TEN-MAN Town showed tenacity, character and patience to salvage a much-deserved point in soggy South-East London.
TEN-MAN Huddersfield Town showed tenacity, character and patience to salvage a much-deserved point in soggy South-East London.
Credit Adam Clayton for the cool way he put away the late penalty which cancelled out Rob Hulse’s 60th-minute opener for the Addicks.
Credit keeper Alex Smithies for the superb stoppage-time save which denied Hulse what would have been a cruel winner.
Credit manager Simon Grayson for keeping calm after the first-half sending off of Keith Southern, coming up with a revised gameplan and making good use of his three substitutes.
But don’t credit referee Lee Collins, whose decision to show Southern a straight red card for his 35t-minute challenge on Michael Morrison spoiled the game as a spectacle and brought criticism from both managers.
It didn’t look a sending-off offence from the press box, perched high in the main stand and providing a panoramic view at The Valley, or judging by the reaction of the Town fans, from behind the goal Charlton were attacking.
And it didn’t look a sending-off offence from the television replays, more a collision of two players committed to winning the ball on a greasy surface.
“I couldn’t see anything amiss with the tackle,” said Clayton, who vied for possession subsequently.
“I went to try and win the second ball because I assumed it was play-on.
“It was frustrating because it massively influenced the game.
“Once you are down to 10 men, you’re not out of it, but you’ve got an uphill task.”
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Having more than matched the hosts up until the third dismissal for a Town player this season (after Joel Lynch at Sheffield Wednesday and Jack Hunt at Millwall), Grayson’s side set about the task of denying Charlton a fourth successive win with gusto.
Simon Church, who had started up front in a 4-4-2, dropped back to leave Lee Novak as the lone striker, and as ever, the Geordie was a more than willing worker in a demanding role.
Town had earlier looked capable of spoiling Charlton’s bid for a third successive clean sheet, with Clayton forcing a desperate block from Johnnie Jackson, Peter Clarke scooping a hugely inviting chance from the rebound over the bar, Church being denied by keeper Ben Hamer and Novak twice coming close with well-struck shots.
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Charlton had obvious dangermen in bustling striker Ricardo Fuller and Emmanuel Frimpong, the busy midfielder on loan from Arsenal.
But Town never came under concerted pressure, even after Hulse shot home from Bradley Pritchard’s well-placed delivery.
Much to the annoyance of their fans, Charlton seemed caught between shutting up shop to defend their advantage and going for the jugular at the risk of leaving in chink in their armour for Town to exploit.
Grayson, meanwhile, rung the changes by replacing Oliver Norwood with Scott Arfield, Novak with Alan Lee and, finally, Danny Ward with Adam Hammill.
Given the amount of work the whole side got through, the fresh legs were much-needed, and Lee was a real nuisance, twice being denied by blocks before Hamer fumbled Clayton’s deep delivery and Chris Solly was adjudged by whistler Collins to have fouled Clarke for the crucial spot kick.