Goater opens up the class divide

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The Independent Football

The incentive for Charlton was that they would overtake City at the top of the table by winning this match. Dream on. There could be no denying their work-rate and effort but in the end it amounted to nothing against opponents who are increasingly looking the winners of this league.

The incentive for Charlton was that they would overtake City at the top of the table by winning this match. Dream on. There could be no denying their work-rate and effort but in the end it amounted to nothing against opponents who are increasingly looking the winners of this league.

Offered only a fraction of the attacking options, it was Manchester who claimed the points early in the second half with a Shaun Goater header and they held on to that advantage with a fair degree of comfort.

The opening half at a packed Valley resolved into a contest between Charlton's fast-breaking, free-running attacks and City's well-drilled defending which had seen the Manchester side arrive for this game with an unbeaten eight-match run.

Putting behind him the midweek disappointment of Ireland's European Championship exit, the Charlton captain, Mark Kinsella, gave an inspirational display which assured the home side of midfield domination.

Only three minutes had gone when Andy Hunt sprinted across the face of City's penalty area to shoot on the turn, just missing Nick Weaver's left-hand post. Weaver looked much less anxious after John Robinson wriggled through to find space for a shot which was easily held.

When City eventually got themselves together, Gareth Taylor drove wide but the midfielder aroused the wrath of home supporters with a series of fouls which eventually earned him a talking to by the referee, Roger Furnandiz.

Soon the City goal was under pressure when a Kinsella free-kick was not properly cleared and Gerard Wiekins had to head desperately for a corner.

As the visitors conceded more free-kicks to keep eager Charlton at bay, the wonder was that no cards had yet been shown. The visitors' midfield puncher, Jamie Pollock, put himself about vigorously in an attempt to restore parity but Kinsella and the industrious Keith Jones kept Charlton in the ascendancy.

After Clive Mendonca had been felled by Wiekins at the angle of the penalty area, a well-flighted Kinsella free-kick reached Steve Brown, whose drive was deflected just wide.

As the interval neared, City began to find their range and Danny Tiatto produced the best shot of the game so far, a low first-timer which demanded a confident save from Dean Kiely.

In the first-half injury time City came even closer. Pollock sent Danny Granville racing in from the left for a shot which Kiely did well to block but could not hold. Jeff Whitley was first to the loose ball but again the goalkeeper denied him.

Charlton started the second half with a substitution. John Salako came on, leaving the £1m signing, Andy Todd, on the bench. While the home supporters were still pondering this, City scored the goal which won the match. Kiely turned Whitley's shot one-handed for a corner and when this was not cleared Horlock, out on the left, delivered a cross which found Goater unmarked for a header which the Charlton keeper could only push into the net.

Charlton won yet another free-kick for a Wiekins foul on Mendonca. "How many more times?" yelled a frustrated Charlton fan. Weaver's time-wasting tactics in the City goal also enraged the home fans.

Charlton's need to press forward inevitably left room for the counter-attack and in one of these Goater got away on the left. Kiely rushed out of goal in an attempt to head him off but the striker got to the ball first to aim a long shot for goal which Brown dropped back to clear.

Kinsella was at the heart of everything Charlton attempted and he let fly from outside the penalty area, being denied by Weaver's extended hand pushing the shot on to the bar. The rebound fell perfectly for the substitute Martin Pringle who shovelled it over wildly.

Charlton's frustrations boiled over near the end and after a pushing match between Robinson and Horlock the referee booked both. There were two more escapes for the visitors. A Jones shot which looked goalbound struck his colleague Chris Powell and was deflected over the bar then Weaver made an incredible reflex save from a Kinsella header to deny Charlton the point their efforts merited.

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