Football: The Valley of cheers

Charlton Athletic 3 Newton 20, 59, Bright 36 Middlesbrough 0 Attendance: 15,742
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The Independent Online
THESE are exciting times at The Valley. Charlton have now dispatched both First Division championship pretenders - Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough - on consecutive Saturdays, recording their eighth consecutive home win yesterday and setting an attendance record since returning to the ground in 1992 in the process. All this in a week that saw the transfer of their long-serving striker Carl Leaburn to Wimbledon.

Boro's Premiership aspirations will remain intact after the defeat but their confidence will have been badly dented after this match which began with them being outplayed, developed into a rout and ended in total humiliation.

Charlton won the match in midfield in the first 30 minutes. Shaun Newton and John Robinson were first to virtually every loose ball, and what little possession Boro could gain, they squandered with careless passing. Paul Merson, who looked the most skilful player on either side, was reduced to screaming at his team-mates. But by the time he moved back into midfield in the second half, it was too late to affect the result.

Newton had a hand in all three goals. He scored the first with an 18- yard shot after a clever return pass from Clive Mendonca. He crossed from the right for the second, a ball which Mark Schwarzer dropped under pressure from Mendonca, allowing Leaburn's replacement Mark Bright a simple header. Newton then scored the third himself, hitting another 18-yard shot when Boro carelessly lost possession at a corner.

Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, sees Mendonca as the key to his team's recent run. "We haven't had a regular goal- scorer here for a few years," he said, "but Clive has scored 15 and since we brought him in, goals have been going in from all areas." Bryan Robson could find no excuses for Boro's performance. "In the second half we just went to pieces," he said.

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