Charlton rocked by Forte’s first-half hat-trick against Notts County

18:05 10 March 2012

Scott Wagstaff Pic: Keith Gillard

Scott Wagstaff Pic: Keith Gillard

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League One: Charlton Athletic 2 Notts County 4 match report

A 22-minute hat-trick from Jonathan Forte stunned Charlton this afternoon and consigned them to their second defeat at The Valley in five days.

If Tuesday’s 2-0 reverse at home to Colchester United could be assigned to one fantastic strike and a rare goalkeeping error, there were worryingly few excuses for the Addicks’ meltdown in the first half.

Notts County were deployed in 4-5-1 formation but their midfield boasted five players all adept at passing the ball and retaining possession.

Much like in midweek, Charlton fell behind to a wonderstrike after 16 minutes when the excellent Alan Judge picked up the ball with his back to goal 25 yards out, spun on the spot and sent a rocket past Ben Hamer in the home net.

The hosts barely had a chance to gather themselves from the body blow as two minutes later they were further behind.

Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Judge turned provider this time as he took advantage of the space he was afforded on the left wing before playing an inviting ball across the face of goal. The cross should have been cut out before it reached Forte at the back post, but the lone frontman was on the spot to turn the ball in with the tips of his out-stretched toes.

Keith Curle’s side were undoubtedly in the ascendancy and, when the fans demanded a response, Charlton were unable to muster one in the first period. The likes of Jeff Hughes, Neal Bishop and Gavin Mahon regular found another black and white shirt while Forte was a dangerous outlet throughout.

For all the visitors’ impressive play it was two moments of horror defending that will give Powell, the former left-back, nightmares which settled the contest in the first period.

A long ball into the Charlton penalty area forced a communication breakdown between Hamer and vice-captain Matt Taylor and, as both waited for the other to make a decisive mood, Forte snuck in to turn the ball into the net.

The arguments and discussions among the defence has barely settled down before the fourth went in after 40 minutes.

Bradley Wright-Phillips, perhaps due to frustration, was overzealous in his defending and earned Notts County a throw-in in the final third. Hamer, who also made a decisive mistake in the defeat to Colchester, was hesitant to deal with the resulting ball launched into his six-yard box and once again Forte was on hand to complete his hat-trick.

Jeers rang out from three sides of The Valley, but the mood among supporters and players alike seemed to be one of shock. This had not happened to Charlton previously this season and nobody seemed quite sure how to react.

Powell raced down the tunnel at half-time and you expected a response from the table-toppers after the break. For 15 minutes after that, the unfathomable suddenly began to look a possibility.

Substitute Scott Wagstaff, who replaced the injured Danny Haynes after just 13 minutes, provided the cross from Wright-Phillips to challenge goalkeeper Stuart Nelson and hook the resulting spilled ball into the net.

The players switched roles after 55 minutes when the frontman delivery was headed in by Wagstaff, after Nelson put a hand in a way but was unable to repel the powerful effort.

The home jeers had now turned to jeers and fans were daring to believe. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Had the home side been awarded a penalty for an alleged foul on Wright-Phillips on 59 minutes been given, following an intelligent header from Jackson, the momentum may have carried them to a previously unthinkable victory.

However the appeals were turned away by referee Brendan Malone and with it went some of the impetus of their second-half comeback.

There was plenty of hustle and bustle, but few clear-cut chances for Charlton in the final 30 minutes.

While there have been inevitable accusations of lethargy in recent weeks given the sheer number of games played by so many of the first-team, today was the first time there appeared to be genuine signs of fatigue, be it physical or mental.

The gap at the top of League One is still substantial and it would take a collapse of monumental proportions for Charlton to do anything other than win the title before the start of May.

In all likelihood, their superb form away from home will provide enough points to secure Championship football and finally give supporters something to celebrate after a difficult three seasons.

However results like this along the way will do nothing to help their nerves.

Charlton Athletic: Hamer, Wiggins, Morrison, Taylor, Solly, Jackson, Hollands, Stephens, Haynes (Wagstaff, 13 mins), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips.

Subs not used: Sullivan, Cort, Russell, Clarke.

Notts County: Nelson, Sheehan, Chilvers, Stewart, Freeman, Harley (Bencherif, 60 mins), Bishop, Hughes, Mahon, Judge (Demontagnac, 82 mins), Forte (Burgess, 82 mins).

Subs not used: Burch, Edwards.

Referee: Mr Brendan Malone

Attendance: 17,033

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