A second half comeback from Cardiff City saw injury hit Charlton take a well earned point on Saturday afternoon
Charlton finally returned home to The Valley for the first time since November 3rd, but were frustratingly held to a 2-2 draw courtesy of a pair of second-half Cardiff goals and a late onslaught of pressure that failed to yield a winner for the hosts.
Lee Bowyer made two changes to the side that was cruelly beaten by Millwall, with Deji Oshilaja replacing Naby Sarr who moved to the bench, and Erhun Otzumer coming in for the suspended Darren Pratley.
The Addicks lined up in a 4-diamond-2 formation with Ben Purrington and Adam Matthews operating in the full-back roles while Albie Morgan, recently recalled from Ebbsfleet, earned a place amongst Bowyer’s six substitutes, one less than allowed due to the severe injury crisis.
Charlton controlled the opening exchanges, knocking the ball around comfortably as the rust from the international break was quickly shaken off.
Cardiff’s first foray into Dillon Phillips’ defensive third came in the eighth minute and saw Aden Flint meet a dangerous Junior Hoilett ball before the Charlton ‘keeper smothered a low cross.
Jason Pearce was next to put his body on the line when he jumped in front of a dangerous curling effort from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, and the forward was at the heart of the Bluebirds’ attacking thrust moments later when his low cross set up Paterson to side foot narrowly wide.
After weathering the early storm, Charlton broke at pace through Macauley Bonne and took a crucial 1-0 lead in the 13th minute. The forward worked his way through a pair of Cardiff defenders before laying the ball into the box for Jonathan Leko whose miss-hit shot turned into the perfect assist for the arriving Conor Gallagher to poke home.
The goal was the midfielder’s sixth goal of the campaign, coming just days after opening his account for the England U21s,and seemed to buoy the home side as the passing became quicker and the defensive shape assumed a position high up the pitch.
Cardiff supporters clamoured for a penalty in the 22nd minute after Nathaniel Mendez-Laing went down under a timely intervention from Oshilaja, but the referee was unmoved.
Leko was next to have a sight of goal 25 minutes in when Matthews picked up Oztumer’s deflected strike and found the 20-year old free, 12 yards out, but his effort was blocked by a Cardiff defender.
The Addicks continued to push for a second and Gallagher went inches from turning provider just moments later, but his low curling cross somehow evaded everyone with Leko lurking dangerously at the back-post.
The away side tried their luck through a pair of Gary Madine headers, but Phillips calmly watched the first sail wide before the second dropped securely into his hands.
Bowyer’s men continued to attack with energy and doubled the lead through Leko three minutes before the break, although it was Oztumer who deserved an equal share of the plaudits. The midfielder drove menacingly at the Cardiff defence before picking the perfect moment to slip a well weighted ball to Leko who made no mistake with his left-footed finish.
After a quiet first 45 minutes in goal Phillips turned from observer to hero when Cardiff were gifted a chance to halve the deficit three minutes after the break. Purrington was adjudged to have fouled Paterson in the box, but Phillips guessed correctly to keep out Hoilett’s spot-kick.
The reprieve was short-lived and the Welsh side did manage to pull a goal back in the 52nd minute through Mendez-Laing who lashed the ball into the back of the net following a goal-mouth scramble.
The Addicks burgeoning injury crisis deepened in the 55th minute when Josh Cullen was forced off on a stretcher, replaced by Morgan making his first appearance since returning to the club earlier this week.
Faced with Cardiff’s best spell of the match Phillips again proved decisive, saving sharply with his legs after Leandro Bacuna’s shot from the edge of the box had been dangerously deflected.
Bonne’s endeavour up front nearly presented Charlton with a third when the striker pounced on a loose ball, but Morgan’s eventual effort was saved.
With energy rekindled after the set-back, the Addicks twice went close in the ensuing moments, Morgan seeing an effort saved before Bonne fired a snap-shot narrowly over the bar.
The match descended into a pulsating end-to-end encounter by the hour mark and Madine was next to go close in the 65th minute, heading over after latching onto Flint’s knock-on.
Charlton were left to rue the missed chances as Cardiff equalised with 17 minutes remaining after substitute Lee Tomlin found himself free in the box to side-foot a cross into the back of the net.
Alfie Doughty replaced Leko for his Championship debut in the 79th minute and immediately caused danger with a darting run down the line, but his cross went straight at Neil Etheridge.
Charlton pushed for a winner and Oztumer hit a swirling effort over the bar from the edge of the box after a corner.
The visitors had a chance to win it in the 88th minute, a long throw-in causing trouble in the box before Flint volleyed high over the bar.
The fourth official indicated seven minutes of stoppage time as the Addicks continued to camp in Cardiff’s defensive third, with one opportunity seeing Bonne swivel before firing wide following Oztumer’s cross.
Bonne went close again as the minutes ticked away, seeing a shot blocked at the last moment after Doughty had found him the box.
Despite pushing for a winner Charlton were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in a tale of two halves that saw the Addicks race into a 2-0 lead in the first 45 minutes through Gallagher and Leko before being pegged back in the second.
Charlton: Phillips, Oshilaja, Lockyer, Pearce (C), Matthews, Purrington, Gallagher, Cullen (Morgan 55’), Otzumer, Leko (Doughty 79’), Bonne
Subs not used: Maynard-Brewer, Solly, Sarr, Davison
Booked: Bonne (90+’ Foul on Etheridge)
Cardiff City: Etheridge, Peltier, Bennett, Flint, Bacuna, Paterson (Vaulks 79’), Pack, Nelson, Mendez-Laing, Madine (Bogle 67’), Hoilett (Tomlin 67’)
Subs not used: Smithies, Morrison, Vaulks, Murphy, Coxe
Booked: Madine (58’ Simulation), Peltier (81’ Foul on Doughty), Tomlin (85’ Dissent)
Referee: Darren Bond
Attendance: 16,011 (1,673 from Cardiff)
Article by Benjy Nurick