Charlton Athletic 2 Birmingham City 0: Hughes feels benefits of shake-up

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The Independent Online

Alan Curbishley was almost bashful in celebrating this win, but said he had no apologies for Charlton's dour style of play against a Birmingham team even more desperate for points as they battle to get out of the relegation zone.

Charlton were on course for Europe after the first quarter of the season, but Curbishley has dropped most of the players from that start after they slumped to relegation form of eight defeats in 10 games.

Now he intends to further shake up his squad by getting stuck into the January sales this week. Club record signing Jason Euell is poised to depart for defeated Birmingham, who first tried to sign the former Wimbledon man last summer, but the Charlton manager does not want to lose any more players.

Indeed, Curbishley hopes to bolster his squad to inspire an uncharacteristic strong finish to the season by bringing Lee Bowyer back to The Valley from Newcastle.

"Maybe it is our turn to have a good run-in and grinding out wins against Birmingham, West Ham and Sunderland will give us confidence to start playing some of the good football too," he said. "A lot of these players have not been in all season, and have been desperately waiting for their chance and some of them have grabbed it.

"We all know Lee Bowyer is out there and he would love to come back to London, but not in a straight swap for Danny Murphy. Danny is not leaving, he knows that and he is happy with that. And I am hoping to bring someone in this week - if not two players. You might know them!"

One of the main beneficiaries of Curbishley's shake-up has been former Birmingham midfielder Bryan Hughes, who had struggled to gain a first-team place since signing on a free transfer a year and a half ago.

He has made the most of his chance and this time scored the first goal against the run of play, a 29th-minute free header, and set up a last-minute second for Darren Bent.

Hughes said: "At the start of the season I wasn't in the team, I was on the bench for quite a lot of it, but I couldn't complain because the team was doing so well. But once we started getting into a bit of a bad patch, Curbs threw me in there and gave me a chance and I like to think I've taken it. I'm working hard."

The same could be said of Steve Bruce's Birmingham, who featured Chris Sutton in his first Premiership game following more than five years of almost uninterrupted success with Celtic.

Bruce has agreed the free signing Sutton can leave if Birmingham go down, but insisted: "If we play like that we'll definitely be okay.

"I've had to wait this long to have my best players fit and now we have added Sutton who I think could prove to be the best buy of this transfer window." Sutton caused Charlton problems early on, was denied a clear penalty by referee Graham Poll but missed a late chance to equalise before Charlton sealed the game in a rare second-half attack.

Goals: Hughes (29) 1-0, Bent (90) 2-0.

Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Myrhe; Young, Fortune, Hreidarsson, Powell; Rommedahl (Ambrose, 72) Holland, Kishishev (Lisbie, 82), Hughes; Bent, Bartlett. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Perry, Spector.

Birmingham City: Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham (Forsell, 75), Upson, Lazaridis; Pennant, Izzet, Johnson, Jarosik (Dunn 75); Heskey, Sutton. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Kilkenny, Gray.

Referee: G Poll (Hertfordshire)

Man of the Match: Hughes.

Attendance: 26,312.

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