Iain Liddle reports from Elland Road
Managers often talk about asking for a response from their players after a disappointing result. Charlton’s performance against Leeds on Tuesday evening could be detailed in coaching manuals for years to come as the perfect example of it.
There was no hiding place on Saturday in front of more than 26,000 fans at The Valley when Barnsley were smarter, quicker and well worth their 1-0 victory in SE7.
Rather than wallow, with the odds stacked against them in Yorkshire, the Addicks roared back.
From the start they were determined not to beaten to anything. They fought for everything, they covered every blade of grass and, in the end, will wonder how they did leave with more to show for it.
A quality finish from David Norris put Neil Warnock’s men in front, but after Dorian Dervite equalised with a powerful drive, there was only one side who looked like going on to win.
On the coach journey back to London, substitute Bradley Wright-Phillips will still be asking himself how at least one of his late efforts did not evade Paddy Kenny. Chris Solly would be entitled to ask the same.
The answer is that they came up against a goalkeeper who, bar a special effort from Dervite, would not be beaten. For example, his last-gasp save to deny Wright-Phillips should instantly be clipped and added to his personal highlight reel.
Charlton brought approximately 400 supporters with them, a fraction of those from the weekend, but word will spread back to the masses about the heart and passion evidenced in abundance by their heroes in red.
Following the defeat at home to The Tykes in front of a bumper Football for a Fiver crowd on Saturday, Chris Powell boldly made four changes to his starting line-up – with another being forced upon him before kick-off.
Replacing the injured Ricardo Fuller up front was Rob Hulse, making his first Addicks start against his former club and manager, while Johnnie Jackson, Cedric Evina and Dervite were all brought into the line-up.
The replaced trio of Danny Hollands, Danny Green and Abdul Razak all began on the substitutes’ bench – from which Bradley Pritchard was plucked minutes before kick-off to replace Dale Stephens, who was initially selected but felt his hamstring tighten in the warm up.
The changes meant Charlton began in effectively a 4-1-4-1 line-up, with Dervite sitting in front of the back four and Lawrie Wilson switching from right-back to right midfield.
Hulse began the contest by leading the line, with an eager Prithcard providing support at every opportunity.
However, barely seconds after the opening kick-off, the former Leeds forward went alone though and smartly controlled with his chest, before seeing his shot deflected wide for a corner. From the resulting set-piece Leon Cort collided with a home defender and saw his appeals for an early penalty waved away.
Home goalkeeper Paddy Kenny was called into action around a minute later when he acrobatically plucked a deep cross out of the air and off the awaiting head of Hulse, lurking with intent at the back post, but the Addicks appeared comfortable in a previously foreign formation.
Leeds are not one of the division’s promotion hopes for nothing however and they showed an early example of their threat when captain Jason Pearce was left dangerously unmarked from a corner, but aimed a header straight at Ben Hamer.
Warnock’s side began to grow into the game from then on Charlton were indebted to the bravery of Cort soon after when Norris teed up a sublime goal-bound volley, but the giant defender threw his head in the line of danger and absorbed the impact.
Given that he is traditionally a central defender, the inclusion of Dervite in an advanced role perhaps came as a surprise to many, but the burly Frenchman was effective in breaking up play at regular opportunities while also com possession.
He also gave an early glimpse of his shooting prowess when drilling low and narrowly wide from distance in the first period, before Cort was again involved in the thick of the action by heading Jackson’s out-swinging free-kick just past the post
Then, just as the momentum swung in Charlton’s favour, Leeds snatched it back.
An angled ball into the visiting area again darted towards the magnet-like Cort, who appeared to be held down by Luciano Becchio, but no foul was given and the ball rolled agonisingly across the face of the area.
With Evina and Jackson a fraction slow in responding to the danger, Norris swivelled on the spot quick as a flash and smashed a shot past Hamer.
It was a moment of quality to separate the sides in a workmanlike game of football, but the visitors nearly responded immediately.
Breaking down the left, Salim Kerkar slid through Pritchard, who pulled back to the Wilson. As he went to shoot, his skipper pulled rank and the resulting dummy allowed the ball to fall at Jackson’s feet only for him to scuff a shot wide. The exasperated looks on the faces of the visiting coaching staff showed a good chance it was.
If that was close, they then did everything but score before the break.
After Wilson tireless running forced a corner, Kerkar’s pinpoint delivery picked out the breaking Hulse, whose momentum meant he was unable to strike it as he would like, and instead the ball hit him at close range and cannoned off the bar.
Powell went to the dressing room at half-time in an angry mood following a potentially dangerous lunge at Evina, but he could not have been unhappy with his team’s performance.
Sensing that a point, at least, was there for the taking, Charlton came out for the second with similarly impressive levels of effort and endeavour, and before deservedly equalising on 50 minutes.
Nobody epitomised those qualities Wilson, who cut the ball back into the path of Dervite to power a daisy-cutter across the turf from 20 yards and past the hand of a diving Kenny.
The equaliser was no more than Charlton deserved on the balance of play, but Leeds, in front of a hesitant Elland Road crowd, came back again.
Like a heavyweight boxing match the teams traded blow for blow, but neither could land the knockout punch.
An unmarked Sam Byram should have hit the target, but instead powerfully headed Adam Drury’s cross over the bar. Then, at the other end, Wilson was again the provider as he squared across goal but the pass was millimetres too far ahead of Kerkar who could only toe poke wide.
Resembling a man mountain at the back, Cort headed away everything which came his way but had to be nimble with his feet after 67 minutes when his miracle challenge prevented what would have been a certain tap in from Becchio.
It was Leeds’ last clear-cut chance of the game, and Charlton will wonder how they did not go on to win it.
Pritchard’s exemplary fitness levels shone through as once again sprinted the length of the pitch before playing in the overlapping Solly, but Kenny was big and blocked the effort.
From the resulting corner, Jackson’s corner found Dervite at the near post who lost his marker but was unable to make the necessary connection and instead the ball skimmed across goal.
Charlton continued to attack and after Kerker shot wide, Wright-Phillips was introduced to the fray to help find a late winner.
Pritchard was again the catalyst for the substitute’s first effort at goal, when he crossed to the near post and Wright-Phillips, who just about had time to get his shot away, hit Kenny square in the chest from close-range.
The best, or maybe most nerve-racking was yet to come.
Deep into injury time with the hosts hanging on for a point, much to their fans’ disapproval, Wilson intelligently crossed to Wright-Phillips again, who controlled and blasted a shot towards Kenny, which the keeper turned over the bar with the very inches of his fingertips.
By this stage Powell could only smile and accept the luck was not with his side as the full-time whistle blew soon after.
The boos that then rang around Elland Road will have been music to his ears. Charlton deserved more. Every fan in the ground knew it and while nobody would have argued had they returned to London with two extra points, in terms of intangibles from his squad, he could not have asked for more.
Charlton Athletic: Hamer, Evina, Morrison, Cort, Solly, Dervite, Kerkar (Hollands 90), Jackson, Pritchard, Wilson, Hulse (Wright-Phillips 85).
Subs (not used): Button, Green, Harriott, Cook, Razak.
Goal: Dervite 50
Bookings: Hulse 20 (foul on Drury), Pritchard 62 (foul on Norris), Jackson 88 (foul on Byram), Wright-Phillips 89 (kicking ball away).
Leeds United: Kenny, Drury, Lees, Pearce, Green (White 64), Becchio (Gray 77), Varney (Tonge 64), Brown, Norris, Diouf, Byram.
Subs (not used): Ashdown, Kisnorbo, Pugh, Hall.
Goal: Norris 37
Booking: Becchio 30 (unsportsmanlike conduct).
Referee: N Miller