Charlton 1 (Aribo 15) Blackpool 1 (Gnanduillet 89).
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
The number of vital points irresponsibly squandered by Charlton in the dying throes of eminently winnable games swelled by two as powderpuff Blackpool bundled home an 89th minute equaliser. Armand Gnanduillet's goal came as no surprise to home fans accustomed to watching their heroes unconvincingly defend an early lead until confronted by the finishing line, when panic sets in.
The Seasiders had clung to forlorn hope as their hosts predictably failed to add to Joe Aribo's excellent solo effort - his first serious goal for the club - and left themselves vulnerable to late disaster. Sure enough, Anfernee Dijksteel's foul on Gnanduillet conceded a free kick which was swung in from the left by Jimmy Ryan; Naby Sarr's clearing header was weak and Gnanduillet nodded in off teammate Clark Robertson.
Had the Addicks gone the distance, Karl Robinson would have been entitled to quiet pride in his injury-ravaged line-up which included only two survivors (Ben Amos and Jay Dasilva) of the side which faced Bristol Rovers on opening day. A frankly horrendous casualty list has torn the heart and soul from his squad and that these patched-up, papered-over remnants went so close to winning would usually earn respect. But close is no cigar and football is an unforgiving and unsentimental business. Near things don't count. Only winning matters.
A frustrated Robinson won't be consoled by knowing that if his side had converted even one of several gilt-edged first half chances, Gnanduillet's goal would have been no more than consolation for Blackpool. That's a well-worn theme. Aribo's marvellous opener should have been enough anyway.
Accepting Sarr's incisive pass on the turn, the hardworking midfielder took on the heart of the visitors' rearguard, picking off three defensive statues during a weaving solo run before shooting across keeper Ben Williams into the far bottom corner from 12 yards.
The litany of missed chances began with the awkwardly volleyed mess made by Josh Magennis of converting Mark Marshall's pinpoint cross. With only Williams to beat, the burly forward's shot cleared the bar on one bounce.
A persistent threat down Charlton's left flank, Dasilva then delivered a textbook-perfect centre, met solidly by Leon Best's diving header which seemed netbound until Williams, launching himself low to his right, saved brilliantly. Best could be considered unlucky on that occasion. He had no such excuse when sweeping a first time shot well wide after Magennis's turn of speed and clever pull-back from the left set him up near the penalty spot. Despite his faulty finishing, Best posed problems for the visitors before joining the walking wounded just past the hour with what might be a loan-ending injury.
Coping comfortably with Blackpool's aenemic threat up front, meanwhile, the Addicks were briefly ruffled when Gnanduillet's persistence troubled Exri Konsa and forced Ben Amos to scramble his close range effort to safety off a post. The Frenchman also shot narrowly wide to close the first half.
That elusive second goal continued to haunt Charlton after the break. Marshall fired off target after Magennis stole possession off Robertson. There was almost a dream league debut for George Lapslie, who exchanged sharp passes with Aribo, shot on the run but was alertly blocked by Andy Taylor. But the issue remained unsettled and the Seasiders sensed an unlikely chance. Dijksteel's disputed foul exposed Charlton's chronic vulnerability to free kicks, with 6'5" Sarr's ballooned header betraying his surprising unreliability in the air and Gnanduillet making the most of the gift. Both Sarr and Konsa boast enviable skill on the ball; both need reminding, however, that centre backs, even deputies, have no business being eccentric or entertaining. Their chief function is to protect their goal at all costs and it's no sin to clear your lines when the situation calls for matter over mind. It might have paid off on several occasions during this dog's breakfast of a season -doing whatever it takes to climb out of this wretched division in other words.
Charlton: Amos, Dijksteel, Konsa, Sarr, Dasilva, Jackson, Marshall (Kashi 83), Reeves (Lapslie 74), Aribo, Best (Ahearne-Grant 62), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Dodoo, Lennon, Hackett-Fairchild.
Blackpool: Williams, Mellor, Robertson, Tilt, Taylor (Quigley 81), D'Almeida, Ryan, Philliskirk (Solomon-Otabor 62), Daniel, Gnanduillet, Cooke (Longstaffe 62). Not used: Allsop, Anderton, Delfouneso, Spearing.
Referee: John Busby
Att: 10,172 (209 visiting).
This report is dedicated to John Bates, a good friend whose funeral and typically lively wake at Downham Tavern we attended last Wednesday. John was a salty, world weary Charlton fan who, despite the disappointments that came with the territory, never denied his allegiance. He came off the estate, where he was widely known and respected and will be impossible to forget. Goodbye, John, the pleasure was always ours. Kevin and Hazel