BY LOUIS MENDEZ
Josh Cullen’s added-time penalty ensured Charlton returned from league leaders West Bromwich Albion with a point after a breathless encounter at The Hawthorns.
It wasn’t looking promising as the depleted South Londoners fell behind to a Matt Phillips strike early on, but they rallied and were level thanks to Macauley Bonne’s 5thgoal of the season shortly after the break.
The hosts were down to ten men soon after as Nathan Ferguson was shown a red card, but they edged back ahead thanks to a fine strike from Hal Robson-Kanu.
The Addicks had the last laugh though as Cullen bagged his first goal of the season from the spot deep into injury-time.
Baggies skipper Jake Livermore was perhaps lucky to escape with no more than a booking after an extremely heavy challenge on Conor Gallagher inside the opening couple of minutes – and it wasn’t much longer before the home side were ahead.
Matheus Pereira, on loan from Portuguese side Sporting CP, fizzed the ball across the face of goal and former QPR man Phillips side-footed home from close-range to put the Championship’s joint top-scorers ahead with just ten minutes on the clock.
The early goal looked to herald the start of a daunting afternoon for the injury-ravaged Addicks, but they showed the resilience they had all season as they set-about looking for a leveller.
He’d scored four goals in his last five games and Macauley Bonne was nearly in on the act again minutes after the opening goal as Erhun Oztumer fed him as he latched onto a loose ball – only for the former Leyton Orient man’s effort to be charged down inside the area.
Lee Bowyer’s side started to dominate possession in spells and had the majority of the openings. Conor Gallager’s drive was touched just over the bar by Tom Lockyer, with Chris Solly’s cushioned volley then inches away from dropping inside the far-post as he met Ben Purrington’s deep cross.
Goal-scorer Phillips issued a reminder that Albion were still a force going forward as he forced a save from Charlton’s stopper before Charlton wasted another huge opening just before the break.
Defender Naby Sarr found himself through on goal after a one-two on the edge of the box. The giant Frenchman elected to square to Gallagher when he may have shot. Gallagher’s effort was blocked, with the rebound powered towards goal by Sarr, only to be blocked on the line.
Phillips came close again for Slaven Bilic’s side with a header just before half-time and then really should have doubled the lead shortly after the restart as he lifted over the bar from a good ball in.
The midlands outfit were fairly contained before the break but upped their game several levels in the opening exchanges of the second-period – only found Dillon Phillips in inspired form.
The Addicks custodian made superb close-range stops from Grady Diangana and Darnell Furlong in quick succession – before Charlton found a leveller that came against the run of play.
Josh Cullen had a pop from outside the area, with the ball looping skywards off a defender and into the path of Bonne who topped his 24th birthday with a goal.
The clash seemed to really swing in Charlton’s favour as the hosts were reduced to ten men five minutes later.
Ferguson went flying into a tackle on Gallagher, with referee Matthew Donohue consulting with his fourth official before producing a straight red card – and Charlton went out in search of a winner.
Cullen was inches away from edging his side into the lead as he was just off-target from Purrington’s lay-off – before the South Londoners fell behind again ten minutes from time.
Charlton were beaten by ten-man Bristol City on Wednesday and it looked like history might be repeating itself as Robson-Kanu curled home from the edge of the area.
But there was to be a way back for Bowyer’s side in added-time. Sarr was felled in the area, with West Ham loanee Cullen sending Sam Johnstone the wrong way to earn an impressive point at The Hawthorns.
PHOTOS: KYLE ANDREWS