Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hughes a Pretty Boy Then!

Charlton Athletic 2
Aston Villa 1

That's more like it! After the despair of a last minute equaliser last Wednesday, Charlton returned the injury-time favour to Villa and claimed all three points with another late, late, goal.

Substitute Bryan Hughes was the hero, with his first league goal for some time, diving to head home Hermann Hreidersson's knock back across goal (above left).

It was no more than Charlton deserved, having hit the bar twice - a drive from Ambrose in the first half, and a Traore header in the second - and being denied when Hreidersson followed up the Traore header with the ball apppearing to have crossed the line.

Rommadahl may also have broken his Valley duck had Gareth Barry not hauled him down just outside the penalty area, resulting in a red card for the Villa captain.

It was not all plain sailing though, and Agbonlahor could have scored late on for Villa when he poked the ball past Carson and just wide.

Darren Bent (left) had equalised for Charlton early in the second half, heading home El Karkouri's 55 yard pass, that after Barry had scored from a first half penalty when Hreidersson was adjudged to have tripped McCann.

The passion and commitment that returned in the Fulham game was maintained, but Villa were a harder nut to crack. The side that Pardew sent out saw just one change from Wednesday's starting eleven (Rommedahl starting for Thomas, who moved down to sub), indicating his commitment to a 4-4-2 formation, and a reliance on those who performed well in midweek.

Kishishev found it harder to find space for his two touches though, and Holland seemed to come to the rescue many times with last ditch midfield challenges. It is so different to the Faye days...

The crowd were great once more, making an excellent atmosphere, and transferring some belief back into the players minds. The message is now going out - if Charlton are to be relegated, then they will go with a fight. All of a sudden, Alan Curbishley's honeymoon at West Ham is over, and they are in sight at just two points ahead now. 17th place Middlesboro are the next target, and the match aginst them in a couple of weeks will be a crucial game for both sides. A win there could bring them into range too and see a great turnaround on the cards very quickly. Then it will be a case of maintaining the run.

Before then, an away match at Arsenal - where nobody really expects anything but a defeat, even after the Gunners loss at Sheffield United - and a cup game at Forest - which with the Pardew resurgence is now winnable.

Hope has returned to the club; if Pardew can bring in some battlers during the January transfer window - China captain Zheng Zhi the first of a new bunch - and gewt rid of some of the lazy money-grabbers then we really can look forward to a good 2007, and forget the horrors of 2006, our Annus Horribilus.

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