Charlton 5 (Jackson 16,26, Morrison 22, Wright-Phillips 38, Hollands 69) Preston North End 2 (Morgan 85, Daley 90).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Injury ravaged, out of form and devoid of confidence, Preston North End will find it all too easy "to remember remember the Fifth of November". This sound spanking at the vengeful hands of high-flying Charlton will be hard to forget though two late goals, the second of them an absolutely stunning strike from substitute Keammar Daley, distorted the scale of their humilation. It was a long haul back home.
On the other hand, Charlton hardly put a foot wrong for 85 minutes. Three up before the half hour, they added a fourth goal before half-time, then a fifth through Danny Hollands' best of the bunch, midway through the second period. Their corporate lack of concentration, with the winners' enclosure in sight, allowed their outclassed victims to salvage a little pride but by then the damage had been done.
Visiting manager Phil Brown was correct to point out that his side began brightly, "played some good stuff" and held their own during the opening quarter hour. He will be alarmed, though, at the manner of the abject ten-minute collapse which effectively sealed their fate.
Their first concession will give him nightmares. No fewer than three defenders hemmed in Danny Green as he made positive tracks for goal but the winger held them all at bay before unleashing a swerving 25-yard drive, which keeper Andreas Arestidou found too hot to handle. Alertly beating David Gray to the rebound, Johnnie Jackson made expert work of netting what was actually a tricky chance.
While the Addicks have been rattling in goals this season, it hadn't escaped Chris Powell's attention that neither Michael Morrison nor Matt Taylor, had contributed to the total. Morrison duly broke the centre backs' duck by firing home from close range after Jackson's inswinging right wing corner was half-cleared to him.
Already out on their feet, the shellshocked Lilywhites were polished off by a third blow, this one self-administered, four minutes later. Under pressure from the outstanding Yann Kermorgant, left back Paul Parry's weak backheader lured Arestidou from his line to upend the determined French striker. Mercifully spared the ultimate red-card punishment by erratic referee Gibbs, the stricken keeper could do no more than motion Jackson's brutally struck penalty past him on its net-bursting way into the right corner.
Kermorgant has blossomed alongside cool finisher Bradley Wright-Phillips to form a partnership which, in Powell's neat appraisal, terrorises opposing central defences. Shortly before the break, the Breton climbed high at the far post to meet Green's deep free kick and headed deliberately back across goal for Wright-Phillips to quietly nod in his 13th goal of the season.
It was breathtaking stuff, which couldn't quite last. But the interval provided pause for evaluation of an irresistible 11-man performance. Ben Hamer had done his bit with two competent saves from Barry Nicholson and Paul Coutts and deserved the luck he received when Coutts nearly punished his poor clearance from over 40 yards. A little wobbly at times, Hamer was a helpless bystander as Nicholson's fine volley, immediately after Jackson's penalty, sent David Gray's right wing cross inches over his bar.
Charlton's settled back four must be among the best in the division. Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins are unflappable full backs, Morrison and Taylor uncompromising, ruthlessly efficient central defenders. On the right of a four-man midfield, Green at last demonstrated the undoubted talent which sent Powell in dogged pursuit of his signature; inside him, Hollands destroyed and created with equal proficiency, Andy Hughes a model of professional responsibility at his elbow; wide left, skipper Jackson has contributed seven goals so far and inspires the side with an insatiable appetite for work; all eight of them gang-tackle, cover and defend with manic intensity.
Though their foot came noticeably off the pedal after the break, the Addicks stayed comfortably in control and it was no surprise that they increased their lead in magnificent style on 69 minutes. And what a beauty it was, initiated by the trickery and turn of speed, with which Wiggins skinned Gray en route to the left byline. His perfect cross on the run was matched by the timing of Hollands' run and the power of the header which flew past poor Arestidou into the right corner. Wiggins simply can't stop making goals, Hollands can't stop scoring them, his third in the last four games increasing his total to five for the season.
With football very much a matter of timing, Charlton might consider it a break that they didn't face Preston earlier on in the campaign, when North End strung together seven league wins in a row and knocked the Addicks out of the Carling Cup for good measure. Since then, the Lancastrians have imploded, with Brown under severe threat of the sack. It's an unforgiving business and it will be of little consolation to the beleaguered manager that his side re-grouped with two late replies.
Centre back Craig Morgan's header from Brian McLean's corner accounted for the first but paled into insignificance alongside the marvellous spinning turn and venomous volley with which substitute Daley claimed the second. Powell's irritation was palpable but soon melted into purring satisfaction at a job so well done. Then the other results trickled in and his cup ran over. He's a hard taskmaster but he's no WWI general. He leads from the front.
Charlton (4-4-2): Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Green (Wagstaff 70), Hughes, Hollands, Jackson (Euell 81), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Hayes 70), Not used: Sullivan, Cort.
PNE (4-5-1): Arestidou, Gray, Morgan, McLaughlin, Parry, Coutts, McLean (Daley 46), Nicholson, Alexander, Smith (Mayor 46), Tsoumou. Not used: Ashbee, Barton, Zibaka.
Referee: P. Gibbs.