Shrewsbury Town 1 (Norburn 90+4) Charlton 1 (Watson 72)
A last kick penalty, nervelessly converted by Ollie Norburn, dealt Charlton's promotion ambitions another sickening blow in Shropshire on Saturday. After staggering through intense pressure during a torrid last quarter hour, they were within seconds of making off with three precious points when they imploded. And as long as football matches are decided on the playing field and not in small claims court, whether they deserved them doesn't matter, not even as a moot point. You deserve what the scoreline says you deserve. That's how it works in football.
It's the nature of the grand old game, of course, that Shrewsbury will be far more pleased with their point than their loftier visitors. A last gasp equaliser makes a draw feel like a victory, whereas the Addicks felt like the stuffing had been knocked out of them. Their own goal had been scored in the game's later stages but triggered an almost instant wave of panic through the ranks. As the desperate home side drove them back, they were opposed -at times single-handedly - by Ben Amos, whose series of brilliant saves brought his beleaguered side to the brink of victory. You might even say that Amos deserved to end up a winner.
One last conclusive clearance would have done trick as the last of four added minutes ebbed away when Albie Morgan popped up on the edge of the penalty area to lend a hand. Unhappily his agricultural attempt to help out his defence was badly sliced back towards Charlton's goal. Akin Famewo did his best to solve the airborne problem but its treacherous flight deceived him and allowed substitute Dave Edwards to fasten on to the elusive ball. Dangerous but still with a lot to do among a throng of opponents, Edwards was no doubt delighted to make contact with Chris Gunter's unwisely inserted foot and understandably made the most of it. The spotkick was inevitable, skipper Norburn made cool work of drilling it past and Charlton's most recent gift to League One's needy was signed, sealed and duly delivered. Bludgeoned by Burton, finessed by MK Dons, their pockets picked by Shrewsbury; AFC Wimbledon are next in the queue for a handout.
Ringing his usual changes, the most notable of which welcomed Jason Pearce back to the colours, preferred Jake Forster-Caskey to Albie Morgan in midfield and obstinately named Omar Bogle over Chuks Aneke, Lee Bowyer can hardly be accused of dithering. His controversial first half withdrawal of Bogle recently showed his ruthless side. At Shrewsbury, he replaced an ineffectual Ryan Gilbey with Jonny Williams on 62 minutes before hooking Williams and rushing on Adam Matthews with five minutes left. A clear signal to the lowly home side had been made. Charlton were at bay, their backs to the wall and unapologetically desperate to hang on to what they had. Not exactly the attitude expected of a member of the division's elite but, there you go, needs must…
Nothing the Addicks contributed to this scruffy, scrappy game had daunted Town. Their mediocrity was matched -and more than matched at times - by their more upwardly mobile guests. The sides vied with each other to hand over possession, the long ball found new favour, one was as crude as the other. Nothing of note is worth reporting so let's hasten on to the 72nd minute when Charlton surprised everyone, not least themselves, by scoring. And at least one of this dreary game's better performers claimed dubious credit for the goal.
Breaking quickly on to Amos' clearance, Charlton cut through the left side of Town's rearguard, helped on by Bogle's hustle and the pass fed by Williams to an overlapping Gunter on his right. The right back's cutback was sidefooted goalwards by Ben Watson, caught a huge deflection off Aaron Pierre, and left Matija Sarkic stranded as it headed for the opposite corner. Watson's first goal for Charlton was laced with good fortune, might even have been an own goal but will, quite properly, be claimed by the estimable veteran.
Far from inspiring Bowyer's boys, as it turned out, the lead was bravely protected by their outstanding keeper. Great saves by Amos kept out piledrivers from Norburn, Shaun Walley and Marc Pugh. then he excelled at the feet of a rampaging Charlie Daniels. Matt Millar's effort scraped the bar before Josh Vela's deceptive cross was awkwardly pawed over the top. Only moments before Charlton capitulated, the defiant Amos hurled himself full length to turn aside a rocket from substitute Jason Cummings. His resistance was finally broken by Norburn and Charlton were left with only recriminations, mitigations and explanations. Oh…and a point. Let's not forget the point. Doesn't seem like much right now. But it might come in handy going forward, as they say.
Shrewsbury: Sarkic, Pierre, Williams, Whalley, Norburn, Vela, Millar, Daniels, Udoh (Cummings 72), Ebanks-Landell, Pugh (Edwards 65). Not used: Burgoyne, Golbourne, Goss, High. Booked: Udoh, Pugh, Vela.
Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Pearce, Famewo, Maatsen, Watson, Pratley, Forster-Caskey (Morgan 62), Gilbey (Williams 62, Matthews 85), Aneke (Bogle 69), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Purrington, Henry. Booked: Gilbey, Aneke, Morgan.