Completely outplayed in the first half by Phil Parkinson’s rampant Black Cats, who racked up eight fruitless efforts on target, Charlton got away with one on Saturday. A point, that is, which is one more than looked likely at half-time.
Profligate Sunderland, it should be said, deserved no more than their struggling hosts. Their overwhelming domination of the opening 45 minutes should have seen them two or perhaps three goals in front at the break. A corresponding failure to score owed much to their poor finishing but even more to an outstanding display of goalkeeping by Ben Amos.
During the Wearsiders’ early onslaught, Amos made several fine stops, which paled almost into insignificance alongside the truly unbelievable save he produced to frustrate visiting skipper Bailey Wright at the height of Sunderland’s pressure.
Having barrelled through the Addicks’ puny resistance to meet Luke O’Nien’s outswinging left wing corner, Wright powered an unstoppable header which seemed certain to find the left corner of Charlton’s goal. Diving instinctively to his right, Amos incredibly contrived at full length to turn the ball to safety much to Wright’s astonishment. His magnificent save in a one-sided game during which his shot-shy colleagues managed two off-target attempts on goal single-handedly earned his misfiring side this useful point.
Amos’ defiance of Parkinson’s marauders included several other saves, the best of which saw him defy Danny Graham at close range after Aiden O’Brien’s far post header returned O’Nien’s accurate cross to the veteran’s feet. Later on, Graham laid off Tom Flanagan’s creative pass to O’Brien but Amos brilliantly parried the ex-Millwall winger’s point blank shot; in a hectic scramble for the rebound, Ben Watson bravely blocked Graham’s follow-up effort. Before the interval came to Charlton’s rescue, even Amos was a helpless bystander as Graham slid in to finish off Scawen’s pinpointed low cross but from four yards skied into the empty North Stand. A North Stand which in happier circumstances would have risen to their heroic keeper as he headed for the tunnel.
Though they continued on top, Sunderland’s best chances had come and gone. An improving home side began to share the run of play without suggesting they had it in them to break the deadlock. The 72nd minute introduction of Chuks Aneke added physicality and the newcomer’s lightning-quick combination with Dylan Levitt set up the burly forward to shoot narrowly over the bar. In the context of Charlton’s feeble attacking contribution, his near miss constituted a triumph of sorts. So did the headed flick which sent Conor Washington sprinting goalside of Flanagan and persuaded the outmanoeuvred defender to chop the Northern Irishman down from behind. Last seen deflecting Patrick Bauer’s late winner into his own net at Wembley, it’s safe to assume that the next time Flanagan bumps into Charlton will also, he hopes, be the last time. Enough already so soon. He’s suffered too much at their hands.
Manchester United loanee Levitt, meanwhile, promised more than he delivered. His vaunted distributive ability completely deserted him, with pass after pass delivered off target. The late free kick he sent spiralling into an empty North Stand capped a less than productive performance. Stylish and composed, the young Welshman can do better – much better. Lee Bowyer will undoubtedly persevere with him.
Fellow newcomer Akin Famewo (the ‘e’ is apparently silent) is already on his way to becoming a fans’ favourite, assuming of course, he’s still around when The Valley asserts itself again. A cool, confident operator, the former Norwich centre back makes time and space for himself, passes crisply and appears panic-proof. Squarely by his side as the North Easterners asked all the questions, Darren Pratley was his usual competitive self, the industrial language he used when late sub Marcus Maddison’s overhit set-piece soared over his head providing verbal proof of his commitment. No need to apologise for swearing, Darren, we found it colourful and, in some strange way, reassuring. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, footballers gotta eff and blind. They’re immutable laws of nature.
Having shown belated signs of finding their collective feet, the cancellation of next weekend’s trip to Ipswich is timely, if only to work out in training a shape which fits all. On Saturday, this admittedly tactical dunce gave up trying to figure how the Addicks were deployed. From the perspective of your comfortable armchairs, possibly you can shed light where there are shadows. Answers on a postcard as per usual.
Charlton: Amos, Oshilaja, Famewo, Purrington, Doughty, Pratley, Levitt (Maddison 83), Watson, Vennings (Aneke 72), Oztumer (Williams 46), Washington. Not used: Maynard-Brewer, Barker, Lapslie, Morgan. Booked: Watson, Levitt.
Sunderland: Burge, Flanagan, Willis, Wright,O’Brien, Goody (Grigg 65), O’Nien, Scawen, Graham (Wyke 65), Leadbitter, Hume. Not used: Matthews,McLaughlin, Power, Xhemajli, Diamond. Booked: Scawen, Willis, O’Nien.
Referee: Andy Davies.
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