Jake Cooper strike gives Millwall the points to keep Charlton relegation nerves jangling
Charlton 0 Millwall 1
A late Jake Cooper goal gave Millwall their first win since the restart to keep alive their interest in the play-offs and deny their rivals a precious point in their battle to stay up.
In a passionate Friday night derby, characterised more by grit and craft than silky skills, a largely even contest appeared to be heading for a draw until Cooper pounced to fire into the roof of the net after Dillon Phillips had parried an effort from Connor Mahoney.
It was only a second goal of the campaign for the central defender, but it was enough to settle matters – Charlton failing to muster any meaningful response in the 10 minutes plus injury time which remained.
With teams at the bottom all showing signs of life and picking up points in an intriguing battle at the foot of the Championship table, the Addicks are under increasing pressure to keep the scoreboard ticking over and their three-point cushion above the drop zone looks slender indeed, given they have also played a game more than rivals and have only five games left.
Millwall have moved up to eighth with this victory, and are just two points behind Cardiff City, who occupy that coveted sixth place. Gary Rowett said months ago that he through his side had little chance of making the cut but they are still in it, despite having dropped points from two previous draws post-lockdown.
There was a certain historical logic to the outcome. This has been a fixture to dread for Charlton down the years. They had only beaten the Lions four times at home since the war before this latest encounter and were again found wanting.
No wins in 11 since the mid 90s also suggested another sorry outcome for the Addicks, who were beaten 2-1 at the Den earlier in the season, when Matt Smith netted a last-minute winner.
Millwall edged the possession and appeared to have the more robust rearguard, but there was little to choose between the sides when it came to chances.
The Lions nearly stole in front when Matt Smith got on the end of a Shaun Hutchinson cross to test Phillips with a header and the visitors came even closer after Ryan Woods’ chip found Jed Wallace ghosting in behind the defence, only to be well smothered by the alert Phillips.
For their part, the hosts might have broken the deadlock with first-half efforts from Tomer Hemed (twice) and Macauley Bonne.
The quality both sides were seeking in the final third continued to be elusive after the break and the most eye-catching pyrotechnics came off the field, with fireworks let off near the ground. Whoever was responsible will not have created the controversy of a Burnley fly-past but did get noticed.
Chuks Aneke came on for Bonne and the striker’s muscular presence was soon in evidence as he stung Bialkowski’s palms with a near-post drive. It briefly raised hopes for the hosts that they might edge it. But it was their near-neighbours who had the last laugh.
Charlton: Phillips – Matthews, Pearce, Lockyer, Oshilaja (Doughty 74) – McGeady (J Williams 74), Pratley (Sarr 89), Cullen, Morgan (Field h/t) – Bonne (Aneke 64), Hemed. Subs not used: Purrington, Forster-Caskey, Amos, Green
Millwall: Bialkowski – Hutchinson, Cooper, M Wallace – Romeo (Mitchell 74), Leonard (Mahoney 74), Woods, Molumby (Thompson h/t), Pearce – J Wallace (S Williams 85), Smith (Bradshaw 64). Subs not used: Ferguson, Steele, Skalak, Burey