CHARLTON FIGHT FOR WELL-EARNED POINT
By Patrick Goss. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
GRIT met flair in a fascinating Premiership encounter that saw Charlton's fight match Fulham's flow in a 1-1 draw at The Valley.
In a game most noteworthy for its occasionally wasteful finishing, Fulham showed that, on their day, they can play electrifying football, and Charlton demonstrated that they have come to epitomise a Premiership tough cookie.
Few who saw the final ten minutes of a first-half that brought an unlikely opener for The Addicks via an Andy Melville own goal and a quick-fire equaliser for Luis Boa Morte - would have suggested that Alan Curbishley's men would, or ever could, match the scintillating attacking of Jean Tigana's side.
But a hard fought second-half not only saw Charlton smother their opposition, but look, at times, the more likely to break the deadlock.
Although Fulham created the lion's share of the chances throughout, Charlton looked threatening in the second period via the power of front two Shaun Bartlett and Jason Euell - although but for a late and crucial intervention from Paul Konchesky from Sean Davis the visitors would have taken the points.
Even pinned back, pacey Fulham carved out opportunities aplenty, and Boa Morte served up intent ten minutes after the break when he blazed a drive narrowly wide when he should have at least troubled Dean Kiely.
Substitute Steed Malbranque looked bright, but shot well wide after good work from Louis Saha, and Boa Morte again came close when he turned sharply from a tight angle but curled a shot away from goal.
Jean Tigana must have wondered what to tell his team at half-time, after they had produced some truly scintillating football, but still found themselves pinned to 1-1 after wasteful finishing.
In truth it is difficult to level too much criticism to the likes of Saha and Boa Morte for they, along with a wealth of able support from midfield, had been at the heart of some unstoppable flowing moves that should have unlocked Charlton more than once.
If Saha could have produced the masterclass in finishing that he had provided at Old Trafford against Manchester United then he would have had a hatful.
The French striker found himself through after a one-two with the impressive Boa Morte as early as the tenth minute, but scuffed well wide.
With 17 minutes gone, Saha then won a chase through to a bouncing ball to toe-poke past Kiely - earning a vicious high foot in the chest for his troubles - only to unluckily watch the ball drop an inch wide of the target.
Shouts for a penalty for the terrible challenge from Kiely after the ball had gone were ignored by referee Jeff Winter - who will probably change his own mind after seeing the incident again.
Almost unbelievably it was the home side that took an unlikely lead in the 33rd minute.
Chris Powell may have lost his place in the England squad, but there is undoubtedly quality in his left foot, and it was a perfect deep cross that unlocked Fulham.
With the ball appearing to be floating out of play, Shaun Bartlett did the intelligent thing and headed it back into the penalty area - but the South African could not believe his luck when Fulham's Andy Melville, and not a team-mate, converted with his head.
The goal seemed to spur Fulham forward, and a more penetrating side were unveiled for the final ten minutes of the half.
Just minutes later Sylvain Legwinski may have opened the scoring when he came across his defender to plant a low header low to Kiely's right - only for the talented keeper to save well.
But Fulham were not to be denied and when Boa Morte nicked the ball away from Charlton and into Legwinski's path, the former Bordeaux man raced through in the 37th minute.
Although Kiely stopped the original shot, Boa Morte had followed play well, and with a lot of work still to be done, slotted home the rebound on the volley through a host of opposition players.
Suddenly Tigana's side were rampant - flowing and powerful - and Saha and Finnan were both wasteful after creating their own chances through wonderful pace and control.
But a shuffle of formation, and a reminder from Athletic boss Steve Curbishley that they, not Fulham, were the Premiership old-hands, and a share of the points was justified by a battling second-half performance.
For a match summary from this game, click on the link below:
Charlton Athletic v Fulham