Charlton 1 (Makienok 70) Nottingham Forest 1 (Osborn 44).
Against a backdrop of simmering unrest, Charlton's injury-hit squad served touching notice that "their spirits have been bruised... never broken" by mounting a lively second half comeback against Nottingham Forest. And the crowds who congregated in protest outside The Valley's main reception area before and after this somewhat sidetracked game made good their pledge to "back the team not the regime". They stood firm behind this group of beleaguered players, saluted their effort, then turned their attention to the most important item of business on a sour them-and-us agenda.
Treated like beggars at the rich man's gate, the rank-and-file gathered in noisy dissent, running through an extensive repertoire of songs and chants, most of them repeatable, some of them not for publication, several boasting newly inspired lyrics. Predictably they were all but ignored by the inner sanctum of VIPs, who were grateful, no doubt, for the wet weather that precluded the threatened sit-in. But the rebels refused to disperse until their point had been made, that point being that a club they considered their own was being led into possible extinction by an absentee owner to whom Charlton Athletic represented no more than a set of entries on a profit-and-loss sheet. Hunkered down in his Brussels bunker, Roland Duchatelet was unavailable for comment. You'd get more comment from a Trappist monk than the reticent Roland.
Left to convey rare messages from her boss, most of them like-it-or-lump it nuggets of diplomacy, CEO Katrien Miere has a thankless task. Possibly wisely, she declined the opportunity to address the rabble in a charismatic Eva Peron-styled attempt to win them over. No offers of cake and ale were made, no promises of reform on the General's behalf. A mob was forming in the plaza and establishment heads were being kept below the ramparts. There was to be no balcony appearance on this lowering, bleak evening. Do your own dirty work, Juan, she was heard to murmur, this lot's being led by Che Guevara. And we all know which one he is, right?
But back to the football, which at least provided a crumb of comfort. Down 1-0 to ordinary Forest, the Addicks fought back to equalise in the 70th minute, survived the dismissal of substitute Tareiq Holmes-Dennis and came within a whisker of snatching all three points when the impressive Callum Harriott, prudently called back from his loan spell at Colchester, forced a spectacular save off Dorus De Vries' fingertips with a jet-powered rocket from 25 yards.
It was rousing stuff which banished memories of a first half combining tedium and frustration. Once again Charlton were neither better nor worse than mediocre opposition, who matched their dross and drudgery.
Attempts on goal were mutually non-existent and there was more edge at the Nell Gwynn tea rooms until, almost inevitably, the visitors scored in the last minute. Surprisingly, Ben Osborn's 18-yard strike, brilliantly bent away from Stephen Henderson's reach into the top right corner, stood out sharply in this dreary context. A resigned crowd could hardly summon the energy to complain. The abuse aimed at "head coach" Karel Fraeye was almost halfhearted. It wasn't entirely his fault, anyway.
Taking over from the invisible El-Hadji Ba for the second half, Johann Berg Gudmundsson injected immediate pace and purpose. It was, however, the indefatigable Jordan Cousins, still surprisingly only 21, who drove Charlton on. Always prepared to sacrifice his ego to the the team's welfare, the local lad covered, tackled and prompted with manic intensity. The power header which soared over Forest's central defence and was toed goalward by Simon Makienok, typified his all-out effort. Shame DeVries reacted instinctively to turn the improvised shot to safety.
Relishing his rebirth as an Addick, meanwhile, Harriott was busy justifying his second chance. After Harry Lennon's fine last ditch tackle foiled Ryan Mendes and Henderson saved smartly from Nelson Oliveira, the winger produced a moment of inspiration which led to parity. Following another driving run by Cousins, his delicately delivered ball from the left flank curled behind Matt Mills and this time Makienot's lanky leg extended just enough to turn a richly deserved equaliser past DeVries and in off the right post. Maybe this relegation battle ain't quite as cut and dried as we thought, after all.
There was still time for Harriott to sting the DeVries' palms with an impossibly angled rocket before detonating the last gasp volley, to which the Dutch keeper reacted superbly. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Charlton had finished more strongly and can draw heart from their improvement.
Whether the same can be said of their frustrated fanbase is debatable. Management's reluctance to engage them in reasonable conversation might well return to haunt them because if you refuse to learn from history, you're doomed to repeat its mistakes, isn't that what they say? A glance through "Battle for the Valley" could alert them to what they're up against. Its author is still around. In fact, he's very much around. Cojones? Made of steel. Backbone? Ramrod straight. Nerve? Unwavering to date. But always ready to talk. It's revolutionary but could be worth a try, Katrien.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Lennon, Sarr, Fox, Harriott, Cousins, Jackson (Holmes-Dennis 65), Ba, (Gudmundsson 46), Makienot, Vaz Te (Williams 79). Not used: Pope, Ceballos, Ghoochannejhad, Moussa. Booked: Holmes-Dennis. Sent off: Holmes-Dennis.
Forest: DeVries, Lichaj. Mills, Hobbs (Cohen 86), Mancienne, Lansbury, Vaughan, Chris Burke (Blackstock 73), Mendes (Tesche 61), Osborn, Oliveira. Not used: Evtimov, Ward, O'Grady, Oliver Burke.
Referee: Trevor Kettle.
Att: 16,090 ( 2562 visiting).