Football: Pitcher catches Leicester out

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Charlton Athletic. . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Leicester City . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

THE Premiership credentials of Charlton Athletic are not among the most compelling but they are making the best of thin resources. Although it needed a penalty two minutes from time for their hard work to be rewarded at The Valley yesterday, their elevation to second place in the table was a merited prize. So far, the fade-out that followed last season's bright start is not repeating itself.

Like many clubs, Charlton find their team-building potential limited by the commitment to construct grandstands. Half their stadium resembles a building site and the pounds 2m price tag on the East Stand project leaves only the smallest of small change in the recruitment kitty. A striker of note would greatly further their cause but to acquire one would almost certainly mean selling their highly rated left-back Scott Minto.

Since defence has been Charlton's strongest suit this is not an attractive option. Yesterday they always seemed to have bodies behind the ball in numbers and a proud record of only one goal conceded at home this season appeared likely to be preserved until Steve Agnew, picked out on a blindside run by Steve Thompson, headed Leicester level in the 86th minute.

Charlton had been in front from the 32nd minute by virtue of a header from the centre- back, Phil Chapple, set up when Garry Nelson, possibly more by accident than design, flicked the ball into his path in a crowded goalmouth. Before Agnew's intervention, that score seemed likely to be the decider and considering that Nelson had only narrowly missed doubling their lead early in the second half, Charlton probably felt as deflated as their opponents did two minutes later when Darren Pitcher's goal from the penalty spot negated their own fightback.

The Midlands side, beaten in the play-offs in each of the last two seasons, remain as much in contention and while they, too, are spending heavily on stadium development, Brian Little's shrewd management has endowed them with a squad of much greater depth. Whether Little has the resources to cover the loss for the season of Steve Walsh, his defender turned centre-forward, remains to be seen. His combination of David Speedie with Julian Joachim, both small men, has necessitated a change of style that will take time to develop.

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