Charlton Athletic 2 Blackburn Rovers 3: Bentley crowns stirring fightback to stun Charlton

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The Independent Online

Their League form has gone belly-up and their inability to win games has infected Charlton's nerves horribly. As a result, the hosts conceded a two-goal lead, which they held with 15 minutes remaining, to lose this Carling Cup tie.

It seemed inconceivable, with so little of this fourth-round match left, that Alan Curbishley's men would throw away their deserved advantage. But then again, when you have lost four games in a row, a fifth is always a distinct possibility. "You couldn't make up the last 15 minutes," was the Addicks manager's disbelieving reaction.

"I'm a bit numbed by this. We needed a result to take us to Sunday, but I would swap a result on Sunday for this defeat," he added. Charlton host Manchester City at the weekend.

Barely able to contain his fury, he said that events had conspired against his players, with Chris Powell getting cramp and doubts over the validity of Shefki Kuqi's goal, before admitting that he was "clutching at straws".

Having appeared to be coasting to victory and to a place in the quarter-finals of this competition for the first time in their history, thanks to goals from Darren Ambrose and Danny Murphy, Charlton met with sudden and unexpected defiance from a Blackburn side only marginally less bereft of confidence.

Yet in the backs of Rovers' minds was the fact that they had beaten Charlton 4-1 at Ewood Park at the start of November, their only win in their previous four games.

Charlton beat Chelsea on penalties in the previous round of this competition. As Curbishley reflected: "Only four weeks ago we were in ecstasy and now we're in despair." Yet they were good value for their half-time lead, thanks to a sharply taken strike by Ambrose and five minutes after the break, from the inside-left position, Murphy curled his shot around Brad Friedel.

Rovers' comeback started after 75 minutes, when Craig Bellamy set up the substitute Shefki Kuqi, who poked his shot under Dean Kiely's body. The Londoners' goalkeeper, in his first appearance of the season, was then to blame when he hit a clearance straight to David Thompson, who scored the best goal of the night from 35 yards.

Extra time loomed but with Charlton retreating, Talal El Karkouri was picked out by Curbishley for dithering after the ball was nipped off his feet. "Some of our players were on a death wish," he added. From that position on the edge of the area, David Bentley found space and two minutes from time, the striker on loan from Arsenal sealed victory from close range.

Curbishley paid credit to Blackburn and his opposite number, Mark Hughes, who admitted that he had not fancied his side's chances having gone two goals down. But Hughes, a winner as a player with Rovers three years ago, chastised himself for not believing his players could turn it around. However, when Kuqi's goal went in, he said that he felt that a win was possible and so it proved to be.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young (Spector, 70), El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Powell (Bothroyd, 88); Johansson (Hughes, 79), Murphy, Kishishev, Smertin, Ambrose; Bent. Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Thomas.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Friedel; Khizanishvili, Todd, Nelsen, Gray; Emerton (Kuqi, 73), Savage (Thompson, 63), Reid, Pedersen; Bentley (Mokoena, 90); Bellamy. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Matteo.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

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