MATCH REPORT | Crewe Alexandra 2 Charlton 1

Despite a late rally, Charlton were condemned to a controversial 2-1 reverse against Crewe Alexandra at Mornflake Stadium on Wednesday night.

First-half strikes from Oliver Finney and Mikael Mandron put the hosts in the ascendancy before substitute Mason Burstow gave Johnnie Jackson’s side a glimmer of hope 10 minutes from time with his first league goal.

It looked as if the Addicks had restored parity right at the death but for the linesman’s flag to call it into question. Following a lengthy discussion between officials, Jonathan Leko was adjudged to be interfering with play from an offside position, with referee Robert Lewis eventually chalking off Elliot Lee’s effort.

Jackson made two changes from Sunday’s Emirates FA Cup tie against Norwich City, restoring Akin Famewo and Conor Washington to his starting line-up as Ryan Inniss and Burstow were named among the Addicks’ substitutes bench.

Charlton carved out the game’s first opening of note on 16 minutes when Ben Purrington pulled back for the onrushing Diallang Jaiyesimi, though the latter’s effort was snuffed out by Travis Johnson at close quarters.

Quick feet from Jonathan Leko then saw the Birmingham City loanee bypass Zac Williams to drive to the byline before crossing for Elliot Lee, but he was unable to generate the telling touch required to turn it home from five yards under intense pressure from Tom Lowery.

Lee was involved again soon after, this time controlling Jaiyesimi’s centre expertly with his chest before hooking a first-time volley wide of Dave Richards’ right upright.

Crewe enjoyed a flurry of chances on the half-hour mark, Finney dragging a left-footed effort harmlessly wide before Lowery delivered a deep corner for Luke Offord on the edge of the 18-yard box, but the defender’s mishit volley was comfortably saved by Stephen Henderson low to his right.

Alex Gilbey soon sparked a lightning Charlton counter-attack with an incisive pass through for Washington, who returned the ball to the marauding Gilbey, though the midfielder was unable to bring the ball under his spell.

However, moments later the hosts took the lead when Henderson could only palm Mandron’s low drive as far as the advancing Finney, who stabbed home from a matter of yards.

As the opening period drew to a close, Charlton countered again with Lee finding Washington racing in behind with a precise through ball, but the Northern Ireland international couldn’t get it under control as he bore down on Richardds' goal.

And with virtually the last kick of the half, the hosts doubled their advantage as Mandron met Lowery’s inswinging corner to head into Henderson’s vacated net.

Only the heroics of Richards prevented Washington from halving Charlton's deficit four minutes after the interval, the stopper foiling the forward from point-blank range after he had latched onto Jaiyesimi’s deep centre.

Another Lowery set-piece soon spelt further danger for the Addicks as the midfielder found Chris Long in a promising position, though the latter could only cannon an effort off the outside of Henderson’s post having shifted the ball onto his left foot.

Relentless pressure from Washington saw the frontman pick the pocket of Billy Sass-Davies and square for Burstow, but a combination of Williams and Richards thwarted the substitute six yards from goal, before the stopper foiled Sean Clare’s curling effort with another flying save.

Richards produced a stunning one-handed stop minutes later to foil Washington’s initial strike following George Dobson’s perfectly-weighted through ball, only for an opportunistic Burstow to react quickest and nod home the rebound.

The goal back seemingly spurred the Addicks into life, substitute Albie Morgan finding Washington in behind the hosts’ defence with a pinpoint pass, though again Richards denied the striker.

At the other end, meanwhile, heroic defending from Akin Famewo saw the defender deny Long a certain goal with a superb last-ditch lunge.

There was to be further drama as the Addicks seemingly salvaged a point as Lee’s shot from the edge of the box deflected up and over the helpless Richards before ricocheting in off the underside of the woodwork, though after protracted dialogue between the referee and his linesman the goal was disallowed in hugely-controversial fashion.

Crewe Alexandra: Richards; Offord, Sass-Davies, Williams; Mandron, Lowery, Finney (Griffiths 86), Robertson (Murphy 84), Johnson; Porter (c), Long

Subs (not used): Jääskeläinen, Lawton, Ainley, Tabiner, Salisbury

Goals: Finney 38, Mandron 45+3

Booked: Finney 58 (pull-back on Leko), Richards 90+3 (time-wasting)

Charlton: Henderson; Clare, Pearce (c), Famewo; Jaiyesimi (Blackett-Taylor 58), Gilbey (Morgan 76), Dobson, Lee, Purrington (Burstow 58); Leko, Washington

Subs (not used): Harness, Matthews, Inniss, Watson

Goal: Burstow 80

Booked: Washington 43 (foul on Offord), Jaiyesimi 52 (foul on Finney), Gilbey 66 (foul on Porter)

Referee: Robert Lewis

Attendance: 3,558

Read Time: 4 mins