HAVING EARNED the pre-match plaudits for bravery in picking Paul Gascoigne, the Middlesbrough manager Bryan Robson deserves commendation for removing Gazza at half-time, a decision made easier by the calf niggle the midfielder had picked up.
By then the great man had already been off the pitch twice to have his boots attended to and was involved in a non-stop push-and-shove contest with his marker, Keith Jones, which earned both men a word from referee Mike Riley in the first minute. Their session of nastiness culminated in a clash which saw Gascoigne booked (for aiming a kick at Jones, said Mr Riley) and a penalty converted by Clive Mendonca.
It looked for a long time as if the Gascoigne foolishness would cost his side the game but, his replacement, Phil Stamp, headed the equaliser 16 minutes from the end.
When he could find space, Gascoigne offered flashes of his skills. One glorious pass, volleyed with the left foot, set Brian Deane free on the left but the striker spurned the chance with abysmal control. Then a left- wing corner was curled by Gascoigne to the far post where Gianluca Festa slipped in the act of shooting and struck the side-netting.
The rest of the first half saw Charlton probing but with no success against opponents who retreated at every threat. Forced to try their luck from a distance, first Carl Tiler had a 25-yard effort blocked and then Mark Kinsella's effort from the same range flew wide.
Another Tiler piledriver demanded a save from Mark Schwarzer but Middlesbrough seemed in no distress until the 38th minute and the penalty. As the defence were dealing with a long throw by Danny Mills, Gascoigne and Jones tangled at the edge of the box.
The Charlton man tumbled and Mr Riley's award of the penalty was as immediate as his flourish of the yellow card in Gascoigne's face. Mendonca's kick found the net low to Schwarzer's left.
With the newly-arrived Stamp bustling about midfield in support of the excellent Andy Townsend, Boro were much livelier and, after an hour, Charlton introduced Neil Redfearn to try to wrest control from them, but to little effect.
Boro continued to press and a Dean Gordon cross whizzed across the face of Sasa Ilic's net and just clear of assorted toecaps. Next Middlesbrough won a string of corners before, in the 74th minute, they collected the goal their second-half labours merited. A Curtis Fleming cross from the right was emphatically met by the leaping Stamp and Ilic could only watch it rocket past him.
Charlton's rousing finish seemed to have paid off when Andy Hunt netted in the last minute but Mr Riley, an astute spotter of infringements in the area on this day, penalised Redfearn for pushing.Reuse content