MICHAEL Appleton feels inexperience is beginning to hit his young side after they blew a 2-0 lead at home to Cambridge.
An instantly forgettable opening 45 minutes was quickly forgotten once top scorer Alfie May fired the Addicks ahead on 52 minutes.
Chem Campbell’s header doubled the advantage just after the hour and the hosts were seemingly cruising to victory until slack marking from an 87th minute corner gifted the unmarked Gassan Ahadme a free header from a corner to set up a tense finale.
The nerves got the better of the hosts when Jack Lankester was tripped by Tayo Edun deep into stoppage time.
Replays showed the collision took place just outside the box, but referee Thomas Kirk decided otherwise and pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Ahadme to rescue an unlikely point for the visitors and leave Charlton nine points from the play-offs.
A frustrated Appleton told Charlton TV: “The more experienced teams and the better teams in this division, when they go 2-0 up, they win the game, simple as that.
“They might concede in the 95th minute to make it 2-1 but they certainly win the game. They know how to win the game.
“That’s something obviously we are looking at and we are going to try and make sure that we manage going forward and is obviously something we can affect and do in January.
“I’ve been saying that since the second I walked through the door is that we need men in the team.
“We need more experienced players in the team and until we get to that, we have to learn quickly.”
The SE7 boss added: “It will be a tough one for one or two of them to take but at the end of the day they are little bits of detail.
“He’s (Ahadme) got a free header seven yards out. We know he is picking up, we know he is in the zone – they should be dealing with that.
“And then again at the end, it was a little bit disappointing that the ref couldn’t wait to put his whistle in his mouth.
“Obviously the incident was outside the box. Maybe he felt there was an incident earlier in the game where he stayed brave because the lad dived but he was under a little bit of pressure from their players.
“Maybe that sort of counted towards what he did decide to do.”
Appleton did at least take some positives from the way Charlton emerged after the interval, even if in the end the final result felt more like a defeat.
He said: “I’m delighted with the way we started and went about our business in the second-half.
“I think in the first-half I was disappointed, angry at times. We allowed them to have an influence on the game with their style, which was disappointing.
“We got away with one or two things in that first-half, but then came out of the blocks in the second-half. We were far more aggressive, passing the ball forward, showing a little bit of character, a little bit of determination, deservedly go 2-0 ahead and could have scored two or three more.
“And then it probably sums up the group a little bit what happened after that in terms of age, lack of experience of a few of them, not knowing how to manage a game at that moment.”
Appleton added: “The reality is when you are 2-0 up, especially at home, the most important part of that scoreline is the nil, the zero. You don’t need to score again.
“You try and get messages on the pitch to put the ball up your shirt, take your time, take that extra few seconds when the ball goes out of play, when we get a free-kick, when we get a corner.
“They are just so keen to get on with the game, so that hurts.
“Those type of things are a massive sort of learning curve. I reminded the players that we’ve had moments in games this season when we’ve been on the other end of that and it has got us a result out of something where it probably felt like a win.
“Whereas tonight it feels like a defeat.”