Bryan Robson has not enjoyed the easiest of starts to his reign as Sheffield United manager, but an accomplished performance by his team was rewarded with their best result of the season at the Valley last night. Against opponents who had won their previous four Championship games without conceding, and needing only a draw to reclaim second place in the table, United dealt comfortably with everything Charlton could throw at them and then struck to deadly effect on the counter-attack.
If United have been slower to adapt to life below stairs following relegation from the Premier League last season, on this evidence they look better equipped than Charlton to cope with the physical demands of Championship football. James Beattie, the Division's leading scorer, took his tally for the season to 12 and was a highly effective lone striker, while United's five-man midfield worked tirelessly to deny Charlton time and space.
Alan Pardew's team, in contrast, were flat, apart from a brief spell early in the second half when his switch from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 was rewarded by good pressure. A number of half-chances went begging, however, and when Zheng Zhi wasted the best of them after 69 minutes, missing from 10 yards after Luke Varney's cross, United's second goal five minutes later sealed the home team's fate.
Charlton, nevertheless, had seemed in no danger until Jerome Thomas's clumsy push on David Carney after 32 minutes, Beattie converting the penalty. Varney's half-time arrival as a strike partner for Chris Iwelumo offered hope of a revival, but when Charlton failed to clear a corner on 75 minutes it was as good as over, Gary Cahill touching the ball home after a goalmouth scramble. On 88 minutes Chris Armstrong rubbed salt into Charlton wounds, curling in a fine shot after Beattie's pass.
Pardew was at a loss to explain his team's lacklustre display and agreed that "the best team won", while Robson, delighted with the way his side had responded after their surprise home defeat by Plymouth Argyle at the weekend, praised "a really good hard-working away performance".
Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Weaver; Mills, Sodje, Fortune, Basey (Bougherra, 65); Sam (Varney, h-t), Zheng, Semedo (Holland, h-t), Reid, Thomas; Iwelumo. Substitutes not used: Randoph (gk), Ambrose.
Sheffield United (4-5-1): Kenny; Bardsley, Cahill, Kilgallon, Naysmith; Gillespie, Tonge, Armstrong, Montgomery, Carney; Beattie. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Bromby, Stead, Webber, Quinn.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).Reuse content