If only Sheffield Wednesday had a proven Championship goalscorer in their ranks.
Their inability to kill teams off came back to haunt them yet again at The Valley.
They bossed the first half, creating several good openings, against an inept Charlton side. They had the best player on the pitch in Royston Drenthe, who broke the deadlock with a wonderful solo strike. They looked in control and it seemed inevitable the Owls would go on to record maximum points for the first time since September 20.
Momentum is a big thing in football and when Atdhe Nuhiu sent Chris Maguire scampering through on goal just before the interval, Wednesday had the opportunity to put clear daylight between themselves and the Addicks. But Maguire’s composure in front of goal deserted him as he dragged wide.
“They are big moments in the game and you’ve got to hit the target and make the keeper work,” admitted Owls head coach Stuart Gray.
Wednesday failed to make their superiority count and it was a different story after the break. Charlton were much improved and the visitors kept giving the ball away at regular intervals.
A 30-yard thunderbolt by Chris Solly flashed narrowly over and it took a smart finger-tip save from Keiren Westwood to keep out George Tucudean’s effort as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Igor Vetokele, fit again following an Achilles problem, came off the bench to rescue a point for Charlton, slotting in Rhoys Wiggins’ shot turned cross in the 70th minute. Vetokele is a class act and a lethal finisher.
What Wednesday would give to have someone of his calibre in the final third.
TV replays suggest Vetokele, Charlton’s seven-goal top scorer, may have strayed into an offside position when he tapped in from close range. Only goalkeeper Keiren Westwood appealed.
“It looks like a borderline decision,” said Gray. “Sometimes you’ve got to force decisions out of referees and linesman by getting your hand up.
“We are such an honest, genuine bunch that I don’t think any of us put our hand up to appeal for the offside. We need to be a bit more professional, appeal for things and force decisions.
You can play all the pretty football you want but there has to be an end product. There are only so many times Wednesday can keep asking their miserly back four and Westwood to bail them out.
It doesn’t help when decisions don’t go your way. Wednesday looked more threatening after Charlton’s equaliser and Nuhiu forced a mistake out of Andre Bikey-Amougou.
He nipped in front of the powerful centre-back and appeared to be brought down but referee Andy D’Urso rejected their penalty claim. It was one of those incidents where you either award the spot-kick or book Nuhiu for simulation. D’Urso chose to do neither and he got little assistance from his linesman.
Gray said: “I think it might have been a penalty on Attey which the referee decided not to give which is a frustrating.
“It was a big moment in the game. We felt if we could put Tal Ben Haim and Bikey under a little bit of pressure there might be an error in them and that happened.
“There was no reason for Attey to go down because he was in on goal and got the other side of Bikey. It’s a big decision because 2,000 Sheffield Wednesday fans have appealed for the penalty and I don’t think they are wrong.”
“We don’t seem to get penalties at the moment. Sometimes decisions go for you. Sometimes they don’t.”
Gray cut a frustrated figure after the draw but refused to blame the officials for the team squandering another two points.
“We gave the ball away far too easily in the second half,” said Gray, who left out Stevie May because the striker picked up a virus last week. “Possession is only an advantage if you do something with it.
“We allowed them to get back into the game with some of our sloppy passing. If we had been better with the ball, we probably would have won.
“There was a 10-minute spell when they dominated the game and we had to hang in there and I thought ‘we’ve done it.’ But then we were very poor for their goal.
“I just felt Charlton were there for the taking with the pace we had in the team. We had Helan in midfield and we could break with him, Jacques Maghoma, Chris Maguire and Drenthe.
“We came here with a game plan to get the three points and I’m disappointed we didn’t take them away. It’s two points lost.”
A big positive for Gray was the performance of Drenthe. Making his first start since joining the Owls on loan from Reading two months ago, the former Real Madrid forward was a great attacking outlet, especially in the first half.
He terrorised Wiggins, giving the left-back the runaround with his nimble footwork and pacy runs.
Drenthe fizzed a drive wide and whipped in a teasing delivery which Nuhiu failed to get a connection to before his gem of an opener. He beautifully side-stepped Bikey-Amougou on the halfway line and drifted past Wiggins before rifling a stunning left foot shot out of Stephen Henderson’s reach.
With home fixtures looming against Bournemouth and Rotherham United, Gray opted to bring Drenthe off with 17 minutes left.
Gray said: “Royston looked very lively. He just tired towards the end. I thought in the first 45 minutes he was unplayable, not only with his crosses but he got a fantastic goal. We have to be able to get him to do that for 95 minutes.”
It could have got even worse for Wednesday after Charlton’s controversial leveller. Jordan Cousins, who should have scored with a header in the first half, slipped a lovely pass into the path of Vetokele who, under pressure from Glenn Loovens, prodded off target.
Owls centre-back Tom Lees, who felt Vetokele’s goal should have been ruled out for offside, said: “It’s a frustrating and disappointing result. We could have been three or four nil up at half-time.
“We need to kill games off and give ourselves a chance to play comfortable football. We have to capitalise on those moments. Maybe if we could get that second goal it takes a bit of pressure off.
“So many times in football you see that when teams are missing chances you just know it’s going to come back and bite you and I think it did.
“Going in one nil at half-time always gave them a chance to get a bit of a roasting and come out stronger and they did. We were disappointing in the second half and that is definitely two points dropped.
“We are disappointed with their goal. It was soft.”
Gray must be scratching his head, wondering what he’s got to do to rectify their goalscoring problems. It is that final piece in the jigsaw which continues to elude the Championship draw specialists.
That’s now eight points Wednesday have dropped from winning positions this season. They have let Millwall, Ipswich Town, Leeds United and Charlton off the hook.
If Gray’s men had been more ruthless, they would be sitting in second position and not tomorrow night’s opponents, Bournemouth.
Charlton: Henderson 6; Solly 7, Bikey 6, Ben Haim 6, Wiggins 6; Buyens 6, Cousins 7, Jackson 6 (Wilson 81), Moussa 6 (Vetokele 65, 6); Tucudean 7, Ahearne-Grant 5 (Gudmundsson HT, 6). Substitutes: Pope, Harriott, Onyewu, Fox
Wednesday: Westwood 7; Palmer 6, Lees 8, Loovens 7, Mattock 6 (Dielna 34, 6); Maguire 6, Semedo 7, Helan 6, Maghoma 6 (Coke 62, 6); Drenthe 7 (Taylor-Fletcher 73), Nuhiu 7. Substitutes: Kirkland, May, Coke, McCabe, Lee.