Charlton 0 Shrewsbury Town 2 (Rodman 52, Beckles 67).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
If only Charlton had capped their blistering start to this game with a goal, you might have been reading a different story; and you might be feeling more optimistic about their prospects of escaping this dreadful division. But "if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers' hands". Charlton failed to score during their brief purple patch and, unless you're a usefully employed tinker, you might feel it's time to give up on promotion. If only... two words which begin every lament for losers.
Charlton's first mistake, apart from failing as usual to finish what, for ten irresistible minutes, they so skilfully started, was in making such a fuss of this fixture. Because when the chips (or bacon sandwiches) are down, whenever they provide free travel to "Operation this or Operation that", disappointment hitches a ride. It's written into the club's constitution, not that you ever get used to it. Well, yeah, you do get used to it, actually. What you don't do is learn any lessons from it.
All the necessary ingredients to make this game special were in place on a bitterly cold afternoon which announced winter's intention to go out like a lion. The latest football for a fiver offer had attracted a bumper crowd; Karl Robinson's men had expressed their determination to prove that last weekend's victory at MK Dons was no flash in the pan but the springboard for a determined promotion push; the opera singer was unavailable but the build-up otherwise readied us for another of those days to remember.
And this day will indeed be fondly remembered -but only by 1,254 sons and daughters of Shropshire, who hugged each other in delight as their favourites weathered, thanks to the excellence of goalkeeper Dean Henderson, a torrid 10-minute going over before recovering to put their hosts firmly in their place. A place which, in the wake of this chastening lesson, is now outside the top six - but, let's not forget, with two comforting games in hand. The second of those games is away to...er, Shrewsbury. So probably one game in hand.
The Addicks' opening salvo was resisted singlehandedly by Henderson. When Sullay Kaikai and Josh Magennis combined to set up a clear shooting chance for Jake Forster-Caskey, the midfielder's fierce low drive was saved at full length by the defiant keeper. While the visitors still struggled to find their feet, Kaikai found Jay Dasilva, whose accurate cross was headed firmly by Magennis but brilliantly blocked on the line by Henderson's outflung right leg. The rebound reached Joe Aribo but the on-fire keeper spectacularly tipped the in-form youngster's vicious blockbuster over the bar. We didn't know it then but Charlton's bolt had already been shot.
Organised by Jon Nolan, a copper-topped Scouse-Irish busybody, the Shrews composed themselves and exerted a grip they were never likely to relinquish. Henderson could, in fact, have knocked off early and not been missed. Charlton quickly unravelled and were exposed as a side without substance, a soft-centred collection of self-absorbed will-o' the-wisps with more wisp than will to them. Beaten to every second ball, pressed into panicky clearances, caught regularly in dawdling possession dangerously close to their goal, they somehow bumbled along until half-time, thanks mainly to Nolan's missed penalty. Bundled over by Ezri Konsa, the ginger dynamo's spotkick was bravely parried by Amos and his rebound header smacked against the bar.
Completely unruffled by Nolan's act of generosity, Town duly lowered the boom seven minutes into the second half. Wide man Alex Rodman had been torturing Chris Solly with a succession of weaving runs, the latest of which carried him inside the right back from the left flank to unleash a superbly curled shot off the far post and in behind Amos. The keeper was given no chance, which won't silence the whispers that "he could have done more." While on the subject of armchair snipers, those anonymous critics of Solly, the very heartbeat of Charlton for several seasons, are invited to "do one." This marvellous pro is struggling right now but gives nothing but his best. He is heavily in credit.
Midway through the half, the visitors took care of business with a second goal. The Addicks' six-yard cover parted almost biblically as Omar Beckles rose unchallenged to head Shaun Whalley's outswinging corner down past Amos.
The last word belongs to Robinson, who frankly admitted that "we weren't good enough. They were the better team. We got old-schooled today and I've told the players we need to drop our egos because we are a good team." He might have added that they need to toughen up, fight for the right to play and, in old-fashioned parlance, get stuck in. It ain't all about crooking your elbows and striking stylish poses on the ball. You can do that after scoring. As long as you do score, you can do it as often as you like.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Konsa, Pearce, DaSilva (Ajose 71), Kashi, Marshall (Fosu 87), Aribo, Kaikai (Zyro 90), Forster-Caskey, Magennis. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Jackson, Bauer, Reeves. Booked: Kashi, Magennis, Forster-Caskey, Solly.
Shewsbury: Henderson, Godfrey, Sadler, Beckles, Whalley, Ogogo, Carlton Morris (John-Lewis 90), Bolton (Hendrie 10), Nolan, Nsiala, Rodman. Not used: McGillivray, Thomas, Bryn Morris, Eisa, Payne.
Referee: Christopher Sarginson. Att: 17,581 (1,254 visiting).