Kevin Nolan’s big-match verdict as injuries pile up for Charlton Athletic – and finish at Bristol City is extra cruel too

BRISTOL CITY 2
Diedhiou 75 Brownhill 90+8
CHARLTON 1
Bonne 65
BY KEVIN NOLAN AT ASHTON GATE

Their hearts broken by a goal scored desperately deep into added time, Charlton limped back from Bristol on Wednesday evening bruised, depleted but not without a measure of pride.

Knocked off course by worrying injuries to Sam Field and Jake Forster-Caskey, they were cruelly robbed of the point their wholehearted effort deserved.

Six extra minutes had stretched to eight when they capitulated; unhappily, three bookings for timewasting served to justify referee James Linington’s decision to extend the extra allowance.

Having taken the lead midway through the second half thanks to Macauley Bonne’s fourth goal of a blossoming season, the Addicks finally began to buckle and held on to their advantage for only 10 minutes.

They were rocking and rolling by the time substitute Famara Diedhiou bundled home a scruffy equaliser but still seemed a good bet for a priceless point, particularly when City’s scorer was dismissed for taking outrageous liberties with Jason Pearce’s head while the skipper lay prone during an unpleasant scramble.

Possibly expecting to dominate the closing stages against 10 men, Charlton appeared to throw caution to the West Country wind and pressed forward for a winner.

The Robins were far from finished, as it turned out, and inspired by substitute Kasey Palmer’s constructive example, delivered the sickening knockout blow mere seconds before the end.

Former Charlton scholar Palmer’s close control and vision had posed problems before his cleverly lofted pass found Josh Brownhill in scandalous space to the left of the visitors’ goal.

Displaying commendable composure in chaotic circumstances, City’s skipper exploited a disastrous lack of defensive cover and finished emphatically past an already shellshocked Dillon Phillips.

As the majority of a 20,916 crowd erupted in ecstasy, a healthy away contingent of 1,310 slumped in despair.

In football the thinnest of thin lines separates extreme emotions, one man’s euphoria being another man’s misery.

Football’s a game of swings and roundabouts. Charlton’s turn will come.

A desultory first half, during which both sides played some neat stuff without looking likely to score, gave no warning of the drama to come.

From the Addicks’ point of view, it was noteworthy only for the serious-looking injuries which robbed them of Field and Forster-Caskey within five minutes of each other.

Field suffered knee damage in an innocuous challenge while Forster-Caskey’s was hamstring trouble.

With Jonny Williams sidelined for a minimum of two months, even Lee Bowyer’s elastic ability to manipulate his squad will be severely tested. He will draw encouragement from the promising contribution made by starting debutant Beram Kayal, whose pace and passing were impressive. And from the reliable stints provided by substitutes Darren Pratley, for Field, and Chris Solly who, with typical professionalism, played out of position to cover left-back.

It was Kayal’s accurate diagonal pass which sent Bonne away to notch his fourth goal midway through the second session.

Always favoured to beat Daniel Bentley in a foot race, Bonne rounded the advancing keeper and skilfully slotted home from a tight angle before reinforcements arrived.

The goal was no more than the visitors deserved for taking control after the break.

Bonne had already curled a shot narrowly wide, before Kayal and Conor Gallagher had long-distance efforts saved by Bentley.

But the pendulum swung and heroics from Dillon Phillips were required to deny Andreas Weimann twice from point-blank range, then to stop a close-quarters header from Palmer.

As the action switched from end to end in a game suddenly alive with possibilities, old stager Darren Pratley, showing customary versatility, accurately returned Bentley’s errant clearance from fully 40 yards but was foiled by the keeper’s scrambling recovery across his goalline.

By the time Bonne struck, a riproaring game was in progress. Unfortunately for the cockahoop visitors, it continued at breakneck speed after he scored.

Bowyer’s braves were unable to slow the pace down and eventually it cost them dearly. How dearly will be made clear before the international break.

Charlton (4-4-2): Phillips 8, Oshilaja 6, Lockyer 6, Pearce 7, Forster-Caskey 6 (Solly 38, 7), Field 7 (Pratley 33,7)  Cullen 7, Gallagher 7, Kayal 7 (Aneke 72, 5), Leko 5, Bonne 7. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Sarr, Oztumer, Davison.

PICTURES BY KYLE ANDREWS

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