An all too familiar defensive collapse left Charlton beaten and pointless at a rainswept Valley as Coventry City substitute Amadou Bakayoko struck twice in the late going to overhaul Lyle Taylor’s first half penalty.
What Lee Bowyer described as a “mad day at the office” was, in fact, the third in a trio of almost identical descents into lunacy within seven days, during which six goals were scored but a disastrous nine conceded. It’s knockabout stuff inside Charlton’s office – great fun but with nothing to show for it at knocking-off time.
Until Bakayoko equalised inside the final 10 minutes on Saturday, Bowyer’s misshapen defence seemed likely to get away with it against moderately ambitious opposition.
Without adequate cover at left-back since Lewis Page broke down in midweek, Bowyer relied on the same solution as former managers have in similar circumstances. Old sweat Chris Solly switched flanks and performed with his customary efficiency; stepping in at right back, meanwhile, comparative novice Anfernee Dijksteel stuck to a thankless task but was overwhelmed as the Sky Blues attacked to devastating effect along their left wing in the critical late stages.
Patrick Bauer and Page have left two gaping holes, which Krystian Bielik might have helped fill had Bowyer chosen to call him from the bench.
City’s dramatic comeback has been lazily dismissed as nothing more than a smash-and-grab raid. It was more than that, of course, with both goals cleverly constructed and clinically finished.
For some 10 minutes before Bakayoko’s first strike, in fact, a feeling of steadily growing apprehension was palpable inside the ground because the visitors, while down, were far from out.
Behind Steer’s goal, a sizeable contingent of away fans began to sense that their heroes were still in with a chance. Everywhere else, that old feeling of weary resignation took hold. It’s no exaggeration to say it’s been felt a million times before.
As the weakening Addicks sought sanctuary in their own half , the Midlanders filled the midfield vacuum that formed.
Good work by Junior Brown and Jordy Hiwula sent teenage Derby County loanee Luke Thomas sprinting clear to the left byline. With Pearce lured from the middle in support of Dijksteel, Solly covered responsibly but was physically unable to prevent Bakayoko from turning the winger’s hard low cross past a grounded Steer.
The equaliser was hard to stomach but there was worse to come, with fourth official Anthony Da Costa placing a figurative black silk cloth on his head before sentencing Charlton to two minutes of added torture.
The Sky Blues made the most of them with Jordan Shipley, having just replaced Thomas, treading a similar path down the left wing before delivering an inviting head-high centre, which Bakayoko met at the near post and flicked across Steer into the far corner.
Though not entirely unexpected, this latest sucker punch was no less sickening. The Addicks had cruised through 80 minutes, dominating possession while only rarely suggesting they were capable of adding to Taylor’s goal.
Before the flamingo-topped striker claimed his seventh goal of the season, he had already made a hash of converting Solly’s delicious cross, heading it lamely at a startled Lee Burge, who almost fumbled the ball over the line.
The keeper had been more convincing earlier on, in foiling Karlan Grant’s point-blank effort, with Tom Davies heroically diverting Tarique Fosu’s follow-up over the bar.
Solly’s cutback also set up Fosu to curl inches wide of the left post. At the other end, Conor Chaplin fooled Pearce before shooting narrowly off target but with the run of play favouring the Addicks, their opener was overdue.
It duly arrived a minute before the break from the penalty spot. Twisting goalside of Brown, Taylor lured the desperate defender into a lunging challenge from behind. Referee Ben Toner’s decision was undisputed and Taylor made cool work of dispatching the spot-kick past Burge.
As a low-key second half wore on, City’s passive contribution encouraged the possibility, if not the belief, that Charlton might, for once, hang on to their slender advantage.
But City boss Mark Robins’ astute substitutions made the difference, with Bakayoko’s physical presence supported by the constructive input of Hiwula and the late impact made by Shipley.
The Addicks caved in under the late pressure as they do with disturbing regularity, even squandering a chance to hit back between Bakayoko’s goals with one of their own. Picked out by Sarr’s precise cross at the far post, Jamie Ward got his body shape all wrong and headed wildly wide.
No more than two minutes later, buoyant Coventry applied the coup-de-grace the home fans could see coming as the latest wrecking ball heading for their promotion aspirations.
Charlton (4-4-2): Steer 5, Dijksteel 5, Pearce 6, Sarr 5, Solly 7, Aribo 7, Cullen 7, Reeves 6 (Lapslie 75), Fosu 6 (Ward 84), Grant 6, Taylor 6. Not used: Phillips, Bielik, Morgan, Vetokele, Ajose.