BY LOUIS MENDEZ
Charlton’s winless run stretched to six matches as Luton came from behind at Kenilworth Road.
The injury-plagued Addicks were missing 12 bodies before the trip to Bedfordshire, with Josh Cullen and Erhun Oztumer the latest absentees.
Jonathan Leko had given the South Londoners an eighth-minute lead, but goals from Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu and Izzy Brown saw the Hatters end their five-game losing streak with three points.
To make matters worse, midfielder Conor Gallagher will miss Saturday’s home game with Sheffield Wednesday after picking up his fifth booking of the season.
Both sides had only won twice in their last 11 outings, none of which came within their last five, but it was the Addicks who drew first blood on eight minutes.
Town top-scorer James Collins had already rattled the crossbar from the edge of the area but it was Leko who opened the scoring, latching on to a ball through the middle and slotting beyond James Shea.
That was the West Bromwich Albion loanee’s third goal in as many games – but his celebrations were cut short as the home side levelled proceedings just 10 minutes later.
A corner was cleared by the Addicks boss, with Naby Sarr then prodding the next cross out to the right-hand edge of the area. Mpanzu was on hand to drive the ball into the far-corner. Charlton players surrounded referee Darren England, accusing Collins of being in Dillon Phillip’s line of view and in an offside position, but to no avail.
Graeme Jones’ side started to gain control and should have led when Collins was gifted a chance after a rare error from Addicks centre-half Tom Lockyer – the striker lashing over from inside the area.
Charlton’s injury-crisis has crippled them recently, so the last thing they needed was Gallagher picking up his fifth booking of the season for a challenge on keeper Shea. The Chelsea loanee, who has been an integral cog in Charlton’s midfield, will now sit out Saturday’s home game with Sheffield Wednesday due to suspension.
The South Londoners did end the half strongly, with Macauley Bonne heading a Chris Solly cross wide – and they were nearly back in front shortly after the restart.
Solly was again the provider, this time pulling it back to Leko who saw his shot charged down and deflected just wide.
They were left to rue that missed opportunity as the Hatters had a lead of their own moments later. Darren Pratley was unable to control a bouncing ball in the middle of the park, with Cornick able to pick it up and feed Brown inside the area – the Chelsea loanee poking beyond Phillips.
The hosts forced Charlton back as they looked for a third. Andrew Shinnie was inches from providing it as he thundered a strike against the post, with Brown rippling the side-netting with a decent set-piece.
Bowyer threw Alfie Doughty into the mix as he looked for a way back into the game but it was Town who continued to look the more dangerous as Collins’ close-range effort was charged down.
The introduction of Doughty also saw Bowyer change shape and it started to pay off as the Addicks grew back into the game. Gallagher had already seen Shea hold his low shot at his near post, before the England youth international came even closer, hitting the base of an upright with a curling effort from range – but that was a good as it got as Charlton slipped to an away day defeat.
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