A second half strike from John Robinson secured a club record ninth consecutive league win for Charlton Athletic as Alan Curbishley’s side remained on course for promotion with victory over Fulham at the Valley this evening.
The Addicks had to work hard for a sixth straight home home win to move seven points clear of second-placed Manchester City, with Paul Bracewell’s outfit renergised after a pair of scrappy wins over West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth. They looked tidy in possession but lacked support for their forwards, which has rather been the story of a frustrating first campaign in management for Bracewell upon whom the pressure will ramp up again.
The Whites needed the alertness of Terry Phelan to deny Shaun Newton an opening goal at the back post after their defence had been unlocked by a deep cross from Chris Powell. Martin Pringle should have put the hosts in front when Newton played him in goal but he took an extra touch and measured a right-footed shot wide of Maik Taylor’s far post when the Swede could quite easily have taken on the effort first-time.
The home fans howled in frustration and their anguish might have increased shortly after the interval were it not for Richard Rufus arriving in the nick of time to prevent Geoff Horsfield from putting Fulham in front after a clever ball from Steve Finnan. The other Fulham wing-back Terry Phelan then fired wide and Curbishley made two changes in quick succession, switching to a back three and seeking to exploit the visitors’ new-found sense of ambition.
It did the trick. Another Newton cross saw Taylor terrifically keep out Andy Hunt’s header, but the Northern Ireland was powerless to prevent Robinson from scoring with the rebound. The Cottagers did threaten a response within two minutes but Kevin Ball’s shot was smartly saved by Dean Kiely as Charlton moved closer to the Premier League.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (4-4-2): Kiely; Brown, Powell, Rufus, Todd; Barness (Tiler 55), Stuart, Newton, Robinson; Hunt, Pringle (M. Svensson 52). Subs (not used): Ilic, Konchesky, Salako.
GOAL: Robinson (63).
FULHAM (5-3-2): Taylor; Finnan, Phelan, Morgan, Melville, Coleman; Ball (Davis 84), Clark (Hayward 84), Goldbaek (Riedle 76); Horsfield, Hayles. Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Symons.
REFEREE: Andy Hall (West Midlands).