Nolan strikes further blow to Curbishley

Charlton Athletic 1 Bolton Wanderers 2
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The Independent Football

They were doing a roaring trade at Charlton Athletic's club shop. Every remnant of Scott Parker merchandising had been erased, but the half-price calendars were selling well. Parker is Mr January. "Oh well, the month is over anyway," muttered one fan.

It is to be hoped it is not the end of more than that. This is year zero down at The Valley. Parker has gone, £10m has arrived, and time waits for no man. But Charlton left January behind with a frustrating defeat on a day when the weather was as filthy as the mood.

It ended their seven-match unbeaten run, although they retained that coveted fourth position. In the light of results elsewhere, the damage was not what it could have been. Conversely, a victory would have put them six points clear. However Bolton, now up to eighth, carried the greater threat; "walking in the clouds," said their manager, Sam Allardyce, having reached the Carling Cup final.

Charlton would have wanted to banish their own storm. Instead they multiplied it, falling behind after just 25 seconds. "Dreadful," said Alan Curbishley, their manager. Jussi Jaaskelainen's long punt was headed on by Kevin Davies into the path of an unimpeded Henrik Pedersen, and he shot low. Jolted, Charlton struck the post within four minutes - Claus Jensen's shot brushing off Jaaskelainen - and then equalised within 13 minutes. Again Jensen, the former Bolton player, was involved, as was Paolo Di Canio, who had fashioned the first opportunity. This time Jensen exchanged passes before preserving the composure to chip a deep cross on to the head of the unmarked Jonatan Johansson. He didn't miss.

Despite the thaw, and the swirling rain, there was frost in the air. Curbishley's programme notes made that clear although, afterwards, he was conciliatory. "Of course we're going to miss him [Parker]. He was our driving force." In his absence, "not enough players were on song. Perhaps five didn't play as they should have done... it was very flat in the second half."

Allardyce had also weighed in - although his take was to accuse Charlton's sale as "short-sighted", especially with Champions League qualification on the horizon. Curbishley will make one signing today - the Arsenal teenager Jerome Thomas, to provide width, although the fee will be one hundredth of that received for Parker.

Bolton's own talisman, Jay-Jay Okocha, was also missing, at the African Cup of Nations, but Allardyce responded forthrightly to suggestions that his captain may leave à la Parker. "The grass isn't always greener on the other side. But I don't know if he'll get the money he wants."

His players responded with equal purpose, Kevin Nolan providing a different brand of prompting. Bolton almost struck again as the second half started when Nicky Hunt had his firm shot well saved. Within seconds Pedersen's driving run and curling shot forced another smart parry by Dean Kiely. Despite Matt Holland's efforts, Charlton were disjointed. They tried too hard.

The invention was coming from the visitors, with the pace and poise of the impressive substitute Ibrahim Ba and the aggressive purpose of Pedersen. From a corner, the ball was returned in by Ba only for Ivan Campo to flick on cleverly. It ran to Nolan, whose fierce drive was deflected into the top of the net.

It was a deserved lead and, for Charlton, a deserved defeat. The last time they missed Parker it was for 10 games, resulting in two wins and six defeats. This time the absence is going to be somewhat longer. "We're going to have to draw a line under it," said Curbishley. He hopes it won't curve downwards.

Charlton Athletic 1
Johansson 12

Bolton Wanderers 2
Pedersen 1, Nolan 78

Half-time: 1-1 Attendance: 26,249

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