Dowie determined to rally Valley spirit for 'huge test'

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The Independent Football

Iain Dowie insists morale remains high as stricken Charlton prepare for an encounter of "huge proportions" against Watford next weekend.

The Addicks' horrendous start to the season continued with Monday's 2-1 loss at Fulham, leaving them with seven Premiership defeats from eight games.

Pressure is mounting on Dowie, with Charlton anchored to the foot of the table and a clearer picture of his future should emerge after Saturday's game at home to Watford.

Adrian Boothroyd's Premiership newcomers are just one place above Charlton and, even at this early stage, the encounter is being viewed as a crucial relegation showdown.

Dowie insists "honesty and endeavour" will help Charlton to emerge from their nightmare start and is adamant that spirits at The Valley remain good despite the confidence- sapping run of results.

"Of course, every time you get beaten people start to question themselves. But morale around the camp has been good," he said. "The intensity of the training has been very high. We have to keep doing the right thing. If you start questioning what you're doing because results aren't going your way, you end up getting bitten on the backside. It's about sticking together. Honesty and endeavour will get us out of this situation.

"The Watford game now takes on huge proportions, we're aware of that. I'm a great admirer of Adrian - he's done a terrific job. They'll test every sinew we have and we have to make sure we're up to that battle. It's a big game but we must have the bravery to get the ball and pass it. It's a test of character under difficult circumstances."

One of the problems facing Charlton is their over-reliance on Darren Bent, who has scored all but one of the club's six Premiership goals this season.

The England striker was on target once again against Fulham on Monday night and Dowie has urged his team-mates to relieve the pressure on him.

"We're continuing to rely too heavily on Darren and we can't keep doing that. I thought he was magnificent against Fulham," he said. "He worked the channels, was a handful throughout and a couple of his passes were out of the top drawer.

"He also scored a great goal - it was only half a chance, a very composed finish. But we need other people to chip in."

Charlton's failure to add to Bent's goal owed much to some stout defending from the Fulham centre-backs Ian Pearce and Zat Knight.

The Cottagers' rearguard have attracted criticism in the past, but their manager, Chris Coleman, believes Pearce and Knight have forged a formidable partnership. "I do not want to put any pressure on the defence, but we are better this year and that has a lot to do with Ian Pearce being fit and Zat Knight being back to his best," he said. "Those two boys have been superb."