Promotion hopes back on track

It was twenty years ago this week that Charlton began to get their promotion ambitions back on track after the stumble which had seen a run of five games without a win.

Saturday February 28th dawned with the club in fourth place with 56 points - six points behind Sunderland who had a game in hand. Middlesbrough and Forest were respectively twelve and nine points ahead in the automatic promotion places. More importantly, the lead over seventh place Ipswich was five point which, although amounting to nothing with thirteen games to play, did at least allow some breathing space. Visitors Huddersfield Town were five places off the bottom.

In his programme notes Alan Curbishley appealed for calm: "Let's try not to put too much pressure on each other". Elsewhere, Managing Director Peter Varney reminded supporters not to lose sight of the fact that "The Valley will shortly be a 20,000 all seater stadium of which we can all be proud and at the same time the team are in the thick of the promotion race". He paid credit to "Richard Murray and his fellow directors who have ploughed a small fortune into bringing about the rebirth of this Club".

There were three changes to the team which had won at Stoke three days previously. Rufus, Newton and Bright returned at the expense of Chapple, Lisbie and Brown. Voice of The Valley described the encounter as "rather ragged" but Addicks fans were eventually rewarded for their patience when Shaun Newton's trickery created the opportunity for Mark Bright to score a 79th minute winner. Charlton subsequently hit the post twice but in injury time were lucky not to concede a penalty when home debutant Sasa Ilic clattered into Wayne Allison in "a vain attempt to claim the ball".

Three days later the team were back at The Valley to encounter mid-table West Bromwich Albion. Curbishley named an unchanged side but warned in his notes that "We have no divine right and neither do you have for us to win comfortably". Bright was again the scorer to put the hosts 1-0 up in the 44th minute but Voice of The Valley commented that WBA were "unlucky not to be at least on level terms -  a string of chances being thwarted by the excellent work of Sasa Ilic"

Early in the second half Ilic made anther superb stop to keep out Kevin Kilbane but, once Newton added a second in the 53rd minute, the visitors "crumbled". Mendonca scored his first in five games from the penalty spot; Kinsella curled in the fourth and Mendonca completed his brace after a Balmer header had been "pawed away". A 5-0 win was Charlton's best for over a quarter of a century (the 6-0 thrashing of Swansea in August 1972). No divine right, but a comfortable win nevertheless.

Three wins in eight days had revived our promotion aspirations. There was now a week's rest before heading to Portman Road to take on sixth place Ipswich.