Stand-in Charltom boss Phil Parkinson last night saluted the efforts of his players – and vowed to try and keep a teenage ace up his sleeve for Saturday's crunch match with Norwich.
In many ways, last night's last-gasp 2-2 draw with Derby County would have been just what Canary boss Glenn Roeder would have ordered as his struggling Norfolk side prepare for two, huge home games over the festive period – this weekend's bottom-of-the-table clash with the managerless Addicks being followed by that with fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest on December 28.
If only through bitter experience, few Canary supporters would be expecting anything from the game sandwiched in-between – the away trip to Crystal Palace and the joys of Selhurst Park on a Boxing Day.
So the sight of Nathan Ellington breaking many an Addick heart with that 94th minute leveller would have cheered many a Canary soul – particularly on the back of this weekend's 2-0 defeat at Reading and the last-minute injury sustained by the luckless John Kennedy.
The whole-hearted Scot is due to have a scan on that long-troubled knee today; even if the results are brighter than expected, he must be a huge doubt to feature in any further Norwich games given that his loan spell was due to expire in two weeks time anyway. In every likelihood, he will be heading home to Glasgow and the chance to once again pick up the pieces of his ill-starred career with Celtic.
Given the current mood of 'Any straw to cling to…' then Ellington's late leveller was very well-timed; albeit the same player went one better for Derby at Carrow Road when he grabbed that late winner in the midst of the betting scandal that never was.
Parkinson, holding the fort until at least the New Year after Alan Pardew's dismissal last month, was hoping that a vastly-improved home performance signalled a change in the wind at The Valley. The Addicks' 2-1 home defeat by Coventry City a week earlier was, he hoped, the bottom of the barrel.
“I was in here [The Valley Press conference room] on Tuesday night after the Coventry game and they didn't do anything we asked of them,” Parkinson told the official Charlton website after last night's live Sky clash.
“We didn't work hard, we played off the shape, but tonight they did everything, and if we keep doing that we've got a great chance. They deserved three points, and I feel sorry for them because they put a lot of effort into tonight.”
The one-time Colchester United No2 rang the changes after that Sky Blues defeat; five out and five, fresh young faces in – including 18-year-old on-loan striker Martyn Waghorn.
The Sunderland teenager repaid Parkinson's faith by bagging his first-ever senior goal just after the hour-mark to put the Addicks 2-1 up.
But for Ellington's late leveller, the young man's name would have been up in lights this morning as the caretaker boss now looks to extend his loan spell and put him on the bus for Norfolk this weekend.
“His loan is up tomorrow, but the likelihood is that he will be staying over Christmas,” said Parkinson, after the Black Cats prospect found himself caught in the loa queue at The Valley.
He has got one Premiership start to his name this term – he played the first-half in Sunderland's 5-0 demolition by a rampant Chelsea side.
“Martyn came to see about a week ago and I told him he'd been unlucky because of the five loan player rule,” said Parkinson, a rule that has bedevilled one or two in a Norwich shirt before now as both clubs look to make do and mend with other people's players.
“He said he totally understood the position that I was in and that I was going with experienced players, and that he just need to keep working hard and wait for his chance.
“So an 18-year-old kid understood the overall picture, wasn't thinking just about himself, and was thinking about the team. That attitude alone will get him a good career in this game, and he's got exceptional ability as well, so he's going to be a top player.”
Given the way that Parkinson was talking – subject to Niall Quinn and Co giving Waghorn's extended loan spell the green light in the next 48 hours – you would expect Charlton to be same again come Saturday.
“The two midfield players sat and protected the back four, the two wide players were a threat, Martyn Waghorn stretched the pitch – we turned them around and used his pace – and Andy Gray worked his socks off for the team,” he said.
Norwich, by contrast, will be forced into at least two changes – ne to cover for Kennedy's expected absence; the other to welcome Leroy Lita back into the starting fold after he was obliged to sit out the contest with his full-time employers.
Whether Roeder will make a third with the return of Wes Hoolahan may yet depend on whether Matty Pattison shrugs off the dead-leg he sustained at the Madejski.