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Charlton 1-1 Forest

A huge away following saw a rather dismal game at The Valley. Our hearts skipped a beat when Benny scored. We inwardly swooned when Chrissy showed us his legs. We also gnashed our teeth in collective frustration. David Marples saw events unfold.

Harry Engels/Getty Images

In the context of a whole season, a point away from home is, generally speaking, one to be secreted away in a zip up compartment of whichever bag takes one's fancy - to be quietly pleased about and peeked at to check it is still there on the long journey home.

This was not one of those away points though.

A fairly even first half was drifting towards humdrummery when Ben Osborn picked up the ball from Ryan Mendes, shifted his weight to the right and used his weaker right foot to guide the ball into the net: one of those classic 'just before half-time' goals. Another in the second half to repeat the results of 2009 and 2013 would be just lovely and the opportunity to do so stared us in the face with big, brown eyes and implored us to take it home and share a sweet coffee.

To complete this happy union though, some work was required. It would need a little more sweet talk, a little more wooing and some ever so gentle cajoling. Sadly for Forest, the opportunity slipped away - a fact not lost on Dougie Freedman:

For 60 minutes we looked in control of the game, we passed it quite well and had enough opportunities to win it.

Even when they were down to 10 men, their crowd gave them a lift and we didn't take advantage of that.

There isn't a lot to write home about this one. We had enough opportunities to kill them off, and if you don't do that in the Championship you're always going to be vulnerable.

It is well worth noting here that the first of Freedman's substitutions came in the 61st minute, at which point Ryan Mendes was hauled off to be replaced by Robert Tesche. Up until his withdrawal, Mendes had been his usual self - industrious and elegant one minute; wasteful and clumsy the next. Nonetheless, the Cape Verdian offered a threat on the counter with his pace, as demonstrated in the second half when he broke through and almost put the game beyond reach of the home side. Robert Tesche offers solidity in midfield - always welcomed - but he poses as much of an attacking threat as a hand puppet on a teddy bear. This left Nelson Oliveira even more isolated up front and was tantamount to sticking a flag in the ground on the halfway line (Graeme Sounessesque, if you like) and remaining defiantly behind it.

This left a very curious looking midfield five, from left to right of Ben Osborn, David Vaughan, Henri Lansbury, Robert Tesche and Chris Burke - essentially a midfield five comprising of four players who would consider themselves central midfielders, leaving Burke as the wide man who was recalled quite suddenly and unexpectedly from a period of being largely ignored. The pacy Oliver Burke was left kicking his heels and wiping his nose on the sidelines despite netting a beauty of a goal on his full debut in the previous game at Cardiff. Jamie Ward's pace was overlooked too. Predictably, the performance descended into lumbering frustration from this moment on and an equaliser seemed inevitable.

It came in the 70th minute. Nine minutes after Freedman's first substitution.

The other significant event of the game (apart from Charlton's equaliser of course) also occurred just after this substitution: Charlton's Tareiq Holmes-Dennis' dismissal on 76 minutes. For many, this signalled the point at which the game should gave been resurrected: to push for a decisive goal to defeat a home side low on morale and possibly distracted by the mutinous atmosphere swirling around the The Valley. Of course, Freedman wasn't to foresee a red card which handed his side as good an opportunity that exists of smuggling three points away from home, but his decision to withdraw Chris Burke and introduce Dexter Blackstock was also a curious one. The midfield four was now absolutely comprised of central players and shorn of wingers (we'll get to Ben Osborn in a minute) and although Blackstock has his limitations, stick a ball towards the far post from a cross and he'll move heaven and earth to get his head on it and notch a late decisive goal. Sadly, without a winger to provide such a cross, he is often about as useful as a quadratic equation.

Indeed, Dorus de Vires produced two outstanding saves in injury time to preserve a point...against a ten man Charlton Athletic who were without a win in the whole of December.

For much of the game, the wonderful Ben Osborn was the stand out player for Forest, providing the only real hint of danger for a hesitant home defence. He has been doing that most 'football man' of things for the team over the last four months or so by 'doing a job' out on the left wing even though it is clearly not his position. Today, most of the things he tried came off and it was his trickery that so unsettled Holmes-Dennis throughout the game which played a significant role in the red card. In short, Osborn was his side's primary attacking threat. For this, he should be adulated but at the same time, this should cause a serious bout of head-scratching and chin-stroking for Freedman if his side are reliant on him for creativity away from home against a struggling team. His side should surely be set up to be more creative and fashion chances rather than being reliant on a young lad playing out of position.

The introduction of Chris Cohen in the 86th was a beautiful sight - many had sought a ticket for this fixture simply because there was a very real chance that Cohen would get some game time. But again, one has to wonder whether the hooking of Jack Hobbs for Cohen improved Forest's chances of fashioning a chance. He slotted in at left back with Mancienne reverting to centre back. This was hardly a move to win the game.

It is also significant that Forest enjoyed more possession than Charlton at 54%. This is noteworthy since it is the first time in at least six games that Forest have enjoyed the lion's share of possession with the previous five games looking like this: Cardiff 38%, Leeds 39%, MK Dons 34%, Blackburn 47%, Wolves 47%. Simply put, the team doesn't seem to know what to do when they are allowed/earn more of the ball.

Admittedly, it should not be forgotten that this away point means that Freedman's side are now eight games unbeaten - three wins and five draws. Freedman has made his team incredibly difficult to break down currently sit slap bang on the nail bullseye mid table, being equidistant from the play-off places and relegation. This is a state of affairs that many of us expected and would be happy with given the circumstances in which the club finds itself. After a fairly disastrous October which constituted three defeats, two draws and that performance against Bristol City, this previously listless vessel has been activated and is no longer heading for the rocks but instead towards the safety of a child's paddling pool - not the most exciting of waters but pleasingly, not required to be nervously stared at under prolonged supervision.

Throw in Daniel Pinillos' long term injury (resulting in the enforced deployment of another square peg in a round hole in the shape of Michael Mancienne at left back), having to scramble around in August to cobble together any number of waifs, strays, out of contract and unwanted players in order to form a squad and working under, shall we say, an erratic owner, Freedman is getting something approximating music out of this particular instrument. There are arguments that given the nucleus of talented youngsters at this disposal (and indeed the talented loanees he has bought in - big hello to Jonny Williams), he should be doing better but in the whole scheme of things, this is where we expected to be.

For all that though, this game right here was there to be won.