CHARLTON began 2011 with a highly entertaining 3-3 draw at Colchester on New Year’s Day.

The Addicks went behind three times to a spirited U’s side, who were down to ten men for the entire second half, with goals from Matt Heath, Andy Bond and Anthony Wordsworth.

But a pair of penalties from Johnnie Jackson, the latter seeing David Perkins dismissed for deliberate handball, and a brilliant scissors kick from Paul Benson ensured the spoils were shared at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Benson himself saw red late on for a studs lunge, and both sides missed chances to snatch a dramatic late winner in a cracking start to the new year which arguably ended with the fairest result.

With Joe Anyinsah out with a groin injury sustained at the Withdean on Wednesday, Lee Martin was the only fresh face to the starting eleven which drew with Brighton.

And with a long and storied history of having former players come back to haunt them, the Addicks should have been well aware of the threat former loanee David Mooney posed up front for the Us.

If they weren’t, the Irishman made sure there was no confusion after only a few minutes by finding the space to drive a strong shot at Rob Elliot, whose parry was cleared from further danger by skipper Christian Dailly.

Elliot did well again shortly past the quarter hour mark, tipping an Anthony Wordsworth around the post.

However, the save only slightly delayed the Essex side from drawing first blood, the subsequent corner headed home from close range by Heath with the Addicks’ marking leaving a lot to be desired.

The lead lasted just two minutes, though, when Matt Fry sent Martin through on the left-hand side of the penalty area and although Lloyd James appeared to successfully force a corner, referee Pat Miller pointed immediately to the spot.

Jackson once again stepped up to convert for what is now officially his tenth goal of the season, after his deflected free-kick in the FA Cup replay at Luton was awarded to Therry Racon.

While the Reds managed to survive two minutes without conceding, it was only five in total before Colchester were again in front.

Ashley Vincent bombed down the right in the midst of a good counter and pulled back a low cross to find Bond who converted from ten yards, leaving Elliot laying hurt after a failed effort to keep the shot out.

Although Elliot showed plenty of signs that he probably should have come off, he produced a great point blank save to deny Bond a second with half an hour played.

With a barrage of corners and the lion’s share of attacking play, the home side were starting to look comfortable – until one moment of madness five minutes from the interval changed everything.

As the ball came into United’s danger area, Paul Benson managed a good header which looked goal bound until it was saved, not by keeper Williams, but Perkins who promptly saw red before Charlton once again drew level from 12 yards via Jackson.

The early stages of the second period couldn’t hope to top the opening 45 minutes, and Parky made a double switch on the hour in an attempt to capitalise on the sending off with Kyel Reid and Pawel Abbott replacing Racon and Wagstaff.

But for the second straight game, Charlton suffered against ten men when five minutes after the double substitution, Wordsworth capitalised on poor defending to lash home the U’s third.

All looked lost for the away team: within a matter of days, they’d struggled against ten men away from home, where they’d been strong as of late.

But a third leveller came 14 minutes from the end courtesy of inspired play from Abbott – and a superb finish from Benson.

The out-of-form strikers combined with Pawel’s clever header close to goal under heavy pressure setting up a spectacular overhead kick from Benson which dipped into the goal.

Inside the final ten, the game looked poised for a dramatic winner and it was almost Benson at the double, but his header from Reid’s deep cross was struck off with the forward deemed to have climbed on his marker to convert.

The near-goal had everyone in the stadium fooled – even the matchday announcer who reluctantly began to announce the goal – until Colchester took a free-kick with the scores remaining level.

Things got worse for Benson in the dying moments when his tangle with John White left the United man in agony and the linesman waving his flag furiously.

After a brief consultation with his assistant, Miller produced a second red card of the game to level things at ten men apiece for the five minutes of added time.

Follow us on Twitter @NewsShopperSprt

Charlton: Elliot, Francis, Doherty, Dailly, Fry, Wagstaff (Reid 59), Semedo, Racon (Abbott 59), Jackson, Martin, Benson. Subs not used: Worner, Seip, Fortune, McCormack, Sodje. Att: 6,112