Bristol Rovers 2 Charlton 1
Bristol Rovers got the better of the Addicks in added time for the second time this season, running out 2-1 winners at the Memorial Stadium on Friday night.
With the hosts coming off the back of another stoppage-time winner against league leaders Portsmouth, you might have expected that they would have the wind in their sails. But it was Charlton who burst out of the traps, going within inches of opening the scoring with less than two minutes played.
A free-kick on the left touchline was played short by Chem Campbell to George Dobson, who took a touch before sliding in Alfie May in the box. The striker turned a curled a shot towards Matthew Cox’s top left corner, but saw his effort come back off the bar.
The ball was scrambled away for a corner, which was not properly cleared by the Gas, and when the ball was recycled out wide by Lloyd Jones, Corey Blackett-Taylor re-centred the ball. Jones was the recipient and it was a great chance, but the defender scuffed his shot wide.
It was a strong start from the Addicks but Rovers really grew into the game, and had their own excellent chance from a set piece in the 37th minute. After Jones headed an Antony Evans cross behind, the latter’s corner was only partially cleared by the former. Luke Thomas was first to the ball ten yards out, but his volley across the face of the goal evaded everyone and went wide.
With five minutes of the first period remaining and Charlton holding on for the half-time whistle, the Gas thought they had gone ahead. Evans’ out-swinging corner from the right was headed goalward by Tristan Crama, and despite the ball appearing to be going in, Aaron Collins tapped home from two yards out. The striker wheeled away to celebrate by the corner flag, only to see the linesman in front of him raise his flag for offside.
The Addicks will have been relieved to go into the break level, and came out for the second half with renewed intent. Just before the hour mark, they should have been ahead. Campbell pinched the ball back in midfield and played the ball through to Blackett-Taylor on the left. The winger stood up Connor Taylor and shifted the ball onto his left foot, but was only able to shoot over from a position from which he has scored multiple times already this season.
Two minutes later Daniel Kanu had an even better chance after he turned Taylor brilliantly, but the young striker’s heavy touch took the ball into Cox’s arms.
Halfway through the second period, Michael Appleton’s side were made to rue their missed chances again. Crama burst down the left and played the ball down the line for Harvey Vale, whose cross was flicked on by Aaron Collins. Behind him was substitute Chris Martin, and the veteran got in front of Tayo Edun to sweep the ball with his left foot into the far corner. After 67 minutes of wasteful finishing, it was an impressively simple goal.
The next 20 minutes belonged to Bristol Rovers but, just as the game appeared to be getting away from Charlton, two of Appleton’s substitutes combined to claim what looked to be a crucial goal.
Karoy Anderson’s throw-in down the line on the right looked to be Vale’s ball, but Tyreece Campbell did brilliantly to get the better of him and drill in a cross. On hand at the near post was Bodan Tedić, and the Serbian made no mistake, turning the ball home in front of a sold-out away end.
But the Addicks could not hold on to a valuable away point, falling to another late winner. In the 94th minute, Evans’ quick free kick found Collins on the right of the box, and the Welshman played the ball across to his strike partner Martin to touch home unopposed.
It was a tough one to take for Appleton’s side, but they will look to get back to winning ways on New Years’ Day against Oxford United at the Valley.
Bristol Rovers: Cox; Wilson (Hoole 72), Taylor, Crama; Thomas, Ward (Grant 90+6), Evans, Finley (c), Vale; Marquis (Martin 56), Collins
Subs (not used): Ward, Woods, Brown, McCormick
Goals: Martin 68, 90+4
Assists: Collins 68, 90+4
Charlton: Maynard-Brewer; T Watson, Hector, Jones, Edun; Dobson (c), Anderson, C Campbell (L Watson 77); Kanu (Tedić 62), Blackett-Taylor, May (T Campbell 77)
Subs (not used): Walker, Asiimwe, Thomas, Casey
Goal: Tedić 85
Assist: T Campbell 85
Booked: C Campbell 24 (foul on Crama), Jones 30 (foul on Marquis), Hector 35 (foul on Vale)
Referee: Neil Hair