Football: Mendonca's happy Valley return

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The Independent Online
Charlton Athletic 5

Robinson 3, Redfearn 46, Mendonca pen 65, 81, 90

Southampton 0

Attendance: 16,488

AS WAITS go, it was long in the extreme but it was worth it. It is 41 years since Charlton played top-level English football at The Valley but, as if they had been saving it up for all that time, they produced a masterful display to overwhelm a rag-tag Southampton side. And to make the story even sweeter, they are now top of the nascent Premiership table to boot.

The last time Charlton had scored in a first-team game was in their Division One play-off final victory over Sunderland in May, and the hero that afternoon was the striker Clive Mendonca with three goals. He failed to score in their Premiership opener last Saturday but was on target again yesterday with another hat-trick.

Yet it could have been an even more comprehensive win for Alan Curbishley's men as Southampton were so poor their manager, Dave Jones, dubbed it the worst performance in his time at the club. It was certainly the opposite for Curbishley, who said afterwards: "The lads are laughing now that they're top of the table. They should just enjoy the weekend because to perform like we did was fantastic."

Charlton marked their home Premiership debut with a goal after just three minutes from John Robinson. The Wales midfielder picked up a Shaun Newton cross on the edge of the box and drove his shot inside Paul Jones' right- hand post.

That was the cue for Southampton to attack, except they didn't. With Matthew Le Tissier on the bench until the second half, the Saints had no creative outlet and Charlton ran the game to such an extent that their goalkeeper Sasa Ilic did not have a save to make.

Improving on their first-half start, Charlton scored only 30 seconds after the interval when a Mendonca shot was parried and Neil Redfearn, on his home debut, tucked the ball away. Mendonca was then upended after 65 minutes by Paul Jones, earning him a red card.

Mendonca got up and slotted the penalty past David Howells, the stand- in keeper. Fifteen minutes later he tricked his way through the defence and made it 4-0 before completing his hat-trick in the final minute with another close-range shot.

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