By Alex Stedman – http://theendofthedayfootball.blogspot.co.uk/
Charlton’s 20th anniversary back at The Valley saw a stalemate with Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday afternoon. The visitors came from behind twice to grab a share of the spoils as Charlton stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches. An entertaining game saw a Lawrie Wilson header and a first league goal for Bradley Pritchard cancelled out by Craig Mackail-Smith and Kazenga LuaLua levellers.
Manager Chris Powell made four changes to the side that earnt a hard fought point at South London neighbours Millwall the week before. Danny Haynes and Arsenal loanee Emmanuel Frimpong came into the side and were joined by Lawrie Wilson and Micheal Morrison. With Yann Kermogant, Leon Cort and Salim Kerkar all dropping to the bench.
Fans stood to applaud and a rousing rendition of Valley Floyd Road echoed around the stadium at 3.07pm, before Charlton were ahead two minutes later. Dale Stephens and Johnnie Jackson took a short corner from the left, and as the Brighton back line stood line statues, Wilson was on hand to glance the ball into the far corner to put Charlton ahead.
The home side went close to doubling that lead shortly afterwards as Rob Hulse worked himself an opening on the edge of the area and let fly with a stinging effort that forced Tomasz Kuszczak to tip the ball over the bar. Another set piece saw Jackson deliver the ball dangerously into the area, with Micheal Morrison then seeing his header sail over the bar as the hosts made a bright start on their big day.
Brighton then began to make inroads after having to withstand that early pressure. Poyet’s side are renowned for playing some of the best football in the division on their day, and Will Hoskins neat footwork sent Stephen Dobbie through on goal. With the midfielder looking destined to score, Ben Hamer stood firm and produced a wonderful block to keep his side ahead.
As the Seagulls began to flock towards the Addicks goal, Dorian Dervite had to be at his best to block another swift Albion attack. The pressure soon told on the Charlton defence, and an uncharacteristic mistake from Morrison allowed Mackail-Smith to level just before the half hour mark. The defender’s weak attempted header back to his keeper was pounced upon by the prolific football league front-man and he made no mistake with the finish, sliding the ball under Hamer and into the net.
As half time approached, both sides would have been happy with their play. After the hosts had started brightly, few could argue that Albion deserved to be on level terms, and the teams went in all square at the break.
After the restart Brighton continued to press, and Will Buckley raced away down the right before stinging the palms of Hamer. The ball was parried out to Dobbie, but he couldn’t provide the finish when it mattered most. Dobbie was then on the end of a neat knock-down form Mackail-Smith moments later, but he again shot high and wide as Charlton rode their luck in the opening exchanges of the second half.
A chance fell to Hulse, as the powerful front-man burst into the Brighton box, but he could only watch as his effort was knocked away by Kuszczak, but that offered little respite for a Charlton side beginning to look nervy at the back. Buckley’s quick turn of foot caught the Addicks cold once more, and he centred for Dobbie for the second time of asking before watching his team mate fire over for the third time of the match.
Intelligent distribution from Hamer almost led to a Charlton goal just before the hour mark. The keepers quick throw released the fleet footed Haynes down the right. The striker’s cross was met by the onrushing Pritchard but his header sailed comfortably into the arms of the Brighton keeper as both sides strived to take the lead.
It would be difficult for supporters to forget the last time Brighton visited The Valley. The Seagulls triumphed 4-0 over a weak and toothless Charlton side. The man who orchestrated that victory was Kazenga LuaLua, who produced two stunning strikes in the second half, and he entered the fray with twenty five minutes to play. As he lined up a free kick in all too familiar territory the Addicks crowd held their breath, but thankfully the midfielder could only blast the ball into the wall.
Then, on 70 minutes Charlton found themselves that all important goal that looked set to erase the memories of that defeat back in October 2010. Stephens found Hulse in the centre of the park and his intelligent through ball found the skipper Jackson out on the right, who crossed for Pritchard to swivel and find the far corner of the net. It wasn’t the most glamorous of finishes, but the former non-league man couldn’t hide his delight as a bundle ensued in front of the Covered End.
The jubilation was sadly short lived. As substitute Ashley Barnes weaved his way to the edge of the box on the right, Morrison clumsily brought him down to present LuaLua with a second sight at goal from close range. The tricky midfielder fired the ball low and hard, and after a huge deflection off Frimpong the ball evaded Hamer and rolled agonisingly into the net.
The game entered the closing stages with the scores level, and both sides had half chances to win it late on. Buckley was left in all kinds of space down the right, and Barnes couldn’t quite direct his centre on target. That was to be the last of the visitor’s chances, and after Morrison could only head the ball into the arms of Kuszczak the game came to a close.
Another credible point against another strong side demonstrates that Charlton can more than hold their own in this division. Tow tough away games at Bolton and Sheffield Wednesday are next on the agenda for the Londoners and with the side sitting just four points outside the play-offs, the key will be turning the draws into wins if the Addicks want to start dreaming of a push for promotion over the festive period.