Pearce takes heart from Fowler's form

Charlton Athletic 2 Manchester City 2

This same game on the very first weekend of last season finished 3-0 to Manchester City and seemed to herald the possible start of something very promising for the victors while also making the future appear bleak for Charlton.

Neither of those outlooks materialised, indeed almost the reverse has been true. City have been treading water, are deep in debt and their then manager, Kevin Keegan, has departed. The Londoners, meanwhile, continue to flourish in the top third of the table.

The result at The Valley on Saturday should easily have duplicated that of almost 20 months ago and were it not for Jon Macken's dire finishing, it would have been bettered.

Stuart Pearce, now City's caretaker manager, refused to apportion blame, however, and simply encouraged his players to show that attitude until the end of the season.

"A third goal would have killed it and it might have turned into a procession," he said. "But I'd like to take the positives out of this and my players showed great character and willingness to win. If they keep playing like that they'll win more than they lose."

Had Robbie Fowler been in the positions that Macken found himself in, City might well have walked away with the points. Instead, although Fowler scored his side's second goal after Hermann Hreidarsson's own goal, he was more of a provider, but was looking sharp and hungry.

This leaves City with two questions to answer. Firstly, whether they continue with Pearce, and by the way he was talking afterwards the former Nottingham Forest left-back sounds confident of getting the job. Secondly, whether they can build around Fowler given his poor recent fitness record.

Pearce thinks Fowler has a lot left to give. "Robbie's prepared to fight his corner and he's worked very hard for this club. Since I've been in charge he's been excellent."

Alan Curbishley, Charlton's manager, was not about to have the wool pulled over his eyes by gaining a point. Shaun Bartlett had levelled from close range in the first half before Chris Perry saved face, but the Addicks were woeful. "If I could have done I would have made eight subs at half-time," he said. But, with the Uefa Cup still a possibility, at least the future looks better than the last time they hosted Manchester City.

Goals: Hreidarsson (og 4) 0-1; Bartlett (10) 1-1; Fowler (38) 1-2; Perry (90) 2-2.

Charlton Athletic (4-5-1): Kiely; Young, Perry, Fish (Fortune, h-t), Hreidarsson (Lisbie, 76); Johansson (Jeffers, h-t), Murphy, Holland, Konchesky, Thomas; Bartlett Substitutes not used: Andersen (gk), Hughes.

Manchester City (4-4-2): James; Onuoha, Dunne, Distin, Jordan; Reyna, Sibierski, Barton, Musampa; Fowler, Macken. Substitutes not used: Weaver (gk), Mills, B Wright-Phillips, Sommeil, Croft.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Charlton Young.

Man of the match: Fowler.

Attendance: 26,436.