Middlesbrough were ultimately left frustrated at the Riverside yesterday as a second-half onslaught only yielded a point against a well-organised Charlton side.
Yet the vast majority of the home fans in the 29,000 crowd went away buoyed up by another sparkling display in midfield from Juninho and the promise it holds for Steve McClaren's improving outfit next season.
Juninho, making only his fourth appearance since returning from a cruciate ligament injury, was closely marked by Radostin Kishishev but still managed to find space to force two saves from Dean Kiely and create several other chances as Boro sought to cancel out Jonatan Johansson's first-half goal.
"He is showing at the moment why he is in the team," said McClaren, "and teams have a job to do to keep him quiet. Charlton chose to man-mark him but he is used to that. He has had it all his career."
Charlton's challenge for a Uefa Cup place has lost a little steam, but Alan Curbishley was happy to stop their run of defeats extending to three matches. "I think after the two games we have just had – Arsenal and Newcastle – and coming away with nothing, we needed to bounce back," the Addicks manager said.
However, the Londoners could have returned from Teesside with all three points if they had taken more than one of several excellent first-half chances. Kevin Lisbie spurned a glorious opportunity to open the scoring after 18 minutes, scooping a close-range shot over the bar, while Johansson shot straight at Mark Schwarzer when well placed.
The Finnish striker soon made amends in the 26th minute, running clear of a square Boro defence to dispatch Lisbie's cute through- ball past Schwarzer.
That prompted McClaren to shake his team up at half-time by bringing on Franck Queudrue and Michael Ricketts. After Geremi had rattled the bar with a curling free–kick, it was the French defender who set up the equaliser that their improved performance warranted, his dangerous cross from the left being snapped up at the near post by Malcolm Christie.
Charlton were now grimly hanging on, with Juninho at the heart of most of Boro's attacks, though the visitors almost snatched an unlikely victory with a Paul Konchesky free-kick which struck the bar late on.
Charlton Athletic 1
Half-time: 0-1 Attendance: 29,080
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