Sunderland 0 Charlton Athletic 0
Sunderland's 14th successive game without defeat kept the smile on the face of their manager, Peter Reid, even after a disappointing stalemate against Charlton Athletic, another of the First Division promotion hopefuls looking to skip the play-offs.
A near-capacity audience at Roker Park had anticipated the victory which would have taken the leaders to within one win of a place alongside their neighbours, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, next season. But while the fans' hit record "Cheer Up Peter Reid" is heading for the nation's top 20 next week, the team's elevation to similar heights must wait a shade longer.
The most noteworthy openings in a nondescript first half were crammed into the closing minutes. Charlton's third-choice goalkeeper, Andy Petterson, bravely beat away a close-range header from Kevin Ball, and then Steve Agnew dispossessed John Robinson when he appeared to have broken clear.
The key to Sunderland's 12-month transformation from Second Division possibles to Premier League probables, with what is virtually the same staff, has been the quality of their passing and their confidence on the ball. Both attributes were absent, however, as was Shay Given, the goalkeeper who has afforded them such defensive solidity in his three months on loan from Blackburn Rovers.
The young Irishman's buffeting at Barnsley on Saturday gave Alec Chamberlain a rare afternoon off from his recently acquired part-time job as a local radio pundit.
An early clearance, sliced skywards, appeared ominous but he redeemed himself with an athletic double save just past the hour, first from Bradley Allen and then scrambling to his feet to deny Paul Linger.
Petterson, too, was more active after the break. With Mike Salmon and the American Mike Amman ahead of him in the queue, Petterson's search for a game has taken him on loan to Ipswich, Bradford City, Plymouth and Colchester.
The Australian's stock at The Valley will have risen immeasurably after this display, his late saves from Ball's downward header and Lee Howey's thundering drive securing the Londoners the point they deserved.
Charlton might even have left Wearside with all three, had Chamberlain not been alert to a curling free-kick from Keith Jones which eluded everyone and threatened to creep in at the far post.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Scott; Agnew (Aiston 71), Ball, Bracewell, M Gray; Stewart, Bridges (Howey 74 mins). Substitute not used: Hall.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Petterson; Newton, Rufus, Brown, Balmer; Robson (Linger h-t), Jones, C Whyte, Robinson; Allen, Leaburn. Substitutes not used: D Whyte, Nelson.
Referee: E Lomas (Manchester).Reuse content