The positives will undoubtedly be promoted by those connected to both Charlton Athletic and Leeds United. Misfortune the justification for neither being able to break the deadlock. The story of missed chances retold with a hint of frustration, but without being unnecessary critical of those who led the respective forward lines.
For both sides will argue that they did enough to come away from a rather dull affair with three points. That it would not have been undeserved if their brief periods of pressure, bursting out of longer lulls, had been capitalised upon.
That particularly true as the tensest of first half affairs, briefly interrupted by a passage of Charlton chances, opened up somewhat in the latter stages of the second period.
The most marvellous of reflex stops from Marco Silvestri denying Ricardo Vaz Te’s first-time prod towards goal, before Lewis Cook, blocked by the cumbersome body of teammate of Chris Wood, and Tom Adeyemi, bizarrely guiding the ball wide when it looked easier to score, went close for the visitors. A victory would not have dramatically flattered either side.
But so too was this an afternoon that exposed the faults, those away from the vast quantity to criticise in respective boardrooms, that have contributed to both these sides hovering towards the bottom of the table.
An inconsistency, not just game-to-game but minute-to-minute, that more formidable opposition could have easily exploited. A lack of composure and discipline both in attack and at the back, increasing wasted chances and the amount gifted to the opposition.
Then there’s the additional concerns for the Addicks. The lack of options available on the bench, coupled with what is seemingly a lack of fitness throughout the side, that means the final period of the game was again something of a struggle. Karel Fraeye’s side incredibly close to being punished for their sloppiness in the closing stages.
As such, the dispirited huff from the Covered End come full-time followed by reluctant applause was most fitting. A grim watch at times, and certainly nothing worth celebrating, but nor could you walk away from SE7 full of rage.
Ultimately, a not too disappointing share of the spoils, but a game a competent side would have taken all three points from.
A certain degree of competence was hoped for with the news that Johnnie Jackson was fit enough to return to Charlton’s starting XI. The skipper resuming his talismanic duties having been withdrawn during the defeat to Ipswich Town, replacing the suspended Patrick Bauer.
The only other change from their defeat to Brighton saw Tareiq Holmes-Dennis replace Morgan Fox, meaning Alou Diarra dropped into the centre of defence, and partnered Harry Lennon, having been declared fit in the week following the head injury sustained against the Seagulls.
The relative stability in the side meant another a chance for the four forward-minded players who led Charlton’s first half counter-attacks at The AMEX to great effect. Vaz Te and Reza Ghoochannejhad flanked by Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Ademola Lookman.
And, after an incident-free opening ten minutes, it was the central pair of that attacking force that sparked the Addicks into life. Vaz Te feeding Ghoochannejhad superbly, and the forward’s resulting shot flashing through Silverstri’s open legs and agonisingly across the face of goal. A subdued, possibly apathetic, crowd finally finding something that resembled a voice.
Further encouragement was awarded to those home supporters two minutes later, as the forwards linked up once again. Vaz Te doing very well to win his battles against the Leeds back four, before being able to feed Ghoochannejhad. The Iranian eager, and striking off-target with some venom from distance.
There was no let-up in this brief serge on Leeds’ goal. A roar of anticipation following Lookman as he bombed forward, jinking in and out of those in yellow who stood ahead of him. Silvestri required to parry the driven effort away.
An effort more threatening than Leeds’ first meaningful strike on goal. Alex Mowatt’s free-kick, dubiously awarded after Jackson had been harshly penalised for clipping Adeyemi, floating over the wall and landing in Stephen Henderson’s hands with minimal fuss.
In fact, that free-kick slotted perfectly into the rather unenjoyable pattern that the game developed into. Referee Andy Davies extremely strict in his decision making, only enhancing the scrappy and sluggish nature of the affair, and neither side threatening enough when finally finding themselves in attacking positions.
A part of that was diligent defending from both those in red and those in yellow. Lennon, dominant in the air and strong in the tackle, excellently dealing with the far more experienced Wood, while Vaz Te, though holding the ball up well, could not get the better of Liam Cooper to the extent that it set his side towards goal.
But so too did rather tame and wayward finishing play a part. The Addicks collectively standing off Lewis Cook, but the talented youngster fired horribly off-target; a feat that Gudmundsson replicated at the other end having surged towards goal.
A Ghoochannejhad effort, taking a deflection on its way through, saved comfortably and a Mowatt strike dragged wide as half-time approached did little to inspire those attempting to persist with this turgid affair. Charlton’s disciplined performance well received by the Covered End as their side headed down the tunnel, but this game desperately needed to open up somewhat.
However, there remained a tense and tight feel to the game as it resumed after the break. Neither side yet willing to totally commit to the idea of victory. The misdirected shots and largely unnecessary fouls continued.
Even when the shots on goal were threatening, there was a degree of frustration. Lookman’s dance through Leeds’ defence deserved a better conclusion than a sliced strike that Silvestri could comfortably watch sail past his post, while Ghoochannejhad’s selfishness, opting to shoot wide from distance when a pass to Gudmundsson appeared the better option, angered the Covered End.
But just maybe something resembling confidence was beginning to appear. Holmes-Dennis’ skill to break into the box superb, and his resulting cross only inches away from Jackson getting serious contact on the ball. The volume increasing.
If not for long, as panic soon returned. Dallas easily able to get in behind Charlton’s defence, but Henderson equal to his effort at the near post. The goalkeeper not needed from the resulting corner, as a cleverly-worked set-piece concluded with Charlie Taylor’s first-time strike flying comfortable wide.
Panic rife in Leeds’ defence, too, as this stale affair was beginning to become more desirable. Those in yellow slow to react to what initially appeared to be an unthreatening low cross from Ghoochannejhad, allowing Vaz Te to steal in and prod towards goal.
Such was his position that there were premature celebrations in the Covered End, cancelled by the emphatic hand of Silvestri. A marvellous reaction stop from the Italian goalkeeper, palming the ball around his post.
The goalkeeper tested by Vaz Te again just a few moments later, but his job a far easier one on this occasions. The Portuguese forward’s free-kick lacking power, and comfortably collected by Leeds’ number one.
It appeared as if the Addicks were building momentum, or at least the most likely to win the game with a little over 15 minutes to play. A mood not tapered by Adeyemi’s wayward effort, looping the ball wide from Cook’s cross.
But if it wasn’t that opening that proved the catalyst for Leeds’ dominance in the closing stages, then it was their next shot on goal. Or at least what would have been their next shot on goal, with Dallas teeing up Cook, had Wood not accidentally stuck his body in the way of it. The ball almost certainly heading for the back of the net were it not for the New Zealander’s intervention.
Several bodies in red now appeared tired, unable to cope with the wave of pressure that the visitors were in the midst of. And a few of them were looking at each other in confusion as Adeyemi, latching onto substitute Jordan Botaka’s ball, appeared unmarked just a matter of yards from goal.
Somehow, though, the Cardiff loanee managed to divert his effort off-target, possibly clipping the post on its way out. Even with Henderson making himself big in front of him, there was no excuse for wasting such an opening. A huge let off for the Addicks.
It was the incentive for Fraeye to finally freshen up his side, although that Simon Makienok, replacing Jackson, and El-Hadji Ba, on for Ghoochannejhad, were the introductions he opted for indicates the lack of depth in this side. Unsurprisingly, the introduction of that pair did little to halt Leeds’ dominant spell.
Adeyemi had a chance to make amends, but Henderson was able to tip away his snap shot, before the ball fell to Gaetano Berardi inside the box, only for the Italian to fire deep into the Leeds fans behind the goal.
And though Diarra, in forcing Silvestri to save from his header in an elongated period of stoppage time, drew something that resembled a chance for the Addicks late on, it’s fair to say that the full-time whistle was something of a relief for home supporters.
Not only to put them out of the misery that was watching this rather dull affair, but Leeds looked the side most likely to win it late on. Charlton supporters shuffling away from The Valley, wondering what might have been had their side taken one of their earlier chances.
In fact, were it not for those wasted chances, this would be a game best forgotten as quickly as possible. Two poor sides, lacking composure and quality, playing at a slow and scrappy tempo.
Even when the Addicks were at their most threatening, they did not match the best standard of counter-attacking football seen in the first half at the AMEX last week, and more could have been done with the openings that were actually created.
At the very least, there was, for 70 minutes at least, a great defensive resolve. Diarra relatively composed, Lennon reading the game impressively well, while Chris Solly and Holmes-Dennis were persistent. Jackson, too, was dogged.
But the worry again is how quickly the players tired beyond that 70 minute mark. The space afforded to Leeds in the final passage of the game far too much, and the Addicks incredibly fortunate not to have conceded. Yet another reminder that greater squad depth is required, as if there was anyone apart from Katrien Meire who didn’t know that already.
The question is whether this was two points dropped, or one point gained. A win against Bolton on Tuesday, and it’s certainly a point gained, and I’m inclined to say it’s a point gained regardless given the nature of Leeds’ chances late on.
Nonetheless, it still feels like something of a wasted opportunity. The Whites equally as lacklustre, and there for the taking. A sluggishness in the final third costly.