Charlton Athletic 1 Manchester City 0: Pressure on Dowie eases as Bent rises to occasion

Pearce still gloomy as awful away form adds misery
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The Independent Football

A third successive clean sheet, a single goal, three points and an almighty sigh of relief for Iain Dowie. His side will play better than they did yesterday - if they are to survive, they will have to - and curmudgeons will note that only one team have not beaten Manchester City when Stuart Pearce's men have been playing away this season, but a win is a win, and when it is the first for 10 weeks, it is probably a little bit more than that.

Dowie had suggested his side were due some luck, and they certainly had it yesterday. With five minutes remaining, Hatem Trabelsi cut in from the right and hit a low left-foot shot that, with everybody frozen, bounced back off the post and into the arms of Scott Carson. Some would argue that the keeper deserved his fortune after making a couple of excellent saves, but for Pearce it summed up his side's struggles on the road.

"When things aren't going well that happens," the City manager said. "Maybe at Eastlands that would have gone in. He did extremely well to create the chance and hopefully something will fall for somebody sooner rather than later. We're disappointed to have come away with nothing again, but we need to convert our chances and get our noses in front on the road. If we'd done that today we would probably have won comfortably. But to be fair Charlton defended well and got some good blocks in"

"I told the players at half-time we should have had a touch more devilment going forward. Trevor and Micah Richards could have done more in that respect for us, although I often lose track that Micah is only 18 years old and is already a big player for us."

For now, though, City remain like some weird version of a weather house in which normal custom has been inverted: when they are at home, the mood is sunny; but as soon as they step outside, it all goes very gloomy. Luke Young cleared an early Trevor Sinclair header off the line, and then Jerome Thomas, whom Dowie had had to remind that he was on post duty after the first corner of the game, twice blocked Micah Richards headers at the last. By the time Carson made a superb save, diving low to his left, to keep out Bernardo Corradi's header, most City fans had got the message this was not going to be their day.

Yet to present this as a siege would be misleading, because between taking the lead and the moment about 20 minutes from time when Charlton, to use Dowie's expression "sniffed victory", the home side were on top. "For 70 minutes we performed well," he said.

"I have to give the lads credit for their honesty, but we made some bad decisions late on. We passed the ball well and had a great spell in the second half when [Nicky] Weaver made save after save. Our chance production was good."

Andy Reid, ghosting just off Darren Bent, was the main reason for that. "He's got guile, creativity and puts the ball in the right place," Dowie said. "He hit the wall with five minutes to go but that's because he wants the ball so much. He's very intuitive." City, though, also created their chances: the difference in the end was that Charlton took one of theirs. Darren Bent, who has that marvellous ability to time his leaps so he seems at times almost suspended in the air, was left unmarked to meet Thomas's left-wing delivery, and head his sixth of the season past Weaver.

"We know full well that if you lose Bent in the box he scores against you," Pearce said. "Maybe we didn't get close enough in blocking the cross, but today's game was decided by a poacher who had scored five goals already this season."

Charlton may be worried that Bent has scored all but one of their League goals, but that is a concern for another day.