Football: Charlton party all the way to the top

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic 5 Southampton 0

THE PARTY started early on Saturday, before kick-off in fact, possibly in the belief that if things went wrong, at least Charlton could feel they had enjoyed something of their first season in the Premiership.

And yet by the final whistle it was clear that the pre-match fireworks, balloons and singers had only served to whet the appetite for far more extraordinary scenes on the pitch, when Charlton's performance, in demolishing a more experienced Southampton team, made a mockery of predictions that they would return straight to the First Division.

The initial celebrations were twofold. First to herald Charlton's return to the top level for the first time since 1990, but more significantly to mark the fact The Valley is now hosting such football for the first time since 1957. Alan Curbishley, the manager, has overseen quite a transformation in his seven years in charge, from their return to The Valley to flirting with relegation to the Second Division a couple of years ago. Now they sit on top of the Premiership table.

And that is Curbishley's magic. Charlton's rise can to a large extent be put down to him buying Clive Mendonca from Grimsby for a then club record pounds 700,000 just over a year ago and to put it simply he earned them promotion. He scored 28 goals last season, including his hat-trick in the play-off final against Sunderland in May. He again scored a hat-trick on Saturday and if he keeps going in a similar vein it will surely be enough to prevent Charlton going down.

Yet Mendonca, 29, was not in a party mood despite the seventh hat-trick of his career, because he had worn himself out. He said: "I picked up a back injury in pre-season, so I missed most of it. That meant I didn't play in last week's draw at Newcastle, and now I'm knackered. There's no celebrations for me."

Mendonca's goals sealed a win that had looked on the cards as soon as John Robinson gave Charlton the lead after only three minutes, when he scored off the post from the edge of the penalty area. That should have prompted Southampton to attack but with Matt Le Tissier on the bench, the midfield was easily run by Neil Redfearn, Curbishley's shrewd pounds 1m summer acquisition from Barnsley.

Le Tissier did come on at the start of the second half but 30 seconds later they were two down. A Mendonca shot was parried by the goalkeeper Paul Jones and Redfearn followed it up. In a weird role reversal, all afternoon it had been a case of guess the Premiership new boys, but it was Southampton, 20 consecutive years in the top flight, who looked wet behind the ears.

The second goal brought Mendonca to life. After 65 minutes he dribbled through into the area and was upended by Paul Jones, who was sent off and the farce continued. Southampton had already used all three substitutes, so David Howells went in goal and then picked Mendonca's penalty out of the net.

Just 15 minutes later, Mendonca again walked his way past Southampton's non-existent defence and a minute from time, he rounded off his and Charlton's best afternoon in four decades with a well-placed shot inside the post. Curbishley then told his men to enjoy the moment, good advice as their next two games are away to Arsenal and Manchester United.

Goals: Robinson (3) 1-0; Redfearn (46) 2-0; Mendonca pen 65 (3-0); Mendonca (81) 4-0; Mendonca (90) 5-0.

Charlton (4-4-2): Ilic; Mills, Powell, Redfearn, Rufus; Youds, Newton (Mortimer, 75), Kinsella (S Jones, 83), Hunt; Mendonca, Robinson. Substitutes not used: Petterson, Brown, K Jones.

Southampton (4-4-2): Jones; Dodd, Lundekvam, Dryden, Hiley; Ripley, Oakley (Howells, 57), Palmer, Bridge (Le Tissier, 46); Ostenstad (Beattie, 66), Hughes. Substitutes not used: Moss, Monkou.

Referee: R Harris (Oxford).

Bookings: Charlton: Newton 13, Robinson 48. Southampton: Dodd 38, Hughes 82. Sending-off: Southampton: Jones 65.

Man of the match: Mendonca.

Attendance: 16,488.

1937 REVISITED

September, 1937 - the last time Charlton led the elite

P W D L F A Pts

Charlton 7 3 4 0 9 5 10

Arsenal 7 4 1 2 18 7 9

Stoke 7 4 1 2 19 9 9

Bolton 7 4 1 2 10 5 9

Leeds 7 3 3 1 10 8 9

Wolves 7 4 1 2 13 11 9

Chelsea 7 4 0 3 16 12 8

Man City 7 4 0 3 17 14 8

Birmingham 7 2 4 1 13 9 8

Preston 7 2 3 2 11 7 7

West Brom 7 3 1 3 12 12 7

Middlesbrough 7 3 1 3 12 14 7

Brentford 7 3 1 3 9 12 7

Liverpool 7 3 1 3 12 16 7

Sunderland 7 3 1 3 10 16 7

Everton 7 3 0 4 11 11 6

Leicester 7 2 2 3 9 11 6

Huddersfield 7 3 0 4 10 12 6

Blackpool 7 2 1 4 10 15 5

Derby 7 1 3 3 9 21 5

Grimsby 7 0 3 4 4 10 3

Portsmouth 7 0 2 5 9 17 2

Comments