Franck Quedrue’s first goal for Fulham deep into stoppage time denied Alan Pardew a winning start in charge of Charlton.
First half strikes from Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent looked to have got the former West Ham manager’s reign at the Valley off to the perfect start but Quedrue’s late, late show rescued a point that the visitors barely merited. There was controversy about the goal, too, with Fulham awarded a free-kick for handball by Djimi Traore just inside the Charlton half when television replays showed the offence had actually been committed by Tomasz Radzinski.
Many pundits believe Pardew is taking over a poisoned chalice at Charlton, who are marooned deep in relegation trouble, but there was plenty to like about the Addicks’ first display under his stewardship. Determination was in evidence throughout – especially in the manner that the hosts battled back from going behind to Brian McBride’s early strike – and Pardew might soon have a solution to his new side’s central defensive woes with former Hearts defender Steven Pressley watching on.
Conceding so early wouldn’t have been in Pardew’s gameplan – nor would the lack of marking from Wayne Routledge’s free kick that allowed Queudrue to rattle the crossbar with a header and McBride to pounce on the rebound. But it took just six minutes for Ambrose to restore parity and atone for his carelessness in conceding the free-kick. Antti Niemi was surprised by a shot from Jerome Thomas and the former Newcastle midfielder drove home off the post.
Charlton were galvanised by the equaliser and Darren Bent, who had seen an earlier strike ruled out for offside, put them in front when he sauntered in behind the Fulham defence after Carlos Bocanegra and Moritz Volz left the task of dealing with Scott Carson’s long kick to one another. The hosts wasted two brilliant chances to kill off the game early in the second half. First, Ambrose shot wide after being teed up by a clever dummy from Marcus Bent and then Matt Holland shot weakly at Niemi when space open up on the edge of the box.
It took until three minutes into added time for Fulham to conjure up their equaliser. After being given the fortunate free kick Michael Brown’s ball was brilliantly volleyed in the net by Queudrue off his weaker foot. Pardew could only hold his head in disbelief at what he had witnessed.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Carson; Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore; Ambrose (Hughes 74), Kishishev, Holland, Thomas (Rommedahl 45); M. Bent (Hasselbaink 82), D. Bent. Subs (not used): Myhre, Fortune.
GOALS: Ambrose (19), D. Bent (45).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Quedrue, Christanval, Bocanegra; Brown, Volz (C. Jensen 74), Routledge, Radzinski; Helguson (John 65), McBride. Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Zakuani, Runstrom.
GOALS: McBride (13), Queudrue (90).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).