They announced plans yesterday to add more tiers to the stands at The Valley - but it is Charlton Athletic's league position which is proving vertiginous. Victory took them into fourth place - and that's qualification for the Champions' League, never mind Europe - with goals from players whose scoring has been as barren as this ground was a decade ago.
The expansion will see the stadium rise to a 40,000 capacity - making it London's second biggest - although it has hardly been a fortress of late. The deserved three points represent only a second home League win. But Charlton are now on a six-match unbeaten run, including five wins and their best start. Happy Birthday Alan Curbishley - 46 on the day. The foundations are in place on and off the pitch and there is much cause for celebration.
Afterwards he was initially circumspect: "We aren't getting carried away with it. It wasn't long ago that we were fourth from bottom," before adding: "We have to enjoy it, we have a week off now." Curbishley also said that he has re-scaled ambitions. "For the first time I'm not talking about 40 points," he explained. More is wanted and a top-10 finish - a realistic aim - is his target.
For Fulham it was the first time they had suffered back-to-back defeats under Chris Coleman and as such represents a challenge to this fledgling manager. "We did not play well from start to finish," he said with candour. "We were at sixes and sevens."
However his team - who have been the strongest starters, scoring five times in the opening 15 minutes of games, came closest early on. Louis Saha turned Mark Fish with alarming ease but his shot was smartly parried.
Coleman varied his formation - pushing Steed Malbranque inside although still keeping a lone striker. This pitched the Frenchman against Scott Parker, creating a contest between the two best midfielders outside the big-five clubs. "Charlton play with a narrow midfield and we tried to go man-for-man," Coleman said. It failed.
Twice Parker came close with shots from distance - the first of which, from 30 yards, skimmed the roof of the net. By then his team had already taken the lead with the injury-plagued Graham Stuart's first goal since January 2002. A clever ball inside the defence by Claus Jensen found Jonatan Johansson who struck it powerfully. Edwin van der Sar saved but turned it towards Stuart who was able to adjust and shoot low into the net.
Charlton pushed on and Coleman, unsurprisingly, reverted to the familiarity which has led to his side winning half of their 16 Premiership matches since he took charge, with Malbranque sent wide and Lee Clark forward. It made for a more competitive encounter between two motivated sides - both had shown their togetherness by linking arms prior to kick-off. More a hugga than a haka.
Fulham rallied as Malbranque flickered. Saha stumbled when he appeared to be rounding Dean Kiely and then Junichi Inamoto let fly with a speculative lob from 35 yards which dipped late, but over. Three times last term - including the FA Cup - Fulham beat Charlton, keeping three clean sheets. But they had cracked early as did Jensen who was lost to injury.
That led to a re-calibration of Charlton's most effective tool: that midfield. As Fulham had already adjusted theirs, they took the initiative. Clark's volley was eye-catching though easily contained, but they struggled to release Luis Boa Morte who met an aggressive challenge from Radostin Kishishev - and showed his rising frustration with an unpunished late lunge. Boa Morte was withdrawn.
Johansson then intervened to decisive effect. He headed into the area and as the clearance fell to him the Finnish striker thrashed it from the angle. It was his first goal for seven months but he quickly struck again. Andy Melville's back-pass, returning a goalkick, was woefully short and the forward nipped through. "It summed us up," said Coleman.
Fulham were collapsing and Jason Euell's left-foot shot rebounded off the woodwork. But then Sylvain Legwinski's volley hit both posts and Sean Davis bundled the ball in. The midfielder, a substitute, had rescinded his transfer request this week. At least some relief for Fulham.
Charlton Athletic 3
Stuart 10, Johansson 69, 76
S Davis 89
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 26,344Reuse content