A 94th-minute winner from Nasser El Khayati on Saturday ensured all three points went the way of Queens Park Rangers and pretty much condemned Charlton to a place in League One next season. The result leaves the Addicks 10 points from safety with five games to go.
For a game that had a lot riding on it for the visitors, and a London derby to boot, the match lacked spark, fight and quality. It’s funny, watching the two-minute highlights package, the game upon reflection, seems full of chances, a real end-to-end match. However, the game only really got going in the second half.
Rangers’ first goal had more than a touch of a good fortune about it. Matt Phillips, again looking rather disinterested, put in a cross from the right, hoping to pick out Junior Hoilett. The forward failed to connect, but the ball also outfoxed the Charlton goalkeeper Pope and crept in at the far post. Neither team deserved to be ahead, but somehow the hosts were 1-0 up at the break.
The second half showed a bit more spirit and invention, with the Rs initially starting off and looking to kill of the game and make it 2-0. A couple of missed opportunities from Rangers, in particular a tame effort by Phillips when he was beautifully played in by Sebastian Polter, presented Charlton with a chance to get back in the game, and in the 62nd minute a well worked move saw Jordan Cousins curl a side-footed effort in to the bottom left-hand corner.
As the visitors grew in confidence, for a time it looked like they might take the three points. Alex Smithies, growing in stature with each game, pulled off a couple of key saves at crucial times. By this point QPR were also contending with a few enforced changes. James Perch, who has improved greatly in recent weeks, was replaced by young prospect Cole Kpekawa in the 55th minute. Perch’s injury meant that Onouha was forced out to right-back and Kpekawa, making his league debut, struggled in central defence, but coped well enough with the Charlton threat.
At left-back, Jack Robinson was also making his home debut after 13 months out with injury. Signed from Liverpool, Robinson has a prodigious throw and looked understandably off the pace at times, but to his credit he played the final 20 minutes with cramp. Let’s hope we can keep him fit and he can now get a run in the side. Back from his loan spell at Swindon Town, Ben Gladwin also featured in the second half, coming on for Phillips.
The hosts’ final substitution and a Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink signing, Nasser El Khayati, proved to be the wisest of the second half changes. El Khayati has always looked lively whenever he has come off the bench and yet again his ability to do something different paid off. In the dying embers of the game, he picked the ball up from the left wing, ran in to the box, feinted past one player, sold another a dummy and curled his shot in to the top right-hand corner. A stand out moment of quality that afternoon and another home win for Rangers.