Hughes blames injuries for Blackburn's lurch towards Premiership danger zone

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The Independent Football

The Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes, has blamed injuries for disrupting the team's momentum in the Premiership.

The midfielder Brett Emerton became the latest victim when he damaged a hamstring at The Valley on Tuesday, where Charlton beat Blackburn 1-0. After five defeats in six previous League games, Hughes fielded an unchanged team from the one that beat Fulham on Saturday, but was still without long-term injury victims Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Reid.

Emerton's Australian compatriot Lucas Neill, who is expected to move from the club in the January transfer window, has only just returned from a hamstring injury.

Hughes, whose side are now only three points off the relegation zone, said: "We are losing players all the time through injuries. The momentum we try to build is sometimes stopped in its tracks because we have to change personnel more often than not.

"At Premiership level you have to maintain and sustain a high level and if you don't you will be beaten - especially away. It is obvious we need to be winning more games and putting more points on the board, but it wasn't a performance we were pleased with at Charlton.

"It is hard to take losing to the last kick of the match especially when a free-kick finishes up almost in the middle of the goal, but we know we are better than this."

Hughes' Charlton counterpart, Les Reed, has challenged the former Tottenham misfit Andy Reid to prove a point when the revitalised Addicks visit White Hart Lane on Saturday.

The Moroccan defender Talal El Karkouri delivered Reed's first victory as Charlton manager on Tuesday night. But he was indebted to Reid, the Republic of Ireland international whose performance underpinned a much needed victory.

Reid left White Hart Lane for £3m in the summer and has recently provided a vital spark in a dismal start to the season for the south-east London club.

Charlton, who climbed off the bottom of the Premiership thanks to El Karkouri's late free-kick, go to Spurs on Saturday with renewed hope. Reed said: "It is a big game for all of us this weekend, but particularly for Andy, and I can tell you he ran his socks off against Blackburn and was absolutely shattered at the end.

"But I'm hoping that because it is such a big game for him and because he's so popular among the lads who will all want to do it for him, that we'll rise to the occasion.

"I think that Andy is trying to show everybody, not only Tottenham, what a creative footballer he is and that he also works hard and that he'll tackle and challenge people.

"He's been our best player for three or four games now and he more than anybody will be looking forward to showing Spurs what he can do.

"He was a big buy for Spurs as a [Nottingham] Forest player. He was perceived to be a winger but didn't look like a winger and that raised a few question marks. Eventually Spurs saw him as surplus to requirements and we benefited from that.

"We've managed to turn him into something different and he has a point to prove. I didn't think he would ever be a wide man flying down the wing and getting crosses in.

"Perhaps Spurs had people in that position to do that and, having bought him as a wide man, they didn't feel he was delivering.

"He has played on the left for Ireland as well, but in their last game he played in the centre and delivered the kind of performance we want from him here. So perhaps it will benefit the Irish as well."

Although Reid, 24, toiled away in search of his third goal in three games it looked like Charlton would still have to settle for a blank sheet and a point until El Karkouri stepped up.

The centre-half, awarded a free transfer by Alan Curbishley at the end of last season but kept on by his successor Iain Dowie, claimed he did not hear his new manager's shout to let Reid take the decisive free-kick after Stephane Henchoz had fouled substitute Marcus Bent.

But when he drilled home through a broken Blackburn wall with 10 seconds left, there was total vindication for Reed's modification of a 4-5-1 formation which has not proved popular with home fans.

It entailed handing a first Premiership start to Lloyd Sam, 22, rather than Dowie's headline signing Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, as support striker to the club's top-scorer Darren Bent. Although the youngster missed a first-half sitter, he should have had a penalty when brought down by Lucas Neill in the first half and consistently presented problems to the Rovers defence.

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