Charlton 1 (Texeira 35) Bradford City 1 (Dieng 42).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
Exactly three months ago, Karl Robinson began his troubled tenure as Charlton manager with an awkward pre-Christmas trip to Bradford. With his squad already decimated by an inconvenient virus, he was served a further ominous warning of what lay ahead for him when key centre back Jason Pearce succumbed to a serious groin problem after barely two minutes. Hindsight informs us that a 0-0 draw, under difficult circumstances, was a reasonable start for the Mouth of the Mersey.
Regularly handicapped by a series of long term injuries, Robinson possibly viewed as routine the loss, for this reverse fixture, of Ezri Konsa, Joe Aribo and Nathan Byrne from the line-up which had gamely grabbed a point off Walsall three days previously. As no doubt he reacted philosophically to the second half departure of left back Lewis Page with what might be a season-ending ham string strain. The loquacious, likeable Liverpudlian has become adept in papering over selection dilemmas.
For no valid reason other than apparent spite, Robinson has been a non-stop target for white-hot hatred from anonymous snipers on social media. As a Scouser, it goes without saying that his garage is crammed with hub caps and his wallet stuffed with giros. Or so the vicious old slur goes. He's heard far wittier insults on Scotland Road and it's clearly not his fault that it's practically impossible to buy the Sun up on Merseyside.
In preparing to face high flying Bradford, the still-new boss was relieved to welcome back from brief absences Patrick Bauer and Jake Forster-Caskey (on the bench). And with Pearce due to return soon, he'll be spoilt for choice, not a luxury he has enjoyed to date.
Still in contention for automatic promotion and losers just five times this season, City's challenge has been hampered by a remarkable total of 17 draws, one more than Charlton have managed. Unsurprisingly, this entertaining, end-to-end encounter ended all-square and even less surprisingly finished 1-1, the twelfth time the Addicks have shared that scoreline.
In a classic game of two halves, a cliche but an accurate one in this case, Charlton toiled through the first period, scored against the run of play but were pegged back before the break. Faster from the blocks, the Bantams controlled the opening exchanges, with Romain Vincelot's shot dipping narrowly wide, Tony McMahon firing inches over the bar and Nathaniel Knight-Percival heading lamely off target after McMahon's free kick was nodded back from the far post by Rory McAardle. The visitors seemed on the point of breaking through when instead they fell behind.
Doing his usual wholehearted bit, Ricky Holmes was fouled by James Meredith and delivered the free kick from the left. Lee Novak made a nuisance of himself, Bauer knocked the loose ball down and Jorge Texeira, always a threat from setpieces, drove firmly into the top right corner.
The lead lasted only seven minutes. A constant thorn in Charlton's side, tricky left winger Mark Marshall moved inside to try his luck right-footed from inside the penalty area. Possibly unsighted, Declan Rudd fumbled the crisp shot, leaving Timothee Dieng to make unduly heavy weather of squeezing a point-blank header in off the right-hand post.
The second half belonged to the Addicks, with a string of missed chances marring a stirring rally. Andrew Crofts launched the one-sided process by volleying over the bar before Novak failed to make sliding contact with Holmes' fiercely struck low cross when the merest of touches seemed enough. Novak's deflected effort fell to Tony Watt but Saturday's scoring hero sliced wildly wide. The pressure was maintained with Fredrik Ulvestad, restored to midfield following his outstanding emergency stint at centre back against Walsall, curling a shot dangerously wide,
Charlton's clearest chance fell to Texeira, who was picked out by Holmes' free kick, awarded for Knight-Percival's crude trip on Watt, but headed firmly into Colin Doyle's hands. Another foul on Watt, this time by Meredith, gave the indomitable Johnnie Jackson an opportunity to crown another fine 90-minute contribution but the skipper's 25-yard free kick clipped the bar on its way to safety.
Yet another draw then, not enough to confirm immunity from relegation but one providing further evidence that the Addicks are improving steadily. Like the surfer's search for the perfect wave, the evenly balanced matching of pleasing performance with effective result continues to elude Robinson. But he's getting closer. Maybe next season...
Charlton: Rudd, Chicksen, Texeira, Bauer, Page (Dasilva 71), Jackson, Holmes (Forster-Caskey 90), Crofts (Konsa 71), Ulvestad, Novak, Watt. Not used: Phillips, Botaka, Ahearne-Grant, Hanlan. Booked: Holmes.
Bradford: Doyle, Meredith, Knight-Percival, McArdle, Cullen, Dieng, Vincelot, Clarke (Hiwula 73), McMahon, Marshall, Wyke. Not used: Sattelmaier, Darby, Toner, Penney, Devine, Hudson. Booked: Meredith, Vincelot, Knight-Percival, McMahon.
Referee: James Linington.
Att: 9,326 (926 visiting).