Sat 27 Apr 13
at 17:00 PM
Middlesbrough 2 Charlton 2
Gary Haines reports from the Riverside Stadium
Fast-starting Charlton were pegged back by a late Middlesbrough rally as honours finished even at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday.
Two goals in the final 14 minutes earned the hosts a spirited point after the Addicks had seized the early initiative.
A goal after just 30 seconds from Bradley Pritchard looked to set the tone for another terrific away day outing from the Londoners, with an own goal from home skipper Rhys Williams doubling their tally on 17 minutes.
Charlton were well worth their lead and may have been further in front before Boro’s late comeback spurred by substitute Scott McDonald.
The Australian, a key factor of Middlesbrough’s 4-1 win at The Valley earlier in the season, offered his side added vibrancy when unleashed from the bench four minutes after the restart.
He teed up one great chance for Marvin Emnes which he steered horribly wide, but the Dutchman fortunately kneed home a cross from the right to halve the deficit going into the closing stages.
The hosts had looked shellshocked for most of the opening period as the Addicks fluid passing and movement opened them up at will, yet suddenly from being absolutely nowhere in the game they were back in it.
And it was McDonald who popped up with the leveller three minutes from time, emerging in a crowded goalmouth to head home a corner.
So, just like the final away game of last season the Addicks saw a two-goal cushion snatched away from them late on, but if they had won their fleeting play-off bid would have been over due to results elsewhere.
They can point to an unbeaten record that stretches to seven matches, the same number of games the Addicks are without defeat away from The Valley.
Emnes’ goal was the first they had conceded on the road for 455 minutes, stretching back to early March, another startlingly impressive statistic.
There was plenty to be pleased with after the longest away jaunt of the season. Sadly the scoreline was the biggest irritation of all.
The Addicks were off to a flier as they netted following their first raid into Boro territory.
And the opening goal of the game was made by their two strikers Kermorgant and Ricardo Fuller.
The Frenchman’s sumptuous pass down the left channel released his frontline partner with Fuller bustling inside and then having the foresight to put the goal chance on a platter for Pritchard. The midfielder promptly obliged.
After Mustapha Carayol fired a decent chance over for the hosts soon afterwards, the Addicks, well in command of proceedings in the early exchanges, doubled their lead on 17 minutes.
This time it came from a set-piece as Mark Gower’s flighted pass was volleyed back across goal from Kermorgant and the unfortunate Williams turned the ball into his own net.
The home skipper, who was lucky not to concede a penalty for an earlier challenge on Fuller, had Michael Morrison lurking in close attendance so had to act, and a woefully short of confidence Boro were staring down the barrel.
Emnes shot into the side-netting but the Addicks passing game was really pleasing on the eye and they fashioned another chance which Kermorgant steered just wide.
Boro’s first shot on target didn’t arrive until the 41st minute as Ben Hamer foiled Adam Reach while Pritchard got back superbly to deny Emnes after a powerful surge forward.
The hosts improved after the break and Emnes missed a great chance to cut the deficit shortly after the hour mark as subs Emmanuel Ledesma and McDonald combined for Emnes to slice horribly wide.
After Harriott was denied low by Jason Steele, Boro did pull a goal back on 76 minutes through Emnes.
He was on hand inside the box to turn home a fine cross from Grant Leadbitter and offer hope to a side that for long periods had looked out of the game.
Fuller had a goal chalked off for offside, which replays later showed to be an incorrect decision, after being teed up nicely by his strike partner, before Boro levelled three minutes from time.
McDonald, an effective substitute, rose to head home a corner, and suddenly it was Boro who pressed for an unlikely winner.
There were late penalty shouts from the visitors as sub Jon Obika was hustled down in the box in stoppage time, but they fell on deaf ears as honours finished even.
Such a scenario had looked unlikely for three quarters of this game but Boro showed admirable spirit in the second half as McDonald made his mark again.
In terms of team news Powell made two changes for Charlton’s trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday including the return to the starting line-up for Danny Hollands.
And there was a full debut for Gower in the engine-room with skipper Johnnie Jackson and Andy Hughes sidelined through injury.
It was Hollands’ first taste of Addicks action since emerging as a substitute in the dramatic 5-4 win against Cardiff City on November 6th.
And he had not started for the club since the October 20th Valley defeat against Barnsley since when he had been on loan at Swindon Town, a stint curtailed by a foot injury.
Gower, meanwhile, started for the first time since sealing a loan switch from Swansea City as the Addicks, still with an outside chance of reaching the end-of-season play-offs, made two enforced changes.
Unbeaten in six matches and five points from a coveted top six spot, Chris Powell’s side had not conceded on their travels for 379 minutes ahead of the game.
That away run was also half a dozen matches with the visitors seeking a 10th success away from The Valley in a fine first season back in the Championship.
The rest of the team remained unchanged with Hamer in goal behind a backline of Chris Solly, stand-in skipper Morrison, Dorian Dervite and Rhoys Wiggins.
Callum Harriott and Pritchard supplied the width either side of Hollands and Gower with Kermorgant and Fuller up top.
There was a place on the bench for the fit-again Danny Haynes and he was joined there by David Button, Matt Taylor, Lawrie Wilson, Salim Kerkar, Danny Green and late goal specialist Jon Obika.
The hosts operated with Curtis Main up front with support from wide outlets Adam Reach and Mustapha Carayol with Marvin Emnes a threat from deep.
Former Addicks skipper Nicky Bailey was on the bench together with striker McDonald, hugely impressive in Boro’s 4-1 win at The Valley earlier in the season.
Some of the travelling Addicks supporters were in traditional fancy dress, including many who paid homage to boss Powell by wearing full suit and tie, together with the obligatory flat cap, and plenty of Powell masks were evident too.
And the fans had a dream start as their heroes took the lead with 30 seconds on the watch.
It was oh so simple, but incredibly effective as Kermorgant’s neat pass released Fuller on the left and he cut inside before pulling the ball back for Pritchard to slam home.
The finish was as emphatic as the move was clinical and less than a minute in the Addicks were on their way, with the fans in the away end singing about a possible trip to Wembley.
There were boos from the home contingent, however, but they conjured up a chance to level moments later as Main teed up Carayol who fired over from the left side of the box.
Charlton were in again on 10 minutes as Kermorgant again played in Fuller. With no real support, the Jamaican wriggled inside and then looked to have his legs swiped away by Rhys Williams.
Referee Darren Drysdale thought otherwise and waved play on as the striker remained on the turf, and at the other end Hollands got in a great block to keep out a Carayol effort after the winger cut inside with purpose.
But instead it was the Addicks that struck again in the 17th minute.
After Fuller was caught after an aerial challenge, the Jamaican was off the field after treatment when Gower floated in the subsequent free-kick.
A well-placed Kermorgant volleyed back across goal and, with Morrison lurking in close attendance, Boro skipper Williams could only turn the ball into his own net from close range.
The visitors were in dreamland as Boro struggled to make any kind of impact on the game, a fact evidenced by Richard Smallwood’s shot from range that flew well wide.
Emnes was closer, drilling into the side-netting after a quick break from the hosts.
But Charlton almost made it 3-0 on 28 minutes after slicing through the home backline again.
Fuller wanted his header far more than his opponent, and his nod-across picked out Pritchard in space.
The midfielder cut along the edge of box and rolled in Kermorgant whose curling effort on the stretch flew inches past the post.
That prompted more fury from the natives and Fuller, spotting keeper Jason Steele off his line, floated a shot wide from just outside the centre circle.
There was ironic cheers from the home fans as Reach forced a first save of the afternoon from Hamer four minutes before the break, again summing up the pattern of the opening period.
In the first of two added minutes came another glimmer from the hosts as Emnes steamed down the middle on the break before the all-action Pritchard got back to make a magnificent goal-saving challenge.
With men over, Emnes might have opted to pass instead, but the chance had passed and Williams headed a corner off target in the last effort of the half.
The boos rung out at the break and nine minutes after the restart came a double change for the host as McDonald and Ledesma replaced Main and Reach.
McDonald’s first touch was a low shot that was saved by Hamer and at the other end Pritchard’s pull-back was hacked clear after fine retrieval work from Kermorgant.
The Frenchman then centred for Fuller to loop a header over in the next phase of play while McDonald span away from Dervite with his low effort again well pouched by Hamer.
The hosts were posing far more of a threat in the second period – it would have been difficult not to have stepped it up in fairness – but they wasted a glorious chance to halve the deficit on 62 minutes.
In a move made from the bench Ledesma’s clip was nudged across by McDonald only for Emnes to fluff his lines and slice wide of the left upright.
It raised the noise levels inside the ground for the first time, but the defiant Addicks were continuing to hold firm, and on a quick break Fuller went for the spectacular with better options either side, and a decent chance to put Boro out of reach passed.
Harriott’s low angled drive was saved by Steele as the game entered its final quarter and Fuller effort took a wicked deflection before dropping behind.
After a quick Boro break Wiggins got across brilliantly to head a dangerous Carayol centre away from danger with McDonald in close attendance.
But Boro were back in it as the clock reached 76 through Emnes.
The Dutchman was well placed to steer home a fine cross from Leadbitter and suddenly it was game on.
The striker was promptly replaced before the restart as Luke Williams entered the fray and the Addicks had the ball in the net moments later – only to be denied by an offside flag.
Kermorgant did brilliantly again, skipping away from Leadbitter and crossing low for Fuller to tap home.
Celebrations were shortlived as Boro lived to fight another day, and Powell quickly summoned Kerkar and Obika to replace Harriott and Fuller.
Leadbitter fired over from range and Hollands played in Obika who was foiled by Steele as the clock hit 85.
That save proved pivotal as the hosts levelled matters three minutes from time.
The lively McDonald was on the mark this time, raising amid a packed goalmouth to head home a corner from Carayol.
Suddenly the fans were roaring their heroes on, sensing a comeback win that had looked beyond the realms of possibility not long ago.
The Addicks might have had a penalty when Justin Hoyte looked to bundle over Obika as he shaped to convert in the middle, but referee Drysdale again disagreed.
There was a late booking for Leadbitter as he caught Pritchard late in stoppage time and Carayol saw a low shot held by Hamer in the final added minute.
There was another late penalty shout as Williams got across to challenge Kermorgant and Holland hoisted over as the clock reached 94.
That proved the last act as the hosts celebrated a spirited point against an Addicks side who will take a seven match unbeaten road record into next season.
Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Wiggins, Dervite, Morrison; Pritchard, Gower, Hollands, Harriott (Kerkar 80); Fuller (Obika 80), Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Button, Taylor, Wilson, Green, Haynes.
Goals: Pritchard 1, Williams og 17
Middlesbrough: Steele; Hoyte, Halliday, R Williams, Bikey; Smallwood, Leadbitter, Emnes; Reach (Ledesma 54), Carayol, Main (McDonald 54).
Subs (not used): Leutwiler, L Williams, Burgess, Bailey, Haroun, Williams.
Goals: Emnes 76, McDonald 87
Booked: Smallwood 78 (foul on Hollands), Leadbitter 90 (foul on Pritchard)
Referee: D Drysdale
Att: 15,011 (650 Charlton)