Perry pops up to save dismal Charlton

Charlton Athletic 2 - Manchester City 2
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The Independent Football

Chris Perry's first goal of the season with only seconds remaining in added time rescued a point for Charlton they did not deserve against a Manchester City side who have clearly been galvanised by the steely urgings of their new manager, Stuart Pearce.

With their second successive home defeat looming, Charlton poured forward in one final, desperate attack. Luke Young, normally the most reliable of Charlton's defenders, had been tor-mented all afternoon by the pace and control of the Dutchman Kiki Musampa, but this time he made space for one of his cavalier surges down the right and a cross which was flicked on by the head of Francis Jeffers to the far post, where City had failed to close down either Perry or Shaun Bartlett. It was Perry's boot which squeezed the ball between the near post and David James's dive.

"I just went forward, thinking the more we got in the box the better," Perry admitted.

It transformed what had been a dismal afternoon for Perry and Charlton, stifling an inevitable repeat of the storm of booing directed at the manager, Alan Curbishley, and his team at half-time. Having gone behind in the fourth minute, Charlton could have been four or five down by the interval, so comprehensively were they outplayed by a City side for whom Robbie Fowler, involved and excellent throughout, had his best game for ages.

In the early stages, how-ever, City's defending was on a wretched par with Charlton's, and it all resembled one of those TV clips from a game in the remoter depths of Scottish football, with half-a- dozen attackers bearing down on goal and not a defender in sight. Dean Kiely made the first of a string of fine saves, tipping over Musampa's header, but Fowler's corner- kick found Charlton still in disarray. Richard Dunne's header was firm enough for him to claim the goal, but the ball took a deflection off Hermann Hreidarsson and was only helped on its way by Danny Murphy, stationed on the line.

With their first attack Charlton were level. Paul Konchesky's precise pass sent Jerome Thomas away for a low cross which James dived for but missed. The ball ricocheted off Sylvain Distin, leaving Bartlett with a tap-in.

Jon Macken squandered two gift chances, foolishly opting to dribble round Kiely and then being denied by the keeper's brave block, but City regained the lead shortly before the interval in simple fashion. Joey Barton's corner was permitted to come to earth at the far post, and Perry's failure to close down Fowler allowed the striker to half-volley into the roof of the goal.

Curbishley made two changes for the second half and admitted: "I would have made eight or nine if I could have. Apart from the keeper, who could you name who held his end up? I was totally shocked by our first-half performance, but we used up every excuse in the book after losing at home to West Brom two weeks ago. The only crumb of comfort is that they kept going to the end, and it paid off."