Dublin's blunder gives Charlton false hope

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One day someone will write a serious drama loosely weaved around the recent history of Dion Dublin, a man whose career has seen him suffer all the highs and lows of life as a professional footballer. Terrible injuries, including a broken neck, spells with the two Uniteds (Cambridge and Manchester), a cross-Midlands transfer that upset the locals and a call-up for England.

One day someone will write a serious drama loosely weaved around the recent history of Dion Dublin, a man whose career has seen him suffer all the highs and lows of life as a professional footballer. Terrible injuries, including a broken neck, spells with the two Uniteds (Cambridge and Manchester), a cross-Midlands transfer that upset the locals and a call-up for England.

Yesterday, under ever-increasing pressure after failing to score for more than six weeks and amid headlines claiming that Chelsea's Tore Andre Flo could be his replacement at Villa Park, he floundered. Then, as his team-mates carried Villa to their eighth unbeaten game in succession, he turned the ball into his own net to give Charlton a late ray of hope that they hardly deserved on an afternoon of beastly incessant rain and a blustery wind.

Villa should have won by a hatful, but they eased off after securing a two-goal interval advantage courtesy of glancing headers from Ian Taylor and Paul Merson and then let Charlton rekindle their enthusiasm when all should have been extinguished. To his credit, Alan Curbishley reshaped his team, with two substitutions, moving from 5-3-2 to 4-3-3 to help bring this minor transformation into effect, but their late flurry was due more to Villa's laxity than anything else.

"It was like our defeat at Leeds a couple of weeks ago, it followed a similar pattern," said Curbishley. "We didn't apply ourselves. I was very disappointed and I have let them know about it. There are one or two people feeling sorry for themselves in our dressing room. But they are not as sorry as me."

John Gregory, as honest as Curbishley in his observations, admitted he was relieved to win after two goalless weeks. "That was important for us," he said. "And I was glad to see Paul Merson score. He should be getting 13 or 14 a season for us, but he spreads himself around a bit too thinly. He wants to be involved in everything."

For Dublin, he had sympathy. "These things happen and I am not that worried as he did contribute to a good victory for the team," he said. "He should not worry either. I know he didn't score, but he did a lot of other things for us."

The dreadful conditions suited Merson's hard-running style and good one-touch habits. After half an hour of probing and muddling, Villa settled into control with Julian Joachim dangerous and Steve Stone, on the right, and Alan Wright, on the left, providing matching width.

Stone, checking inside, delivered an inswinging cross for Villa's first goal after 35 minutes, the ball flying unchallenged towards the surging Taylor whose cushioned header directed the ball inside Dean Kiely's far post. Eight minutes later, Merson scored the second when he met a Wright centre from the left with a running header beyond Kiely.

Charlton were a more determined unit in the second half with Claus Jensen running threateningly at the Villa defence several times and Matt Svensson, making his first full appearance, also creating alarm with his shooting. But it was Dublin, sliding in to slice at a Jonatan Johansson cross, who found the net with five minutes remaining to give Charlton a glimmer of hope.

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