Olly Groome reports from The Valley
A Johnnie Jackson-inspired comeback earned Charlton a point from two goals down against Fulham at The Valley on Sunday.
The skipper, who has endured a frustrating time on the sidelines so far this season, entered the fray with his team two goals down after Ryan Tunnicliffe and Ross McCormack had netted for the West Londoners either side of half-time.
Storming onto the turf like a raging bull, Jackson thundered home a header with his first touch with just nine minutes remaining before Jordan Cousins headed an equaliser in similar fashion six minutes into added time to earn a deserved draw in front of the Sky cameras.
The team news saw Guy Luzon made four changes to the side which lost at Cardiff last time out, with one being enforced with Ahmed Kashi missing out with a troublesome ankle.
El-Hadji Ba made a starting return in his place, while Alou Diarra was drafted back in for Naby Sarr after serving his one-match suspension.
Elsewhere, Karlan Ahearne-Grant was rewarded for his first league goal last weekend with a starting berth against Fulham. He joined Tony Watt in attack with Mikhail Kennedy dropping to the bench alongside Zakarya Bergdich, who was replaced on the left of midfield by Conor McAleny.
With the match under way at the sun-kissed Valley, it took just 30 seconds for the Addicks to carve out their first opportunity from which they should have taken the lead to make the perfect start.
During an excellent passing move, Cousins threaded a clever ball through to McAleny who still had a quarter of the pitch ahead of him. Racing in the box, he just had Andy Lonergan to beat but could only slot his effort wide of the upright from 10 yards.
It was a positive start from the hosts who enjoyed much of the early possession and saw Johann Berg Gudmundsson fire over the bar from distance, while Alou Diarra’s flicked header tested Lonergan on his line.
With Charlton on top, it took Fulham 25 minutes to register their first shot on goal, coming via the right boot of Jazz Richards from distance, drawing a good, diving save from Nick Pope.
Luzon’s men responded by going straight down the other end and coming closer still, with McAleny once again causing the visitors concern.
The Everton loanee lined up a 25-yarder, hitting it sweetly and beating Lonergan all ends up. The swerve of the ball, however, took it just the wrong side of the right-hand post.
With 33 minutes on the clock, Fulham’s McCormack won a free-kick 30 yards goal and it would prove to be costly, with Kit Symons’ men taking the lead as a result.
The Scot sent his shot low towards goal, bouncing right in front of Pope and spilling out of the keepers’ grips. With Tunnicliffe one of a number of yellow shirts to pounce on the slip, he got there first to punish the Addicks and finished with ease to put his side 1-0 up against the run of play.
It was a huge blow for the home side who had certainly started the brighter of the two and they came inches away from an equaliser six minutes before the break when Watt did superbly well to break free of Richards’ shackles to get into the box and cross for Ahearne-Grant who was a studs-length away from diverting the ball home from six yards.
But despite plenty of positives in the first 45, Charlton went into the break a goal behind.
The second-half was only a minute old by the time Fulham found an opening, coming close to a second with Tunnicliffe dispossessing McAleny in the box and sending a stinging drive towards goal which Pope did well to parry away.
The Addicks, however, quickly regained their grip and continued to build up the chances without striking that killer blow.
Watt came inches away from connecting with a header from six yards, while Ba forced Lonergan into a save with his legs when played in round the back of the defence as the hosts kept knocking on the door without an answer.
Crucially, Charlton would be punished for their missed chances as with 59 minutes gone, the prolific McCormack got his name on the scoresheet to put his side two goals to the good, producing a clinical finish into the bottom right-hand corner to leave the home side with an almighty hill to climb.
Unsurprisingly, the second caused heads to drop, and the Addicks found those chances far more difficult to come by as the Cottagers’ confidence increased.
Luzon’s last throw of the dice was to introduce skipper Jackson from the bench for the final 10 minutes in an attempt to rally the troops. Indeed, it had the required effect, paying off in spades.
The midfielder was on the field for a matter of seconds before he emphatically headed home in off the crossbar from a corner to reduce the arrears and give the hosts a glimmer of hope going into the few minutes that remained.
Suddenly, tails were up as they went in search of an equaliser. Watt’s burst into the box opened things up, only for his shot to be well blocked, before Ahearne-Grant got himself in a similar position, only for the Fulham defence to deal with the threat once again.
And in injury time, another corner saw Ahearne-Grant spin, before scooping a shot over the crossbar as the last remaining glimmer of hope began to fade into distance.
With four minutes of additional time given, a clash of heads saw Patrick Bauer bandaged up and the Addicks a little more time to salvage a point.
The Valley has experienced late joy once already this season and the SE7 faithful were desperate for a repeat, urging the ball forwards as they tried to suck the ball into the net. Incredibly, that hope came to glorious fruition with 96 minutes on the board.
Watt laid it off to Ahearne-Grant on the right-hand side and the youngster sent in a pinpoint cross for fellow academy graduate Cousins, who thumped his header into the net as the Covered End exploded in delight.
It was a goal which would vitally stop the rot for Luzon’s side as they go into the international break with their heads held high and their spirits up.
It could have been even better when Gudmundsson sent through Watt with a delightful chip at the death, but Stearman’s last-ditch block meant they would have to settle for a point; something all in red and white would have snatched at just minutes earlier.
Next up is a trip to Reading in a fortnight’s time, with a number of injured first-teamers set to return to the fold as Charlton look to climb their way back up the table.
Charlton: Pope, Solly, Diarra, Bauer, Fox (Bergdich 65), Gudmundsson, Ba (Jackson 80), Cousins, McAleny (Moussa 71), Watt, Ahearne-Grant.
Subs (not used): Mitov, Sarr, Holmes-Dennis, Kennedy.
Booked: Gudmundsson 64 (foul on Husband)
Goals: Jackson 81, Cousins 90+6
Fulham: Lonergan, Richards, Stearman, Ream, Pringle (Garbutt 60), Tunnicliffe, Christensen, O’Hara (Matilla 90), Dembele (Woodrow 75), Husband, McCormack.
Subs(not used): Lewis, Fredericks, Kacaniklic, Burn.
Booked: Christensen 51 (foul on Ahearne-Grant)
Goals: Tunnicliffe 32, McCormack 59
Referee: J Linington
Att: 14,662 (1,283 from Fulham)