Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Monday December 5 2005
Sun 04/12/05 4pm
Stuart Pearce made five changes for the visit to The Valley, opting for experience over youth as several players returned from injury. The inexperienced midfield that struggled against Liverpool last week was all but changed completely with just Joey Barton keeping his place in the side. Sun Jihai, Claudio Reyna and Trevor Sinclair all came into the midfield at the expense of Musampa, Ireland and Croft. Both full back positions found new occupants with David Sommeil replacing the injured Danny Mills and Ben Thatcher replacing Steven Jordan. With last week's left hand side of Musampa and Jordan failing to even make the bench, this selection told its own story about the lack of creativity down that side in recent weeks.
The game was in some ways a mirror image of the corresponding fixture last season with City dominating from the off. Vassell, in true Jon Macken style, missed an early one on one with Kiely but the omens looked good as the performance exceeded anything seen in recent weeks. City took a deserved lead on 24 minutes, Cole picking up the ball from Vassell's toes and firing neatly home. Charlton looked there for the taking, their recent run of defeats looking as though it weighed heavy on their shoulders. Surprisingly therefore the next goal was Charlton's, a long punt through the middle looked to offer no danger until Dunne misjudged the flight of the ball presenting Bent with the opportunity to fire a neat finish past James. Charlton were back in it for all of 54 seconds. City broke from the kick off, Cole found Sinclair who left the woeful Spector trailing before hitting a neat finish beyond Kiely and in at the far post. City took the lead to the break without ever looking really troubled.
The second half, if anything, saw an even more polished performance from City. Hreidesson fouled Vassell on 68 minutes allowing Barton to convert from the rebound of his own missed penalty. Charlton again threatened a recovery when Bothroyd reduced the deficit with a well struck free kick on 72 minutes. But City were not to sacrifice the points as they did last year, Vassell broke clear on 78 minutes to place a neat finish under Kiely's body and Cole rounded off the scoring when he pounced on Perry's poor defensive header before rounding Kiely and finishing into an empty net.
So City's biggest win of the season to date and signs that the poor run of form has been arrested. The re-introduction of experience made a huge difference to the level of performance and reflects well for the games to come. That is not to underestimate the potential of the younger players but it was probably time for one or two to be rested. 10 out of 10 to the manger for recognising this and 10 out of 10 to the team for a performance that keeps the pressur on the European places.
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Date:Monday December 5 2005
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