Fleetwood Town 1 (Madden 42) Charlton 1 (Stockley 6).
It's pretty simple, really, so pay attention please. All Charlton need to do if they intend to rejoin League One's play-offs race is to "string some results together and go on a bit of a run." That's what everyone says and you have to admit they're hard to argue with. Trouble is it's easier said than done because one also-ran after another has insisted on throwing an annoying spanner in the works. They simply won't accept that the Addicks are their superiors. It would be so much easier if they would.
Take Fleetwood Town, for argument's sake. They proved themselves stubborn opponents when Joey Barton brought them to The Valley in early November. Two down early in the first half, they fought back to equalise before the break thanks to a pair of expertly taken goals from Ched Evans. It took a second half penalty converted by Conor Washington to subdue them.
That exciting victory completed a six-game winning streak for Charlton, since when both Barton and Evans have left Fleetwood - predictably and unpleasantly. Some falling-out involving the subtext of Hamlet's "to be or not to be" soliloquy, was the last straw, so we hear. Turns out Joey was quoting from it, Ched began taking the mickey and things turned nasty. To borrow one of Joey's favourite words, their behaviour was egregious.
Since the toxic duo left Highbury, it's probably been a more relaxed place to report for work. But the Fishermen have subsided from the 7th position they occupied last November to the virtual anonymity of 13th, out of touch with the play-off contenders but under no real threat of relegation. The draw they shared with Charlton on the wind-battered
Fylde Coast was no doubt regarded with mixed emotions. Although the point was useful in achieving their aim of mid-table security, they will know an excellent opportunity was spurned to claim all three after they dominated all but the opening ten minutes. Frankly, they missed Evans who might have converted at least one of the many chances they created. On second thoughts, scrub that. Nobody should have to miss Ched Evans.
Charlton, on the other hand, will regret their latest failure to beat another of League One's middle-of-the-road members. They were, in fact, lucky to head for home with a point which might yet turn out to be more important than it appears right now. And for that slender consolation they are indebted to the brilliance of goalkeeper Ben Amos and to the one moment of quality they contributed to this clash between so-called "haves" and irreverent "have nots."
Their excellent 6th minute goal stood out among the general dross offered by the visitors, not that it had much competition. A cohesive move along their left flank was begun by Ian Maatsen, whose pass to Liam Millar allowed the wide man to check inside and find Andrew Shinnie. Feinting to cross right-footed, the Scottish playmaker took two defenders out of the equation by turning sharply on to his left foot to deliver a delicately flighted cross. Ignoring Harrison Holgate's earnest attempt to knock his block off, Jayden Stockley dived full length to head past Alex Cairns.
Stockley's third goal since joining Charlton signalled their end as an attacking force. Fleetwood took over and pinned them inside their own half, with Kyle Vassell leading the fightback. Under pressure from Akin Famewo, the big striker shot narrowly wide, then turned to test Amos. Four minutes before the break, veteran Paddy Madden's equaliser rivalled Stockley's opener in preparation and execution. A rapid exchange of passes between Vassell and Mark Duffy played the latter behind Maatsen to cut back a low cross from the byeline. Meeting the ball crisply, Madden finished the move from the six-yard line.
The second half of this dour game was totally dominated by Simon Grayson's rugged side. In holding them scoreless, Amos came into his own with a hat-trick of saves from Vassell before his brilliant point-blank reflexes somehow denied Madden a second goal, with Chris Gunter completing the clearance. The one-way traffic headed exclusively for the heroic Amos.
Charlton's mulish adherence to "building from the back", meanwhile, was as much threat to them as Fleetwood's admittedly untutored onslaught. Stubbornly declining to move the ball quickly, they struggled to cross the halfway line and frequently were the authors of their own defensive problems. If the definition of madness is what they say it is, the increasingly haggard Addicks, in sticking to their calamity-inviting guns, were off their rockers. But at least their spirit, which remained unbroken, saw them through to an exceedingly fortunate point.
So who's next? Right, that'll be Burton Albion on Tuesday, rock bottom in the division and winners of just five of their 27 league games. Just what the doctor ordered to launch that aforementioned "bit of a run." No sense in dwelling on "that bleak November day" when the Brewers notched up one of their five wins by wading into Charlton's boneheaded insistence on swanning around near their goal, before twice pinching the ball from them and punishing their arrogance. Nah, no chance we'll repeat those mistakes. After all, we're not mad...
Burton: Cairns, Hill, Connolly, Holgate, Donacien (Burns 76), Duffy (Camps 90), Rossiter, Batty, Andrew, Madden, Vassell. Not used: Coleman, Morris, Saunders, Biggins, Rydel. Booked: Madden, Rossiter.
Charlton: Amos, Gunter, Oshilaja, Famewo, Maatsen, (Purrington 61), Millar, Pratley (Watson 57), Smith (Morgan 56), Shinnie, Stockley, Schwartz (Washington 56). Not used: Jaiyesimi, Pearce, Harness. Booked: Oshilaja, Millar, Pratley, Stockley.
Referee: Carl Boyeson.