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Town 2-0 Charlton
Town 2-0 Charlton
Saturday, 15th Mar 2008 18:43

Former Charlton academy schoolboy Danny Haynes lashed in a brilliant second half volley to seal a 2-0 win over the Addicks at Portman Road, Owen Garvan having put the Blues in front before the break. Returning loanee Shefki Kuqi was stretched off only a few minutes into his second Town debut with a hamstring injury.

Alex Bruce replaced the injured Richard Naylor at centre-half, while Sito came into the side for Dan Harding at left-back. Otherwise it was the same team which lost at Barnsley in midweek. Sub Shefki Kuqi was welcomed back to Portman Road very warmly, while Matt Holland and Darren Ambrose were applauded on their return to their former club with Charlton.

Striker Alan Lee went looking for a goal from the off, forcing a defender into a mistake and shooting only narrowly over the bar from the edge of the box.

On 12 Alex Bruce wasn't far away from his first ever Town goal when he deflected a David Norris shot goalwards, only for Nicky Weaver in the Charlton goal to make a sharp save.

At the other end, Darren Ambrose sent in a deep corner from the left which Greg Halford headed on to the crossbar, the ball falling safely.

But it was the Blues who had generally had the better of the early stages, although the visitors were starting to play some decent football when, in the 20th minute, Town opened the scoring. An Alan Quinn corner on the left was cleared back out to the former Sheffield United man, who played the ball to Owen Garvan to his left. The Irish U21 international flashed a cross-shot through a crowd of players, beyond Weaver and into the net off the post.

It was a great strike, although many fans were left pondering whether it had been a superb shot or a fortunately placed cross.

Two minutes later, Alan Lee felt he ought to have been awarded a penalty when he slipped the ball past Ambrose and appeared to be upended by the former Blue. The linesman on that side of the field failed to flag either way, but referee Nigel Miller, who wasn't in the best of positions to judge the incident, decided that Lee had dived and showed the striker a somewhat harsh yellow card.

Danny Haynes replaced David Norris on 24, the ex-Plymouth man limping straight off to the dressing room for treatment on a heel injury. A minute later, Jose Vitor Semedo got his name in referee Miller's book after his arm caught Owen Garvan across the face.

Town were well in control and just before the half hour Lee played a good ball to Couñago on the right, the Spaniard cutting in and hitting a shot which deflected through to Weaver.

Ambrose had the ball in the Town net on 30 but the flag had already been raised, then Patrick McCarthy was yellow-carded for catching Lee after the ball had gone, the referee having already spoken to the pair regarding earlier clash. From the freekick, David Wright headed over.

A long Semedo ball over the top led to Ambrose shooting wide, prior to Haynes whipping in a deep ball from the Town right which Quinn was unable to strike cleanly, the ball running behind.

Charlton's best chance of the half came on 39, Zheng Zhi crossing low from the right and Leroy Lita, who earlier was lucky referee Miller missed a high challenge on Sumulikoski, shot straight at Bywater in the Town goal.

The on-loan Reading striker had the ball in the Town net in the 40th minute but again after the linesman's flag had been raised.

Town had a great chance to go further in front with three minutes of the half remaining. Alan Quinn ended a fine crossfield run by sending in a superb ball from the right which Alan Lee headed over. The cross deserved a goal and Lee ought to have done better.

The Blues were applauded off at the break and were deserving of their lead on the balance of play. Charlton had enjoyed the odd spell of possession but rarely threatened Bywater's goal.

Jerome Thomas struck the second half's first shot, a Town defender deflecting it over the bar.

Town's first chance of the second period saw them increase their lead. A corner on the left was cleared to Danny Haynes on the edge of the area, from where the England U19 international volleyed the ball back clean as a whistle past Weaver and into the net for his sixth goal of the season and one of Town's best this year.

The Blues were now content to sit back and allow the visitors to come at them. An Ambrose cross from the right led to various Town defenders preventing first Lita and then Zhi from getting in clean strikes.

Ambrose, easily Charlton's most dangerous player, headed over on 55, then the Town academy product's freekick deflected to Lita, who shot wide.

Halford lashed wildly over from 30 yards as the Addicks kept possession for long periods without creating anything of note.

Just after the hour, Couñago shot narrowly wide on the turn from a Sito throw-in, prior to a cleverly worked freekick between Ambrose and Holland ending with the former Blues skipper's volley being blocked inside the area.

On 66 Sito stopped a Holland shot from the edge of the box, then did superbly to put the ball behind ahead of Ambrose. From the corner, sub Chris Iwelumo headed over.

Returning striker Shefki Kuqi replaced Pablo Couñago for the final 20 minutes, just before Iwelumo had the ball in the Town net, but once again well after the flag had been raised.

Garvan's 40-yard dipper almost caught out Weaver, but the former Manchester City keeper got back to claim the ball, then Alan Lee made way for Tommy Miller, shortly after the Irishman had gone down with what appeared to be a knee injury.

With six minutes remaining, the Blues were reduced to 10 men when Shefki Kuqi collapsed to the turf with what appeared to be a pulled or torn hamstring. The Finn was helped from the pitch on a stretcher, his second debut having come to a disappointing early end.

Charlton rarely looked like getting anything out of the game in the closing stages, despite their numerical advantage and their only chance fell to Jerome Thomas, but David Wright scrambled the ball wide.

A thoroughly professional and morale-boosting performance from the Blues after a series of disappointing results. Town never really looked in too much danger against a Charlton side which was much like the Blues on a bad day – decent spells of possession and passing but without much threat up front and with goals conceded from poorly defended set pieces.

The clean sheet will be as welcome as the three points and keeper Stephen Bywater did nothing wrong in his first game since Tuesday's horror show at Barnsley, while Jason De Vos and the rest of the back four defended resolutely throughout.

The result sees the Blues back up to eighth, two points off sixth with a game in hand and with the top of the table tightening up with none of the top four winning.

Town: Bywater, Wright, Sito, De Vos, Bruce, Garvan, Sumulikoski, Norris (Haynes 20), Quinn, Lee (Miller 80), Couñago (Kuqi 70). Unused: Harding, Colgan. Att: 23,539.

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