Football: Rufus rouses Charlton's spirit

Grimsby Town 2 Charlton Athletic 5
ALAN CURBISHLEY may not have access to Murdoch's millions but perhaps he does have something money just can't buy - a team with indomitable spirit.

Evidence of it was further furnished last night as his enthusiastic promotion chasers twice won and lost a lead, yet still managed to run out impressive winners and move to within a point of the Sky-backed Nationwide First Division leaders, Manchester City, whom they meet next week.

It all came together in a thrilling 15-minute spell midway through the second half when goals from Andy Hunt, Clive Mendonca and a Paul Groves own goal condemned Grimsby to their third successive defeat.

Yet earlier it looked as though Richard Rufus would prove to be the unlikely Charlton show-stealer on a ground that tends to bring the devil out in him. On his last visit here, two years ago Rufus was sent off. This time he made his improbable mark with two first-half goals. They both bore the mark of simplicity itself even though they appeared to leave Grimsby's defence utterly bamboozled.

The first, after 13 minutes, followed a corner never properly cleared. When Mark Kinsella, the taker, returned deep into the box, the athletic Rufus scored with an angled header.

The same Charlton pair worked a similar routine after 36 minutes of impressive action to punish the home defence for a second time. On this occasion they were not even afforded the opportunity to react to Kinsella's dead ball kick. Rufus rose to it and headed beyond the goalkeeper, Danny Coyne.

Grimsby's consolation was that they had briefly broken Charlton's hold on the game, equalising after 25 minutes through a Lee Ashcroft penalty following Greg Shields' clumsy challenge on David Smith.

It seemed there might have been something in this match to cheer the hapless home manager, Alan Buckley. Kevin Donovan reinforced that feeling a minute into the second half, combining with Ashcroft before driving past Sasa Ilic.

However Charlton are a side who feed off self-belief, so it was no surprise when for a third time they went ahead courtesy of the former Grimsby favourite, Clive Mendonca, who forced home a Kinsella corner.

On a damp night that was the moment the heavens opened for Grimsby who went further behind when Andy Hunt sidefooted in from Mendonca's pass before Chris Powell contrived to produce the fifth at Groves' expense.

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): Coyne; Butterfield , R Smith (Burnett 40), Lever, Gallimore; Donovan, Groves, Hamilton (Allen 71), D Smith; Ashcroft, Lester. Substitutes not used: Buckley, Black, Croudson (gk).

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Ilic; Shields, Youds (Brown 86), Rufus, Powell; Stuart, Jones, Kinsella (Salako 83), Robinson; Mendonca, Hunt. Substitutes not used: Barness, Newton, Pringle.

Referee: G Frankland (Middlesbrough).