Charlton 1 (Kermorgant 87) Birmingham City 1 (Elliott 90).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Shattered by yet another inexplicably late collapse, Charlton's solitary crumb of comfort must be that on this particularly sickening occasion a draw at least boosted their points tally to a psychologically important total of forty. There will be little else that their fans will wish to recall about this ill-fated game.
Mind you, it could have been worse - much worse. If sorely limited visitors Birmingham City had had just a little more time available to them following Wade Elliott's 92nd minute equaliser, a third consecutive 2-1 setback would most certainly have been Charlton's fate. The panic which paralysed the Addicks during the two remaining added minutes was all too familiar. They seem pathologically incapable of seeing a lead through to its logical conclusion and, as a consequence of that failing, risk being sucked down into a relegation struggle.
What made this latest lapse an even more bitter pill to swallow was the apparently decisive timing of Yann Kermorgant's opening goal. Just three minutes were left when the excellent Chris Solly crowned an inexhaustible performance in both defence and attack, by making space along the right flank for a pinpointed cross which Kermorgant headed down and beyond the reach even of City's outstanding young goalkeeper Jack Butland. It looked briefly like Charlton's turn to inflict late pain on stunned opponents
Having pounded away fruitlessly at Butland's goal for most of the second half, the clearly superior home side had merely to go through efficient motions to seal a victory which had been a long time coming but was even sweeter for the wait.
Instead, Charlton dropped back, formed a defensive line in front of their penalty area and invited their visitors on to them. Accepting the invitation, the previously toothless Blues suddenly fancied their chances. They swarmed forward, were delayed by a series of anywhere-will-do clearances, but refused to surrender. There was considerably more luck than judgement in the low shot-cum-centre whipped into the six-yard box by Chris Burke but Elliott made the most of it. His instant shot was swept past Ben Hamer to spark unintelligible celebrations in the Jimmy Seed stand behind the beaten goalkeeper. Only referee Andy D'Urso's merciful final whistle spared Charlton further humilation. Not that considerable damage hadn't already been inflicted on them.
Falling back on the football manager's default position of optimism, Chris Powell will understandably sift through the wreckage for silver linings. And there were, admittedly, plenty of them to find. Taking this critical game by the throat, Charlton controlled most of the action, made but missed several chances, and were good value for the win Kermorgant's strike belatedly seemed to have given them. Only their usual lack of a cutting edge kept the outplayed Brummies in the hunt but their approach play was frequently impeccable. Led superbly by versatile Ricardo Fuller, they appeared capable of breaking through but were frequently foiled by Butland.
Signed by Stoke City on transfer deadline day but loaned back to Birmingham, the 19 year old prodigy made several key saves, the first of them a sprawling low diversion of Fuller's low snapshot. His point blank defiance at Scott Wagstaff's feet was followed by another full length plunge to defy Wagstaff after Fuller bullied his way along the right byline. His handling was both safe, sound and enough to make Charlton regret Stoke's generous decision to send him back to the Second City.
Fuller was the Addicks' bright spark, his swivelling volley of Solly's throw-in flashing across goal, his touch and instinct consistently sound. It wasn't all one-way, of course, and Solly's timing of a penalty area tackle on elusive Robert Hall was executed with typically incisive timing. An emergency second half challenge from Cedric Evina which forced Marlon King to shoot wildly over the bar had the double virtue of saving his side and denying the deeply unpopular King the satisfaction of scoring. On a day of such deep disappointment, you take consolation where you find it.
And, boy, was this one disappointing day. Er, sorry, I'm showing a bit of bias here. And we're not allowed that in the press box. So let's hear it for plucky City. Well played, chaps. Now shove off back to Birmingham!
Kevin Nolan’s Match Report is brought to you in association with , 294 Burnt Ash Hill, London, SE12 0QD.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Cort, Morrison, Evina, Wilson (Green 71), Stephens, Jackson, Wagstaff (Dervite 90), Kermorgant, Fuller (Wright-Phillips 90). Not used: Taylor, Button, Pritchard, Wiggins.
Birmingham: Butland, Robinson, Davies, Caldwell, Caddis, Burke, Gomis (Thomas 68),Elliott, Reilly (Zigic 90), Hall (Redmond 73), King. Not used: Doyle, Mullins, Lovenkrands, Hancox. Booked: Reilly.
Referee: Andy D'Urso. Att: 17,269.