Charlton 1 (Reeves 60) Southend United 1 (Humphrys 22)
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
An official foul count of 11-14 and a 3-2 majority of the five bookings incurred by Charlton might suggest that this violent encounter was nothing more than a spirited, six-of-one, six-of-another dust-up between old foes. But it would be wise to read between the lines of those statistics.
There was clearly coastal resentment still simmering from the overtime brawl which marred the Addicks' 2-1 win at Roots Hall on September 1st because Southend wasted little time in dragging this game into similar disrepute. Their tactics were neanderthal and could well have been cribbed from Accrington Stanley, who made no bones recently of identifying Charlton's danger men and taking brutal steps to neutralise them. Stanley's hatchet men, however, stopped short of the kind of outright assault launched by the Shrimpers' 18 year-old academy graduate Dru Yearwood on Johnny Williams midway through the first half.
Yearwood's malevolent reducer took things too far and earned the kid a straight red from referee Simon Hooper. With his side already leading through Stephen Humphrys' deflected strike, his indiscretion should have earned him managerial irritation. Instead, Chris Powell pointed out in vindication that Yearwood had "slipped" into the challenge. Presumably, Timothee Dieng was similarly off balance when he chopped down Williams, then accidentally slipped into Hooper's notebook for poleaxing Ben Purrington. Southend are definitely not modelled on their manager, a firm but scrupulously fair left back it was our pleasure to watch in Charlton's colours.
With Williams and, to a lesser extent, Josh Cullen, targeted for special attention, the home side's bright start quickly faded. Ben Reeves had forced keeper Nathan Bishop to save his waspish shot with his legs but it was the visitors who shocked their hosts by grabbing a surprise 22nd minute lead. Loanee Humphrys made space for a speculative effort from outside the penalty area, which benefitted from a wicked deflection off Naby Sarr as it soared over wrongfooted Dillon Phillips' despairing grasp. It was a blow from which the Addicks, despite their numerical advantage, never completely recovered.
During the interval, Lee Bowyer responded to the unpromising situation by switching to three at the back, sacrificing blameless left back Purrington in favour of Josh Parker's influence up front. Charlton's solitary signing during the the January transfer window, Parker's impact was instant and it came as no surprise when the Addicks equalised on the hour mark. Mark Marshall had been re-deployed on the right flank, from where he tormented Sam Hart but produced a succession of disappointingly misdirected crosses, among which was sandwiched the beauty he delivered for Reeves' equaliser. Not noted for his heading ability, the diminutive midfielder's glanced effort had just enough oomph on it to squeeze past Bishop and crawl over the goalline off a post.
The stage was clearly set for Bowyer's relieved men to take over and demolish their depleted opposition. Despite Naby Sarr's inspiration, Parker's injection of urgency and the non-stop running of Williams and Cullen, however, they ran into stubborn resistance from a side who found novel ways to waste time. There were occasions when the littered bodies of stricken Shrimpers, attended by a puffing Billy Bunter-shaped physio who needed oxygen himself by the time he arrived at the scene, rivalled the carnage caused during Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. In between the theatrics, it should be said, 10-men United defended stubbornly and bravely. With Powell as their manager, you would expect no less; their cynicism, on the other hand, just has to be self-taught.
A late flurry of chances at both ends, during which both goalkeepers distinguished themselves, enlivened a bitter clash. Bishop was first to make his mark with fine saves to turn aside Krystian Bielik's blockbuster at full length and Parker's artfully directed header from Reeves' resultant corner. Phillips responded by instinctively blocking substitute Michael Klass' point blank shot but was helpless to intervene as Klass' low crosshot whistled narrowly wide of the far post.
And there you have it -two points lost or one gained, a step forward or two steps back - depends on your point of view. It's no doubt a relief to Bowyer that Charlton are done with Accrington Stanley and Southend United for the season. Those two worthies are due to meet each other in a fortnight's time. It remains to be seen whether they actually get around to kicking off or whether they reach agreement to phone in the result and spare everyone the bother of going through the painful motions of watching them kick lumps off each other. It could turn ugly.
Charlton: Phillips, Solly, Bielik, Sarr, Purrington (Parker 46), Cullen, Marshall (Lapslie 90), Reeves (Hackett-Fairchild 81), Williams, Vetokele, Fosu. Not used: Maxwell, Dijksteel, Pratley, Stevenson.
Southend: Bishop, Bwomono, White, Moore, Hart (Turner 70), Yearwood, Kightly (McLaughlin 63), Mantom, Dieng, Humphrys (Klass 85), Cox. Not used: Smith, Lennon, Kelman, Hutchinson.
Referee: Simon Hooper. Att: 12,389 (1463 visiting).