TOWN provided Charlton with a real challenge – but defensive errors again proved costly.
Allowing Sam Sodje and Izale McLeod free headers put paid to hopes of ending a miserable run on the road, which now stretches to five defeats on the trot.
It was tough to take for boss Lee Clark, for on an entertaining afternoon in South London, where 16,991 fans enjoyed a real end-to-end tussle, his side more than matched their hosts with the exception of one vital statistic, the number of times they put the ball in the net.
Anthony Pilkington did manage it, capping a spell of Town pressure by firing home an equaliser direct from a free-kick in the 39th minute.
But the visitors were caught out just four minutes into the second half, and try as they might, couldn’t score again.
Peter Clarke had a goal disallowed while Antony Kay, Jordan Rhodes, Anthony Pilkington and Lionel Ainsworth all had chances which came to nothing as Phil Parkinson, the man who might have become Town manager back in March 2007, watched his Charlton team go top of the League I table.
Parkinson gave Town huge credit for “having a real go”, adding: “They had us on the rack at times and my defenders had to put themselves on the line. It was a proper game of football.”
But as Clark observed, plaudits don’t win points, and the manager admits he must find a way of improving the return away from the Galpharm.
The pattern on Saturday’s showdown was set from the outset, with Charlton’s Lloyd Sam heading over, Lee Novak lobbing onto the roof of the net and Roberts curling a shot just wide by the time Sodje opened the scoring in the eighth minute.
Matt Spring swung in a corner from the Charlton left and the brother of former Town players Efe and Akpo, freshly back from international duty with Nigeria, rose unopposed to power home a header from 12 yards out.
It was Charlton’s first goal in four league games, and the home fans were in full voice, but Town responded positively to the setback.
Michael Collins picked up Robbie Williams’s pass and cut in before bending a shot across the face of goal and narrowly wide before Novak’s header was blocked by the outstretched foot of the outstanding Sodje.
Williams then had a 30-yard free-kick tipped away for a corner by goalkeeper Rob Elliot before Kay’s volley was smothered and Roberts’ shot deflected for a corner.
The equaliser finally came – to a chorus of jeers from the Charlton support who were upset after seeing Elliot block out a Rhodes shot, only for referee Roger East to award Town a free-kick for Spring’s foul on Collins in the build-up.
Williams shaped to try his luck again, but left it to Pilkington, who fired home his fourth goal of the season from 25 yards off Elliot’s left-hand post.
It was a richly-deserved leveller, but Town were behind again soon after the break.
Lee Peltier’s foul on home skipper Nicky Bailey brought a free-kick on halfway which Sodje nodded on for McLeod to head past the stranded Alex Smithies.
Town’s keeper had to be alert to deny both Bailey, with a shot, and veteran striker Deon Burton, with a header, as Charlton strove to extend their lead.
But there was plenty of attacking left in Town, and the travelling fans behind Elliot’s goal thought Clarke had levelled again when he headed in from Novak’s flick, only for the goal to be disallowed for a foul in the approach work.
Roberts pulled off a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Frenchman Therry Racon in the 57th minute, and soon after, Pilkington had a top chance to equalise, only to scoop a Roberts cross over the top under pressure from Kelly Youga.Related content
Kay fired onto the roof of the net and McLeod chested down Bailey’s pass and drilled a shot just over, while Rhodes headed just wide and Sam brought a fine save from Smithies as the chances continued to flow.
Rhodes looked odd-on to add to his 11-goal tally in 74th minute when teed up by Roberts’ neat flick, but Elliot blocked the shot with his legs, and after Racon was denied by Smithies, the home keeper looked on in relief as substitute Ainsworth’s late effort was deflected for a corner.