IT WAS paramount that Derby County avoided recording a third successive defeat when they visited Charlton Athletic.
The Rams had lost two on the spin either side of Christmas, 2-1 at home to Hull City and 2-0 at Burnley.
And if they had suffered defeat at a rain-soaked Valley on Saturday it would have been three on the bounce for the first time this season.
So, coming away with a point from south east London meant it was mission accomplished for Nigel Clough’s men, who are a tougher proposition than in previous seasons, where runs of defeats were commonplace.
However, there was a slight sense of disappointment at not taking all three points against the Addicks.
Derby were well on top in the first 20 minutes and failed to build on their dominance.
They were then hit with a sucker punch as Danny Haynes scored a thunderbolt from the blue against the run of play.
The Rams were once again left cursing their luck.
But they levelled with 20 minutes left as Jamie Ward, on his return from a three-month lay-off, scored from the spot after Michael Morrison’s foul and red card.
With Charlton down to 10 men, Derby sensed blood and the outstanding John Brayford hit a post in the pursuit of a winner.
The winning goal would just not come, though, and the frustration was compounded when Ward limped off just 15 minutes after his introduction.
He is the Rams’ best player and another spell on the sidelines would be a massive frustration to all concerned.
On a positive note, Brayford was nothing short of magnificent in two positions — looking assured at both right-back and centre-half, where he was moved after half-time.
Jeff Hendrick, too, seems reborn and really took the fight to Charlton, as did Will Hughes, although the much-coveted 17-year-old went a bit over the top with a foul on Bradley Pritchard in the opening stages.
He was fortunate to escape with a yellow card, but not so fortunate when Pritchard got him back with a kick on his battered ankle. The youngster limped off shortly afterwards.
He should be fit for tomorrow’s home clash with Middlesbrough — where a win to get back in touch with the top six is needed.For a full report, see tomorrow's Burton Mail.