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Match Report


Posted Sun 29 Dec 13 at 18:25 PM

Charlton 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Olly Groome reports from The Valley

It was the very embodiment of a game of two halves. 

Whilst the second was far from a proverbial beauty, the first was very much a beast as both sides hacked and spluttered their way through The Valley's muddy hallowed turf. 

Although Dale Stephens ignited the action with an early goal after the break it was ultimately a poor piece of officiating which denied Charlton all three points against Sheffield Wednesday as Connor Wickham prodded home a controversial equaliser. 

Chris Powell was forced into changing his side which impressed so much against Brighton & Hove Albion.

With a second game in three days coming too soon for the recently recovered Chris Solly, the reigning player of the year missed out while Rhoys Wiggins was also absent to attend the birth of his first child. 

Cedric Evina returned to fill the void at left-back while Boxing Day goalscoring hero Lawrie Wilson reverted to right-back. 

There was good news in midfield as skipper Johnnie Jackson returned on the left after completing his three-game suspension. 

The match got under way on a bog of a Valley pitch and it was clear from the outset that, after the spate of adverse weather, the turf would play it's part in proceedings. 

The visitors were the first to get a shot away in the opening minutes when Wickham, on loan from Sunderland, saw a low, angled shot deflect into the safe hands of Ben Alnwick. 

And the England U21 striker continued to cause problems for the Addicks early on as his barnstorming run down the right resulted in a dangerous cross which Wilson hacked away. 

The Addicks' first meaningful attack would not come until the the 13th minute.

Wilson and Yann Kermorgant linked up superbly down the right before the former supplied a ball for the oncoming Simon Church. 

Although Owls' defender Glenn Loovens got there first, his attempted clearance spun backwards forcing stopper Chris Kirkland into action to prevent a self-imposed howler. 

With the state of the pitch removing any realistic chance of any 'total football' being played, it became obvious that clear-cut chances would become few and far between, with both sides fancying their chances from range. 

A speculative Jeremy Helan drive from 25 yards soared over the Addicks' bar whilst a cross-come-shot from Stephens was caught safely by Kirkland despite it looking, if only for a moment, like it might drop under the bar. 

A real battle in the middle of the park developed between one Charlton midfielder of yesteryear and  the bright prospect and present anchorman Jordan Cousins. 

The 19-year-old followed up his impressive performance against Brighton three days earlier by out-muscling and harrying Jose Semedo on every occasion before the half-hour mark. 

The former Addicks player of the year did, however, find space to glance a header wide on 32 minutes before Wednesday came within a hair's breadth of taking the lead. 

With a corner being whipped in, Roger Johnson stuck out a foot which the ball careering up and towards goal. Although Alnwick appeared to have it covered there was a collective gasp as the ball dipped dramatically, bouncing off the crossbar before Charlton cleared their lines. 

The chances were falling for the Owls and they were beginning to get on top. 

A long-range drive from Evina saw the left-back caught out of position as Wednesday staged a swift counter-attack on 39 minutes. 

Wickham came close, entering the box to drive a low shot straight at Alnwick's near post.

And the 20-year-old was involved again a minute later when he stepped up to take charge of a free-kick after Helan had been felled by Stephens 30 yards from goal. 

His stinging effort was kept out by the Addicks' keeper but, with the ball bouncing just in front of him, Alnwick could only spill into the six-yard box. 

But as the ball bounced loose the linesman's flag came to the rescue and Charlton could breathe easily again. 

It was a first-half full of grit but little glamour, with more to come in the second period. 

But what happened in the opening stages after the break, it's fair to say, surprised most. 

An early left-footed effort from Kermorgant set the tone for a lightning quick start as the Addicks raced out of the traps. 

Then, with 47 minutes on the clock, Charlton took the lead. 

When a throw into the box completely caught the Owls' back line off guard, Stephens was allowed to waltz towards goal.

As he feigned one way, he cut the other before driving past Kirkland to put Powell's men 1-0 up. 

It was just the lift The Valley needed after the dreary 45 minutes which came before and a much needed injection to a game which had suddenly sprung into life. 

Wednesday looked for an immediate response. 

Wickham met a corner with a powerful header which only just cleared the crossbar before Chris Maguire's good looking effort from distance curled agonisingly wide in the 51st minute. 

And just before the hour it was game on as the Owls equalised, albeit in controversial fashion. 

With the ball bobbling about in the box a shot was finally driven in. But as it made it's way towards goal, Wickham nipped in from an offside position to tap home. 

Replays proved that the goal should not have stood as the Addicks rallied to alleviate their bad luck. 

And Powell's men replied with a chance straight away. 

Evina hared down the left to supply a cross for the onrushing Church. And with the Welsh international winning a header at the near post it forced Kirkland into a quick reactive save. 

It was the other linesman, however, on this occasion who did Charlton a disservice as he pointed for a goal-kick much to the frustration of the SE7 faithful. 

Wickham was proving to be a constant thorn in Charlton's side and with 20 minutes remaining he came close again with another header.

Powell rang the changes shortly after with Danny Green and Dorian Dervite replacing the tiring Johnnie Jackson and Cameron Stewart with Stephens proving his versatility with a switch to the left. 

A 77th-minute corner was cleared as far as Cousins who sent a vicious strike in from 25 yards which was heading for the target. But with a box packed full of black shirts it was punted away to safety. 

At the other end, the visitors came closer yet. 

Roger Johnson's header down was saved superbly from point-blank range before Reda Johnson came a studs-width away from netting as he slid in to try and meet the ball driven back across goal. 

Charlton countered through the tireless Church as the game stretched. The striker's effort was well defended out for a corner before Stephens fired wide from the resultant set-piece. 

And while Wednesday threatened to nick all three points with a late onslaught, it was very nearly Church who would have the final say. 

With Glenn Loovens mis-reading the flight of the ball, the front man stole in round the back. But as he took a touch wide he spliced a shot well over the bar. 

But he wasn't finished yet. A gut-busting run deep into injury-time saw Church chip a cross to the back-post where Kermorgant was beaten to the punch by Kirkland at the death. 

The final whistle signalled what was, in all fairness, the right result on the balance of play. 

But Charlton may find defeat hard to take due to the manner of the equalising goal, and rightly so. 

As it was, Powell must settle for a haul of what is, in truth, a very healthy haul of five points over the busy festive period. 

Charlton: Alnwick; Wilson, Evina, Morrison, Wood; Jackson (Green 73), Cousins, Stephens, Stewart (Dervite 73); Kermorgant, Church.

Subs (not used): Pope, Hughes, Lennon, Sordell, Pigott.

Booked: Evina 87 (foul on Maguire), Green 93 (dissent)

Goal: Stephens (47)

Sheffield Wednesday: Kirkland; Palmer, Reda Johnson, Roger Johnson, Loovens; Lee, McPhail (Maghoma 54), Semedo, Maguire; Helan (Nuhiu 55), Wickham.

Subs (not used): Martinez,  Johnson, McCabe, Mattock, Llera.

Booked: McPhail 25 (foul on Kermorgant)

Goal: Wickham (59)

Referee: Mr F Graham

Att: 16,377 (1,671 from Sheffield Wednesday)

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