Brentford 0 Charlton 1 (Wright-Phillips 64).
Kevin Nolan reports from Griffin Park.
This was the definitive game of two halves and Charlton could only thank providence that it was. During 45 painfully one-sided minutes, they were battered by a side which consistently raises its game against them. That they hung on until half-time was due to Brentford's poor finishing and a handy stroke of luck here and there. The Bees not only missed several chances but also their own best chance to continue their recent run of successes over the Addicks. They were ultimately sickened by a striker who needs just the sniff of a chance to score.
Bradley Wright-Phillips had maintained typical concentration during a first half spent in near isolation alongside Yann Kermorgant. Both forwards had worked hard without reward but were coming more into their own when the dominant hosts were dealt a savage body blow before the hour mark.
It was Kermorgant's searching pass which Wright-Phillips chased down with Shaleum Logan in close attendance. Nipping in front of the pursuing defender, Wright-Phillips flicked the ball wide of the advancing Richard Lee, before taking evasive action as Logan and Lee painfully collided. Alert Leon Legge cleared the danger, Lee regained his feet but Logan stayed down in obvious distress. Following six minutes of treatment, the young centre back was removed on a stretcher and was replaced by Marcus Bean. The disastrous effect on the Bees' concentration was immediate.
With their momentum checked, the home defence was on the back foot for the first time as Kermorgant's accurate delivery picked out Danny Green near the right touchline. The winger's trademarked early cross was missed at the near post by Danny Hollands but coolly tapped home by the ever-vigilant Wright-Phillips behind him. It was a lesson in finishing too late in the learning for stricken Brentford. And Wright-Phillips, with a crisp drive on the turn mere minutes later, almost emphasised the point but Lee defied him at full stretch.
Roared on by a contingent of over 1,800 travelling fans, who had made their way to Griffin Park by boat, car, coach and train to help register the hosts' best gate of the season, the Addicks were lucky to be in front but just as determined to stay there. They had already weathered the worst before the interval and braced themselves for a second wave of attacks.
Their ordeal had begun as early as the 5th minute when Andy Hughes' error gifted possession to Clayton Donaldson, who set up Gary Alexander to shoot from 25 yards. Diving to his left, Ben Hamers made the first of several fine saves he contributed to the cause. But the keeper was helpless shortly afterwards as Brentfor's impressive wide man Niall McGinn crowned a sharp passing move by cutting in from the left to beat Hamer with a fierce low drive which bounced off the left upright. Sliding in unchallenged, Donaldson haplessly spooned the deceptive rebound over the bar.
Donaldson was proving an awkward handful but missed an even easier chance before the break. After McGinn had achieved the rare feat of skinning Chris Solly on the left flank, the unmarked Donaldson was set up by the juiciest of crosses only to head lamely wide. The West Londoners were well on top but this is a leaner, meaner Charlton side sharing little in common with the various transients who had degraded the famous red shirt in recent seasons. They had endured and would be heard from later.
Not that the tide turned dramatically in the second half's early exchanges. Charlton could offer only a couple of headed efforts from Green's long throws but Brentford's intensity had already cooled before Logan's misfortune. And if the loss of their young loanee was a severe blow, the withdrawal of Johnnie Jackson with hamstring damage was of even graver consequence to the League One leaders. On came new loan arrival Hogan Ephraim, whose left-sided cover for the influential captain will be called into emergency action during Jackson's anticipated absence of a month.
The closing stages were frantic. Throwing caution in the bin, the West Londoners almost manically renewed their assault. One corner after another was either plucked out of the air or punched clear by the defiant Hamer, who also risked life and limb at the feet of substitute Mike Grella and Alexander as Brentford's desperation boiled over into physical confrontation. Hamer had the last laugh by plucking Grella's point-blank header out of the air when scoring seemed easier than missing. Significantly, Kermorgant had come closest to scoring during ten seemingly endless minutes of added time with a firmly sidefooted shot from Wright-Phillips' square pass which Lee sprawled to save.
Gathered together by their astute manager at the final whistle to salute their jubilant supporters, Charlton were aware that they had dug out a win which, in its stubborn, gutsy way, had more merit than the recent demolitions of Carlisle and Preston. 1-0 to the Charlton has a satisfying ring to it, particularly when it stops the rot against opponents who have been nothing but nuisances recently. Chris Powell's Addicks bear the weight of history lightly and with grace.
Brentford (4-4-2): Lee, Logan (Bean 62), Legge, Llera, Woodman, Saunders (Grella 79), Diagouraga, Douglas, McGinn (Weston 70), Alexander, Donaldson. Not used: Devlin, Eger.
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Green (Wagstaff 90), Hollands, Hughes, Jackson (Ephraim 75), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips. Not used: Sullivan, Cort, Hayes.
Referee: Eddie Ilderton. Attendance: 8,095.