Charlton Athletic 1 Manchester City 0: Pearce calm as away crisis deepens

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The Independent Online

One manager's relief is another's misery. This was an incoherent game that, as both Charlton's Iain Dowie and Manchester City's Stuart Pearce acknowledged, could have been won comfortably by either side - but Darren Bent's 28th-minute header was the only effort that crossed the line, and so the hot potato of crisis was tossed, momentarily at least, in the direction of Pearce.

He is probably grateful that Glenn Roeder's travails at Newcastle are drawing the eye from his own, but, as he admitted, City cannot go on with away form dictating that every home game takes on the significance of "a Cup final". "If you took this game in isolation," Pearce said, "you'd say we could have won 2- or 3-1. But when you tie it onto our poor away form then you're very disappointed."

Last December, City were superb at The Valley, winning 5-2, but in the 11 months that have gone by since, they have won just one away match. "I don't think it's a mental block," Pearce insisted. "I'm pleased with the opportunities we created."

To an extent, he was right. Until Charlton went ahead and for the final 20 minutes, City were the better team. Three times headers were cleared off the line, Scott Carson made two exceptional saves, and Hatem Trabelsi's late strike from the edge of the box bounced back off the post into the arms of the goalkeeper. Yet in that intervening period, only the excellence of Nicky Weaver prevented Charlton running away with it.

All Pearce can do is remain calm. "I'm very level-headed," he said. "The one thing I know in the Premiership this year is that that middle band of teams will be very close. If you're not careful you get drawn into the battle below and that applies to about 14 teams."

Three clean sheets in a row suggests that things are moving in the right direction for Charlton. "Only once I've gone home this season feeling despondent," Dowie said, and the statistics bear him out. Only Manchester United have really taken his side apart.

The problem has been scoring, and Charlton remain so reliant on Bent, who has got all but one of their seven League goals this season, that Dowie spoke of the prospect of him being injured as a "doomsday scenario". People had been suggesting Charlton were facing that anyway, but slowly, perhaps, the corner is being turned.

Goal: D Bent (28) 1-0

Charlton (4-4-1-1): Carson; Young, El Karkouri, Diawara, Hreidarsson; Rommedahl (Hughes, 46), Faye, Holland, Thomas; Reid (Hasselbaink, 87); D Bent. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Kishishev, M Bent.

Manchester City (4-4-2): Weaver; Richards, Dunne, Distin, Thatcher; Beasley (Vassell 50), Barton, Reyna, Sinclair; Dickov (Corradi 63), Samaras (Trabelsi 63) Substitutes not used: Hart (gk), Johnson.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: El Karkouri (Charlton); Thatcher, Vassell (Manchester City).

Man of the match: Carson.

Attendance: 26,011.