Pearce Dijksteel, Pratley.
Burton: Collins, Brayford, Buxton (Clarke 84), Allen, McFadzean, Fraser, Akins, Templeton (Boyce 56), Harness (Miller 76), Quinn, Daniel. Not used: Bywater, Bradley, Hutchinson, Wallace.
Referee: Thomas Bramall. Att: 9,505 (156 visiting).