An ugly goal to settle an ugly game, but Charlton will not be complaining. The momentum London's celebrity Alan swap had given them had seemed to be waning after three straight defeats, but a first away victory of the season, courtesy of Amady Faye's freakish late strike, takes them to within three points of safety, and raises hopes that Alan Pardew might yet save them from relegation. After all, at this stage last season, Portsmouth had two points fewer than Charlton have now.
Perhaps understandably, their ambition in the early stages yesterday was limited to spoiling, something in which they were miserably successful. "The players' discipline and the way they stuck to the gameplan today was excellent," Pardew said. "I've always believed in winning games from a solid base."
In the circumstances, their attritional approach could hardly be criticised. Charlton had, admittedly, won on their last visit to Portsmouth, but that was in October 2005, and in the 25 away League matches that followed before yesterday, they had taken just five points.
A goalless draw at a crisis-engulfed St James' Park in October had come to represent a lost golden age, but no more, and that, in part, was down to Glen Johnson, the Bog-Seat Bandit himself. Fined this week for an audacious attempt to defraud the Dartmouth B&Q by secreting a toilet seat in a box with a cheaper price-tag, he has had an unfortunate week.
The game had seemed to be drifting inexorably to a goalless conclusion when, with 11 minutes to go, Johnson's misdirected defensive header fell for Faye. The Senegalese midfielder was not closed down, he exchanged passes with Bryan Hughes and then, as Sol Campbell and Johnson lunged in, the ball popped up off his shin and looped delicately over David James. He had not previously scored in a League game, and it was a goal that looked as though it owed as much to the law of averages as design.
Much of the pre-match attention, inevitably, had surrounded Ben Thatcher's first game at Fratton Park since his forearm smash, while still a Manchester City player, on Pedro Mendes that left knocked the Portuguese midfielder unconscious.
The home fans greeted every mention of Thatcher's name over the PA with a hearty boo, then spent the opening few minutes fitting his name into a series of chants that will presumably soon appear on channel Five as Your Top 10 Favourite Songs of Hate of All Time. For 20 minutes Fratton Park sounded like Yorkshire during the miners' strike. Thatcher himself appeared unconcerned and had a solid game. "He was very professional given the scenario," Pardew said.
In fact, it was Portsmouth who seemed the more distracted, as they produced what their manager, Harry Redknapp, admitted was their "worst performance of the season". With a slightly longer leg Hughes would have converted a Marcus Bent knock-down in the first half, and if Dennis Rommedahl's crossing or finishing was anywhere near a match for his prodigious pace, Charlton would have been comfortably ahead well before they finally scored their goal.
Portsmouth did not threaten until they had fallen behind, but Andy Cole was denied an equaliser in injury time only by a superb diving save from Scott Carson. "He's the type of keeper who can make a save having not had much to do," said Pardew. "He's a real prospect."
Pardew hopes to have Darren Bent, Luke Young and Andy Reid back in training this week, and spoke of "one or two" potential signings before the end of the transfer window. Redknapp, for once, seems to be focused less on bringing players in than on preventing personnel leaving. Joe Jordan has been linked with a role with the Scotland national team, while there have been suggestions that Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, wants the Russian-speaking Israeli coach Avram Grant at Stamford Bridge to try to aid Andriy Shevchenko's integration.
"I'm very happy with all my staff and despite what certain members of the press try to make up, I'm very happy with Avram," Redknapp said. "I like him very much. He's a good man. He understands football and I'm happy to have him here."
Perhaps after yesterday's performance, they will be less in demand anyway. This was very much Charlton's day.Reuse content