Crystal Palace 0 Charlton 1: Todorov's touch too much for Palace

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The Independent Online

To fully understand this game you had to go back to May 2005. Then, these south London rivals were playing in the Premiership, with Charlton safe and Crystal Palace playing for their survival.

With eight minutes left in that match at Charlton, Jonathan Fortune equalised for the hosts and in so doing condemned the Eagles to relegation, much to the glee of the home fans. Understandably, Palace supporters have not forgiven them.

Given that backdrop, you might have expected a game played at full-throttle in their first meeting – now in the Championship, of course – since that late spring day. But it was not to be. "I don't think we're that sort of team," said Alan Pardew, Charlton's manager. "I miss it a bit, to be honest."

Instead, except for the odd flash of temper, this match never really got going and the lone goal was as much a surprise as a blessed relief.

Svetoslav Todorov was the man who got it, with 16 minutes remaining. The Bulgarian, on as a substitute, latched on to a long ball, lobbed the onrushing Julian Speroni and then tapped into the empty net. Todorov was dropped by Pardew to allow him to play a more defensive system, but the manager said his striker had accepted it in his normal way. "He walked around and looked at me a bit strangely," Pardew said.

For Peter Taylor, the Palace manager, the blame was all Speroni's. "He shouted 'keeper's' and didn't get the ball. It was his error, but he'll bounce back," he said.

It had been Fortune who almost gave the visitors the perfect start. With just two minutes gone the centre-half directed a header just wide. For Palace fans it was almost déjà vu.

The hosts, for their part, forced Nicky Weaver into just two saves, restrained by Pardew's strategy of suffocating the game in midfield and playing a sole striker.

That certainly restricted Palace's chances. Jamie Scowcroft's volley from Tom Soares' cross was tipped away by Weaver early on and he was only tested again five minutes from time when Scowcroft, again, brought a full-length save from the former Manchester City goalkeeper.

That was too little, too late from a Palace side which ran out of ideas. Clinton Morrison, looking for his 100th league goal for the club, strove to win penalties but it was all to no avail.

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