Oxford United 1 (Ribeiro 35) Charlton 1 (Fosu 17).
Kevin Nolan reports from Kassam Stadium.
An entertaining game, which Charlton had enough about them to win but might so easily have lost, instead finished level - a result uncommonly popular elsewhere in League One, where the status quo was maintained by seven other draws, six of them also ending 1-1. Among the promotion contenders, only unbeaten leaders Shrewsbury Town exploited the mutual ceasefire by demolishing Bristol Rovers 4-0.
The argument that Charlton squandered an opportunity to leave the shires with three valuable points is based on their domination of the opening half hour. Again fired into an early lead by current hotshot Tarique Fosu, they failed to press home their advantage over struggling opposition and were made to pay before half-time. Their lack of ruthlessness has become a familiar theme.
Starting brightly, the visitors might have been in front before Fosu scored but Naby Sarr, though possibly offside, headed Ricky Holmes' free kick off target from five yards. Preferred to Ezri Konsa at centre back, Sarr responded with an impressive, if sometimes eccentric, performance. Not averse to risk-taking, he frequently extricated himself from awkward situations of his own making with a repertoire of tricks and flicks guaranteed to turn Karl Robinson's blond thatch prematurely grey. His accurate passing, meanwhile, consistently transformed defence into counter-attack. This ballplaying defender often looks like an accident waiting to happen but will no doubt be encouraged to favour brain over brawn. Stand by for occasional heart murmurs on the sideline.
After Josh Ruffels shot wide for the hosts and Holmes made a mess of an opening fashioned by Chris Solly's perceptive pass and Josh Magennis' hard-driven cross, Fosu's opportunism punished United. Nipping in as Curtis Nelson's underweight return pass sold Simon Eastwood short, the slim sharpshooter was aided by a hint of backspin in beating the goalkeeper to the loose ball, toed it round him and finished emphatically into an empty net despite the desperate recovery efforts of Ryan Ledson to intervene.
Eager to capitalise on their success, the Addicks should have doubled the lead but Holmes volleyed wide at the far post after Jay Dasilva and Fosu combined to create the chance. As they continued on top, a second goal seemed on the cards. It came as a rude shock to the visitors that it was Oxford who scored it.
Brushing in front of Wes Thomas to deal with James Henry's dangerous cross from the right, Solly managed a firm header which cleared the immediate peril but dropped perfectly outside the penalty area for Christian Ribeiro to expertly cushion a sidefooted volley past Ben Amos into the bottom left corner.
Ribeiro's spectacular equaliser rocked Charlton. As they wilted, Oxford scented blood and Thomas outwitted an offside trap to set up Ruffels who blasted an inviting chance off target. Before the interval, a ferocious volley from Ricardinho (so good his mum forgot to name him twice) was brilliantly cleared off the line by Jake Forster-Caskey. The break arrived none too soon for the embattled Londoners.
Scorer of what should have been a matchwinner at Walsall recently, Holmes launched the second half with another similarly struck volley which dipped over Eastwood but also cleared the bar by inches. At the other end, Thomas made firm contact with Ribeiro's centre but Amos tipped his header over the top. The lively exchanges continued with Magennis tamely nodding Dasilva's cross wide, then Fosu cutting in on Holmes' pass before shooting wildly over both woodwork and boundary fence. By then, a subdued Ben Reeves had been replaced by Billy Clarke, who duly earned Charlton's first corner with a ferocious drive, which a startled Eastwood gratefully shovelled behind.
Before the final dust settled, both sides had one last chance to break the deadlock. Make that two chances in United's case. First, ex-Addick Jon Obika made space for a crisp low shot which Amos saved competently. And with practically their last throw of the dice, Ricardinho ( his mum was, so they say, a fanatical fan of Little Richard), broke clear to drive agonising inches over Amos' crossbar, as Robinson and his equally careworn assistant Lee Bowyer reached for the smelling salts.
Sandwiched between Oxford's late efforts, Holmes set up Karlan Ahearne-Grant to be the Addicks' dramatic matchwinner but the late substitute squandered the chance by sending a disastrous curler closer to a distant touchline than the far corner where it was intended to settle. Unwittingly his miss serves as a metaphor for the faulty finishing which continues to blight Charlton's otherwise promising start to the season. They urgently need reinforcements up front.
Oxford: Eastwood, Ribeiro, Nelson, Ledson, Payne, Ruffels, Henry, Ricardinho, Mowatt (Fernandez 77), Mousinho, Thomas (Obika 79). Not used: Shearer, Williamson, Martin, Roberts, Carroll. Booked: Ledson, Henry.
Charlton: Amos, Solly, Bauer, Sarr, Dasilva, Kashi, Holmes, Reeves (Clarke 66), Forster-Caskey, Fosu (Ahearne-Grant 87), Magennis. Not used: Phillips, Jackson, Konsa, Aribo, Dodoo. Booked: Kashi.
Referee: Charles Breakspear. Attendance: 7,070 (689 visiting).