Charlton 1 (Russell 63) Oldham Athletic 1 (Morais 84)
With less than a minute played in this drab game, Charlton earned themselves a routine throw-in deep in the left corner. As Danny Green prepared to deliver one of his long throws, every member of Oldham's team crowded into their penalty area to defend it. As statements of intent go, this one was clarity itself. It warned us that they came here with a point and given the slightest chance, they intended to take it home with them. And who knows, with a break here or there, nick all three.
It's only fair to point out that there is nothing illegal about the Latics' methods. They hustle, harass and work feverishly for each other. They also stay just the right side of the law, except when they waste time. And, boy, do they know how to waste time! They've made it an art form. Every throw-in, goal kick, free kick or corner is a matter of painstaking preparation, involving changes of takers, re-positioning of the ball or any other niggling detail they can think up. All in all, Oldham Athletic were a nagging ache and are one good reason why Charlton must - simply must - make it out of League One this season. This division sucks you down to its colourless level and the danger is in becoming institutionalised.
Having acknowledged how irritating the negativity of Oldham and others can be, it must also be conceded that it's the responsibility of ambitious sides such as Charlton to break them down. Unfortunately, when the Addicks finally turned the trick midway through the second half, their breakthrough succeeded only in spurring their visitors into belated aggression, some impressive football and a cracking equaliser six minutes from time.
Intent as they were on turning the first half into a non-event, the Latics surprised nobody more than themseves by creating two fine chances.The first was fashioned by busy midfielder James Wesolowski, who broke away on the right flank to pull back the perfect pass for Tom Adeyemi. His colleague's air-shot was not only a huge embarrassment to Adeyemi but an equally huge relief to Charlton's outmanouevred defence. Minutes later, wide man Chris Taylor made himself space to unleash a right-footed rocket from 25 yards; twisting athletically in the air, Ben Hamer fingertipped the netbound drive over the bar.
At the other end, meanwhile, the league leaders made little impression. Lured into prolonged bouts of head tennis and exchanges of long ball by their uncomplicated visitors, they pottered away the first period with little or no incident. Green scuffed an effort wide, then Bradley Wright-Phillips, played in by Yann Kermorgant, produced a competent save from the underworked Alex Cisak. It wasn't much to show for their supposed superiority.
The second half promised more, beginning as it did with Wright-Phillips seizing on Danny Hollands' pass to whip a firm drive on the turn into the sidenet. Coming alive, Wright-Phillips was sent through by Green, momentarily rounded Cisak but was foiled by the young Polish keeper's fine recovery. The Addicks, though, were improving and their opener, when it arrived, was just about deserved.
Following play out to the right touchline, centre back Matt Taylor crossed accurately to the far post, where loanee Darrel Russell opened his Charlton account by leaping high to head conclusively into the top left corner.
Their goal should have settled the Addicks down but instead galvanised Oldham. With nothing to lose now, the Lancastrians came out of their shell to reveal a neat-passing, imaginative ensemble. They served notice that they were far from through when Matt Taylor almost involuntarily blocked a piledriver from Shefki Kuqi, then promptly equalised.
Chris Taylor had stood out among his workaday teammates, with positive running and perceptive link-play. Attacking Chris Solly on the left wing, he turned inside the full back to find substitute Filipe Morais in support inside the penalty area. Taking Taylor's pass in his stride, the ex-Chelsea trainee smashed a rising shot into the top right corner.
Charlton's slight dip in form was to be expected and there will be no panic at Sparrows Lane. There's enough about them to take a breather, then start winning again. They clearly miss the all-round talents of skipper Johnnie Jackson and, to a lesser extent, the playmaking of long-term absentee Dale Stephens but the replacements have coped. Jackson and Stephens will be back before long but the continuing good health of midfield dynamo Hollands holds the key. He's the glue that holds the side together at present. He must be discouraged from carving turkeys with super-sharp knives. Or any heavy lifting like horsing around as Santa for his triplets. Their dad's already carrying a heavy load right now. Straws on camels' backs, that sort of stuff. The girls will understand later in life. You just know they're good kids.
Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Green, Hollands, Russell, Ephraim (Wagstaff 85), Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips. Not used: Sullivan, Euell, Pritchard, Cort.
Oldham: Cisak, Diamond, Clarke, Parker, Mellor, Wesolowski, Furman, Scapuzzi (Smith 65), Adeyemi (Morais 65), Taylor, Kuqi. Not used: Bouzanis, Tarlowski, Winchester.
Referee: L. Collins. Att: 19,564.