Football: `Players have to stop the rot' says Curbishley

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The Independent Online
ALAN CURBISHLEY is determined that the same rot which dented Charlton's Premiership adventure last year will not set in as he attempts to arrest his club's recent slip which has yielded just one point from two games.

The Addicks travel to their fellow promotion hopefuls Barnsley today after allowing a two-goal lead to slip against Port Vale which was followed by a midweek home defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

"After Tuesday's defeat we spoke to the players and said it was up to them to prove they could bounce back from this," Curbishley, Charlton's manager, said. "We know this is going to be another tough game for us because Barnsley are just four points behind us and have an excellent home record."

The Queen's Park Rangers assistant manager, Iain Dowie, admits that he can only look on with envy at today's hosts, Huddersfield Town, who are second.

"Steve Bruce has put together a good side at Huddersfield and brought in some decent players," Dowie said. "It must be nice to have that kind of money to spend."

The Birmingham City manager, Trevor Francis, has praised the club's supporters for their "understanding" in the wake of the crippling injury crisis at St Andrew's. The Blues have 11 players on the treatment table ahead of their game at Fulham but Francis is delighted with the encouragement the team have received.

"I feel at the moment we're in a holding position," said Francis, whose side would move ahead of the sixth-placed Londoners with a victory today. "Seven attackers are missing but we'll keep going and see where we go."

Sheffield United and Ports-mouth will share more than just the pitch in their relegation battle at Bramall Lane. Both sets of fans have had to withstand financial crises as their respective teams' form has slumped, and the Blades have turned to Neil Warnock to change the fortunes at the South Yorkshire club.

However, the Portsmouth manager, Alan Ball, believes that his ship has, at last, stopped leaking. "It's an important game for us, but this is an important season. When things settle down and stabilise, we'll get the job done," he said.

The Walsall manager, Ray Graydon, insists his side's cup run has already begun - a full week before the FA Cup third-round tie with Gillingham. The Saddlers visit bottom club Swindon Town knowing that defeat could leave them at the foot of the table. "We won't treat Swindon any differently to the top teams because these are all important games now," Graydon said. "Every game is becoming a cup final to the teams in the bottom area of the league."

The Tranmere Rovers assistant manager, Kevin Sheedy, believes the midweek exertions of both the Wirral club and opponents Bolton could have a positive effect on today's game at the Reebok Stadium. Rovers and Bolton both reached the quarter-finals of the Worthington Cup with good home wins. "They will be full of confidence and are a team in form. But we're a team in form as well so I certainly don't expect it to end up 0-0," said Sheedy.