Charlton 1 (Pearce 19) Blackburn Rovers 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
A League One play-off shot lies within Charlton's grasp following this victory for bloody-minded determination and sheer stubbornness. There were times during Blackburn's second half assault on Ben Amos' goal when the visitors seemed certain to equalise Jason Pearce's outrageously flukey opener. But bodies were thrown on the line, heroic tackles made and when the chips were down, Amos was superb. There were one or two favours from fortune, quite apart from Pearce's inadvertent intervention, but if you can't be good, at least be lucky. Lee Bowyer cheerfully admitted that his side was lucky but correctly pointed out that they were also pretty good.
In the away dug-out, Rovers' manager Tony Mowbray generously made himself a hostage to the said fortune by making six changes from the team which clinched promotion in midweek at Doncaster. Among those left out were veteran goalscorer Danny Graham and, more significantly, ex-Charlton academy youngster Bradley Dack, recently named as League One's Player of the Season. Striker Graham and attacking midfielder Dack are responsible between them for 30 of Blackburn's 80 league goals this season and it's safe to say that their absence was a break for Bowyer's men. Charlton had their hands full with Mowbray's second stringers but this was definitely the ideal day to face Rovers.
Nothing in a routine first half alerted the Addicks to the ordeal they faced after the break. Ben Reeves and Jake Forster-Caskey, reassured by Ahmed Kashi's steadiness behind them, dominated a visiting midfield clearly lacking Dack's dynamic input. Tarique Fosu's individual impact was missed up front but there was enough to suggest that a relatively comfortable afternoon awaited the hosts. On 19 minutes, their prospects were further boosted by the streakiest of goals.
An inswinging corner delivered by Forster-Caskey from the right flank was headed away to Ezri Konsa, whose cross was cleared to Kashi, lying in wait outside the penalty area. The Algerian's first time shot found the bottom left corner via the most helpful of deflections off Pearce as Jayson Leutwiler moved in the wrong direction. Reportedly re-routed by one of Pearce's buttocks, it was a cheeky way to score but no more than the skipper deserved for his titanic contribution at the heart of Charlton's second half defiance.
With their main priority realised earlier in the week, the Ewood men offered little until Amos was forced to backpedal desperately in clawing Charlie Mulgrew's treacherously dipping corner to safety. But shortly before the interval, local hearts skipped a beat as Dominic Samuel, sent through by Richie Smallwood, appeared to be tripped by the pursuing Konsa on the 18-yard line. No penalty - not even a free kick - ruled well-positioned Merseyside referee Robert Jones as The Valley exhaled in relief. Luck had clearly resolved to be ladylike to Charlton and there was more largesse on the way during a harrowing second session.
It began badly for the Addicks' snakebitten left back Lewis Page, who picked up a yellow card for a wild lunge on Leutwiler, then sustained a bad gash above his knee in combining bravely with Amos to thwart a close range effort from Samuel.
With Rovers responding to their sold-out end, Amos spread himself brilliantly to smother Smallwood's attempt to crown an irresistible solo run, then saved twice from Jack Payne. Charlton's inspired keeper deserved the luck (still another timely contribution from the notoriously fickle lady) he received when Samuel headed Mulgrew's corner against the underside of the bar. In one of numerous, hair-raising goalmouth scrambles, Pearce's emergency block on Graham stood out while, alongside the captain, Patrick Bauer was calmly efficient and Mark Marshall rubberstamped his inclusion at Joe Aribo's expense, with a feverishly hardworking box-to-box stint on alternating wings. Aribo eventually replaced an exhausted Reeves, who had more than done his bit. Even the cruel but justified addition of seven minutes was comfortably negotiated before an appreciative Valley rose to salute their gutsy heroes.
They're not there yet but Bowyer and an affectionately greeted Johnnie Jackson are on the brink of masterminding a play-off opportunity for a squad on the verge of collapse before they took charge. It will soon be time for bashful owner Roland Duchatelet, with talk of a take-over fading fast, to decide who leads Charlton into the 2018-19 season. Promotion to the Championship would force his hand in favour of the Bowyer-Jackson ticket but they should be given the responsibility anyway whatever the upcoming weeks hold in store. There's wild gossip, meanwhile, that Yves Ordure-LaTrine of FC Brussels Sprouts (no-one likes us, we don't care) is available after leading FCBS into the Belgian sixth tier but hopefully that's no more than a rumour. For almost but not quite the last time this season the cry gathers volume - Bowyer In! Jackson In! Come on Roland, you know it makes sense. You already lost much-coveted Joey Barton to Fleetwood due to excessive dithering.
Charlton: Amos, Konsa, Bauer, Pearce, Page (Dasilva 50), Kashi, Reeves (Aribo 86), Forster-Caskey, Marshall, Ajose (Mavididi 80), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Lennon, Zyro. Booked: Page, Forster-Caskey.
Blackburn: Leutwiler, Lenihan, Mulgrew, Downing, Caddis (Travis 63), Bell, Smallwood, Evans (Whittingham 75), Armstrong, Samuel, Payne (Graham 63). Booked: Lenihan, Downing, Smallwood, Payne. Not used: Fisher, Antonsson, Tomlinson, Nuttall.
Referee: Robert Jones. Att: 17,310 (3,110 visiting)