Match report: Charlton 1 Sheffield Wednesday 1

Charlton Ath v Sheffield Wednesday.......GOAL...Connor Wickham scores Owls equaliser
Charlton Ath v Sheffield Wednesday.......GOAL...Connor Wickham scores Owls equaliser

Wednesday ended their 2013 programme with what some will see as another decent point to add to the one they earned at Blackburn on Boxing Day.

What the Valley scoreline does not really reflect is that the Owls had the lion’s share of the contest and came close to recording their third win under Stuart Gray.

They could have been ahead before Charlton scored with their first chance of the game just after half time. But the Owls bounced back quickly from that setback to equalise with Connor Wickham’s sixth goal for the club and then go in search of a winner.

Their efforts were appreciated by the away fans who gave them an ovation at the end.

Wednesday must have been appalled when they arrived at The Valley and walked out on to the pitch. It was one of the worst that they have encountered. The surface looked heavy and with bare strips where machinery appeared to have gone across the surface.

Better news earlier was the return of Wickham after his hamstring injury - which meant Atdhe Nuhiu dropping to the bench. Chris Maguire came in for Jacques Maghoma in the only other change to the side that started at Blackburn.

Wickham regained the role as the central striker; Maguire was in a more withdrawn position on the right, and with Kieran Lee again tucking into the middle and Jeremy Helan staying on the left, the Owls kept the 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 system that has served them well in away games.

Maguire was presented with a half-chance in the 16th minute.

A mis-hit clearance from right back Lawrie Wilson fell kindly for the forward but he too miscued and his shot from the edge of the box was hacked away by the defence.

An uneven surface made conditions difficult but at least it seemed reasonably firm, and both teams attempted to pass the ball. Wednesday were comfortable for the first 20 minutes.

Indeed it was an easy time for both keepers, with neither side doing the other any real damage.

One run by Wickham, which resulted in a corner, illustrated the pace and power that the Owls had missed in the previous couple of games.

There was a moment of alarm for them when McPhail, with the ball sticking under his feet, was caught in possession just inside their half and away went Charlton on the break - but Simon Church, up front with Yann Kermorgant in a 4-4-2, wasted the final ball.

The away fans behind Chris Kirkland’s goals roared in anticipation when Liam Palmer guided a dangerous cross into the middle: Jose Semedo could not quite launch himself high enough to make proper contact; a taller player would surely have scored.

A corner swiftly followed, taken by McPhail and hooked into the air by Roger Johnson; the ball bounced on top of the bar and went behind, but the keeper was waiting beneath it just in case.

On the whole it was an untidy first half on a poor surface.

Again the Owls fans anticipated joy when Lee played a through ball - for a moment it looked as if Wickham could reach it, but Ben Alnwick was out quickly enough to get there first.

Another threat came from a slick break: Maguire found Wickham on the right; his shot was low and true and Alnwick held it with difficulty.

The keeper was also unable to catch another well-struck effort by Wickham, from a 27-yard free kick. The ball could so easily have bounced out to Palmer, but it ran tantalisingly out of his reach, in the 41st minute.

Wednesday had looked the team most likely to score in this half, while Charlton had posed very little threat.

It was typical of the Addicks’ work going forward when early in the second half Kermorgant side-footed yards wide from 22 yards. But the Owls were undone moments later, in the 47th minute. After a throw-in on the right, midfielder Dale Stephens was given too much space in the box and knocked a close-range effort into the roof of the net.

There was a discussion among Owls players about what had gone wrong. It was terribly galling for them to go behind to Charlton’s first real chance.

A response came with plenty of black shirts in the box when Wickham headed a Lee cross powerfully but just over the top; then Maguire fired past the angle from long range, and Wickham did well to make space for a shot that narrowly cleared the bar. Stuart Gray wasted little time before making a double substitution, in the 54th minute. He took off Helan and McPhail, sent on Jacques Maghoma to the left and Atdhe Nuhiu up front and went 4-4-2.

Four minutes after that came the equaliser: Maguire broke down the right, his cross was deflected, Lee stabbed it towards goal, and it looked as if the ball may have carried on into the net but Wickham was there almost on the line and must have got a touch before the ball crossed, judging by the way he celebrated.

Wednesday lived a little dangerously as Church sneaked in unmarked for a near-post header; from an almost impossible angle the ball hit the outside of the woodwork - with the striker claiming in vain that Kirkland had got a touch. The Owls steadied themselves again and if anything were going for winner.

Charlton had been unable to gain any momentum from their goal.

Wednesday pressing and Roger Johnson’s powered in a downward header from a Maguire corner only to see it stopped on the line.

There was a scare in stoppage time when Church put a chance over the top -but the Owls deserved that bit of fortune.