Olly Groome reports from The Valley
Nine games and counting.
Charlton still remain unbeaten in the Championship this season after earning a third consecutive draw in a 0-0 stalemate with Middlesbrough at The Valley on Saturday.
While the stats will suggest very little action in way of chances in what was a cagey affair, the game was there to be won by the Addicks after Boro midfielder Albert Adomah was giving his marching orders for a second booking with eight minutes remaining.
Indeed, with the hosts coming close on two occasions late on, there was an air of disappointment that one point did not become three as Charlton put in yet another impressive shift in front of their own fans in SE7.
Bob Peeters gave a full debut to Standard Liege loanee Frédéric Bulot who came in to the side in place of Franck Moussa who, in turn, took his place amongst the substitutes.
There was also a notable spot on the bench for academy forward Karlan Ahearne-Grant; the youngster capping off a week which has seen him celebrate his 17th birthday, sign his first professional contract and enjoy his first taste of the first-team picture.
After a good spell of early possession for the Addicks, it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal 10 minutes into proceedings.
Following good link-up play between Patrick Bamford and Adomah, the latter was cleverly played into the right-hand side of Charlton’s penalty area.
But with time to shape up his shot, the wide man lashed an effort straight into the side netting.
Both the hosts and Middlesbrough have shown that they thrive on possession football this term, and the two felt each other out as the ball changed hands from one to the other without creating anything clear cut.
Adomah tried his luck again with a shot from 25 yards, but Stephen Henderson showed good hands to collect the ball safely before George Friend headed a corner wide shortly after.
The Addicks were finding it frustratingly difficult to make headway in the final third and the closest they came to troubling Boro’s back four in the first half came after Bulot had won his side a free-kick which Johnnie Jackson whipped in for Andre Bikey-Amougou, but the big defender’s attempted header was snuffed out at the back post.
On 34 minutes, Bamford sent the Addicks’ net rippling when he sent a deflected shot narrowly over the bar which tricked many into thinking that the visitors had taken the lead. But with the ball resting safely behind the net, they would have to settle for just a corner.
While it was true that Boro had enjoyed more of the half chances during the first 45, there was barely anything to separate two sides who were simply cancelling each other out.
Charlton received a blow at half-time after Johann Berg Gudmundsson limped off after treading on the ball just before the break and was replaced by Moussa who slotted into the left-midfield berth as Jordan Cousins switched to the right.
But it was Peeters’ men who made the stronger start to the second half, and although they were yet to see their first shot on goal, Charlton remained threatening going forward, enjoying the lions’ share of possession as they looked to make a breakthrough.
On the 68-minute mark, Jordan Cousins powered down the right-hand side before cutting into the box and drilling a dangerous low ball across the face of goal. But with Vetokele lurking, a Boro defender nipped in front to hack the ball away.
Peeters decided to shuffle his pack with 20 minutes remaining as George Tucudean entered the fray in place of Jackson; a move which saw Cousins shift to a familiar central-midfield role.
That move very nearly paid dividends.
Seven minutes later, Rhoys Wiggins got to the byline before delivering a deep ball to the far post where Bulot adjusted well to send a volley bouncing towards goal.
His effort had Boro keeper Dimi Konstantopoulos beaten all ends up, but the ball came agonisingly back off the inside of the right-hand upright before being cleared away to deny the Adidcks the lead.
With eight minutes left, confusion surrounded The Valley when Wiggins was caught by Adomah’s dangerous high foot, and with the referee initially pointing for a free-kick the way of Boro, all in red were up in arms.
But it soon became clear that Gavin Ward had simply pointed in the wrong direction as he produced the Boro number 27 with a second yellow card and thus, his marching orders.
The incentive was now with the home side against a clearly tiring Middlesbrough side, perhaps feeling the after-effects of their midweek penalty marathon with Liverpool.
Tucudean went for an overhead kick before Peeters took the unusual step of leaving Bikey forward as a third striker as the clock ticked over into added time. And it very nearly paid off when he held the ball up well before playing the ball into the box.
With it falling loose to Lawrie Wilson in the box, the sub drilled his shot from 12 yards only to be denied by Konstantopoulos at his near post.
Then from the resulting corner, the ball fell to Wiggins who beat the keeper only to see his shot cleared off the line.
Charlton very nearly snatched a winner at the death and while the extra points would have been most welcome, they can be very satisfied with yet another point, not to mention the extension of what is now a hugely impressive unbeaten run.
Charlton: Henderson; Solly, Wiggins, Ben Haim, Bikey-Amougou; Gudmundsson (Moussa 46), Buyens, Jackson(Tucudean 69), Cousins; Bulot (Wilson 84), Vetokele.
Subs (not used): Pope, Morrison, Harriott, Ahearne-Grant.
Booked: Ben Haim 39 (foul on Ayala), Solly 74 (foul on Clayton)
Middlesbrough: Dimi; Nsue, Omeruo (Gibson 71), Ayala, Friend; Adomah, Clayton, Tomlin (Wildschut 87), Reach; Bamford, Kike (Leadbitter 76).
Subs (not used): Blackman, Fredericks, Ledesma, Husband.
Sent off: Adomah 82 (second-bookable offence)
Referee: G Ward
Att: 16,110 (1,967 from Middlesbrough)