Charlton extended their unbeaten run to eight games but missed the chance to go top of League One, as they were held to a draw by an industrious Gillingham side in a low-quality game at Priestfield.
After Connor Washington saw his first-half penalty saved for the away side, Gillingham punished Charlton by taking the lead on 72 minutes through a penalty of their own, converted by Jordan Graham following a hotly contested decision. But the visitors hit back with Chucks Aneke firing home from the edge of the six-yard box to deny the Gills their second win in as many games.
The Addicks came into the game in great form, having won six games on the bounce, keeping clean sheets in five of them, while the Kent side recorded their first win in five last time out. But any gulf in quality and confidence was barely evident in the first half, with the hosts making it difficult for Charlton to build moves from deep on a poor quality pitch. Gills used this to their advantage, pressing high and using the aerial prowess of Vadaine Oliver to progress.
It was Oliver who had the game’s first real chance, and he should have done better as he got himself onto the end of an inviting left-wing cross, but he couldn’t steer his volley past Charlton keeper Ben Amos from point-blank range. The recently crowned League One player of the month also had to be alert to block a close-range effort after he could only parry a dangerous low cross.
The visitors’ best efforts initially came from long range, as first Andrew Shinnie came within a whisker of goal from 35 yards with Gills keeper Jack Bonham stranded following a poor clearance.
It was Marcus Madison’s turn next, as the former Peterborough man lined up a free-kick from similar range, and saw his effort saved onto the crossbar from Bonham. The towering stopper then had to be alert again as Ben Watson tried to catch him out with a quickly taken free-kick just inside the Gillingham half.
Bonham would be called into action again as the Addicks were awarded a penalty on 38 minutes for a nudge in the back of Omar Bogle as he attacked a right-wing cross. The striker wanted to take the penalty himself but reluctantly handed the ball to top scorer Connor Washington.
The Northern Ireland international had scored from the spot in his previous game against Fleetwood, but here his low spot-kick was brilliantly saved by Bonham to send the sides in level at the break.
Gillingham retreated in the second half, and Charlton were able to work the ball into the final third with far more regularity. But despite their dominance of possession and territory, the Addicks struggled to carve out any clear openings. Albie Morgan saw a volley deflected behind while Chelsea loanee Ian Maatsen once again forced Bonham into action.
The re-introduction of the five substitutions rule was confirmed this week and Lee Bowyer made the most of this new freedom, making a triple substitution with a third of the game to go. The substitutes combined immediately with Chucks Aneke powering past his marker to set up a decent chance for the returning Alex Gilbey on the edge of the box. However, his shot lacked the requisite power to beat Bonham.
But as Charlton probed for the opening goal, Gillingham suddenly earned a penalty completely out of the blue. As Gills substitute John Akinde chased a long ball that was heading out of play, he appeared to trip over his own feet. However, the fourth official advised the referee that his heels had been clipped by the retreating Chris Gunter. Charlton’s protests were for nought as Jordan Graham made no mistake from 12 yards.
With ten minutes to go, the hosts had a golden chance to give themselves breathing space. Oliver beat the offside trap to find himself one on one with Amos, but the Charlton keeper thwarted him once again.
And the Gills would rue that miss, as minutes later some slick football got Smyth free in the box. He cooly slipped the ball to Aneke who patiently waited for the opening before confidently firing the ball into the top corner.
It was Aneke who came closest to finding a winner as he got onto the end of a quickly taken corner, but he could only steer his header over the bar under pressure. Maatsen was later sent clean through on the right-hand side but his cross was disappointing with Aneke unmarked in the middle, as both sides will perhaps reflect on an opportunity missed.