Charlton 1 Wanderers 1

Attendance: 10,926 (900 away)

WANDERERS have to keep a stiff upper lip after a terrific start but make no mistake, the next few days could shape their season.

This performance had all the hallmarks of the four before it – guts, grit and organisation – but was tainted by Ademola Lookman’s late equaliser.

Of more consequence to the club than the end of a 100 per cent run was the loss of Mark Davies to a season-ending knee injury.

You had to feel for the classy midfielder, whose studs got caught in the thick Valley turf as he chased down full-back Morgan Fox in the corner. He has suffered two cruciate ligament injuries in his left knee and this – his right – brought an agonising look of recognition to his face.

Davies left the pitch on a stretcher with hands covering his tears. As if his personal pain was not enough, it quickly dawned on manager Phil Parkinson what ramifications his early exit may have on his recruitment plans over the coming days.

Most League One managers feel choked by the lack of emergency loans this season and are doing their upmost to stock their squad well in every position. Parkinson does not have that luxury. He is restricted to 23 senior players because of a transfer embargo which continues to hang over the club like a dark cloud.

Wanderers’ ownership was bullish about getting the embargo lifted up until a few months ago. Accounts remain unfiled with Companies House and after a change of accountant it seems unlikely they will be filed in time to clear anything in the next few days.

Is it time, perhaps, to lean on the Football League and ask for some leniency?

The departure of Ben Amos last week removed a large chunk of wages which in normal circumstances could have funded two or three new arrivals. But in the black and white land of the embargo his position can only be filled by one person, whatever his wage.

How sad it would be to see such an excellent start to the campaign suffocated by a lack of options. With Davies, Darren Pratley, Dorian Dervite, Zach Clough and Max Clayton out for the next couple of weeks, Wanderers are already down to 18 fit players – and that is assuming no-one else picked up injuries at The Valley.

Of course the onus is on Ken Anderson, as the man who brokered the deal with the Football League to start signing players again, to find an answer for his increasingly concerned manager.

The chairman has been given leeway by supporters to turn the club around, and there are many positive signs. Until the embargo is consigned to the past, however, there will always be an air of concern among a group of fans who have already had their fingers burned once.

Even with so much talent missing, Parkinson and his players deserve huge credit for the start they have made.

Charlton was always going to be a stern test and Russell Slade’s side edged the first half. Mark Howard made a good save from Nicky Ajose early on after being threaded through by the excellent Ricky Holmes.

Jason Pearce also headed inches wide for the Addicks, who had won their last two games.

Wanderers’ only real opportunity of the half fell to David Wheater, who headed Jay Spearing’s corner down only to see Chris Solly head it off the line via the crossbar.

Davies’s departure a few minutes after the restart could very easily have sent things south for the Whites. To their credit, they were galvanised by their team-mate’s misfortune.

With Chris Taylor on from the bench, Wanderers produced their best move of the game. Switching from the right-back position to the left wing, Liam Trotter produced a brilliant pull-back for Gary Madine to place home in front of the 900 travelling Wanderers fans.

Madine and his strike partner Jamie Proctor had been continually frustrated by a woefully inconsistent performance from referee Dean Whitestone in the first half – but his third goal of the season was just reward for perseverance.

From there on the football was scrappy, just the way Wanderers like it, but they failed to keep hold of possession in midfield and so the three points never really looked secure.

Charlton threw on Lookman to try to get a foothold in the game and Parkinson responded by bringing on Andy Taylor for Proctor. The Whites were holding on to what they had but as seven minutes’ added time was about to go up, the home side got a break from nowhere.

Lookman shifted the ball on the edge of the box to buy a yard of space and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner to give Howard no chance at all.

The same youngster had scored twice against Wanderers last season in a 2-2 draw and looks destined for bigger and better things.

With Kaiyne Woolery sat on the bench for the Whites, you wondered what might have happened if Parkinson had mixed up his own attack in a similar fashion to Slade and exploited some of the spaces which opened up later in the game.

Had sub Brandon Hanlan got an even later header on target it might have got worse for Wanderers but a point felt well-earned.

Wanderers have three days now to finalise their squad. You sense the hard work starts now.