Charlton shared the spoils with Bristol City last night, but as the end of the season approaches, the home side may come to regret their nagging inability to hold a lead.
Although not as disappointing as the Watford result, the game followed a similar pattern. The Addicks, sporting a 4-5-1 formation, hassled the table-toppers relentlessly for the first 45 minutes in what was initially a successful bid to curtail their passing game.
Things started well, Ambrose coolly slotting home on 8 minutes after some great linkup play between Zheng Zhi and Kelly Youga. City looked shocked to be behind so soon, and Charlton kept up what was a frenetic pace at times.
The forward players were showing clear commitment and intent, and continually pressured the City back-line into making mistakes. Zhi was a constant threat with Ambrose in midfield, and the defence were rarely troubled.
One disappointment in the first half was the failure to capitalise on an injury to Adebola. The City striker was off the field for 10 minutes for treatment to a head wound, but there was no apparent direction or desire from Alan Pardew to press home the one-man advantage. At 1-0 up this would have been an ideal point to cement a victory, but it will join the other “what-ifs” of this season.
City came out far stronger in the second half, and played some great football – it was clear at this point why they are now top of this division. I can barely remember a single long-ball being played, which was in stark contrast to the tactically-tired approach from the home side.
The Addicks' best chance of the half came in bizarre fashion from Bristol defender McCombe. He sliced a clearance that bounced over his own keeper, and fortunately for him, his own net as well.
McCombe made no mistake at the other end minutes later though, as City picked up a deserved equaliser. Youga, who had an uncharacteristically average game, found himself caught out of position in a City attack, the resulting cross headed out for a corner by Ambrose. McCombe then made the home side pay for their inability to extend the lead by powering home a header for the leveller.
From this point there was only one team in it. The desire of the Charlton front-line to close down the defence was lacking, allowing City to forge space, keep the ball, and create chances for Adebola and the substitute Byfield.
In the final stages of the game City hit the bar, Youga and McCarthy both made match-saving tackles, and a ricochet off McCarthy almost found it's way into the net.
It’s probably fair to say that only Holland and McCarthy can come out with any particular praise for the home side. Ambrose was absent in the second half, Thomas still flatters to deceive, and I’m still not sure exactly what Andy Gray’s contribution is so far. I also feel we need Bougherra back in defence alongside McCarthy, as Sodje was guilty of poor distribution too many times.
Despite the disappointment of losing yet another lead, this has to be seen as a valuable point. Losing, as we easily could have, may have seen us slip out of the top 6 on Saturday. As it stands, we have a one-match buffer on the chasing pack, a lead which needs to be extended against Preston on Saturday.