Birmingham 1-1 Charlton
A LATE equaliser from substitute Nikola Zigic denied Charlton an opening day victory at St Andrews.
The Addicks looked to be on their way to all three points on their Championship return after Leon Cort’s 82nd minute header had put them in front.
But 6ft8in giant Zigic had the final say by striking deep into stoppage time with a curling drive to rescue a point for the hosts.
Addicks boss Chris Powell opted for a 4-4-2 formation, which saw Bradley Pritchard deployed on the right of midfield.
Salim Kerkar and Danny Green, who both impressed in Tuesday’s League Cup defeat against Leyton Orient, both had to settle for places on the bench.
Peter Lovenkrands tested Ben Hamer with a second minute low drive, while Johnnie Jackson went twice in the space of a minute, first seeing a free-kick deflected inches wide and then heading just over from the resultant corner.
Bradley Wright-Phillips broke into the box, got past his marker before shooting from a tight angle, an effort which England international keeper Jack Butland dealt with comfortably.
Pritchard made a crucial header to clear the danger from Chris Burke’s dangerous looking 11th minute cross, while Wright-Phillips was denied a shot on goal by an equally vital challenge from Blues skipper Steven Caldwell.
Charlton really should have scored in the 12th minute when Jackson’s cross just went over Wright-Phillips but fell kindly to Yann Kermorgant, who placed his shot from six-yards over the bar.
Lovenkrands’ 18th minute attempt from the edge of the box went wide of the post with Hamer at full stretch and former Addick Darren Ambrose saw his 25 yard free-kick easily caught by the visiting keeper.
Wright-Phillips headed over from six yards after meeting Pritchard’s cross as another chance went begging.
Danny Hollands’ ambitious 26th minute volley from outside of the box was never going to trouble Butland, while Lovenkrands did well to get in a shot at the other end after creating space for himself just inside of the area.
Charlton were wasteful again with a header, this time Jackson placing his effort over from close range after connecting with Rhoys Wiggins’ cross.
Ravel Morrison came close to making Charlton pay for their misses five minutes before the interval with a stinging 18 yard shot that flew just wide.
Kermorgant placed a low shot straight at Butland after strike partner Wright-Phillips had headed the ball into his path.
Marlon King headed the ball into the ground in first half stoppage time from Burke’s corner but the two sides went on at the break on level terms, with Charlton probably questioning why they weren’t in front.
Kermorgant picked up a yellow card for a late challenge on Ambrose three minutes after the restart, although Hamer was able to confidently punch away Ambrose’s free-kick.
Burke’s curling 52nd minute effort from the right of the box sailed just wide and then Michael Morrison made a crucial block on King’s shot as Birmingham upped the tempo.
Jackson again headed over from a dangerous position after connecting with Pritchard’s 59th minute cross.
Lee Clark made a double change in the 63rd minute by introducing ex-Addick Jonathan Spector on for Will Packwood and Nathan Redmond on for Morrison.
King’s well struck shot from 15 yards was easily saved by Hamer after the striker got the better of Leon Cort.
Charlton should have done better when they were awarded a free-kick 30 yards from goal in the 71st minute but the chance was wasted by ,while Blues keeper Butland had to be alert to deal with Jackson’s shot after the ball fell kindly to him from Ambrose’s wayward header.
Redmond fired wide from eight yards despite being completely unmarked before Charlton made their first change on 77 minutes, Wright-Phillips making way for Jordan Cook.
Morrison did well to put behind Redmond’s cross after he had shaken off Solly but it was the Addicks who finally broke the deadlock on 82 minutes.
Birmingham’s defence failed to deal with a Jackson corner which met Cook and his header to Kermorgant was met by Cort who applied the final touch with his head.
It certainly wasn’t pretty but it was the least Charlton deserved after wasting those host of earlier chances.
Zigic entered for Lovenkrands and then Matty Taylor came on for Jackson in the 89th minute.
It looked like the visitors would hold on until the fourth minute of stoppage time when Charlton failed to clear the danger from a long pass played into the box and Zigic pounced to rescue a point with a curling low shot that flew past Hamer.
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Charlton: Hamer, Solly, Morrison, Cort, Wiggins, Pritchard, Stephens, Hollands, Jackson (Taylor 89), Wright-Phillips (Cook 77), Kermorgant. Subs not used: Sullivan, Green, Kerkar, Wilson, Smith. Att: 18,210.