A respectable 2-2 draw at Middlesbrough was met with a measure of disappointment and frustration from Chris Powell and his Charlton team after they had led by two goals within the first twenty minutes. In November Charlton were outclassed by a Middlesbrough side who tore them to shreds at The Valley. For large periods of this fixture, however, it was boys in black from South London who looked a step above. This wasn’t a ground out, backs to the wall, away point. It was a performance of confidence, swagger and style as Charlton continually opened up Boro’s defence at will.
Kermorgant took on the role of playmaker, continually playing threatening balls for Fuller or later Obika to run onto. In the middle, an unfamiliar pairing of Mark Gower and Danny Hollands looked as if they’d roomed together for years – Hollands putting in arguably his best performance in the Championship to date. Yet for all the positives, Charlton only left with a point and Chris Powell will be left scratching his head as to how it wasn’t three.
Charlton came into this fixture off the back of a last minute winner against Wolves which had seen them pick up 14 points from six games. So it was no surprise to see the side take off immediately; flying into a lead after just 30 seconds. Bums had barely touched seats and Middlesbrough were yet to get a touch before Bradley Pritchard notched his third goal of the season.
With the ball seemingly bouncing off for an innocuous throw in Charlton’s half, Callum Harriot flicked the ball on for Yann Kermorgant who proceeded to play the first of many brilliant through balls for Ricardo Fuller to latch onto. Fuller, in behind the Boro defence, raced to the byline before cutting the ball back toward the penalty spot where Pritchard steamed into the area and smashed high into the net.
It was a breathless opening for Charlton and despite being 1-0 up, they showed no signs of slowing down. Within twenty minutes, they had doubled their lead. After one of football’s biggest physical mismatches between Andre Bikey and Bradley Pritchard inevitably resulted in a Charlton free-kick, the Addicks took the opportunity to strike again. Mark Gower and Yann Kermorgant stood over the free-kick, assessing their options. After a quick discussion, the talismanic Frenchman peeled off on a looping run behind the Boro defence. Gower found him with aplomb and Kermorgant volleyed a dangerous cross into the heart of the box that defender Rhys Williams could only steer into his own net.
2-0 up and it was no less than Charlton deserved after a first half display of total dominance. Indeed, despite the impressive score line, Charlton may have gone into the dressing room ruing a missed chance and strong penalty appeal that would have seen them extend their lead even further. The latter came after another visionary Kermorgant pass had put Fuller through in the area. The Jamaican embarked on a trademark jinking run, and was undoubtedly tripped, yet somehow referee Darren Drysdale refused to point to the spot. The chance for 3-0 fell to Kermorgant who curled inches wide after the diminutive Pritchard brilliant escaped two challenges and set up the striker.
Middlesbrough, who set up in a 4-5-1 /4-2-3-1 formation, struggled to create any sustained pressure on the Charlton area. A withdrawn Marvin Emnes was ineffective while striker Curtis Main was isolated as an advanced forward. The hosts’ best chance to pull one back came when Bradley Pritchard brought down Emnes with a crude challenge, yet once again Drysdale seemed unwilling to award a penalty.
In the second half Tony Mowbray reacted to a limp performance by introducing Ledesma and McDonald – two players instrumental in Boro’s 4-1 win earlier in the season. Immediately the home side improved, with McDonald particularly making a difference. The Australian forward moved between the lines, evading the attention of Charlton’s defenders and cracking shots on goal.
Mowbray switched to a conventional 4-4-2, and with Marvin Emnes pushed further forward, Middlesbrough began to threaten Charlton’s goal. The home side did finally made the break through with fifteen minutes remaining. Grant Leadbitter’s perfectly weighted cross found Emnes whose scuffed footed finish wrong-footed Hamer.
Middlesbrough were improving, yet Charlton had continued to create chances. Ricardo Fuller had a shot deflected just wide at 2-0, and went one better on 78 minutes - finding the back of the net after Kermorgant’s teasing cross gifted him an empty net. Yet Charlton were denied the goal by a dubious offside flag. Fuller was swiftly replaced by Obika who himself missed a golden opportunity.
It was to prove costly for Charlton, as Scott MacDonald nodded in an 87th minute corner to snatch a point for a side who had been second best for most of the afternoon. To concede so late was undoubtedly a cruel blow for Charlton, but it is a sign of the huge strides they’ve taken this season that they will be disappointed with just a point from the Riverside.