Brentford 2 (Benrahma, 75 pen, Pinnock 85) Charlton 1 (Bonne 8)
By Kevin Nolan...off the telly.
For the second time within four days, Charlton were dealt a sickening late blow -on this occasion two of them inside the last quarter hour -which cost them priceless points in their apparently endless struggle to stay in the Championship. The gutsy resistance they offered to arguably the best side in the division should hopefully give them heart to tackle the four-game run-in which kicks off on Saturday at The Valley against Reading and ends on Wednesday July 22nd at Elland Road, where they face champions-elect Leeds United (a big shout-out by the way for Bielsa's Boys, bless their big hearts, in their gallant bid to beat Stoke City tomorrow).
Charlton's warweary fans, meanwhile, will find it impossible to forget the dramatic climax to this exhausting season, which began so brightly, hit the skids as the injury list mounted and then took several turns for the worse on and off the field. Boardroom knavery dictated the narrative for a while as a loudmouthed gaggle of spivs vied to pick apart a special old club for their own ends. Results inevitably suffered and culminated in the damaging 1-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough which left them two points adrift in the relegation zone before Covid-19 intervened - perhaps an irrelevant silver lining under the grisly circumstances.
With the threat of a horror called PPG hanging over them for several months, the Addicks were instead handed a fighting chance to save themselves over a nine-game mini-season. At which point self-serving striker Lyle Taylor chose his time to lead a mutiny, including in its ranks stalwart defender Chris Solly and an also-ran called David Davis, a trio of recalcitrants who declined to stand alongside their mates as push came to shove. Solly wasn't expected to feature in Lee Bowyer's plans anyway and somewhat needlessly besmirched a fine reputation by his refusal to make himself available. Most Charlton fans would fail to recognise the useless Davis if they bumped into him in the street. Not so Taylor, whose effortless affability and approachability proved to be a hollow sham.
You know the shameful details anyway but repetition of them brings us neatly to the fifth game of the "season" at Griffin Park where the Addicks got off to the perfect start with the best goal of the evening. Jonny Williams's quick dart and measured pass sent Alfie Doughty clear on the left to cross accurately to the far post, where Jake Forster-Caskey outjumped his marker and nodded back across goal. Beating David Raya to the ball, Macauley Bonne headed home his ninth goal of his inaugural campaign, the first by Charlton from post-lockdown open play and the first scored by a recognised strikeIf they were daunted by falling behind, Brentford showed no signs of discouragement. Blessed with an abundance of attacking talent, they mounted drip-drip pressure on their visitors, interrupted briefly by the scare they received soon after Bonne's goal. Josh Cullen's inswinging left-wing corner eluded Raya and bounced off the bar to Jason Pearce, whose improvised volley also clipped the bar on its way to safety. Apart from one or two bits and pieces, that was the end of Charlton as an attacking force. Driven back by the Bees' relentless assault, they fought valiantly to stem the red-and-striped tide masterminded by Said Benrahma and lent important width by the excellent Josh DaSilva and Christian Norsgaard. Brentford's direct efforts on goal were actually few, the best of them drawing sharp saves from Dillon Phillips from Benrahma and DaSilva. With prolific scorer Ollie Watkins kept quiet for the second time this season, the South Londoners remained intact until the clock ticked into a one-sided game's final quarter hour. Even then, the South West Londoners' breakthrough was tainted by controversy.
There appeared to be only fleeting contact as Cullen and Benrahma came together inside the penalty area to dispute DaSilva's cross but the crafty Algerian made the most of what there was and hit the turf dramatically. You've seen 'em given, you've seen 'em not given but Beeskeeping referee John Brooks was more than ready to don his black cap. Benrahma recovered from his awkward tumble and equalised coolly from the spot.
The only issue now was whether Lee Bowyer's band of battlers could hold out for a prized point. Sadly this proved beyond them with five minutes remaining. Under intolerable pressure, they were unable to stop DaSilva's right wing cross at source and equally incapable of preventing Ethan Pinnock from bullying the ball past Phillips. Hearts were temporarily broken for a second time within four days.
Beaten but unbowed, Bowyer's stubborn bunch will continue to give survival their best shot. The manager can do his bit by naming his best team against Reading. Assuming Sam Field, who again limped off, is unfit, Darren Pratley will come back while room must be found again for Williams, Doughty and the inimitable Naby Sarr. With Forster-Caskey expected to be rested, possibly he will partner Bonne with Tomas Hemed (assuming he's fit) with the message to take it to Reading. If we're meant to go down, let's quit the scene with a bang not a whimper. This might be a space worth continuing to watch.
Brentford: Raya, Henry, Pinnock, Norsgaard, Jensen (Mercondes 61), Benrahma, Watkins, DaSilva, Jansson, Mbeumo (Dervisloglu 61), Rasmussen (Dalsgaard 61). Not used: Daniels, Thompson,Valencia, Jeanvier, Fosu, Zemburek. Booked: Dervisloglu.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Sarr, Doughty (Oshilaja 71), Forster-Caskey (Morgan 71), Cullen, Field (Pratley), Williams (Lapslie 56), Bonne (Aneke 79). Not used: Amos, Purrington, McGeady, Davison. Booked: Cullen
Referee: John Brooks