George Jones reports from The Den
Charlton suffered defeat in their final match before Christmas, losing 3-1 against local rivals Millwall at The Den on Wednesday night.
After a cagey first 40 minutes, the Lions grabbed two, quick-fire goals through Aiden O’Brien and Steve Morison to hold a commanding lead at the break.
The Addicks reduced arrears when Nicky Ajose struck three minutes into the second period but Morison’s second of the evening, which arrived on the hour mark, made the result safe for Neil Harris’ men.
In terms of team news, Karl Robinson made two changes to his starting XI.
Dillon Phillips retained his place in goal, with a back four of Ezri Konsa, Patrick Bauer, Jorge Teixeira and Morgan Fox playing ahead of him.
Captain Johnnie Jackson came in to anchor the midfield; Andrew Crofts and Ademola Lookman operated in front.
Ajose and the recalled Adam Chicksen were deployed in attack-minded wide positions and Josh Magennis started up front in what was a 4-3-3 formation.
As is often the case with local derbies, it was a tense start to the match, with neither side able to stamp any early authority onto it. That almost changed on 10 minutes when the host created their opening chance.
Striker Lee Gregory span away from Bauer on the right and, after having a look up, he tried to pick out the unmarked O’Brien in the middle but hit pass was just behind him.
Charlton responded straight away. A great burst forward from Konsa ended with him cutting the ball back to Lookman, who chopped inside before firing a strike straight at Jordan Archer.
Shaun Hutchinson glanced a Shaun Williams free-kick well wide of Phillips’ far post on 18 minutes and, at the other end, Lookman sliced an effort off target, following a quick throw-in from Fox.
Phillips sucked a bobbling O’Brien drive into his grasp as the match threatened to come to life midway through the opening period and Morison then volleyed wide of goal after a Williams free-kick had been flicked on.
The Addicks came close themselves on 27 minutes. A lovely cross from Konsa looked destined for the head of the incoming Magennis but Lions defender Byron Webster did brilliantly to get across him and nod the ball to safety.
Jorge Teixeira picked up the first booking of the encounter for a cynical, yet wise, foul on Gregory when he tried to burst clear on goal and, on 36 minutes, Jackson curled a Charlton free-kick into the Millwall wall after Magennis was fouled.
The Addicks started to enjoy their best spell of the first half as it began to draw to a close. Millwall, however, then took the lead.
Shaun Cummings delivered a cross from the right and O’Brien rose to head beyond Phillips and into the net from six yards out.
Charlton were unfortunate to fall behind. It got worse for them two minutes later. Another high cross came in from the right-hand side and Morison was ideally placed to volley into the corner.
In the space of 120 seconds, the Lions had forced their way into a two-goal lead and they held that advantage going into half time.
Once the second half got underway, the hosts’ lead was wiped in half within three minutes.
A quick throw out from Phillips released Crofts through the middle. He found Magennis, who, in turn, slipped in Lookman and the academy graduate intelligently squared to Ajose, putting him in on goal.
After taking a touch to steady himself, he opened up his body and slotted beyond Archer to give his side a route back into the game.
Buoyed by their goal, the Addicks quickly went in search of number two. Lookman looped in a deep cross that Chicksen hooked back into the mixer and a Millwall defender scurried the loose ball behind for a corner.
The Lions restored their two-goal advantage on the hour mark. O’Brien picked out the overlapping Tony Craig, who crossed for Fred Onyedinma. He passed back inside to Morison and the striker picked out the bottom corner with a crisp finish.
Phillips made an important save from Onyedinma when he burst clear on goal with 67 minutes played. Ajose then looked to get his second of the night but could only volley wide from 18 yards.
Substitute Jordan Botaka dragged off target shortly after his introduction and Fox then won his side a corner, but they were unable to take advantage of the set-piece.
The Addicks could not force their way back into the game in the closing stages, meaning that their winless streak against the Lions will extend into its 21st year by the time we meet again on January 14th at The Valley.
Millwall: Archer, Cummings, Hutchinson, Craig (c), Williams, Thompson, Gregory (Ferguson 75), Onyedinma (Butcher 90+2), Webster, Morison, O’Brien (Worrall 88).
Subs (not used): King, Romeo, Abdou, Smith.
Goals: O’Brien 40, Morison 42, 60
Charlton: Phillips, Konsa, Bauer, Teixeira, Fox, Jackson (c) (Ahearne-Grant 86), Crofts, Lookman, Chicksen (Botaka 70), Ajose, Magennis.
Subs (not used): Mitov, Johnson, Foley, Aribo, Ulvestad.
Goal: Ajose 48
Booked: Teixeira 32 (foul on Gregory)
Referee: C Kavanagh.
Attendance: 14,395 (2,186 from Charlton)
Read Time: 5 mins