If the assertive applause and brief cheers that met the final whistle at the iPro on Saturday were telling that Charlton’s point was a good one, then the somewhat muted response from the away end come full-time at the City Ground was a suggestion that this was a more frustrating draw.
In part, disappointment was born out of a display that featured more poor periods than impressive ones. The Addicks not as composed as they were against Derby County, frequently passing erratically, and often making questionable decisions in the final third.
Such sloppiness allowed Nottingham Forest, decimated by injuries, to be the game’s better side. Charlton’s moves forward regularly cut out before they had even began, Henri Lansbury in control in the middle, and the hosts’ diagonal balls always testing.
But the bulk of the frustration to have come away from Nottingham with just a point came from the fact that, in the moments where Guy Luzon’s side were able to show a touch of quality, the Addicks were able to create the game’s best chances.
For while Forest were more consistent, launching useful looking attacks throughout the game, they lacked a cutting edge in the final third. Charlton more likely to lose the ball than keep it, but agonisingly close when there was fluency in their moves forward.
If Simon Makienok, in some moments threating to be Yann Kermorgant’s heir but largely looking like a taller and blonder George Tucudean, had finished one of three glorious chances to head the Addicks in front, then victory might well have been theirs.
The first a sitter missed, the second tougher but still a fantastic opportunity, and the third requiring Forest goalkeeper Dorus De Vries to make a stunning save. The Dutch stopper also miraculously denying Patrick Bauer to prevent the stalemate being broken.
And maybe it was Makienok’s performance that summed up his side’s night in general. Effort not lacking, and enough moments of quality to feel victory could have been secured, but far too much dross to confidently claim the Addicks had suffered an injustice or deserved three points.
With Charlton suffering so many periods of sloppiness, it’s fair to say that the delight expressed when Forest’s team news was revealed ultimately became relief.
For the absence of Michail Antonio, so often unplayable and as likely as anyone in Charlton’s unchanged side to win the game on his own, left Forest considerably weaker. Both wingers starting in his place were Burkes.
But both experienced Chris and youngster Oliver showed themselves to be much more dangerous than their last names would suggest. The former particularly impressive early on, with the Scot finding a way past Chris Solly and curling an effort over Nick Pope’s goal.
And despite Forest’s early dominance, capitalising upon a very slow start from the visitors, Pope’s main contribution to the game continued to be watching wayward strikes sail harmless behind.
An unmarked Lansbury teed up, sending his strike well over, while Dexter Blackstock was unable to capitalise after Chris Burke left both Solly and Johann Berg Gudmundsson for dead, glancing a header wide.
Alas, with passing out from the back poor and Makienok unable to hold the ball up, it was never going to be long before the unnecessary pressure the Addicks were putting themselves under resulted in a testing Forest effort.
Diarra suicidally sending a pass straight into Jamie Ward’s path, whose shot was spilled by Pope and needed to be hacked clear by the Frenchman. Scottish Burke striking the loose ball wide, giving the increasingly nervous occupiers of the away end a chance to breath.
The hospital ball from Diarra, however, seemed to provide the scare Charlton required to kick themselves into gear. Composure growing, passing slicker, and Forest’s half finally ventured into. Johann Berg Gudmundsson delivering from the right, and only the intervention of Kelvin Wilson denying Makienok an opportunity to score.
But it was a cross from the left that produced that half’s best chance, and one that really should have been taken. The impressive Morgan Fox picking out an unmarked Makienok, who somehow conspired to head over when it looked easier to score.
And before the cries of anguish in the away end had died down, the giant Dane had got himself on the end of yet another superb ball sent in from the left. Makienok, however, was once again guilty of wasting a very good chance having dived to meet Cristian Ceballos’s cross and headed off-target.
By this point, a section of Charlton’s visiting support had taken to sarcastically cheering each time the 6’7 forward managed to win a header. Frequently he was beaten to the ball, or outmuscled when played into his chest or feet. The headers won merely skimming off his head and handing possession back to Forest, most worryingly in his own box with Diarra needed to block a Forest effort.
So it was of some to surprise to his critics that, as the Addicks continued to grow more confident, the Dane managed to send Gudmundsson through with a wonderful chested pass. A rare moment of quality in a half hour of struggle.
With the man he supplied hauled down on the edge of Forest’s box, the strike that followed totally eclipsed the excellence of the pass. It appeared to be positioned too wide for Gudmundsson to trouble de Vries, but the Dutchman was nowhere to be seen as the free-kick dipped a fraction too late to squeeze underneath the bar.
It proved to be the moment that a relatively exhilarating period of attacking play come to an end for the Addicks, with Forest regrouping and beginning to offer greater resilience. So too did they begin to get forward again, with the other Burke crossing for Blackstock to head wide.
And while Diarra, settled after his earlier error, rose highest to head wide from a corner, Charlton were handed further scares before the break. Ward seemingly through after Fox had left him unmarked in the box for Oliver Burke to pick out, but the young full-back recovered superbly, and the all-action Lansbury again blasted over having been given the space to try his luck.
It meant Forest arguably went in at the break as the better of the two sides. There was, however, no argument that the Addicks had enjoyed the game’s best chance.
As such, there was no panic or desperate calls from the away end for changes. Merely a hope that the composed and confident play seen in the ten minute period of Charlton dominance could be replicated throughout the duration of the second half.
Alas, it was immediately obvious they were not going to get their wish. Makienok horribly misplacing a pass, allowing Forest to break and win a corner that saw the ball fall kindly to Michael Mancienne. The former Chelsea man, thankfully, firing over.
That chance was not merely a one off. Much like in the first half, Forest looked sharper in the opening moments of the second. Charlton’s decision making in forward positions, particularly the choices made by the unusually quiet Tony Watt, frustrating, while the hosts threatened. Lansbury much closer than he had been in the opening 45 with a strike from distance.
And although the removal of Blackstock and the injured Ward, replaced by youngsters Tyler Walker and Jorge Grant, threatened to disrupt Forest, it in fact provided a new challenge for Charlton’s back four. The pace of Walker catching out Bauer, forcing him to concede a free-kick that was slammed into the wall by Lansbury and just about hacked away after some in-box pinball.
The introduction of the youngsters, mixed with Forest’s control of the game, had brought the City Ground alive. Roars of excitement heard whenever Walker or Grant were running forward, and a further increase in the noise level made after David Vaughan flashed an effort narrowly over Pope’s crossbar.
With the Addicks under pressure, and the home supporters encouraging their depleted side to continue to perform against the odds, the changes seemingly not needed at half-time now had to be made. Bizarrely, though, Luzon’s first move was to withdraw Watt and replace him with Reza Ghoochannejhad.
Watt quiet, most certainly, but without his presence the Addicks had lost their main outlet and creative threat. The Ghoochannejhad and Makienok partnership seemingly tame.
However, it was the pair combining which proved to be the catalyst for Charlton not only settling back into the contest, but taking brief control. Ghoochannejhad’s superb cross flicked on by Makienok, but quite incredibly saved by de Vries in the bottom corner.
For the chances continued to come, with Ceballos’ delivery taking a deflection which meant it just evaded the lively Ghoochannejhad.
And from the resulting corner, de Vries pulled off a stop more sensational than his first. Bauer meeting powerfully with Gudmundsson’s delivery, only for the Dutch goalkeeper to block the ball away with a barely believable reaction save.
From being on the back foot, and looking incredibly nervy, to relentlessly bombing forward. This was some turnaround by the Addicks, and was only built upon when Ghoochannejhad was sent through and upended by Mills. Disappointment followed, however, as Gudmundsson wasted the dead ball and the Iranian forward spent ten minutes hobbling about before being withdrawn.
In fact, Forest soon reaffirmed their control of the contest. Walker played in behind, his shot flashing across the face of goal, and Chris Burke helpfully falling over when the loose ball fell to him at the back post.
And it was Walker’s strike partner who had Forest’s best chance to win it. A chance almost as clear-cut as Charlton’s best openings.
A quick break, something that the introduction of the youngsters had introduced to Forest’s armoury, concluded with Lansbury cutting back to Grant, who somehow spooned his effort over from very close range. The mood in the away end was one that demanded victory, but now it was a little more cautious.
Particularly with the usually faultless Solly almost embarrassed as the game entered stoppage time. The full-back unable to deal with a delivery from the right, allowing Chris Burke to pounce, but the Scot once again lost his balance as he moved to shoot.
But one final chance for the Addicks meant there were cries of frustration as Pope attempted to run down the clock at the other end. Fox crossing across the face of goal and unintentionally picking out fellow academy graduate Karlan Ahearne-Grant, but the youngster’s effort was blocked having momentarily had sight of a half-empty net.
It meant the visitors were forced to settle for a point. A statement that can be suggested is true given the opportunities they created, but so too was there a fair amount of relief come full-time. A game the Addicks could have as easily lost as won.
For Forest, especially when you consider their injury struggles, transfer embargo-related lack of depth and the absence of Antonio, can be pleased with their general performance. Really, all it lacked was some quality in attack.
The Burkes made Solly and Fox work extremely hard, while the energy and confidence of Walker pushed the hosts higher and put Charlton under pressure, but the clear openings created were minimal. For all their possession and well-constructed forward moves, rarely were Forest able to find a way beyond the once again impressive Bauer.
By contrast, I’m not sure you can feel as warmly about your side’s performance if you are an Addick. Evidently promising in parts, when pace on the counter was shown, but the sloppiness made it relatively uninspiring at times.
That possibly best summed up by Watt’s lively runs frequently finding dead ends, and both Ahmed Kashi and Jordan Cousins being a little erratic in their passing. The first game of this season where it didn’t quite come off as you would have liked for Luzon’s side.
And yet, were it not for Makienok’s wastefulness and the brilliance of de Vries, a gritty win could be being celebrated. The real strength of this side is that irrespective of the overall performance, the likes of Gudmundsson and Ceballos, weak when challenged but impressive when in space, will always create openings.
That Makienok was unable to finish just one of his chances remains a huge frustration, and a contributing factor to my continued desire to see more from him.
I cannot repeat enough that we don’t have a poor player on our hands. The third of his chances a genuinely nice header, while there were moments where he managed to make an impact with some link-up play.
But too regularly is he beaten to the ball in the air. Too regularly is possession immediately given to the opposition even after the first contact with a ball there to be won is made by him. Too regularly does he struggle with the ball at his feet.
Thankfully, irrespective of the misses and a general feeling that he is finding the Championship a little testing so far, he does not appear short of confidence. The desire to work is still there in abundance, and hopefully something that will lead to more being shown.
The Dane a player who you would like to see improve, along with the consistency of Charlton’s overall attacking effort and ball retention, so that these tight games can be won.
Regardless, to come away from the City Ground with a point is not to be sniffed at. Nor is Charlton’s unbeaten start to the campaign; five points a much higher return then I expected from the first three.
A more than decent platform from which to build upon, with maybe a few areas that could be improved, and will need to be for the tough test Hull City will offer on Saturday.