As questions over a reliance on Igor Vetokele grew louder, as frustrations over a lack of firepower became more pronounced, Bob Peeters’ Charlton unleashed a new weapon at the City Ground on Saturday afternoon.
Callum Harriott thrived in his new no.10 role, driving a stake through the heart of Forest’s grasping midfield.
Fans who witnessed the strange positioning in pre-season commented on in with a raise eyebrow: “Peeters is playing Harriott as a striker”, they would remark with a quizzical expression.
The season’s opener, away to Brentford, saw Harriott thrown as a substitute in that very position. The youngster missed an open goal. And that was that. The project shelved. Harriott largely reduced to throwaway substitute appearances with the clock elapsed in the following months.
He has an unfortunate habit of fluffing golden chances. But Harriott also has a knack for producing match-winning performances, and today he defiantly produced the latter.
It took just seven minutes for him to make his mark. Henri Lansbury, who failed to keep tabs on him throughout the half and was eventually substituted, was booked after hacking him down in desperation as the Charlton man fled forward.
Two minutes later, Harriott put Charlton ahead. Already the visitors looked comfortable and confident as they spread the ball across the City Ground turf with as the kind of ease that would have won the late Brian Clough’s approval.
The goal certainly itself would have. A cross-field pass from Johann Gudmundsson found Jordan Cousins. Instead of driving to the byline and fizzing a ball across goal, Cousins turned back inside and slotted to Harriott.
It was a good decision. From the edge of the box Harriott drilled a shot towards the opposite corner of the goal that spun off a defender’s legs and over Karl Darlow’s dive. It was the Addicks’ first goal in 240 minutes of football.
Harriott was again at the heart of Charlton’s next best chance in the second half near the half hour mark. Receiving the ball with his back to goal in the middle of the mark, the 21-year-old lost Lansbury in a flash, surged forward and fed the onrushing Francis Coquelin with perfect timing. The Arsenal loanee’s cross was headed towards goal by Vetokele, but not beyond Darlow. The Angolan has scored from similar chances this season.
A comfortable Charlton had frustrated the home side in the first half. But a furious Forest came out for the second period imbued with the spirit of their manager’s nickname. An early onslaught left Charlton rattled and they never really recovered.
The warning signs were there for Charlton before the goal came – Tom Ince flashed wide with a clear sight of goal at the back post – but even with all the forewarning in the world the Addicks could have done little to stop Robert Tesche’s blistering volley from the edge of the area. If Charlton’s goal was pretty good, Forests’ was truly great.
Harriot had the chance to really stamp his mark all over this fixture immediately after the equaliser. Vetokele slipped a ball into space and once again Harriott burst through the cracks in the Forest midfield. This time he fired straight at Darlow.
It was Charlton’s best chance of a second half in which they lost all the composure that had defined the opening exchanges. They come away with a point, and a new addition to their arsenal.
Charlton: Pope / M. Fox, Ben Haim, Bikey, Solly / Gudmundsson (Sub: Bulot 90 mins), Jackson (Sub: Wilson 20 mins), Coquelin, Cousins / Harriott / Vetokele.
Subs not used: Etheridge, Gomez, Onyewu, Buyens, Pigott.
Forest: Darlow / D. Fox, Mancienne, Lascelles, Lichaj / Lansbury (Sub: Tesche 46 mins), Osborn / Paterson, Ince (Sub: Blackstock 76 mins), Antonio / Fryatt.
Subs not used: De Vries, Wilson, Hunt, Vaughan, Burke.