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Blues 1 Charlton 1

Posted: Sat 18 Aug 2012
Author: Peter Lewis

Nikola Zigic climbed off the bench to rescue a dramatic point for his side with an injury-time equaliser on the opening day of the npower Championship season at St. Andrew’s.

Leon Cort looked to have won the game for newly-promoted Charlton Athletic when he nodded home from close range with just eight minutes remaining. But with the game entering its fourth minute of added-on time, Zigic collected Marlon King’s pass and executed a clinical finish to send the home fans into raptures.

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Both teams went at it hammer and tong with numerous chances created for both teams providing an entertaining match for the crowd as they basked in the mid-August sunshine.

Jack Butland made his competitive debut for Blues - just three days after the 19-year-old goalkeeper picked up his first senior England cap - as the only change from the side that beat Barnet in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday evening.

There was an eventful opening with opportunities for both teams. Within two minutes Peter Lovenkrands turned and shot inside the area but the effort lacked power and was easily claimed by Ben Hamer, whilst at the other end Johnnie Jackson twice went close. First the Addicks skipper saw his free-kick deflect off the Blues wall and drift narrowly over the bar and then he headed over from a corner.

The visitors looked dangerous going forward with the pace of Bradley Wright-Phillips causing the home defence some problems. The former England under-20 international’s shot from a narrow angle was smothered by Butland. Moments later he looked to have the beating of Steven Caldwell in a race towards the Blues goal but the skipper did magnificently well to stick out a toe and direct the ball back to his keeper.

Charlton wasted a golden opportunity to gain the lead as Jackson’s dangerous cross struck the unmarked Yann Kermorgant just five yards out and looped over the bar with the Frenchman knowing very little about it. Blues responded well with Lovenkrands firing in a half-volley which bounced just wide, after the Danish striker had been teed up by King inside the area, and a Darren Ambrose free-kick which had plenty of power but went straight at Hamer.

The next chance went Charlton’s way as Bradley Pritchard’s right-wing cross was headed over by the well-placed Wright-Phillips. The game continued to swing from end to end with the dangerous Lovenkrands twisting and turning on the right side of the area but his eventual shot never looked like troubling Hamer.

Blues’ goal was leading a slightly charmed life as Chris Powell’s charges engineered another good opportunity but Jackson headed over from 10 yards after Rhoys Wiggins’ overlapping run and cross.

Ravel Morrison came to life with an eye-catching run that ended with his low shot fizzing only a yard or so wide of the target. And just before the break Burke’s corner found the head of King inside the area but the Blues striker was blinded by the sun and was unable to make a good contact on the ball.    

Blues made an up-tempo start to the second half with Chris Burke firing in a shot from distance and then King seeing his effort blocked after a delicious through ball from Morrison.

Charlton came back into it again and put some severe pressure on the Blues backline but the hosts’ rearguard stood firm and didn’t allow their opponents a view of the goal. Clark’s response was to make a double substitution with Will Packwood and Morrison making way for Jonathan Spector and Nathan Redmond. Despite his premature withdrawal, teenager Packwood can be rightly pleased with his first appearance at this level of football and his manager was keen to drum in that fact as he applauded the young American off the field.

King was back in the thick of the action again on 66 minutes as he whipped in a shot from the edge of the area which whizzed goalwards but was comfortably collected by Hamer.

A fine opportunity fell to Redmond on the edge of the six-yard box to the left of goal but the winger rushed his shot somewhat and sliced the ball just wide of the near post. And it proved costly as with just eight minutes left Charlton went in front.

A trio of headers from Jordan Cook, Kermorgant and finally Cort ended with the centre-half nodding the ball over the line from just a couple of yards out.

There may be a new manager in the home dug-out but out on the pitch the team showed the same never-say-die spirit that was so often evident last season and grabbed a deserved point courtesy of super sub Zigic. The big Serbian had only been on the pitch for nine minutes but displayed no signs of rustiness as he picked up the ball 12 yards out and found the bottom corner with a tremendous low shot.

It was fantastic end to a thoroughly entertaining contest and will put Blues in good heart for Tuesday’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday as the busy Championship season continues in earnest.

Blues: Jack Butland; Will Packwood (Jonathan Spector 63), Steven Caldwell, Curtis Davies, David Murphy; Chris Burke, Hayden Mullins, Ravel Morrison (Nathan Redmond 63), Darren Ambrose; Peter Lovenkrands (Nikola Zigic 85) Marlon King.

Subs (not used): Colin Doyle, Wade Elliott, Adam Rooney, Pablo Ibanez.

Goal: Zigic (90+4)
Charlton: Charlton: Ben Hamer; Chris Solly, Leon Cort, Michael Morrison, Rhoys Wiggins; Bradley Pritchard, Dale Stephens, Danny Hollands, Johnnie Jackson (Matty Taylor 88); Bradley Wright-Phillips (Jordan Cook 77), Yann Kermorgant.

Subs (not used): John Sullivan, Danny Green, Salim Kerkar, Lawrie Wilson, Michael Smith.

Goal: Cort (82) 

Attendance: 18,210 (1,637 away fans)