Last Season At The Valley

Last updated : 15 April 2004 By Brian Cartlidge
Here's how Singing The Blues match reporter BluenoseRon saw the 2-0 win against The Addicks:

Whilst at times this season, Blues have played some good football, this was 90 minutes of top quality stuff, as out-of-form Charlton looked on shell-shocked. Goals from fans favourites Christophe Dugarry and Robbie Savage secured the victory that sent the vocal travelling fans home delighted.

As expected, Savage returned to the side following suspension and injury, though it wasn't Bryan Hughes who dropped to the bench for his return but Stan Lazaridis, with Hughes taking up a wide-left role. Otherwise, the team was as you would expect, with Darren Purse again on the bench due to the immaculate form of Matty Upson and Kenny Cunningham.

The first 20 minutes of the game were a joy to watch for any travelling Blues fan, as they attacked in numbers against a Charlton side clearly reeling from their current dip in form. At the back for the home side, Jon Fortune and Tahari El-Khalej looked abysmal, and Dugarry and the excellent Geoff Horsfield took full advantage, looking for the ball to their feet constantly, and trying to turn their men.

Blues had created some half-chances, and won a succession of corners, but on the 20 minute mark got a deserved breakthrough. Horsfield again turned one of the woeful central defenders and outpaced him down the channel before firing a ball across the face of goal towards his French strike partner. It wouldn't have been the enigma that is Christophe Dugarry though, if he had simply tapped the ball home, so instead he let the ball roll between his legs beyond him, before reaching back and flicking the ball home with the instep of his right heel in a goal reminiscent of one scored by Paul Scholes at Old Trafford a couple of years ago. It truly was the touch of a genius.

Blues no doubt expected Charlton to step up a gear now, but they just didn't. Blues continued to attack, searching for a second goal, with Hughes and Jamie Clapham combining well down the left, and the front two continuing to terrorise Charlton's back four - with both going close again on occasions, whilst Horsfield had a good penalty shout turned down. At half time though, Blues led 1-0, and it was perhaps a little flattering to the home side that there was only one goal in it.

Blues soon changed that in the second half. They started the half as they'd finished the first, and within 5 minutes or so, appealed for another spot-kick. This time referee Neale Barry (a sponsors man-of-the-match in a Villa-Spurs game earlier in the season) pointed to the spot following a Savage surge into the area which was halted unlawfully by Chris Powell, after another sweet Blues move. Savage and Stephen Clemence proceeded to engage in polite conversation as to who would take the penalty, and Savage won out, before sending Dean Kiely the wrong way to make it 2-0.

Blues now switched to cruise control, with the likes of Horsfield and Savage enjoying the moment enough to start mimicking Dugarry's repetoire of clever flicks and deft touches. The Frenchmen himself began to leave one or two astray due to tiring, and was replaced by Stern John. Dugarry's withdrawal led to Charlton's only decent spell of the game when a Claus Jensen free-kick was easily held by Ian Bennett (who kept a third consecutive clean sheet) and had a couple of scrambles go nowhere too dangerous.

With Cunningham and Upson looking like Maldini and Nesta at the back, Blues continued to pile forward, with Horsfield wasting one glorious chance after a sweet interchange with John, before also firing just wide from 25 yards out. John himself got in on the act, forcing Kiely into a good save as Blues just really asserted their control over the game, and began playing as if it were an Exhibition Game.

At the end, the Blues players celebrated not only a great win, but more importantly the fact that West Ham had lost, and that only now could Blues really consider themselves safe for the first time this season. Following a performance like this (I personally think it's the best I have ever seen Blues play - certainly away from home - but I'm only young) then it's hard to see why we were in a struggle anyway. Every player came out of this game with credit, though Upson, Cunningham and Dugarry provided the real, genuine class. If Blues play half as well as this on Monday against Southampton, then the FA Cup finalists will be blown away.

Bennett - Redundant mainly, but another clean sheet
Kenna - Composed
Clapham - Sound defensively, a threat offensively
Upson - Absolutely superb
Cunningham - Even better
Johnson - Worked hard
Hughes - Carried on the good work
Savage - His usual self
Clemence - Excellent
Horsfield - Magnificent - gave El-Khalej and Fortune a torrid time
Dugarry - Sheer class, and a sublime goal to boot

John - Lethargic, but worked the ball well when he had it
Devlin - Only came on to waste time
Purse - Good to see him back, one excellent interception at the death

Charlton: Kiely, Young, Fortune, El Khalej (Konchesky 82), Powell, Kishishev (Robinson 45), Parker, Euell, Jensen, Svensson (Lisbie 45), Johansson.
Subs Not Used: Roberts, Blomqvist.

Booked: Parker, Svensson.

Blues: Bennett, Kenna, Cunningham, Upson, Clapham, Damien Johnson (Purse 90), Savage, Hughes, Clemence, Horsfield (Devlin 87), Dugarry (John 68).
Subs Not Used: Marriott, Lazaridis.

Booked: Clemence.

Attendance: 25,732

Referee: N Barry (N Lincolnshire).