Charlton 2 (Forster-Caskey 35,61) Rochdale 1 (Gillam 13).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It was scruffy. It was ugly at times. And it was undeniably blessed with one enormous stroke of luck. But this untidy game, littered with fouls committed by their unscrupulous visitors, provided the victory so urgently required by Charlton after the bitter disappointment they suffered three days previously. They will look back on this result, though not their untidy performance, with satisfaction.
Let's deal with the stroke of luck first. Nervous and disjointed, the Addicks were already trailing to full debutant Matthew Gillam's first goal for the Lancastrians when Calvin Andrew outmuscled Ezri Konsa under a high ball and flicked on for Matthew Done, isolated in a mismatch with Jay Dasilva. Shaking off the diminutive left back, Done made space for a low drive which beat Ben Amos, hit the inside of the left upright and made its way along the goalline, seeming certain to end up in the net until it improbably veered to safety. Victims themselves of a similarly bad break against MK Dons, Charlton were hardly likely to feel guilt for their good fortune. The thing was to make good use of it and, after much huffing and not a little puffing, that's exactly what they did.
Had Done's effort found the net, Charlton might have found their task beyond them. Their brittle defending was exposed as early as the 13th minute when young Gillam fired Dale into the lead. The combined efforts of Ben Reeves and Chris Solly were unable to prevent left back Joseph Bunney, sent away by Harrison McGahey's pass, from crossing low into the box. Moving intelligently to the near post, Gillam flicked a clever shot across Ben Amos, whose straining fingertips succeeded only in diverting the ball into the far corner.
Having operated on the right flank so far this season, Andrew had been switched to the middle by wily old codger Keith Hill in a bid to unsettle Konsa and Naby Sarr, Charlton's novice centre backs. Backing in artfully, while using methods both fair and foul to bother his youthful adversaries, Dale's experienced No. 9 was a a prickly handful. He should have scored when picked out by Donervon Daniels' inswinging corner but headed wastefully over the bar. Having drawn the short straw of marking him, Konsa stuck gamely to his job and, to his credit, gradually solved the problem. It was an education for the aspiring youngster.
The visitors, meanwhile, continued their policy of committing regular, niggling offences to break up the game. Which made their indignation when Oliver Rathbone was booked for clearly tripping Reeves just a little absurd. They paid for their cynicism as Ricky Holmes' short free kick freed Dasilva to centre from the left. Sarr's inadvertent touch helped the alert Jake Forster-Caskey to slot the equaliser past Joshua Lillis from four yards.
Relieved and slightly lucky to reach half-time on even terms, Charlton resumed in more determined mood. Five minutes after resumption, Ahmed Kashi's whiplash drive cannoned off the right-hand post at such pace that Holmes proved unable to control the rebound. The Addicks were poised to take over but were instead indebted to Amos for a pair of truly outstanding saves which kept Dale at bay.
Struggling to cope with Andrews' physicality, Dasilva's despairing foul on the bustling forward conceded a free kick which Callum Camps tapped to Daniels on the left. The midfielder's deep cross was met by Ian Henderson's head and, at point blank range, seemed destined for the net until Amos reacted instinctively to waft it over the bar. If his first save was unbelievable, then the pretzel-shaped contortions which the brilliant keeper produced to keep out substitute Bradden Inman's equally close range effort matched it. He's a polished diamond but could use a little help with his kicking.
By the time Amos performed his second miracle, Karl Robinson's men were in front, thanks to a second flash of opportunism from Forster-Caskey. Pouncing on the loose ball after Lillis had spilled Mark Marshall's crisp but scarcely lethal drive, the attacking midfielder swivelled and shovelled the winner past the stricken keeper.
Undignified and at times downright embarrassing in hanging on so grimly against such modest opposition, the Addicks might have been spared their inevitable nerves had Karlan Ahearne-Grant sandwiched an overdue goal between Amos' heroics. Rising to meet Josh Magennis' cross with the entire net at his mercy, the substitute headed lamely into Lillis' hands. His second half stint in relief of hamstring-tweaking Reeves had been hugely encouraging but, as Karl Robinson remarked, Ahearne-Grant really needs to score. As the Addicks begin to feel the strain and injuries multiply, further chances will come. He may yet turn out to be Charlton's ace-in-the-hole.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Konsa, Sarr, Dasilva (Bauer 83), Kashi, Holmes, Forster-Caskey, Reeves (Ahearne-Grant 46), Marshall (Aribo 90), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Dodoo, Hackett-Fairchild.
Rochdale: Lillis, McNulty, McGahey, Camps (Cannon 69), Rathbone, Done (Inman 74), Daniels, Gillam (Davies 54), Bunney, Henderson, Andrew. Not used: Moore, Ntlhe, Kitching. Booked: Andrew, Rathbone, Henderson.
Referee: Charles Breakspear. Att: 8,801 (146 visiting).