At times they were resilient. Sitting deep and allowing Derby County all the possession they wanted in midfield, but strong and organised at the back.
At others, heroic, if not desperate, interventions were needed to prevent the Rams from concluding an attacking move with a goal. A stunning block from Alou Diarra, a goal line clearance from Patrick Bauer, and Nick Pope saving well on several occasions.
And there were a few moments when luck was required to stop the hosts snatching all three points. Glorious chances wasted after finally finding a way to break down the determined defence.
But maybe the biggest indication of the pressure Charlton were placed under in the second half is that, despite taking the lead shortly after half-time, their efforts to hold on for a point were celebrated at full-time almost as if a victory had been achieved.
For this was a point that many would have settled for even after Tony Watt’s deflected strike left former Addick Scott Carson flat-footed and looped into the top corner of his goal with 48 minutes played.
Especially with the Rams immediately showing the class that they had threatened to do in the opening 45. They Addicks surviving twenty minutes of constant bombardment before Chris Martin spun inside the box and tucked the ball beyond Pope in almost one movement.
And while Guy Luzon didn’t instruct his side to place eleven men behind the ball, with Watt and Johann Berg Gudmundsson spritely on the break, Derby’s equaliser only served to increase the pressure Charlton were put under.
The Reds, however, rarely buckled in the face of it. The sheer magnitude of possession the Rams enjoyed in and around their final third meant the sense that a goal was coming did not die, but, through both fortune and fight, the Addicks continued to frustrate the opposition.
It meant the full-time whistle was met with relief as Charlton supporters’ hearts finally moved away from their mouths, and pride that allowed for celebration given just how determined their side was to defy a high-class outfit in Derby.
In some ways, the gap between the Addicks and a side who will undoubtedly be up there come May was obvious. In others, those in red battled to the extent that they went toe-to-toe with the Rams, and a defeat would not have been reflective of the effort shown to prevent it.
Fears of a defeat prior to kick-off were dramatically calmed with the announcement that Watt, a doubt pre-game owing to a knock picked up in Tuesday’s victory over Dagenham & Redbridge, was fit to start.
The talismanic forward’s introduction against QPR completed changed the pattern of the game, and allowed Charlton to dominate the second period. The Addicks immeasurably better with him in the side.
And that seemed to be the case early on at the iPro, as Charlton began with the same energy and intensity that they finished the game against the R’s with.
In fact, they could have been a goal to the good after just 13 seconds. Chris Solly’s long ball flicked on by Simon Makienok for Cristian Ceballos, replacing El Hadji-Ba in the starting XI, to volley off-target.
But while that chance was promising, it was their efforts without the ball that were more pleasing.
Watt constantly pressurising Derby’s centre-backs, who panicked more than once in attempting to play out from the back, Jordan Cousins, back in the middle, seemingly everywhere and giving the impressive Rams midfield no time on the ball, and Patrick Bauer, who needed to make a stunning tackle to prevent Tom Ince from moving through on goal, reading the game at the back superbly.
As long as the Addicks continued to press high, show some resolve, and remain organised, it was not out of the question that they could come away from Derby with all three points. Carson saving from Gudmundsson’s strike, having cut inside, providing further cause for optimism.
Charlton, however, were never going to maintain such a level of intensity. Organisation thankfully not sacrificed, but the high pressing game abandoned with 20 minutes played, as Derby began to be given more time on the ball and look characteristically composed.
So too was Ince beginning to cause more of a threat on the right hand side. Morgan Fox left for dead as the former Blackpool winger broke into the box, only for Martin to horribly slice his cutback wide. Especially with one of the division’s most prolific forwards on the end of it, it was a huge opening for the Rams.
But while Derby continued to grow into their stride, with George Throne, metronomic in the middle and now beating Cousins to loose balls, crisply volleying over from distance, it was Charlton who had arguably the first half’s best chance.
Surprising not only because it came completely against the run of play, but also because of the manner in which the opening arrived. Solly’s cross somehow bouncing through to Ceballos, with Carson doing extremely well to deny the Spaniard from point-blank range, and then pounce on the ball. There may have been a few premature celebrations in the already noisy away end.
The Addicks creating an opportunity, however, did little to change the pattern of the contest. The Rams immediately heading down the other end, with Jeff Hendrick, having been invited to shoot, drilling an effort marginally wide of Pope’s post.
But it did issue a reminder that, despite Derby’s ever-increasing attacking threat, Charlton needn’t have been afraid to drive forward. While they were working hard in midfield and superb defensively, their attacking play was minimal, and ineffective when shown.
Half the issue was indecisiveness. Gudmundsson breaking forward towards the end of the half and stuttering before releasing the ball into the path of Ceballos too late for it to be dangerous. The less said about the Spaniard’s resulting corner, the better.
The other part of the problem was that the 6’7 forward wasn’t winning headers, and nor were Makienok’s flick-ons and passes finding their desired target. The opening 45 a struggle for the Dane.
Nonetheless, surviving to half-time without conceding provided the Addicks with a platform from which to build upon in the second period. A half with more positives to take from it than negatives.
That platform, however, might well have been destroyed just a minute after the interval. A superb forward move from the Rams concluded with Martin squaring to Hendrick, only for the Irishman to be denied what seemed to be a certain goal by the most incredible block from Diarra.
Instead, the Frenchman’s block seemingly made that platform stronger. For the next time the Addicks managed to move forward, they pulled ahead.
In truth, there was more than a touch of good fortune about it. Makienok, finally getting ahead of Richard Keogh and Jason Shackell to win a header, knocked down for Watt to pick up, who drove forward and unleashed a fierce strike which took a wicked deflection.
It left Carson stranded, and sent the ball flying into the top corner. Would the ball have found the back of the net without the fortuitous deflection? Unlikely. But it took absolutely nothing away from the celebrations on the pitch, and in the away end.
Unfortunately, nor did it hinder Derby’s control of the game. The Rams, as if they hadn’t just fallen behind, immediately back into their impressive stride, with Martin heading Craig Forsyth’s cross into Pope’s hands.
And Pope was beaten a little over five minutes after the goal, with Ince’s delivery finding its way through to Hendrick, who poked beyond Charlton’s stand-in goalkeeper. But Bauer, rather heroically, was able to get back and clear the ball just as it was rolling over the line. The visiting supporters responding with “we’ve got a big fucking German”.
Nonetheless, showing a bit more intent than in the latter stages of the first half, the Addicks did not simply sit back and accept they were sitting ducks. Gudmundsson driving forward, seeing an effort deflect narrowly wide, and pin ball from the resulting corner conclude with Diarra’s powerful header being blocked away.
A second goal would have done Charlton the world of good, as Russell’s connection with the influential Forsyth’s cross trickled across the face of goal, and there were still more opportunities for the Addicks to double their lead. Makienok teed up by Watt, but driving straight at Carson.
So, with the visitors holding their own in the face of increasing pressure, to finally concede an equaliser was hugely frustrating. Young midfield Jamie Hanson, as impressive as anyone on the pitch, laying in Martin following a quickly-taking free-kick, allowing the Scot to turn and neatly finish past Pope.
The fear was that, with over 20 minutes to go, momentum would be so strongly in Derby’s favour that their pressure would result in a further goal. Makienok, rising highest from Gudmundsson’s corner but heading over, attempted to disprove that theory.
But worry never vanished in a tense away end, with fingernails bitten as Pope clawed out Thorne’s top corner strike and flung himself on the loose ball to deny substitute Andreas Weimann from pouncing.
And Pope, proving his worth as deputy to Stephen Henderson, was forced into yet another decent save when Tom Ince’s dipping free-kick looked to be heading towards the bottom corner. The young stopper tipping the effort around the post.
With the game now entering its final ten minutes, Gudmundsson firing wide from distance did little but momentarily allow a break from crippling nervousness. Derby building up from the back, flinging the ball out to Ince or Forsyth, and from there attempting to pick out a man in the middle again and again.
More often than not, however, a player in red was there to beat away the final delivery. Never were they close to the Rams away from the box, but Charlton’s efforts at the back meant they were restricted to half-chances. Weimann managing to find a rare bit of space in the middle, and flicking Forsyth’s cross narrowly wide.
Johnnie Jackson, making his 200th appearance for the club, and El-Hadji Ba, replacing the largely ineffective Makienok and the shattered Gudmundsson, were brought on to assist the rear-guard effort. Luzon certainly wise to abandon his attacking principles, with the extra bodies required for desperate blocks at the back.
But even that might not have been enough for the Addicks, with Bauer and Diarra suffering a rare breakdown in their defensive wall. Martin left unmarked in stoppage time, only for Pope to superbly tip his header over the bar. Breathing erratic among those occupying the away end.
Nor did it return to a normal rate before three successive corners were dealt with. Cheers heard as a shattered Watt cleared long up the pitch and out of play, effectively ending the game.
And the full-time whistle followed not long after the Rams had been able to take the resulting throw in. Disappointment among the hosts and their supporters, who have every right to argue they deserved victory, obvious, but the delight among the Addicks on the pitch and in the stands confirming this was a point gained, and one gained in determined fashion.
For while I will make no attempt to dispute that Derby were the better of the two sides, and did more than enough to win the game, I will suggest that Charlton’s resolve earned them both an element of good fortune and their point.
This was not the sluggish Rams that their early-season results promised. It was a fully-functioning unit, that completely controlled the game with an impressive passing style from midway through the first half.
It was one that, irrespective of how organised, disciplined and defensively sound the Addicks were, had some cutting edge to it. The clear-cut chances created by the hosts were not spurned, but superbly stopped by those in red. Diarra throwing himself in front of everything and anything, Bauer almost faultless in his efforts to hold off the Rams, and Pope superb in between the sticks.
And more opportunities would have been created were it not for the efforts of those away from the heart of the defence. Solly and Fox rarely getting drawn into a position from which the increasingly dangerous Ince and Forsyth could beat them, Cousins and Ahmed Kashi rarely seeing possession in midfield, but never giving up the battle with Thorne and Mason, and Gudmundsson and Watt’s efforts on the break meant the Addicks remained threatening throughout the game and always had an out ball.
In fact, the only real disappointment was Makienok. In truth, he improved after a first half performance in which everything he attempted failed to come off, but he remained frustrating in the second period, with Shackell and Keogh getting the better of him far too often.
Not poor by any means, and certainly not lacking in effort, but you would really like to see a bit more from someone who promised so much prior to the season’s kick-off.
Nonetheless, the Dane’s somewhat disappointing afternoon took little away from the overall performance of the Addicks. The shape, structure and resolve of Luzon’s side providing an excellent point.
I look at Derby, and we are certainly not of that standard. But this side is capable of exciting attacking football, as seen last week, and gritty resolve. Promising.