Ward takes double delight

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The Independent Football

The Thames water barrier is close to Charlton's stadium, a handy reminder of the need to keep a strong back line in case of a sudden turn of events for the worse. 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.

The Thames water barrier is close to Charlton's stadium, a handy reminder of the need to keep a strong back line in case of a sudden turn of events for the worse. 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.

Alan Curbishley, the Charlton manager, is reportedly on Blackburn owner Jack Walker's shortlist to take over at Ewood Park, but on the basis of this disorganised performance, he will be waiting some time for the call.

Ward scored his third goal of the season, with more than a hint of offside, to give Blackburn a lead that they managed to preserve until Shaun Newton lashed his shot into the net in first-half injury time. And while Ward needed a decent slice of luck to go through and lob Dean Kiely after 12 minutes, it was exactly that element that Charlton appeared to be lacking as they probed and pushed around the Blackburn penalty area.

Rovers, who went into this match on a run of four games without defeat under their caretaker manager, Tony Parkes, started the more impressively while Charlton looked nervous, which was perhaps not surprising as they had conceded two quick goals last Saturday to draw with Port Vale.

Ward's strike came about 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 and his chipped pass beat the Charlton defence and, apparently the offside trap, to free Ward, who did the rest from 12 yards.

Then, with half-an-hour gone, Charlton went just as close again as Steve Brown saw his shot deflected on to Kelly's crossbar, but they deservedly drew level as the first half came to a close, when Andy Hunt knocked the ball into Newton's path and he finished explosively from 14 yards.

After the interval Ward got Blackburn off to an even quicker start when he slotted the ball home just three minutes into the restart. Simon Grayson chipped a pass that Egil Ostenstad, inside the penalty box, saw saved by Kiely but Ward was on hand six yards out to find the empty net and restore Rovers' advantage.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Kiely; Powell, Rufus, Brown, Youds; Newton, Kinsella, Jones, Robinson; Hunt, Mendonca. Substitutes: llic (gk), Stuart, Pringle, Todd, Salako

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Kelly; Peacock, Dailly, Grayson, Harkness; Carsley, Frandsen, McAteer, Duff; Ostenstad, Ward Substitutes: Filan (gk), Davidson, Wilcox, Blake, Taylor

Referee: R Styles (Waterlooville).

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