Football: Charlton's rapid response leaves Palace reeling

Charlton Athletic 2 Crystal Palace 1
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JUST A mile away from the illuminations of the Millennium Dome there was precious little light but plenty of sound and fury at The Valley, as goals from John Salako and Martin Pringle saw Charlton Athletic to victory over an injury-ravaged Crystal Palace side in a lively south London derby.

The win lifted Alan Curbishley's side to third in the First Division of the Nationwide League behind Huddersfield Town, whom they meet tomorrow at the McAlpine Stadium.

For Palace the future remains as unclear as ever, although they can draw encouragement from a spirited performance in adversity. There was a time when Palace might have considered themselves the lords of the manor and Charlton the poor relations in the south London pecking order. These days the situation is somewhat reversed, but it is an irony not lost on Curbishley. "Palace have had problems with injuries as well as the off- the-field trouble," he said. "Full credit to [the manager] Steve Coppell. They're picking up the points, and I hope they can hang in there."

If Palace had arrived as underdogs, however, they had clearly not read the script, taking the lead within a minute of the start. Craig Foster swung a free-kick in from the left-hand side of the area which evaded the Charlton goalkeeper, Dean Kiely, who appeared to be blinded by the low sun. Andrew Martin, a promising youngster elevated to the Palace front- line in place of the suspended Matthias Svensson, rose unchallenged to direct his header into the net.

Stunned by the early blow, Charlton briefly struggled to find their rhythm but within 11 minutes they were level. Andy Hunt turned smartly to escape the attentions of Andy Linighan on the edge of the area and shot fiercely at Fraser Digby. The Palace goalkeeper could only divert the ball into the path of Salako, who delivered a most unwelcome Christmas present to his former club.

Before the home crowd had breathed a sigh of relief, Charlton were ahead. Again Hunt was involved, playing a one-two with Steve Brown for the defender to drill a low ball across the face of goal. Pringle, who only started because of Clive Mendonca's absence with flu, finished from close range.

Palace dropped an extra man back into midfield to stifle the threat of Mark Kinsella and Shaun Newton, and thereafter the match lost much of its urgency. Hunt and Kinsella both wasted good chances for the home side, but Palace never threatened to make them pay for their profligacy.

"I was proud of my lads, after all the injuries and suspensions we've had," Coppell said. "For Charlton to have a player like Martin Pringle as an alternative striker is terrific."

Goals: Martin (1) 0-1; Salako (12) 1-1; Pringle (13) 2-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely; Brown, Youds, Rufus, Powell; Newton, Jones (Todd, 89), Kinsella, Salako (Robinson, 78); Hunt, Pringle. Substitutes not used: Stuart, MacDonald, Ilic (gk).

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Digby; Smith, Fan Zhiyi (Hibburt, 39), Linighan, Phelan; Austin, Foster (Woozley, 75), Carlisle, Rodger, Fullarton (Rizzo, 70); Martin. Substitutes not used: Frampton, Mautone (gk).

Referee: A Wiley (Walsall).

Bookings: Charlton: Rufus, Brown. Palace: Austin, Martin.

Man of the match: Digby.

Attendance: 20,043.