Gary Haines reports from The Valley
Charlton kicked off a third decade back at The Valley with an entertaining draw against Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Chris Powell’s side led twice against the Seagulls but were pegged back on both occasions as the hosts had to settle for a point.
Lawrie Wilson’s ninth minute header gave them the lead on a day the club marked the 20th anniversary of returning home, but Craig Mackail-Smith pounced on a mistake from Michael Morrison to level matters shortly before the half-hour mark.
A first Valley goal for Bradley Pritchard put the Addicks back in front 20 minutes from time, but a deflected free-kick from substitute Kazenga LuaLua brought Brighton level again within five minutes.
All square was just about fair on an afternoon that certainly lived up to its historical billing.
Both sides may say they ought to have won it, but the draw extended Charlton’s unbeaten run to seven matches.
They are now four without loss at an altogether happier Valley and, stretching those stats even further, have lost just once in their last 10 games.
On the 20th anniversary of a memorable return home here in SE7 when one memorable early goal was netted, another followed here through Wilson.
After a short-corner routine Dale Stephens whipped the ball into the dangerzone and the returning full-back glanced home a header for his second goal of the season.
It might have been even better had Rob Hulse’s header not been tipped over the bar by Tomasz Kuszczak soon afterwards, and Morrison then planted a free header over the bar with the visitors struggling at the back.
The Seagulls were a threat at the opposite end of the pitch though and only a wonderful save from Ben Hamer foiled Stephen Dobbie before they drew level shortly before the hour mark.
It came after Morrison’s loose header at a high ball forward and Mackail-Smith cashed in in devastating fashion, veering to his right and crashing a shot past Hamer to level things up.
Wilson did brilliantly to divert a Mackail-Smith shot behind after they first free-kick of the afternoon from LuaLua had clattered into the wall.
And it was Charlton that went ahead again when Prichard somehow steered the ball into the bottom right corner of the net for his first SE7 strike, and first when points have been on the line.
His last came as a sub in the FA Cup first round win at ADFC Halifax more than a year ago and his popularity in these parts for his selfless work and tireless running was showcased as his teammates bundled on top of him.
Brighton would argue the goal had come against the run of play, but they were level once more as sub LuaLua, who had notched the final goal in a 4-0 rout of Charlton in the Seagulls’ last visit here, had the final say again.
His low free-kick, after fellow sub Ashley Barnes had cleverly drawn a foul from Morrison right on the edge of the box, cannoned into the wall and Hamer had no chance as the ball changed direction and nestled in he bottom corner.
It was a messy goal, but they all count, and parity would prevail on this afternoon.
In terms of team news there were four changes for the visit of the Seagulls. Against fitting opponents that have had their own residential issues prior to their switch to the sparking AMEX Stadium in 2001, Powell tinkered with his troops.
Danny Haynes was back and Emmanuel Frimpong returned to midfield. Illness ruled out Dan Seaborne so there was a return at right-back for Lawrie Wilson as Chris Solly switched to the left of the rearguard. Morrison was also back after suspension.
Leon Cort, Salim Kerkar and Yann Kermorgant all dropped to the bench as Powell freshened up his starting XI, employing a 4-5-1 formation.
The changes meant skipper Jackson started wide left of midfield to accommodate Arsenal loanee Frimpong in the middle of the park.
And Haynes, having netted three goals in as many matches before a hamstring injury, offered a pacy presence on the right.
Ben Hamer continued between the posts for the home side with Wilson returning to right back after injury and Solly again pushed out to the left.
Dervite, impressive at Millwall last weekend, kept his place in the rearguard alongside the suspension-free Morrison, and there were changes in midfield too.
Frimpong started alongside Stephens with Jackson moving out to the left. Pritchard moved inside with the speedy Haynes on the right and Hulse starting up front on his own.
Cort, Kerkar and Kermorgant joined David Button, Matt Taylor, Danny Green and Bradley Wright-Phillips on the bench.
The visitors, missing the suspended Lewis Dunk, brought Adam El-Abd back into the backline, where there was also a recall for Wayne Bridge.
Mackail-Smith offered a striking threat up front but there were also offensive threats courtesy of Will Buckley, Will Hoskins and Stephen Dobbie.
The atmosphere was building nicely before the game and key figures from both clubs let off balloons in the build-up, just like against Portsmouth on December 5th, 1992.
And at 3.07pm there was a spontaneous round of applause around the ground to mark the time that Colin Walsh, who along with then-skipper Simon Webster, led the teams out before the game, scored that famous goal.
That came five minutes into the game after a later than usual start while in the seventh minute the Addicks actually had a corner, but there would be no magic as the visitors cleared.
The wait would not be long, however, as Wilson made his mark on a history making afternoon with the clock still in single digits.
It reached nine minutes as Stephens and Jackson worked a short corner and there was the unlikely figure of Wilson to glance home a header at the near post.
Thus, in the words of the late, great Brian Moore, “It became the perfect start.”
That lead may have been extended in the ensuing moments as Hulse ghosted into space two minutes later and saw his firm header tipped over by Tomasz Kuszczak.
From the corner Morrison was wasteful as he planted a header over when well-placed and Jackson’s free-kick was deflected behind for a corner – after which a swift Brighton counter was ended with diligent cover from Solly.
That proved a catalyst for a good spell for the visitors and after their first corner of the game a big scramble followed and ended with Gordon Greer spooning a big chance over the bar,
It was very much a defender’s effort, rather like Peter Clarke’s here for Huddersfield Town, and the hosts breathed again.
It was a warning, however, and the Seagulls precise play led to another great chance as the clock reached 17.
Hoskins did well to help the ball round the corner and into the dangerzone and Dobbie had timed his run to perfection.
Onside, the midfielder looked certain to score but his effort was eclipsed by a superb last-ditch stop from Hamer.
Dervite got across well to make a key challenge as Brighton prised Charlton open again. But the Seagulls were certainly there to be got at at the other end of the pitch and Solly’s low cross eventually reached Pritchard whose shot looped up off a defender before a foul dashed home hopes.
Brighton levelled matters in the 28th minute, however, after a rare mistake from Morrison.
For all the visitors’ neat play, this stemmed from a high ball forward and Morrison’s misjudgement on his header allowed the eager Mackail-Smith to snare possession and bury a shot past Hamer.
After forceful work from Wilson, Haynes curled a shot wide as Stephens begged for a pull-back on the edge of the box
The action dried up after that as the sides went in all square at the break.
Hamer got down well to get a good glove on an angled effort from Buckley six minutes after the restart and in the aftermath Dobbie shot tamely wide.
Mackail-Smith’s neat head down was sliced well wide by Dobbie while at the other end Kuszczak beat away a low drive from Hulse after the big striker burst into the box on the right.
Brighton almost capitalised on a mistake from Stephens as the hour approached, Dobbie again making good ground to flash a Buckley centre over.
He angrily booted the post as the ball was retrieved from behind the goal, but Brighton were starting to look a threat.
From one of their corners, Hamer then sent Haynes scampering away on the right. After a good advantage he centred and Pritchard’s header was easy for Kuszczak with Hulse better placed behind him.
Another chance fell Brighton’s way on 62 minutes as Buckley was left all alone on the edge of the box but could only lift a shot high over the bar.
Ashley Barnes replaced Dobbie before the restart and Hammond was booked for a foul on Stephens.
The Addicks midfielder saw a low shot pouched midway through the half while Wilson’s desperate foul on Hoskins, after Frimpong surrendered possession, earned him a booking.
Before the free-kick Kazenga LuaLua came on for a limping Hoskins and he took the set-play, blasting the ball into the wall.
The ball squirmed loose and Mackail-Smith’s shot was brilliantly diverted wide by Wilson.
That proved a key contribution as Pritchard claimed his first league goal on 70 minutes to put the hosts back in front.
The hard-working Hulse gathered a pass from Stephens and slipped it left to Jackson and the skipper’s cross was met by Pritchard some six yards out.
His connection was far from clean but the ball went in the only place Kuszczak couldn’t reach it, and trundled into the back of the net.
It was the midfielder’s first Valley goal and a popular one with his teammates, but the lead would last just five minutes this time.
Good footwork from Barnes right on the edge of the box drew a foul from Morrison and a free-kick right on the whitewash.
Kermorgant entered the fray before it was taken, and having had an early sighter it was LuaLua who took aim.
The shot was well-struck from the substitute and took a massive deflection off the wall wrong-footing Hamer and rolling in.
As LulaLua exhibited his trademark somersault celebration, there were histrionics from Frimpong on the turf, the midfielder incandescent with rage after the harsh concession.
So it was all square again and delicately poised going into the closing stages and Buckley, emerging as a threat on the right, saw his cross headed over by Barnes.
Jackson made way for Kerkar for the closing 10 minutes as Morrison assumed the armband and the stand-in skipper, up for a free-kick, headed a Kermorgant header into the arms of Kuszczak.
There were two late corners for the visitors in the four added minutes and Dervite joined in upfield late on and was convinced he should have had a corner.
The referee disagreed and there was scarcely time to restart as honours ended even.
Charlton: Hamer; Wilson, Solly, Dervite, Morrison; Haynes (Kermorgant 74), Pritchard, Frimpong, Stephens, Jackson (Kerkar 80); Hulse.
Subs (not used): Button, Taylor, Cort, Green, Wright-Phillips.
Goals: Wilson 9, Pritchard 70
Booked: Wilson 67 (foul on Hoskins)
Brighton: Kuszczak; Saltor (Calderon 75), Bridge, Greer, El-Habd; Bridcutt, Hammond, Dobbie (Barnes 62); Buckley, Hoskins (LuaLua 68), Mackail-Smith.
Subs (not used): Brezovan, Crofts, Lopez, Harley.
Goals: Mackail-Smith 28, LuaLua 75
Booked: Hammond 64 (foul on Stephens)
Referee: D Sheldrake
Att: 19,080 (3,385 Brighton)