By Alex Stedman –

A frustrating night at The Valley ended with the league leaders being held at home to a resilient and hardy Rochdale side. Charlton still remain seven points ahead of Sheffield United, but are aware that their promotion rivals now possess a game in hand.

Chris Powell decided to shuffle the pack, with Rhoys Wiggins selected at right back and Bradley Pritchard  given a start on the right hand side of the midfield. Cedric Evina also made a rare start at left back.  Captain Johnnie Jackson and stalwart Chris Solly were rested by Powell with fitness concerns.

The visitors managed to frustrate their opponents and restricted them to a small amount of opportunities. A shot flashed wide from Bradley Wright Phillips, whilst Ben Hamer and the Charlton defence had to be on their toes to keep Rochdale at bay.

Indeed, it was the away side who could have gone in front with Brian Barry-Murphy at the forefront of Rochdale’s intricate play. Nicky Adams also demonstrated his speed when challenging Wiggins in a foot race for the loose ball on several occasions. Evina’s strong runs caused Stephen Darby problems, but the two sides went in level.

The second half saw Rochdale take the lead, when Evina was caught out making another of his many ventures forward during the evening.  Gary Jones, the Rochdale skipper burst away down the exposed right hand side and his cut back was turned in by Adams.

At this point the 96 devoted Rochdale fans must have been thinking their trip was worthwile because, in truth, the home side hadn’t looked at their best all evening and really it was no surprise to see Dale take the lead.

Cue another set piece, but this time Yann Kermogant stepped up to disptach a wonderful 25 yard effort out of the reach of keeper Peter Kurucz.  This seemed to galvanise the table toppers because they went on to pile the pressure onto their opponents with Kermogant then being denied twice by the keeper, and Leon Clarke managing to miss when it looked easier to score.

But try as they might Charlton could not find a way past a solid Rochdale defence and thus were left frustrated and had to settle for a point. The result means that fans are starting to get a little bit nervous as the Reds have their conventional mid season ‘wobble’.

All of this means Saturday’s game at home to Stevenage is of great importance, and with a bumper crowd expected at The Valley, Powell will be hoping that they can roar his team on to obtain a well needed three points.

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