CHARLTON ATHLETIC 3
DERBY COUNTY 2
JAMIE Ward ended his goal drought with a double but it was not enough to save Derby County from their first defeat of the season last night.
Ward, without a goal since December, struck in each half only for Charlton Athletic to find the net three times and run out 3-2 winners at the Valley.
Derby's normally tight defence had an off night and although the Rams pushed their hosts all the way, they can have no complaints about the result.
They continue to look rusty, as they did against both Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday, and this was the first time they had conceded three goals since throwing victory away at Birmingham in February.
All of Charlton's goals came from Belgians – George Tucudean, Yoni Buyens and Igor Vetokele.
Tucudean gave the Addicks an early lead that was cancelled out by Ward before Buyens dispatched a penalty with the final kick of the first half.
Vetokele increased their advantage although Ward's second of the night made the home side sweat in the closing minutes.
Derby went into the game unbeaten in eight matches against Charlton and named the same team that fought out a goalless draw at Hillsborough on Saturday.
Ward and Simon Dawkins held onto their positions as wide attackers despite a lively showing by Johnny Russell in the second half at Hillsborough and a strong half an hour from Leon Best.
Goalkeeper Nick Pope made his first start for Charlton. The 22-year-old came off the bench for the injured Stephen Henderson in home victory over Wigan Athletic at the weekend.
The confidence taken from the good start to the season was evident in the opening minutes as Charlton moved the ball around before Johann Gudmundsson fired a shot from distance straight at Lee Grant.
The Rams found themselves trailing after only 11 minutes.
Gudmundsson nipped past Hughes and found Jordan Cousins on the Charlton left and his ball into the box picked out Tucudean who was allowed to turn and fire a shot low and wide of Grant from 12 yards.
The Rams needed to settle, but Jeff Hendrick's low shot from the edge of the area lacked the power to trouble Pope before Craig Bryson was almost in on a poor backpass.
When a question was asked of Pope, he responded with a fine save from Chris Martin but was beaten seconds later.
Derby kept the move alive and Ward's cracking strike from 20 yards flashed across Pope and into the far top corner.
Ward has scored in each of his last three games at the Valley although this was his first goal in 26 games.
Bryson's 25-yarder was parried by Pope, Hughes wrestled back control of midfield and it was Charlton who needed half time.
But Derby shot themselves in the foot in added time to fall behind again.
Tucudean bundled his way into the area and was brought down by Richard Keogh, who was making his 100th appearance for the club.
Buyens coolly converted the penalty and, surprisingly, Keogh escaped without a card.
Mascarell, a substitute in the previous two league fixtures, came on again, this time at the start of the second half .
He replaced Hughes but it was Charlton's substitute, Franck Moussa, who could have made an impact.
Johnnie Jackson breached an unconvincing offside trap and his centre fell to Moussa who dragged his shot wide from a good position.
Grant was then forced to beat out an effort from Igor Vetokele as Derby's defence opened up again. Like in the first half, the Rams needed to settle again, needed to start moving the ball.
They kept plugging away. Martin and Bryson closed down Pope on backpasses, Hendrick tried to drive the team forward, as did Cyrus Christie from right back, and Bryson saw a shot deflected behind after neat build up before Keogh's rising drive was a foot too high.
Derby continued to push Charlton back and the Rams fans welcomed the introduction of Russell, who replaced Dawkins.
McClaren's third change saw Best join Martin up front but Derby fell further behind after 78 minutes.
They never fully recovered from Grant's poor clearance and Jackson's cross was flicked on by Lawrie Wilson for Vetokele to head into an empty net.
Ward reduced the deficit after 85 minutes, courtesy of Pope's blunder. The keeper looked certain to gather a low shot from the Rams forward only to let the ball squirm through his legs and trickle over the line.
Hope flickered again before it was extinguished by the final whistle.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC: Pope; Gomez, Jackson, Bikey-Amougou, Gudmundsson (Fox, 89), Vetokele, Wiggins, Buyens, Cousins (Wilson, 65), Ben Haim, Tucudean (Moussa, 46). Other subs: Phillips (gk), Morrison, Harriott, Church.
DERBY COUNTY: Grant; Christie, Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick (Best, 77), Hughes (Mascarell, 46), Bryson; Ward, Martin, Dawkins (Russell, 69).
Other subs: Roos (gk), Whitbread, L Naylor, Eustace.
REFEREE: M Bull (Essex)
ATTENDANCE: 15,317 (1,434 Derby fans).