THE EQUALISER: Wade Elliott (facing) celebrates his gao with Nathan Redmond
A LAST gasp Wade Elliott goal ensured that Birmingham City left Charlton to rue their missed chances at The Valley this afternoon.
An 88th minute header by Yann Kermorgant looked to have sealed all the points for the home side but then up popped Elliott two minutes later to sent the City fans delirious.
Chris Powell’s Charlton will feel that they should have won this match.
It was only the outstanding form of Birmingham ‘keeper Jack Butland that denied the Addicks a deserved win. Time and again Butland, surely an England custodian of the future, denied the hosts with his athleticism and giant frame.
This was always going to be another stern home test for the hosts. In their previous fixture at The Valley on January 26 they were undone and beaten 2-1 by a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday.
Powell signalled his attacking intent with both Kermorgant and Ricardo Fuller up front for the Addicks.
With 16 games remaining there was still the outside chance that, with a good run, Charlton could secure a play-off place come May. The loss of two points may well now curtail their lofty ambitions.
Birmingham's line-up was full of experience with the likes of Steven Caldwell, Curtis Davies, Marlon King, Wade Elliott and Paul Robinson in their ranks.
The man in the middle was Andy D’Urso. Like both of the these two clubs, D’Urso used to be a regular in the Premier League before the official started to lose his way with dubious decisions and was subsequently relegated to the lower leagues.
Kick off was greeted by steady rain to further cut up The Valley pitch which was looking the worse for wear. The surface looks likely to hinder Charlton’s free-flowing game in the months to come if it is not dealt with.
The first half saw Charlton in the ascendancy but they lacked that little bit of composure to take advantage in the final third. At the heart of their best moments was former Jamaica international Fuller who was obviously missing sunnier climes by donning gloves.
Fuller tested Butland in the 13th minute with a stinging drive that the highly-rated stopper was able to turn round the post. From the subsequent corner Fuller again went close but he was unable to connect sufficiently from five yards out.
The visitors’ first call to action came on 26 minutes and saw a tame Marlon King shot nestle in the grateful arms of Ben Hamer. King was the victim of the home boo boys all match, no doubt because of his high profile misdemeanours of the past which saw the much travelled strike jailed after a nightclub incident.
Charlton wide man Lawrie Wilson, with a header on 28 minutes, should have done better when it appeared easier to score.
Fuller had another effort four minutes later; while Wilson - courtesy of the Jamaican’s clever knockdown -went close again as Charlton looked for that crucial opening goal but to no avail.
The second period started very much as the first with Butland denying the effervescent Scott Wagstaff with another fine save which resulted in a corner.
But City showed a bit more urgency and were to create chances of their own. The speedy Robert Hall forced Hamer into a save and then fired another effort dangerously close to the home upright.
As in the first period, Fuller - now strangely without gloves – was key to Charlton’s attempts to score; a curling shot by the big striker in the 57th minute deserved reward.
Fellow Reggae Boy King got in on the act for City; just missing out after a neat exchange of passes with Chris Burke.
An unlikely goalscorer, left-back Cedric Evina, attempted to break the deadlock but his wild effort was high, wide and not so handsome after he found himself in the City box on 59 minutes.
But the pressure was building on the away side. Wagstaff had another decent effort saved by the diving Butand after a Fuller-inspired melee in the Birmingham area.
The 17, 269 crowed saw Butland save his best work for the closing moments, dropping low to his right to deny Wagstaff once more.
Kermorgant was to eventually spoil Butland’s clean sheet, heading home after a right wing cross with just two minutes remaining. All seemed set fair for a knees-up in south east London until Elliott bundled home for the visitors.