Cloak of anonymity suits Charlton style

Charlton Athletic 3 - Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Online

Alan Curbishley has been in sole charge of Charlton for almost 10 years and for over half of that time the south London club have been in the Premiership. One year, 1999, saw them relegated from the top flight, but for the past five seasons they have been among the élite and last year they finished seventh.

Alan Curbishley has been in sole charge of Charlton for almost 10 years and for over half of that time the south London club have been in the Premiership. One year, 1999, saw them relegated from the top flight, but for the past five seasons they have been among the élite and last year they finished seventh.

Which is where they stand now, and from that impressive vantage point just outside the Uefa Cup slots, you could understand why Curbishley was a little peeved after this deserved victory against a Birmingham side whose defence largely went AWOL down at The Valley.

The Addicks' manager said: "Perhaps we go unnoticed a little bit. A couple of years ago Bolton stayed up and they went round the town on an open-top bus. We stayed up with 10 games to go and got slagged off. Perhaps we're doing too well."

However, the feeling that Charlton just get by anonymously and, despite Curbishley's protests, are happy with that was reinforced when he added: "This system is very unrewarding sometimes. We've got no one who's going to be a star in our side, no one who's going to get us 15 goals for the moment - the team has got us where we are. This time last year we were fourth. It's been a great 12 months."

Charlton are, at the moment, a team that is far greater than the sum of their parts. Their top scorer, with five goals, is their centre-half, Talal El Karkouri. Danny Murphy, signed last summer from Liverpool, scored his first Premiership goal - "a long time coming," Curbishley noted - and Francis Jeffers, who can't get in the team despite Shaun Bartlett's lack of goals, supplied the passes for Charlton's second and third strikes.

Yet somehow all this adds up to seventh place, after a run of just two defeats in eight games. Curbishley wanted to play down the notion of climbing even higher up the table, possibly bearing in mind that their next two games are against Everton and Liverpool.

After El Karkouri's free-kick from 45 yards had, unforgivably, drifted inside Maik Taylor's post, they relaxed a little, letting their visitors in through Mario Melchiot's powerful header.

But once Murphy found Jeffers and Birmingham were two against two at the back, the former Arsenal striker's pass was perfect for Bartlett to tap in. Committed to attack, the Blues were then carved open by the best move of the match as this time Jeffers found Murphy. With good results against their upcoming Merseyside opposition - games which should inspire Jeffers and Murphy above all - respect will finally be theirs.

Goals: El Karkouri (9) 1-0; Melchiot (55) 1-1; Bartlett (67) 2-1; Murphy (75) 3-1.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, El Karkouri, Fortune, Hreidarsson; Rommedahl (Jeffers, 63), Holland, Murphy, Hughes (Konchesky, 73), Thomas (Kishishev, 80); Bartlett. Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Johansson.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Maik Taylor; Melchiot, Cunningham, Upson, Tebily; Johnson, Clemence (Gray, 70), Carter, Anderton (Yorke, 82); Heskey (Blake, 77), Morrison. Substitutes not used: Vaesen (gk), Clapham.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

Booked: Birmingham Upson, Johnson.

Man of the match: Murphy.

Attendance: 26,111.

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