After two soulless performances at home in the last two weeks, anything out of a tough midweek trip to London Road to face Peterborough United would have been more than welcome prior to kick off. But, as seems to be the case more often than not when a point would be taken, there was a slight sense of frustration as the referee blew his whistle for full time with the score at 2-2. A vastly improved performance on the last fortnight, several chances fell the way of the Addicks but, as has been the case for most of the season, they weren’t taken. Peterborough had their chances too and have the right to feel just as aggrieved with the point as the away side, especially with the situation they find themselves in and how crucial a victory would have been for the Posh. But the draw was fair; a result that will please the Charlton camp much more than it will Peterborough’s.
Despite Charlton creating the best of the early chances, it was the home side that took the lead after 24 minutes. A Peterborough break saw Danny Swanson pick up the ball on the half way line and, almost unchallenged, ran through and slotted past David Button into the bottom corner from just inside the area. The setback hit the Addicks hard and their performance dropped for the remainder of the half with Peterborough dominating. Charlton started the second half slowly, but quickly picked up their game and levelled through captain Johnnie Jackson after 55 minutes. The goal gave them the impetus and, as Posh failed to clear on several occasions from a corner and the following crosses, a goal mouth scramble resulted in Danny Haynes poking home to give Charlton a lead with 59 minutes on the clock. It was now Charlton’s turn to dominate, but they couldn’t capitalise on several clear cut chances, and Peterborough took advantage in the 71st minute with Michael Bostwick crashing him from range. Peterborough had the best of the chances in the final twenty minutes and Charlton were hanging on to their point in stoppage time with the final whistle coming as a relief for the vocal away support.
Chris Powell again reworked his side following the poor display against Burnley at the weekend. A conventional 4-4-2 was deployed with Jonathan Obika and Dorian Dervite missing out, Haynes moving up top to partner Ricardo Fuller and youngster Callum Harriott coming in to start his first game in the Championship on the left flank. The youth team product had been impressive in brief cameo roles throughout the season and he was worthy of his place in the starting XI. The change of shape also saw Bradley Pritchard move centrally and Lawrie Wilson push up to right midfield with the returning Chris Solly slotting back in to his familiar right back position. The one other change to the line-up saw Matthew Taylor come in at centre back to replace the injured Leon Cort.
Things were far more straight forward for Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson as he named an unchanged side following their 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday. Posh’s main threat would come from Dwight Gayle with the striker coming into the came off the back of a hat-trick at Ewood Park. There were also starts for two players who were the subject of interest from Charlton in the summer; Boswick and, the man Peterborough fans are hoping can fill the George Boyd shaped hole in their team, Danny Swanson.
It was Charlton who raced into life and so easily could have been a goal up after just a matter of minutes. Wilson dispossessed Tommy Rowe on the right flank and, admits the backdrop of Peterborough fans calling for a free-kick for an infringement, cut inside before unleashing a ferocious strike that crashed against the underside of the bar and back out again. Harriott picked up the loose ball but his cross from the left could only be turned against the side netting by Fuller but the away fans were still in a state of shock has to how Wilson’s effort hadn’t found its way into the net. Charlton created another opening just two minutes later as Fuller’s cross-cum-shot just evaded the outstretched leg of Danny Haynes at the far post. With Posh on the back foot, they could only muster a Nathaniel Mendez-Laing effort in the first 10 minutes that found its way straight into the hands of Button.
Charlton remained dominant and, with a Haynes half volley comfortably saved in between, had their best chance to open the scoring with the clock nearing 20 minutes. Jackson picked up the ball in midfield on a Charlton break and drove forward with the ball at his feet before sending Wilson free down the right. His cross found an unmarked Fuller in the centre but his header was placed perfectly for Posh keeper Bobby Olejink to hold. A yard either side of the keeper and the Addicks would have been celebrating a fantastic breakaway goal, but they were made to rue that miss as Peterborough began to grow into the game. Almost immediately Posh went down the other end with Mark Little and Mendez-Laing linking up for the Latter to break free one on one with Button, but the keeper made himself big and blocked the ball away for a corner, which produced an even greater chance for the home side, but Gabriel Zakuani somehow blasted over from no more than six yards out. A let off for the Addicks, but it wasn’t to be long before Peterborough did have the ball in the net.
The away side lost possession in the final third and, with numbers hanging back low, Swanson was able to race through on goal, only having to briefly skip past the onrushing Michael Morrison, and finish calmly past Button. A feeling of injustice was felt by the Charlton fans as their side’s 20 minutes of dominance had come to nothing and Peterborough’s brief spell of possession had brought them a goal. But it was now the home side on top and Charlton’s performance looked alarmingly similar to ones seen at home in recent weeks with misplaced passes and over hit crosses become the norm, whilst Morrison had clear the ball away for a corner from just under his crossbar moments after the goal.
With ten minutes to play in the half, the Addicks had their keeper to thank for keeping the deficit at one. Mendez-Laing’s pace saw him continuously find ways to trouble the Charlton back line and Rowe’s ball through allowed him to break away in behind the defence again, but Button got enough of his body behind the shot to see it deflected away for a corner. Whilst Charlton weren’t troubled for the remainder of the half, they struggled to replicate the dominance of the opening passages of play and half time couldn’t come quick enough.
It was hoped that Powell’s words would get the side playing again, but Charlton had good fortune to thank as they were almost two down after 20 seconds of play in the second half. Dwight Gayle had the ball played to him out wide from kick off and after a lucky break managed to get past Rhoys Wiggins before playing in a perfect ball for Lee Tomlin. Bearing down on goal it looked like there was only one outcome, but the winger sliced his shot and could only find the outside of the post. A major wake up call for the Addicks, who managed to regain their stride soon after. Good work down the right from Wilson won Charlton their first corner of the half, which was cleared away by the Peterborough defence, and Callum Harriott’s volley that flew just wide were signs Charlton were slowly growing back into the game.
Harriott had looked impressive with the ball at his feet in the first half but failed to produce much with his final delivery; he quickly put that right in the second half. Collecting the ball whilst on the move in a Charlton break, the teenager quickly spotted the run of Jackson and played in an inch perfect pass for the skipper to finish past Olejnik. The travelling fans responded by singing Jackson’s chant continuously, that is until the Addicks won a corner. The skipper’s delivery skinned the head of Taylor, but found its way out to Solly whose cross was blocked but not cleared as Solly again had the ball at his feet. His dinked ball was powerfully headed at goal by Morrison at the far post and, with players and fans alike appealing for a goal with the ball appearing to be over the line, Haynes made sure by smashing the ball into the roof of the net. The away fans in the terrace were bouncing all over the place as Haynes ran past pointing to his name and number before ripping off his shirt in fantastic celebrations. The goal scorer was promptly booked; well worth it for such a celebration.
With the confidence flowing and the Charlton fans louder than ever, the Addicks began to dominate once more. Almost immediately after the goal there was a fantastic chance for Charlton to double their lead as Harriott broke down the left, played in Pritchard who in turn found Wilson, only for the wingers cross to be turned away. However, the ball fell straight to Wiggins’ feet but instead of lashing it at goal like the situation probably required; he chose to attempt to pick Harriott and only succeeded in rolling the ball behind for a goal kick. Haynes remained at the centre of the action, heading over from a Wiggins cross and then, in another fantastic chance, found himself one on one with Olejnik in a position that didn’t favour a shot, but his hesitancy meant his chipped ball to Fuller in the middle was cut out by Zakuani when an early ball would have almost certainly produced goal number three for the Addicks.
But in the position Peterborough find themselves in, they were never going to lie down and accept defeat and they soon overcame the Charlton storm, starting one of their own with a Gayle effort that Button saved well. A drive Mendez-Laing free-kick from the left somehow evaded everyone in the box, eventually falling at the feet of Tomlin but his shot was fantastically blocked by the impressive Jackson. The resulting corner was only half cleared and the ball sat up perfectly for Bostwick to try his luck, and his effort went through a sea of bodies before going underneath Button and nestling in the bottom corner of the net. Whilst not against the run of play, it was an underserved equaliser in the grand scheme of things, with Charlton again made to rue missed chances.
Charlton introduced Obika, whilst Peterborough brought on Tyrone Barnett, who had previously been transfer listed by the club, as both sides searched for a winner. Jackson came close from a free-kick as Olejnik was forced to turn over and Haynes came even close from a corner moments later but his header went just wide after connecting with the ball at the near post. With the game entering the final five minutes, it was Peterborough who were looking more likely to score, and Barnett flashed a shot just wide of Button’s far post whilst Charlton were made to withstand a heavy onslaught of corners. In a rare moment inside the opposition’s box, Obika almost won it for Charlton, but his close range shots after the ball had fallen to him from a throw were both blocked by some last ditched Peterborough defending.
With stoppage time being played, Peterborough had one last chance to win it as another one of their corners caused havoc with Rowe’s header saved at point blank range by Button, causing a goal mouth scramble with Jackson eventually getting the ball away for another corner. But despite the chances created from both sides, there was to be no winner, and the positive reaction of Charlton’s mightily loud away following said it all in terms of which set of supporters were more appreciative of the point.
Another fantastic away performance, as Charlton fans have come to expect this season, that could have given so much more, another factor that Charlton fans have come to expect this season. It’s difficult to say but Charlton marginally had the better of the game and definitely had the better positions from which to win the game or extend their lead, but the point is a vital one to keep them away from the bottom three.
There were some fantastic individual performances: Button pulled off some excellent saves, Harriott showed yet more promise whilst Haynes looked sharp. However, special mention must go to Johnnie Jackson; a captain’s performance of the highest order. When the chips are down, he tends to come up with the goods, Cardiff and Watford spring to mind, and that’s exactly what Jackson did again. The goal capped off a fantastic display that was one of his best in a Charlton shirt after a quiet period. I wouldn’t want anyone else leading this Charlton side.
Whilst that six point cushion and our performances away from home give me little reason to panic, a win over Huddersfield on Saturday is vitally important to avoiding any chance of Charlton being dragged into trouble. A repeat performance with the chances created taken and I see no reason why the Addicks won’t be travelling home with three points on Saturday evening.