Charlton 0 Millwall 0.
Kevin Nolan reports from The Valley.
It's safe to suppose that the appointment of erratic Keith Stroud to referee their derby dust-up with Millwall hardly imbued Charlton with confidence. Mind you, the Lions were probably not too thrilled either. Stroud operates an equal opportunities policy of incompetence for all. He is also a self-righteous klutz who compensates with outraged moral authority for an alarming inability to complete a game without leaving controversy in its wake.
To be fair, Stroud had his hands full in controlling a game simmering with barely concealed malice while low on quality. The seven bookings he meted out were deserved and the red card he issued to Jorge Texeira after the final whistle followed the letter of the law. But his glaring incompetence around the hour mark effectively deprived Charlton of what is fast becoming a collector's item - victory over Millwall - and quashed their hopes of adding to their frankly embarrassing total of 11 wins in 71 previous league meetings.
Having dealt capably with Joe Aribo's corner, young keeper Jordan Archer hustled to the edge of his penalty area with Patrick Bauer as close but inoffensive company. Possibly distracted by Bauer's attentions, Archer simply dropped the ball as he prepared to clear out of his hands. Without pausing to look the gift horse in its mouth, Bauer planted his present in a gaping net, at no time touching Archer. Stroud dithered, then dithered again before presumably concluding that some sort of foul must have occurred. A perfectly valid goal was disallowed for no reason other than the weakness of a notoriously unreliable official.
Incandescent with resentment, Karl Robinson arrived for his post-game press conference armed with laptop evidence which incontrovertibly proved Charlton's case. The press corps was invited to view CCTV of the incident which established that a robbery was committed and its perpetrator was Keith Stroud. Technology had him bang to rights and the least he should do is apologise. Charlton fans are advised not to hold their breath until he obliges.
The injustice served on them was in keeping with an afternoon during which anything that could go wrong duly did go wrong. After just 14 minutes, they lost Josh Magennis to an ugly looking ankle injury; the same length of time brought the premature departure of debutant left back Lewis Page, to be replaced by fellow debutant Jay DaSilva. Robinson's game plan was hopelessly compromised and he was able to risk Ricky Holmes, newly returned from injury, for just 10 minutes. As one door closes recently, another also closes.
The chances in a scrappy, dour game largely belonged to the visitors, whose poor finishing contrasted vividly with the clinical goals which did for the Addicks at the Den before Christmas. Their opportunities were bookended by Lee Gregory, who lobbed over Declan Rudd but wide when sent clear by Tony Craig in the sixth minute, before glancing Shaun Williams' precise free kick off target shortly before the end when scoring seemed an easier option. Combative co-striker Steve Morison did manage to beat Rudd but his feebly topped effort proved easy for an off-balance Texeira to scrape off the line, with Shaun Hutchinson heading the emergency clearance back into Rudd's arms.
As Charlton tired, the visitors began to look ominous. Substitute Shane Ferguson tore on to Morison's knockdown but with a left foot much vaunted by his manager Neil Harris sliced his shot horribly wide. Hutchinson followed by wastefully heading Morison's cross past a post.
In response, Robinson's unfamiliar side failed to seriously trouble Archer, a bouncing volley from yet another debutant, Nathan Byrne, representing their best effort. A second drive from Byrne tested Archer but the Addicks seldom looked like scoring except, of course, they actually did score but fell foul of nemesis in the discouraging shape of referee Stroud. Tony Watt had replaced Magennis to a rousing reception which the original Prodigal Son might have envied but after a bright start faded into near invisibility. Charlton's stubborn resistance was instead inspired by midfield fulcrum Andrew Crofts whose insatiable hunger for possession and intelligent distribution kept his side ticking. Notable contributions were also made by Adam Chicksen, who slotted competently into left back as deputy for Page and Ezri Konsa, whose occasional lapses into casualness were forgiveable flaws in an otherwise mature performance. And let's not overlook the always dependable Chris Solly, who added to his usual impeccable game, a willingness to mix it physically with opponents twice his size.
Charlton: Rudd, Solly, Texeira, Bauer, Page (DaSilva 28, Holmes 81), Byrne, Crofts, Konsa, Aribo, Chicksen, Magennis (Watt 14). Not used: Phillips, Johnson, Ulvestad, Forster-Caskey. Booked: Byrne, Watt, Texeira, 2nd booking and red card Texeira
Millwall: Archer, Cummings, Hutchinson, Webster, Craig, Onyedinma (Worrall 66), Williams, Thompson, O'Brien (Ferguson 66), Gregory, Morison. Not used: King, Romeo, Butcher, Abdou, Smith. Booked: Williams, Thompson, Webster, Gregory.
Referee: the one and luckily only Keith Stroud.
Att: 15,315 (3,169 visiting).