Olly Groome reports from Griffin Park
Charlton took a hard-fought point away from Griffin Park on opening day as a late Brentford equaliser denied Bob Peeters’ all three points in his first game in charge.
The Addicks looked like they could have taken the victory after the impressive Igor Vetokele had headed his side into the lead just after the hour but, in a game of fine margins, Callum Harriot’s strike against the bar while David Button was left stranded, proved to be the turning point.
Instead of extending their lead, Charlton found themselves all-square when Tommy Smith fired a late leveller for the Bees to secure what was, in truth, a fair point.
Peeter’s starting XI included no less than seven players making their full league debuts, with Tal Ben Haim and Andre Bikey starting at the back while Yoni Buyens took his position in the centre of midfield alongside Johnnie Jackson with Johann Berg Gudmundsson taking the right-wing berth.
Elsewhere, Vetokele partnered George Tucudean up front, hopeful to take an impressive pre-season showing against Portsmouth seven days earlier into the main event at Griffin Park.
Meanwhile, with neither Callum Harriott nor Franck Moussa 100 percent fit, Jordan Cousins took up an unfamiliar position on the left-wing.
With the game kicking off in a red-hot west-London atmosphere the opening stages were played to a quick tempo as both sides set out to fire the first shot of this opening-day battle.
And the Addicks made good headway when Vetokele worked hard to steam into the box, getting to the byline before pulling a pass back across goal where Gudmundsson lay in wait.
But a Brentford shirt was on hand to make a timely interception to clear the danger before the Bees responded by firing a warning shot of their own through Alex Pritchard, who curled a low shot from the edge of the box narrowly wide.
The Addicks had to ride somewhat of an early Brentford storm – the hosts, still riding the wave of their League One promotion in May, set about putting Charlton under pressure, closing down quickly and allowing very little time on the ball as they enjoyed the lion’s share of the early possession.
The dangerous Moses Odubajo cut in from the right on 19 minutes to give Stephen Henderson his first test on his debut before Bikey intercepted a dangerous ball in from Pritchard.
But with the visitors under pressure, they perhaps should have taken the lead three minutes later when Gudmundsson’s defence-splitting ball sent through Tucudean one-on-one.
The Romanian was surely favourite to beat the onrushing Button, but the former Addick stood up strong to keep the scores level.
That signalled a much better spell for the south-Londoners who took until midway through the first half to really settle down.
Vetokele began to worry the Bees defence, causing problems with his raw pace and power with one such attack seeing the ball fall to Jackson, who took a touch, before drilling a shot wide of Button’s right-hand upright from 25 yards.
For all Brentford’s early pressure, they had been limited to threatening only from range. But hearts were in Addicks mouths when Alan Judge tried his luck for the last half-chance of the first period.
The midfielder’s shot took a wicked deflection to see the ball spinning towards the top left-hand corner, forcing Henderson into a sprawling save.
In truth, the Bees had looked the better side in the first 45, but Charlton had certainly had their chances.
And seven minutes into the second half they had another when Tucudean and Vetokele linked up well to see the former heading goalwards with space in front of him.
Just as he did for his goal against Portsmouth a week earlier, he eyed up his shot before unleashing an almighty strike towards the home stopper. This time, however, Button was equal to it.
With their tails up, the Addicks went again and it was Vetokele in the mix once more as he got on the end of Chris Solly’s centre.
The Angolan’s header was saved well, yet again, by Button who pushed it on to the post before Tucudean steamed in to send the rebound over from eight yards.
The pendulum then swung end-to-end as first, Andre Gray saw his free header saved brilliantly by Henderson on the hour-mark before Vetokele blasted a shot against a home defender at the other end.
The summer recruit was outstanding on his Addicks debut and he would not have to wait long to make his mark.
With 64 minutes gone, Charlton took what was a deserved lead, on the balance of the early second-half action, as Jackson stepped up to swing in a corner from the right.
And it was that man Vetokele who got on the end of it, powering a header past the despairing Button who simply did not have enough to keep it out.
Peeters’ side were growing in confidence and they very nearly doubled their lead soon after through the unlikely source of Rhoys Wiggins, who thundered an angled shot inches over the crossbar from just outside the box.
The hosts had racked up an impressive corner count without really threatening from their set-pieces, but they did come close on 74 when a delivery was met by Brentford skipper Tony Craig. Much to the 1,500 travelling Addicks’ relief, however, he could only volley wildly over the bar.
As the clock ticked over to 80, the moment came when Harriott, who had replaced Tucudean to support Vetokele up top, came agonisingly close to making it 2-0.
With the hard-working Vetokele doing superbly well to close down Button 25 yards from goal, the ball spun to Harriott who had an open net to aim at.
Taking his shot early, he lifted his effort goalbound but could only watch as it crashed off the underside of the bar.
Although it was desperately unlucky, it proved to be the turning point as the Bees drew level shortly after.
With sub Tommy Smith receiving possession just inside the box, he looked to have controlled the ball with his hand before firing in an effort, which took a deflection of Ben Haim, before sailing past Henderson and nestling in the net.
That gave the Bees some impetus as they entered the final stages on the front foot with the Addicks made to withstand some late pressure.
Alan Judge rattled the bar with a curling free-kick on 89 minutes before Smith skied a shot from range in the dying moments to ensure both sides would have to settle for a share of the spoils.
It was always going to be a tough start to life in the Championship for Peeters. But make no mistake, this point at Griffin Park was a good one and a good base for which to build on.
Charlton: Henderson; Solly, Wiggins, Ben Haim, Bikey; Gudmundsson, (Fox 90), Buyens, Jackson, Cousins (Moussa 90); Vetokele, Tucudean (Harriott 62).
Subs (not used): Pope, Morrison, Pigott, Wilson.
Booked: Buyens 32 (foul on Pritchard)
Goal: Vetokele (64)
Brentford: Button; McCormack, Bidwell, Craig, Tarkowski; Odubajo (Tebar 46), Dallas, Douglas, Pritchard (Smith 78), Judge; Gray (Proschwitz 67).
Subs (not used): Lee, Dean, Yennaris, Moore.
Booked: Douglas 90 (foul on Bikey)
Goal: Smith 85
Referee: J Adcock
Att: 9, 619 (including 1,580 Charlton fans)