There is life in Charlton Athletic yet. Not that you would have guessed it from a moribund first 45 minutes yesterday, dominated by Everton, who then took the lead with the fortuitous sort of goal that goes against teams at the bottom of the table. But that piece of bad luck - an own goal deflected in by Hermann Hreidarsson - turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to the home side. Forced to attack wholeheartedly, they exerted some pressure at last, forced an equaliser and might have gone on to a third win of the season.
As it was, the revival gratified Les Reed, the assistant promoted to succeed Iain Dowie a fortnight ago, whose first match in charge of any League team had produced a feeble performance in defeat at Reading last weekend. "I was very pleased with the comeback," he said. "It was a big contrast to last week in terms of character. The boys reacted to the setback very well and we're disappointed not to win. We believe we're a good team and can play every week like we did in the second half."
The author of a tome entitled "Basic Team Coaching" when technical director of the Football Association, Reed clearly has work to do on those lines, but there was some encouragement for the supportive home crowd in that second period. With Andy Reid demanding the ball at every opportunity and usually using it well, the grip taken by Everton's Mikel Arteta and Lee Carsley was slowly weakened.
Dowie's sacking after 12 games (in which he took only one point fewer than Alan Curbishley had done in the corresponding fixtures a year ago) was considered most un-Charlton like and must have been influenced by off-field considerations as well as results. Confirmation of that came yesterday from the plc chairman, Richard Murray, writing in the match programme about the new management structure adopted last summer, in which the former agent Andrew Mills was brought in as "general manager, football". "Iain's approach, while energetic and enthusiastic, failed to convince the board that he could make the structure work," Murray wrote.
Dowie was unlucky in that of his 10 signings last summer only Scott Carson, the goalkeeper on loan from Liverpool, and Amady Faye have been able to play regularly. Carson has had plenty to do most weeks, and was busy from the start yesterday, even without the injured Andrew Johnson to test him. James McFadden was a lively replacement and it took a fine block by Talal El Karkouri to deny him during Everton's early ascendancy. James Beattie, however, contributed far less and Charlton's unpredictable Dennis Rommedahl had as good a chance as anyone before the interval, cutting inside Nuno Valente before shooting weakly. The only other memorable moment was a superb header by a young ball-boy, putting most of the professionals' efforts to shame and prompting an inevitable chant of "sign him up".
There was nothing else to rouse either set of supporters until the visitors scored seven minutes into the second half, Arteta's low free-kick deflecting off first Leon Osman and then Hreidarsson before dribbling past Carson's right hand. Everton seemed to be on their way, but that moment proved to be their high point.
Reed deserved credit for a positive substitution in bringing on the former Everton striker Marcus Bent, and when he was rewarded within two minutes must have thought there was nothing to this management - sorry, head coach - game after all. Bent went up front with his out-of-touch namesake Darren and with almost his first touch dispossessed Valente to set up Reid for a fine drive from 20 yards past Tim Howard.
Suddenly it was Charlton who seemed to have the extra men available and more importantly the new-found confidence to play the ball around between them. Reid, increasingly influential, slipped a pass through to Rommedahl for a low cross that just eluded Darren Bent. David Moyes changed both his strikers, bringing on James Vaughan and Victor Anichebe, but for the first time most of the play was now at the other end of the pitch.
In four minutes of added time there was more incident than the first 45 put together. Rommedahl miskicked when well placed, Darren Bent shot into the stand and was then thwarted by the excellent Joleon Lescott.
The draw, however, was fair enough and each side will take some positives into their next, contrasting test: Charlton at Sheffield United in a real six-pointer next weekend and Everton at Old Trafford on Wednesday.Reuse content