Olly Groome reports from The Valley
Patrick Bauer’s dramatic, injury-time equaliser earned Charlton a point from a 1-1 draw against high-flying Sheffield United at The Valley on Saturday.
Despite the Blades, unbeaten in 15 league games, having the better of much of the afternoon, the Londoners showed great resilience to claim their point and it was the big German who was the strongest presence in the box, forcing home Adam Chicksen’s free-kick delivery at the death to cancel out Mark Duffy’s first-half opener and keep the Addicks’ momentum going as they continue to climb the League One table.
Skipper Johnnie Jackson was restored to the starting XI, as Charlton made one change for the visit of the Blades. The club captain replaced Chicksen, who dropped to the bench.
Tuesday’s league debutant Dillon Phillips retained his place in goal and he was protected by the same back four that has started the last two matches, consisting of Kevin Foley, Bauer, Jason Pearce and Morgan Fox.
Regular engine-roomers Andrew Crofts and Fredrik Ulvestad began in the heart of midfield and they were flanked by Ademola Lookman and the recalled Jackson.
Up top, Josh Magennis and Nicky Ajose kept their places having both scored in their last two outings, against Port Vale and Bristol Rovers.
After a three-minute delay due to a number of sponge footballs and taxis being thrown onto the pitch by protesting fans, the action got under way with the hosts making the first foray into the opposition’s half with six minutes gone.
A good passing move saw the ball shifted out to Jackson on the left, who sent in a near inch-perfect cross, millimetres away from the diving head of Magennis on the edge of the six-yard box.
Moments later, the Addicks did have the ball in the back of the net when Fox played in Magennis one-on-one, and although the striker poked his shot past Blades stopper Simon Moore, the flag had already gone up for offside.
With 20 minutes on the clock, United registered their first real shot at goal with Crofts putting in a good block to get in the way of Jack O’Connell’s goalbound effort, shortly after a dangerous cross from the left had only just evaded Leon Clarke in the box.
But just after the half-hour mark, the Blades took the lead courtesy of a very clever free-kick routine.
Duffy stood over the ball before making a dash into the box and receiving a pass direct from the set-piece, allowing him time to pick up possession in space and fire in an angled shot which Phillips got a hand to, but could not keep out.
Buoyed by the sold out away end, the goal knocked out a little bit of the verve that Charlton had on display in the opening exchanges, as United began to get their tails up, although a half-chance did fall to the feet of Ajose, who landed Crofts’ flick onto the roof of the net with his shot.
Deep into first-half injury time, the visitors had an opportunity to double their lead when Billy Sharp twisted and turned in the box before firing straight at Phillips, leaving the Addicks with the solitary goal to overcome in the second period.
United’s confidence carried on into the second half. John Fleck’s 20-yarder bounced its way towards the bottom right-hand corner, forcing Phillips down to his left to make a good save, while Basham’s run ended in him skewing a shot just wide of the post.
Kevin Nugent made an early decision to shuffle his pack, bringing on Chicksen to replace Jackson on 52 minutes as the home side looked for a way back into the encounter.
United, however, continued to look dangerous. Phillips was called into action once again on the hour when the impressive Duffy looked to round off a counter-attack with his effort, only for the young custodian to dive brilliantly to deny him.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Phillips pulled off another outstanding stop to keep out a United header, while Magennis forced Moore into his first save of the afternoon at the other end, drilling a first-time shot towards the near post.
The visitors had impressed throughout, restricting the hosts to only half-chances right up until the very death when lively substitute Jordan Botaka won a free-kick along the right-hand side of the box.
Chicksen stepped up to deliver, swinging the ball into the box where Bauer muscled his way onto the end of it to force the equaliser into the back of the net and send the Valley faithful into delirium.
It was a goal which, in truth, had looked unlikely for the majority of the second half, making the celebrations all the more sweet with Charlton now well and truly in the play-off-chasing pack – two points off sixth place with a game in hand.
The draw means new boss Karl Robinson will inherit a side now unbeaten at home in five matches, with just one loss in nine games going into next Saturday’s FA Cup second-round clash against his former club, Milton Keynes Dons.
Charlton: Phillips, Foley, Bauer, Pearce, Fox, Crofts (Botaka 81), Ulvestad, Lookman, Jackson (Chicksen 52), Magennis, Ajose (Novak 63).
Subs (not used): Beeney, Konsa, Lennon, Hanlan.
Booked: Fox 36 (foul on Basham)
Goal: Bauer 90+2
Sheffield United: Moore, Fleck, O'Connell, Basham, Sharp, Wright, Coutts, Ebanks-Landell, Duffy (Scougal 75), Lafferty, Clarke (Lavery 66).
Subs (not used): Ramsdale, Hussey, Done, Chapman.
Booked: Clarke 66 (persistent fouling), Coutts 84 (dissent), Lafferty 90+2 (foul on Botaka)
Goal: Duffy 32
Referee: Graham Scott
Att: 12,580 (3,088 from Sheffield United)