Football: Tempers boil over as Charlton roll on

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The Independent Online
CHARLTON ATHLETIC, doing their level best to get back into the Premiership at the first attempt, learned just how hard it is going to be as they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in a bad-tempered battle at a boiling Valley. The red cards finished 2-1 too, in Bolton's favour.

Wanderers struck first. After 12 minutes, Mike Whitlow's long throw was flicked on by Dean Holdsworth and Michael Johansen tapped in. Just as Colin Todd's side seemed to be taking full control, John Robinson beat Neil Cox on the left and his cross was headed in by Graham Stuart.

The striker's next notable action was less edifying as he got into a midfield scrap with Andy Todd on the stroke of half-time and both were sent off. Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, was dismayed. "The two boys were stupid, it wasn't a life or death situation. It's very damaging for us, we are not blessed with the biggest squad, it's the last thing I needed."

The first thing he needed came five minutes into the second period, when Clive Mendonca, played in by Martin Pringle's clever pass, scored his fourth goal of the season, and Charlton's winner. Whitlow's second booking saw him depart 20 minutes from the end.

Two weeks ago enraged Wolves fans chanted, "Where's the money gone?" referring to the proceeds of Robbie Keane's sale to Coventry. Well, they know now after Ade Akinbiyi's pounds 3.5m move from Bristol City made him the Nationwide's most expensive player.

Booked for a foul on Jon Dyson after two minutes of his debut against Huddersfield Town, Akinbiyi missed his best chance to become a Molineux hero when he ran on to Simon Osborn's through ball, rounded Nico Vaesen in the Terriers goal but, like an England forward, lost his footing and the chance went begging. Wolves hit the woodwork three times and Akinbiyi went off injured.

"Ade has not played for about three weeks so I would say he's a bit rusty," Colin Lee, the Wolves manager, said. "But he will be a better player next week." Matters got even worse for Wolves when Huddersfield won a disputed second-half penalty, converted by Marcus Stewart, and it finished 1-0 (Wolves third successive defeat) as the Terriers moved up to fifth.

Manchester could soon see both its big clubs topping their divisions if City keep up their current form. A 2-1 win over Crystal Palace lifted them to the giddy height of second place. For the City manager, Joe Royle, it was "our best win of the season, especially as we did not play as well as we have been. After going a goal down and coming back to win it was a great game for ourselves, and one which we used to lose."

Blackburn Rovers won at home for the first time in six months when goals by Ashley Ward and substitute Nathan Blake, a fine individual run from the halfway line, were enough to dispatch Tranmere 2-0.

"It was a stop-start sort of game which had no flow to it but we stuck at it and dug out a result," Brian Kidd, the Blackburn manager, said. "This is our first back-to-back win since late 1997 and we are not going to get carried away. There is a lot to do here still.This is not a purist's situation." Which made Ewood Park seem very inviting.

At the bottom, Norwich City won for the first time this season, beating Crewe 2-1. Substitute Darren Eadie, out injured for nine months, scored the winner seven minutes from time.