Football: Baiano spoils fun

Charlton Athletic 1 Mendonca pen 89 Derby County 2 Wanchope 5, Baiano 60 Attendance: 19,516
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HOW OFTEN does it happen? You win the Manager of the Month award and in your team's next home game you suffer an unexpected defeat.

It should have been Charlton's special day yesterday. Alan Curbishley won the Premiership's first Manager of the Month trophy - the first boss of a newly promoted side to do so - and The Valley was increased to a capacity of 20,000 following the completion of the West Stand.

With their biggest league gate for 20 years, everything looked in place for three points to erase the memory of the midweek setback at Old Trafford.

But Derby, under Jim Smith, are made of stern stuff these days and goals by Paulo Wanchope and Francesco Baiano, one in each half, condemned Charlton to their second defeat in a row.

A late controversial penalty by Clive Mendonca was too little too late. Suddenly, the harsh realities of life in the Premiership are beginning to tell on Curbishley's honest, hard-working team.

A glorious rainbow behind the Charlton goal was the most inspirational moment of a first half that was full of running by both sides but lacking in ideas. Derby's defence, superbly marshalled by Croatia's Igor Stimac, hardly gave the home side a kick. It was 51 minutes before the Londoners had their first genuine opportunity, Mendonca's swivel and shot bringing out the best in Russell Hoult.

Hoult made three more excellent saves late in the game but by then Derby were coasting. Baiano's sweetly struck free-kick having doubled the visitors' lead.

"I fully expected to get something today," Curbishley said. "But we have learned a lesson. It is difficult to score goals at this level, nor can you make sloppy mistakes. But we paid a high price."

Derby, by contrast, have now won twice in a row, but were furious with the referee, Mike Reed, over the penalty decision that gave Charlton a lifeline and almost earned them a point in a late rally.

Reed awarded the kick after Rory Delap was adjudged to have fouled Paul Mortimer. "It was the cleanest tackle of the afternoon," the Derby manager said. "We could have been hurt badly by it." Forwards backing into defenders, Smith said, is something that has crept into the game. "Nobody likes it but we can't do anything about it. It's up to the referee."

Stimac was one of five players booked and has now been cautioned four times in a row and faces suspension. But he too was critical of Reed.

"He should have put on a red shirt today," the Derby captain said. "The penalty was a clean tackle on the ball from behind. We worked so hard to keep a clean sheet. It destroys your mind because they were flying in the last few minutes."