Football: Ward raises Rovers' profile

Charlton Athletic 1 Blackburn Rovers 2
THE THAMES flood barrier is situated close to The Valley, a handy reminder of the need to keep a strong back line in case of a sudden turn of events for the worse. However, Charlton failed to do just that last night and suffered the consequences, losing to Ashley Ward's two strikes and at the same time throwing away the chance of going top of the First Division, something they would have achieved had they won by two goals.

Alan Curbishley is reportedly on the shortlist of the Blackburn owner, Jack Walker, to take over from the caretaker Tony Parkes at Ewood Park, but on the basis of this disorganised performance, the Charlton manager will be waiting some time for the call. Meanwhile, Parkes refuses to contemplate offering his services as the manager on a permanent basis. This is Parkes' fifth stint as a caretaker, and as he said afterwards: "Each time I've come in we've had a good spell of results." In the five unbeaten games under Parkes since Brian Kidd was sacked, Rovers have steadily climbed the table. "The top six is an aim for us. Given our poor start to the season that would be a good season," Parkes added.

The modest Parkes deflected the praise on to Ward, a striker who tormented the Charlton defence, and the goalkeeper Alan Kelly. "Ward was outstanding and he got what he deserved while Kelly made two or three outstanding saves."

Ward's first strike came after 12 minutes, as Charlton were still regrouping after Richard Rufus had seen his header flash over the crossbar from Mark Kinsella's free-kick. The ball went out to Damien Duff on the left, his chipped pass beat the Charlton defence and, apparently the offside trap, to free Ward who coolly lobbed Dean Kiely from 12 yards.

Charlton had dominated proceedings early on without ever truly threatening Kelly, when, with half an hour gone, Steve Brown saw his 30-yard effort deflected on to the crossbar. Then, just as Charlton looked unlikely to break through, Andy Hunt knocked the ball into Shaun Newton's path, and the midfielder drove his shot past Kelly in first-half injury time.

That failed to knock Blackburn out of their stride, and, three minutes after the break, a Simon Grayson pass found Egil Ostenstad. Although his shot was saved by Kiely, Ward was on hand to put the ball into the empty net.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely; Powell (Pringle, 80), Rufus, Brown, Youds; Newton, Kinsella, Jones (Stuart, 73) Robinson (Salako, 63); Hunt, Mendonca. Substitutes not used: Todd, Ilic (gk).

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Kelly; Peacock, Dailly, Grayson, Harkness; Carsley, Frandsen, McAteer, Duff (Wilcox, 73); Ostenstad (Blake, 77) Ward. Substitutes not used: Filan (gk), Davidson.

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).