Match verdict: Charlton Athletic 3 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Kieren Lee and his Owls team mates trudge off after defeat to Charlton
Kieren Lee and his Owls team mates trudge off after defeat to Charlton
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There are a number of reasons why the Championship remains the fourth most watched league in Europe.

It is entertaining, unpredictable, ridiculously competitive and the standard of football is, generally, pretty high.

Simon Makienok scores Charlton's second

Simon Makienok scores Charlton's second

Few bookmakers or pundits gave managerless Charlton Athletic much chance of beating an in-form Sheffield Wednesday side. Given the Addicks had gone 12 matches without a victory, lost five in a row and failed to score in over seven hours - their worst run since September 1922 - it appeared a good time to play them.

On and off the pitch, Charlton are a club in disarray. Hundreds of supporters staged a protest outside the West Stand demanding the exit of owner Roland Duchatelet and chief executive Katrien Meire before kick-off, donning black and white clothes to show how they want things spelt out to them by Duchatelet.

Everything pointed to an away win.

“It was a game on paper where everyone said we had no chance,” admitted Addicks interim manager Karel Fraeye.

Fernando Forestieri nets a consolation effort for Wednesday

Fernando Forestieri nets a consolation effort for Wednesday

But Charlton turned the formbook upside down and made a mockery of their lowly league position by outplaying and outbattling Carlos Carvalhal’s men, who slipped to their first defeat in 12 outings.

Carvalhal resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to his starting line-up. He only freshened up his forward line, handing a first start to Gary Hooper following his loan move from Norwich City.

It is, of course, easy to say with the benefit of hindsight but maybe Carvalhal should have shuffled his pack more, particularly in midfield where the battle was lost. Lewis McGugan, Jose Semedo and Jeremy Helan were fresh and raring to play.

READ MORE Forestieri cites fatigue factor

Gary Hooper made his first start for the Owls at Charlton

Gary Hooper made his first start for the Owls at Charlton

VIDEO: It was a game too far concedes Carvalhal

The Addicks, playing a diamond formation in midfield, made their intentions clear from the off, hunting in packs and allowing the Owls no time in possession.

There was a real energy and intensity to the way they pressed and closed down Carvalhal’s troops.

Fraeye said: “The desire was big and if you have a massive desire you can have a big win. We knew how we could hurt Sheffield Wednesday.”

Forestieri battles with Charlton's Morgan Fox

Forestieri battles with Charlton's Morgan Fox

WATCH Match highlights

In Alou Diarra, deployed at the base of the diamond, Charlton had the best player on the pitch. The former French international disrupted Wednesday’s rhythm, breaking up play superbly and cutting off the supply line to Fernando Forestieri. The defensive midfield role can be an unglamorous looking job, but Diarra was mighty effective.

Although Carvalhal’s team improved after the break, Wednesday paid the price for producing a lethargic, laboured display in the opening 45 minutes. Clearly the hectic schedule and their efforts against high-flying Brighton and Hove Albion last week had taken its toll on the squad.

But having found a successful formula, Carvalhal defended his decision to keep faith with the vast majority of the team who have done the business in recent weeks.

“I didn’t think it was necessary to make many rotations because in the last five games we have kept four clean sheets and were compact,” he said. “But if I had known the game would pan out like that, then I would have of course have changed it, but these kind of things you can’t control.

“My players played with a lot of heart but not so much energy. Charlton played with high intensity and we could not match their style.”

The truth is Wednesday let themselves down by defending uncharacteristically poorly. Individual lapses in concentration cost them, with far too many players under-performing.

For the opener, they were undone by a set-play, with Johnnie Jackson shrugging off the attentions of Daniel Pudil to score against the Owls for the fourth time in his Charlton career.

Had the visitors gone in at half-time only a goal behind, perhaps things could have been different.

But Simon Makienok’s strike was the killer blow and gave Wednesday too much to do. Charlton carved the right-hand side of the Owls defence open and Johann Berg Gudmundsson claimed his second assist of the afternoon, whipping in a low delivery for Makienok to rifle home.

READ MORE Carvalhal doesn’t want banned Hutchinson to change

Carvalhal tried to mix things up and alter the outcome, making a double change at the interval, although Glenn Loovens was an enforced alteration.

After Rezy Ghoochannejhad put the hosts 3-0 ahead in the 55th minute following another neat move, Charlton’s supporters taunted the 3,000-plus Wednesdayites who travelled to The Valley, chanting ‘Can we play you every week?’.

To Wednesday’s credit, they didn’t just accept their fate and deservedly grabbed a consoltation through Forestieri. They created enough chances in the final 20 minutes to register a second but lacked composure in the final third.

The key is for the Owls is to learn from their mistakes and comeback stronger after the international break as that’s what top sides do at this level.

Charlton: Henderson 7; Solly 6 (Holmes-Dennis 24, 7), Bauer 7, Sarr 7, Fox 7; Ba 6 (Moussa 66), Diarra 8, Gudmundsson 8, Jackson 7; Ghoochannejhad 7 (Lookman 82), Makienok 7. Substitutes: Pope, Bergdich, Charles-Cook, Ahearne-Grant.

Wednesday: Westwood 6; Hunt 6, Loovens 6 (Sasso HT, 6), Lees 6, Pudil 6; Wallace 6, Lee 6, Hutchinson 6 (Joao HT, 7), Bannan 6; Hooper 6 (McGugan 66), Forestieri 6. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Helan, Semedo, Nuhiu.

Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey).

Attendance: 16,267 (3,075).

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