Notts Forest 1 (Tesche 59) Charlton 1 (Harriott 10).
Kevin Nolan reports from the City Ground.
When an on-fire Callum Harriott illuminated Charlton's dismal 2013-14 season by banging in five goals in their last two league games, the immediate talk was of an overdue breakthrough, the final transition of an outstanding U-21 prospect to accomplished professional. It's reasonable to assume that the end of the campaign came too soon for the in-form winger.
Harriott seems to have been around for so long that it's almost surprising to realise that he doesn't actually get the key of the door until March 4th next year. (That's what we old-timers used to call reaching the supposedly mature age of 21). Already father of toddler son Harley, the newly responsible dad no doubt earmarked this season as the one in which he stepped up from the wannabe juniors to nail down a place in Bob Peeters' embryonic senior side. That hasn't worked out yet but time is still on his side. He's making his move as injuries provide inevitable openings.
The often frustrating kid could manage no better than a place on the bench during the Addicks' opening fourteen games before making his first start at Leeds on November 4th. Playing up front behind lone forward Igor Vetokele, his improvement has been steady and while the old tendencies to showboat dribbling and careless loss of possession still surface occasionally, a new willingness to put in the hard yards is winning over the sceptics. All his busy performances required was a goal to take the pressure off Vetokele. At a chilly City Ground, that important detail was taken care of after just 10 minutes.
Starting brightly with midfield providers Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Francis Coquelin dictating the play, the Addicks put together a sumptuous move in grabbing the lead. It was launched by Ben Tal Haim's commitment to bringing the ball out of defence and crossing the halfway line before handing the initiative to Gudmundsson tight to the right touchline.
Checking back on his sweet left foot, the Icelandic international flighted a precise crossfield pass which was cleverly controlled by Jordan Cousins, who alertly picked out Harriott inside him. One steadying touch set up a crisp low drive which caught a slight deflection before finding the net off the inside of the right post. Charlton were off and running, their jubilation tempered only by the uncomfortable knowledge that only rarely are they good for more than one goal per game. A total of 21 in 20 games speaks for itself.
Managed by the ultra-competitive Stuart Pearce, Forest were unlikely to surrender meekly and wasted little time in coming back at their lively visitors. A litany of missed opportunities was begun by the mess made by an unmarked Michail Antonio of hitting an inviting target at the far post. Jamie Paterson was equally careless with the close range chance he prodded lamely wide. And when Coquelin was booked for needlessly fouling Antonio, Nick Pope's punched clearance of Paterson's free kick was returned by Ben Osborn's volley which deflected harmlessly over Pope's bar.
Ten minutes before the break, the visitors' more cultured football almost confounded that damning one-goal-per-game statistic. Taking the fight to Forest, Harriott ran at the heart of their defence before releasing Coquelin into space to his right. The immaculate French midfielder crossed perfectly, Vetokele managed a twisting header but Karl Darlow reacted smartly to parry. A 20th minute replacement for worryingly injured skipper Johnnie Jackson, Lawrie Wilson was unable to convert the rebound on his weaker left foot.
Forced back by the Trentsiders in the second half, Charlton lived on their nerves as Thomas Ince was set up by Danny Fox's deep cross to shoot wildly off target. Hearts were in mouths when the Trentsiders howled for a penalty but referee Kevin Wright was ideally positioned to judge that Chris Solly's tackle on Paterson was not only fair but clinical. Pearce's men were building up a head of steam, though, and equalised before the hour. And what a goal it was. Meeting Ben Haim's decent enough headed clearance outside the penalty area, interval substitute Robert Tesche detonated an unstoppable left-footed volley, which the elastically elongated Pope unbelievably managed to touch on its searing journey into the top left corner. As if to prove that it was no fluke, Tesche unleashed a second cannonball shortly afterwards but Andre Bikey bravely blocked.
Briefly lifting the steady pressure, the Addicks created arguably the second period's best chance. Slipped through by Vetokele's astute pass, Harriott eased between centre backs Michael Mancienne and Jamaal Lascelles but shot weakly against the advancing Darlow's optimistically deployed right foot.
There was little else to trouble Darlow as his side desperately sought a winner. An irritating nemesis of Charlton while at QPR, substitute Dexter Blackstock headed Osborn's centre straight at Pope, who was equally reliable in covering Antonio's daisycutter. When Paterson's late volley bent harmlessly wide, the visitors had the useful point their resistance deserved. Plus further proof that young Harley's daddy is buckling down to put regular food on his high chair and the softest nappies on his powdered areas. Way to go, Callum. It's making a man of you, not to mention a a more dedicated footballer.
Forest: Darlow, Lichaj, Mancienne, Lascelles, Fox, Antonio, Lansbury (Tesche 46), Paterson, Ince (Blackstock 76), Osborn, Fryatt. Not used: Wilson, Hunt, Vaughan, Burke, DeVries. Booked: Lansbury, Tesche.
Charlton: Pope, Solly, Ben Haim, Bikey, Fox, Gudmundsson (Bulot 90), Coquelin, Jackson (Wilson 20), Cousins, Harriott, Vetokele. Not used: Etheridge, Gomez, Onyewu, Buyens, Pigott. Booked: Coquelin.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
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