Football: Blackburn's souls in need of saving

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Charlton Athletic. . .0

Blackburn Rovers. . . 0

A FIRM called SOS Construction has taken advertising space in The Valley. Very apt - not because Charlton's east stand is still under construction and most of the Valley's amenities are prefabricated, temporary affairs and not because Charlton have precious little cash with which to build up their squad. No, it was apt because Blackburn's souls needed some saving.

The Premiership's title contenders simply did not stir their souls or lift their supporters' spirits.

Quite why top-flight sides are so inhibited by cup ties that pit them against opposition from a lower division is difficult to fathom. Fear of ignominy and inability to take the tie seriously are two obvious factors but neither should have been at work for this match.

Charlton could be in the Premier League next season and the Blackburn manager, Kenny Dalglish, said he entered The Valley in full expectation of a difficult game.

Charlton grew more confident and accomplished as the game wore on and were nearly rewarded with what would have been deserved victory when Darren Pitcher hit the post on 62 minutes. Carl Leaburn, whose 6ft 3in frame frequently worried Blackburn, came almost as close with a fierce shot a few minutes later. Most of Blackburn's attacks came on the break but some excellent Charlton tackling and poor Blackburn passing meant Mike Salmon's goal rarely came under threat.

At the dawning of the brave new world of Terry Venables, some of his potential England saviours were the ones looking like vegetables. 'Do I not like that,' Venables might have said as Stuart Ripley fumbled his way round the pitch and Alan Shearer was pressed into the shadows by Charlton's central defender, Alan McLeary.

On their trip to Lancashire for the replay next Tuesday, Charlton must try to remember not that they have failed to be giant-killers for the past 71 years but that they beat Blackburn at Ewood Park when both sides were last in the same division two seasons ago.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Salmon; Brown, McLeary, Chapple, Minto; Robson, Robinson (Walsh, 58), Pardew, Pitcher; Leaburn, Grant (Nelson, 74). Substitute not used: Vaughan (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Flowers; Le Saux, Moran, Marker, Berg; Wilcox, Sherwood, Batty, Ripley; Gallacher (Pearce, 73), Shearer. Substitutes not used: Morrison, Mimms (gk).

Referee: A Flood (Stockport).

(Photograph omitted)