Football: Charlton look to build on fans' show of faith

Charlton Athletic 0 Nottingham Forest 0
FOR THE neutral, The Valley is fast becoming one of the more pleasant arenas in which to watch football. Alan Curbishley's team rarely fail to give their all even though they might lack a virtuoso like Ginola or Bergkamp, and the atmosphere generated by regular full houses of about 20,000 is capable of matching almost anything on offer throughout the land.

On Saturday, it has to be said, the Charlton faithful were not in the best of voice as they watched their team struggle to apply the finishing touch in a number of potentially match-winning situations, but they still encouraged and cajoled right to the end and it would be a shame if they were not rewarded with at least another season in the top flight.

Who knows, the club could even go on to establish itself in the Premiership if it survives its first winter. How Wimbledon, for example, must envy Charlton's prize possession - a snappy little stadium right at the heart of the local community in an area of London crying out for a common cause for people of all kinds to support.

As recent events concerning the neighbouring district of Eltham have highlighted once more, race relations in that part of the capital are among the worst in the country but Charlton seem in no doubt about either their duty to the community or the beneficial effects that fostering racial harmony would have for the club.

"There has been a discernible increase in regular attendance at The Valley among ethnic minority groups," read a special edition of the supporters' club newsletter, circulated to the press on Saturday. "However despite the progress made, Charlton Athletic still does not have a supporter profile which properly reflects that of the local football-loving population.

"Our intention is to continue the fight against racism in football, and to widen Charlton Athletic's appeal still further, making The Valley an attraction for all and so helping ensure that Charlton become one of the big clubs in English football on and off the playing field."

No lack of ambition there then, and the same goes for their football. But against Forest, or more precisely an inspired Mark Crossley in his first Premiership game for almost two years, Charlton were frustrated at every turn in their hunt for a fourth successive victory.

Among half a dozen top-drawer saves by the Welsh international goalkeeper was the one that kept out Neil Redfearn's 69th-minute penalty, but Curbishley might just be pondering the wisdom of allowing such an important kick to be taken by a player who has admitted to feeling unsettled since his move south from Barnsley.

As for Forest, although it was an improved all-round defensive display, it will take a lot more than that to save them.

Charlton Athletic (3-5-2): Royce; Mills, Brown, Tiler; Robinson, Redfearn, Kinsella, Jones, Powell; Hunt (Mendonca, 72), Pringle. Substitutes not used: Bright, Barness, Barnes, Petterson (gk).

Nottingham Forest (5-3-2): Crossley; Louis-Jean, Edwards, Bonalair, Chettle, Stensaas; Stone, Gemmill (Quashie, 78), Palmer; Van Hooijdonk, Darcheville (Shipperley, 62). Substitutes not used: Hjelde, Woan, Beasant (gk).

Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).

Bookings: Charlton: Tiler, Robinson. Forest: Louis-Jean, Palmer, Darcheville.

Man of the match: Crossley.

Attendance: 20,007.

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