Charlton’s form since the restart of the Championship season has proved that talk of ending the campaign on a points-per-game basis was “ridiculous”, says boss Lee Bowyer.
The Addicks, who were in the relegation zone for the only time this season when it was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, have won their first two games back to climb out of the bottom three, with Darren Pratley’s early header enough to beat QPR a week after they won at Hull.
While both League One and League Two were called off, with the final table decided by average points-per-game, Bowyer said using it in the Championship would be “scandalous”.
“That is why I was not very happy with the way they were trying to do it,” said Bowyer following his side’s 1-0 victory over the Rs. “I knew it wouldn’t have been right or fair.
“I knew with nine games to go there is a lot of football left and even with seven to go, we are not out of it yet. We have to focus and keep fighting for every point because this league can hurt you. We have had a good start and we are in a good position.
“What they were trying to do before with the points-per-game thing was ridiculous. I think we are proving that as it stands today, but there is still a long way to go.”
Pratley earns Charlton victory
Charlton’s victory, courtesy of Pratley’s header from a Josh Cullen corner, leaves their London rivals cut adrift of the play-off spots.
The winner came just moments after Eberechi Eze curled a shot narrowly wide at the other end, while Dillon Phillips made a fine reflex save immediately after the break to deny Jordan Hugill a close-range equaliser from what was the visitors’ best chance of the game.
Victory lifts Bowyer’s side to 17th in the table, four points and five places above the relegation zone with seven matches remaining, although the five teams immediately below them in the table are yet to play this weekend.
For Charlton, it was the first time since August that they have managed back-to-back victories, having overcome relegation rivals Hull City a week earlier.
QPR’s second defeat in as many weeks since football’s restart after the enforced break sees them fall 10 points behind Cardiff in the fourth and final play-off spot in sixth after their win at Preston on Saturday.
QPR concede early – again
For the second-time in as many weeks, QPR conceded from the first effort on target.
While goalkeeper Liam Kelly was able to get a hand on Pratley’s header, it was not enough to stop the effort from sneaking in off the inside of the post.
It was not until the opening seconds of the second half that QPR seriously threatened to level – Hugill forcing Phillips into action for the first time after finding space in the area to get onto the end of a chipped cross from Angel Rangel.
QPR, as they did against Barnsley seven days earlier, played with more endeavour after the interval. But again Mark Warburton’s side failed to breach the resistance of a side fighting to avoid the drop.
Instead it was Charlton, a side whose top scorer Lyle Taylor has elected not to play for the Addicks again this season as he does not want to risk injury before his contract expires on Tuesday, looked the most likely to add to their advantage.
Tom Lockyer had a header safely caught by Kelly, who did well to keep a low shot from Alfie Doughty out two minutes from the end of a London derby of high stakes for two sides with vastly different ambitions.
New Charlton owner Elliott’s winning start continues
With the match played behind closed doors at The Valley, hundreds of Charlton fans were represented in the stands by cardboard cut-outs of themselves.
While the scene and sound of an empty stadium remains the bizarre new normal with football restarting during a global pandemic, at a ground where hundreds of plastic pigs were once thrown onto the pitch in protest against former owner Roland Duchatelet, the two-dimensional substitutes were never capable of adequately filling in for the influential fanbase for what was the first home game under new owner Paul Elliott.
Despite The Valley being almost deserted, both clubs united in a poignant moment before kick-off to pay their respects to those connected to Charlton who have died in recent months.
It was particularly moving as former Charlton defender and then later assistant manager and manager Theo Foley, who also worked as reserve team coach at QPR, was among those remembered after his death on Friday, aged 83.
QPR boss Mark Warburton: “In the second half we dominated for long, long periods, but you have to test their goalkeeper and put the ball in the back of the net.
“We have seven games to go – tough games – and we want to show what we’re about.
“We’ve had two 1-0s, today was a much better performance, but still we leave with no points.”