Iain Liddle reports from Portman Road
Charlton ended the festive period unbeaten after coming from behind to earn a point at Ipswich Town on New Years Day.
On a day where a series of refereeing decisions threatened to dominate the post-match headlines, the Addicks changed the course of the discussions.
Ipswich went in 1-0 up at the break following Richard Wood’s own goal, but, strange as it sounds, the defender will count himself fortunate to be in a position to have scored it after the referee turned down an early penalty appeal which could have seen him dismissed.
At the other end, the match official also shook his head when Cameron Stewart was tripped by Luke Chambers when eight yards from goal and about to pull the trigger.
Eventually a spot-kick was awarded when Jordan Cousins clipped Paul Anderson in the box, but Ben Alnwick made himself a hero with the travelling fans by saving it and keeping hope alive.
It proved crucial, and just as important as a late equaliser from substitute Johnnie Jackson to earn the Londoners a much-deserved point – their sixth from four difficult Christmas encounters.
Chris Powell made three changes to the starting line-up which drew 1-1 with Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday with Chris Solly and Rhoys Wiggins back in the side, while Marvin Sordell was also handed a rare opportunity alongside Yann Kermorgant.
The replaced trio of Jackson, Simon Church and Cedric Evina were named on the substitutes’ bench alongside the fit-again Ben Hamer, recalled to the squad after overcoming an ankle ligament injury.
The changes meant Charlton lined up in an orthodox 4-4-2 formation with Lawrie Wilson reverting to the right side of midfield, from where he scored twice against Brighton & Hove Albion recently, ahead of Solly, who was rested against the Owls.
However, the changes could have been rendered irrelevant as early as the second minute when a big refereeing decision went in Charlton’s favour.
After Sordell misplaced a pass intended for Jordan Cousins, Ipswich broke with a direct through-ball to Daryl Murphy who ran towards goal.
Having got a yard in front of Wood, the pair tangled legs before the Irish centre-forward went down in the penalty area.
Referee Stuart Attwell waved away the home shouts for a spot-kick, a decision which looked generous for the Addicks from the press box and the visitors could instead have found themselves down to 10 men.
It was a bright opening from both sides, but Charlton were not on the back foot and had cause for attacking optimism early on.
Kermorgant, playing just off Sordell, cleverly played in the eager Wilson down the right and he beat his marker for pace, however his cross was intercepted before reaching Cameron Stewart at the back post.
The on-loan winger was dispossessed soon after in his own half which allowed Paul Anderson a crack at goal from the edge of the box but Alnwick saw it wide.
Alnwick was forced into action again after 10 minutes when Stephens accidentally diverted a corner towards his own goal, but the keeper was alert and danger was averted.
The energetic Murphy was a thorn in the side of Charlton’s defence throughout the first half and took an early sighter on goal from 25 yards, but it was seen wide by the Addicks custodian.
Charlton were also keeping goalkeeper Dean Gerken honest at the other end and it looked as though they had beaten him after 17 minutes.
Kermorgant collected the ball on the edge of the penalty area, cut back onto his right foot and drilled a powerful low shot towards the bottom right corner.
A small deflection only added to the speed with which it fizzed towards goal, but Gerken showed his agility but getting down equally quickly to turn it around the post.
Murphy was the focal point of most of Town’s good attacking play and provided another scare after 22 minutes when he crossed to Chambers, rushing in at the back post, who volleyed over.
It was a warning which wasn’t heeded and two minutes later Ipswich were ahead.
Murphy, predictably, was involved and collected a lay-off from Jay Tabb before crossing the Charlton’s near post.
Cousins, trying to close him down, was too late to have an impact while Michael Morrison was unable to cut it out. His miss meant the ball fell to the feet of Wood who, off balance, turned it into his own net.
It was a soft goal from Charlton’s point of view and only gave their hosts further encouragement going forward as they took control of the next spell of the game.
A turning point then arrived after 39 minutes which changed the complexion of the contest.
Kermorgant, his team’s most creative player, fed in Stewart who skipped past Chambers and bore down on Gerken when his trailing leg was clipped from behind.
It looked every inch a penalty, and likely a sending off a result, in real time. That looked even more the case on half-time replays.
Instead of awarding a spot-kick, Attwell booked Stewart for diving. A perplexing decision made only slightly more palatable by the knowledge that the Addicks had possible let-off at the other end earlier in the half.
Sordell, hoping for a better new year after an unfulfilling 12 months, went as close as he had all game just before half-time when Kermorgant skilfully chipped into his path, but the Bolton Wanderers loanee drilled wide with his left foot.
Cruelly, it was his last touch of the day and, in all likelihood, the foreseeable future.
Soon after he raced onto a ball, needlessly as it transpired because the offside flag had gone up, and stretched to control it. After doing so he immediately pulled up clutching his hamstring.
His luck had changed on his recall to the side, but for the worse, and he slowly limped off the field in clear pain when replaced by Jordan Cook.
Cook’s first involvement was a positive one as he won a free-kick on the edge of Ipswich’s penalty area, which Kermorgant approached purposefully before curling just wide.
Charlton were reenergised in the second half and continued to try and take the game to Ipswich, who were equally positive in response.
Stephens kicked a shot into the ground before it sailed wide of the post at one end, before the enterprising Ryan Tunnicliffe tested Alnwick at the other end.
Cook, like Sordell before him, was desperate to make an impression after seeing limited opportunities so far this campaign, and nearly did just that on the hour mark.
He made a sharp run to the near post, where he picked out by Stewart, and glanced a header towards goal – but Tommy Smith was on the spot to head behind for a corner.
Charlton were busy, and keen, but found clear-cut chances harder to come by after that point.
It was Ipswich who forced the next meaningful save in the content when substitute David McGoldrick broke at speed and played in Murphy, whose low shot towards the near post was repelled by Alnwick.
The goalkeeper was having a fine day between the sticks, but his most telling contribution was yet to come.
After Charlton cleared their lines from a corner, Cousins was late in trying the lash the ball away and accidentally kicked Anderson.
Finally, after a seeming reluctance beforehand, the referee pointed to the spot.
McGoldrick stepped up confidently, with a short run up, but Alnwick sprung magnificently to get his fingertips to the ball and touch it onto the post and away from danger.
It was a huge moment in a game which was not finished yet.
As the clock ticked down, Charlton struggled to test Gerken meaningfully and when Wiggins’ shot was blocked some may have felt it was a final charge.
In added time, Kermorgant flexed every muscle fibre to out-jump his marker and head towards Simon Church, who, in turn, teed up his skipper.
The ever-reliable Jackson was duly Johnnie on the spot and saw his shot on goal deflect off Christophe Berra and past the stranded Gerken to equalise.
It was deserved, as both managers would later attest to, and reward for the continued efforts of Charlton’s thin squad over the festive period.
It was not quite the end of the game, and there was still time for Frank Nouble to pick up a booking for petulantly kicking the ball at Solly.
The whistle then blew on the game and the busy stretch of four matches in 11 days.
Charlton have emerged unbeaten from the stretch and all the stronger for it going into the second half of the campaign in 2014.
Charlton: Alnwick; Solly, Wiggins, Wood, Morrison; Wilson (Church 71), Cousins, Stephens, Stewart (Jackson 81); Sordell (Cook 45), Kermorgant.
Subs (not used): Hamer, Evina, Dervite, Pritchard.
Goal: Jackson 90.
Booked: Stewart (simulation) 39, Cook (foul on Tunnicliffe) 69, Kermorgant (dissent) 78.
Ipswich Town: Gerken, Chambers, Cresswell, Berra, Smith; Anderson, Skuse, Tunnicliffe, Tabb (Hyam 68); Murphy (Nouble 82), Taylor (McGoldrick 68).
Subs (not used): Loach, Mings, Edwards, Wordsworth.
Goal: Wood (own goal) 24.
Booked: Berra 40, Smith (foul on Cook) 45, Nouble (unsportsmanlike behaviour) 90.
Referee: Mr Stuart Attwell.
Att: 18,731 (780 Charlton).