Derby consolidate position

Charlton Athletic 0 Derby County 0
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The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic 0 Derby County 0

With points so precious at this stage of the season both managers professed themselves "disappointed" with just the one. The result ensures that the congestion at the top of the First Division shows no sign of easing.

A draw, however, was enough to keep Derby County in second place, just three points clear of Crystal Palace. Charlton for their part are now all but out of contention for automatic promotion, but with five games still in hand they must be good for a place in the play-offs. On this performance they deserve it.

The match was played in a cup-tie atmosphere, and at a cup- tie pace. The home side dictated the tempo, and should really have had more to show for their efforts.

The burgeoning partnership between Carl Leaburn and Bradley Allen already has an encouraging look about it, and with Lee Bowyer and John Robinson surging through from midfield an early goal seemed all but inevitable.

The chances, however, went begging: Bowyer's long-range shot was well saved; Leaburn's outstretched leg just failed to make contact with Allen's ball across the face of goal; Allen headed tamely over after Russell Hult had parried Robinson's swerving volley.

Derby, playing on the break, found themselves with plenty of space on their forays forward, but too often their choice of pass was unimaginative and its execution inept.

They lost midfielder Darryl Powell to a pulled hamstring in the opening minutes, which may have interrupted their rhythm. Nevertheless, they had an excellent chance in each half to steal victory and would have done so but for fine saves from Charlton's third-choice keeper, Andy Petterson. He tipped away Robbie Van Der Laan's thunderous header in the 17th minute, and just got a hand to Sean Flynn's long-range effort in the 70th.

As the match wore on Charlton's commitment never slackened, but perhaps their self-belief did. Frustration began to erode their play. Robinson was booked for a foolish challenge. The caution carries him over the limit and into automatic suspension. Shaun Newton shot wastefully from distance when he might have brought other players in, and when he did strike a fine volley from Leaburn's knock-down he saw it deflected on to the post.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Petterson; Brown, Balmer, C Whyte, Jackson; Robinson, Jones, Bowyer, Newton; Allen (D Whyte, 80), Leaburn. Substitutes not used: Linger, Nelson.

Derby County (3-4-1-2): Hult; Rowett, Stimac, Yates; C Powell, D Powell (Flynn, 5), Van Der Laan, Carsley (Trollope, 65); Simpson; Gabbiadini (Ward, 76), Sturridge.

Referee: M Pierce (Portsmouth).

Bookings: Charlton: Robinson. Derby: Stimac, Gabbiadini.

Man of the match: Leaburn. Attendance: 11,334.