Charlton and Fulham played out a 0-0 draw at The Valley on Wednesday night, in a game both will feel was there for the taking.
Before the game, the home fans were in fine voice and for obvious reasons. Only a few hours ago, Lee Bowyer signed a contract extension that should see him here until 2023 and the hope is that he will oversee a new, exciting period for the club.
Fulham, meanwhile, knew a win tonight would see them move to just a point behind Leeds United in the top two and so this one had plenty riding on it
The first half was watchable, then, but far from something you’d want to go over again.
Both sides had moments where they’d manage to impose their evident game plans but, unfortunately for the pair, neither would do enough to really threaten the goal.
Typically, Fulham would be the side with more of the ball and Charlton would be happy to try and hit them on the break, getting most joy by playing the ball out wide and driving forwards.
For the Addicks, young Alfie Doughty had the bit between his teeth. On more than one occasion he’d get the home crowd out of their seats as he drove over the halfway line, ball at his feet and Fulham players in his wake.
Suitably for the first half, though, at the final third his options would prove scarce and, to the frustration of those watching on, Charlton would have to go back and start again.
Fulham, meanwhile, saw Bobby Reid in charge of their best chances but, each time, he’d fire straight at Dillon Phillips.
It was noticeable how the visitors – as you’d expect – missed the focal point of Aleksandar Mitrovic on the edge of the opposition box, with Reid often drifting out wide and coming deep for the ball, unsurprisingly traits you’d associate with a player being used as a makeshift forward.
Plenty of huff and puff in the first period on a foggy night in south-east London, then, but little to really blow anyone away.
Hope, then, amongst the 18,000+ at The Valley – of which over 2,000 had come across the capital – would be that the second half would see an injection of creativity but, in truth, it was largely a case of the status quo prevailing.
Early on in the second period, Fulham had a golden opportunity. A deep corner found Michael Hector at the far post but, despite being afforded time and space, the defender could not hit the target – a lack of composure from someone who’s been serene so far in their time at the Cottage.
Kevin McDonald would also have a chance, the ball popping up to him in the area but he could not control his finish – wildly slashing over.
At the other end, Charlton would also have chances but perhaps slightly less clear-cut.
Josh Cullen would play in Doughty after Tomer Hemed won possession but the winger could only strike at Marek Rodak in the Fulham net.
Erhun Oztumer would also have an opportunity on the edge of the box but, out of the McDonald book of finishing, he also miscued and skewed over.
With 20 minutes to go, Lee Bowyer had seen enough. He summoned Lyle Taylor who received rapturous applause from the home fans.
The Addicks could at least call on their number nine tonight, Fulham’s remains in recovery and working hard in the gym.
Indeed, we’d get a chance to see Andre Green and Taylor work together for the Addicks here, with the former introduced with about 10 minutes to go but, ultimately, they weren’t given a period of time to really show what their partnership might be able to yield in the coming weeks – providing Taylor is at the club past January.
This game, then, seemed destined to end as a draw.
Indeed, the last four league matches between this pair at this ground had ended as draws – twice 1-1 and twice 2-2, whilst the fixture earlier this season at the Cottage was also a draw – so perhaps it was no shock that the spoils were shared this time around as well.
And, when you take into account both sides – for most of the game – had their main goal-scorer missing, perhaps it was no surprise either we weren’t treated to any goals.
Charlton, at least, should hope that such an issue will be a thing of the past with Taylor back in the fold for now but Fulham, who gave young striker Jay Stansfield a senior debut with minutes left, still have a Mitrovic-sized headache to solve.
They wasted too many chances against Middlesbrough and needed to create more here tonight, too.
A draw was fair, then, but both will feel as though they could have done more for the three points.