Claridge's guile outwits Charlton

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The Independent Online

Charlton Athletic 0 Leicester City 1

Charlton's hopes of automatic promotion from the First Division were severely dented last night at The Valley when Leicester City produced an uncharacteristically determined performance to win through a first- half goal by their new signing, Steve Claridge.

Spring is normally about the time of the year that Charlton's season- long promise starts to wither rather than blossom, and despite a recent run of good results those old fears resurfaced again last night. Of course, it did not help having to call up a third-choice goalkeeper for his first game of the season. The importance of a match against one of the pre-season favourites clearly got to Andy Petterson, who was recalled from on loan to Colchester on Sunday.

After only half a dozen minutes he completely failed to catch an up-and- under following a Mark Whitlow free-kick, and thereafter appeared allergic to anything the Leicester left-back happened to toss his way. Next time it was a throw-in he dropped, but when Petterson gathered a nasty inswinging corner from the same player at the second attempt, there was a sympathetic round of applause for the poor fellow.

None of this, of course, was particularly conducive to a smooth-running home performance against a Leicester side who have scored more goals away from home than any other side in the division. Charlton soon found themselves on the back foot.

Yet, Petterson's rubber fingers apart, Charlton had not been unduly troubled and might have taken the lead had Carl Leaburn stooped to head a Paul Sturgess free-kick rather than attempt a volley; easier said than done when you are 6ft 4in.

There could be no complaints, however, when that prolific goal scorer, Steve Claridge, recently signed from Birmingham for pounds 1.2m, soon got off the mark for his new club, curling a right footer around Petterson in the 33rd minute.

Sending on Mark Robson and then David Whyte as a third striker almost had its desired effect for Charlton. On the hour, Steve Walsh made a tremendous goal-line recovery from Robson's angled drive.

Poor Petterson was under pressure again five minutes into the new half when Muzzie Izzet, sensing the weakness in the opposition's goalkeeper, challenged vigorously for the ball before slamming it into the net. This time, however, the referee, David Orr, came to the Charlton man's aid with a free-kick award in his favour.

Then Whitlow made a desperate last-ditch clearance from a Richard Rufus header, and Leicester held firm. Injury was added to insult for the Valiants in the closing minutes when Matthew Jackson, on loan from Everton, was carried off on a stretcher.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Petterson; Jackson (Brown, 81), Rufus, C Whyte, Sturgess; L Bowyer (D Whyte, 47), Newton (Robson h/t), Robinson, Mortimer; Leaburn, Allen.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Poole; Grayson, Watts, Walsh, Whitlow; Taylor (Lawrence, 64), Lennon, Izzet, Heskey; Roberts, Claridge. Substitutes not used: Robins, Carey,

Referee: D Orr (Bucks).