Plymouth Argyle 1 Charlton Athletic 2: Lita fuels Pardew hopes of late run for the play-offs

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The Independent Football

Both managers described this Home Park meeting of play-off hopefuls as a must-win match and at the close Paul Sturrock's Plymouth lost out. Alan Pardew's 10-man Charlton rekindled their slender chance of breaking into the top six by ending a six-match sequence without a win against the odds and an Argyle side bereft of imagination and flair on the day.

Hungarian playmaker Peter Halmosi – ruled out by a knee injury – was sorely missed by the home side.

The Addicks showed their mettle by overcoming the third-minute dismissal of first choice 'keeper Nicky Weaver and a home side drawn into the visitors' game plan. The on-loan Reading striker Leroy Lita benefited, scoring a second-half double that had Pardew purring after the match.

"I thought we had a threat with Lita all game and he got both [goals]," he said. "He got that goal last week and I could see in training he is right in form.

"Fortunately it might be just in time. He had those two or three games where he settled in, didn't score and we hadn't won and he took some criticism but I think you can see now he definitely has got the talent to get us promoted if we can get into the play-offs, which is now a long shot for us but we are going to give it a good go." Eighth-placed Charlton are within touching distance, one point, off the play-off frame but sixth-placed Wolverhampton have two matches in hand on Athletic and Argyle.

Sturrock – who said he saw the writing on the wall when Weaver was dismissed – has set his side a "four wins in four matches" target after they tumbled to ninth. "We will attempt, until it is mathematically impossible, to keep going for the play-offs. Everybody is saying we have got bad form. Six of the teams in our area have got the same bad form that we've had. Charlton were one of them until today.

"Anybody who makes a run for it now could do themselves a lot of good. Whatever happens, it would be nice to finish higher than last season."

Last term Plymouth finished 11th with 67 points. To date they have 59. "It is vital we win at Wednesday next Monday," added Sturrock, who hinted Halmosi could be back in contention. "At the end when it went 1-1 I went crazy with [four] forwards because drawing was as bad as losing. I was disappointed when their 'keeper was sent off. Everyone says you should beat 10 men but I am now one of the many managers who has lost to 10 men."

Jermaine Easter fired Plymouth ahead on the hour but within five minutes Lita restored parity with a looping header before pouncing to score on the goalline as Luke McCormick spilled Chris Iwelumo's header.

Goals: Easter (60) 1-0; Lita (65) 1-1; Lita (76) 1-2.

Plymouth Argyle (4-4-2): McCormick; Connolly, Timar, Anderson, Sawyer (Mackie, 74); Teale (MacLean, 74), Abdou, Wotton (Nalis, 79), Paterson; Easter, Fallon. Substitutes not used: Clark, Doumbe.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Weaver; Halford, Sodje (Bougherra, 36), McCarthy, Thatcher; Zheng, Semedo, Holland, Cook (Elliot, 5); Lita, Iwelumo (Varney, 87). Substitutes not used: Ambrose, Thomas.

Referee: Iain Williamson (Berkshire).

Booked: Plymouth Argyle Wotton, Anderson; Charlton Athletic Zheng, Iwelumo, Bougherra, Elliot.

Sent off: Charlton Weaver (3).

Man of the match: Lita

Attendance: 14,715.

l The Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan and Iain Dowie have come to an out-of-court settlement after Dowie was found guilty of making "false representations" in June last year when he obtained release from a £1m compensation clause in his contract with Palace in May 2006.