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Rovers 4 Charlton 1.


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match report by Scotty

Top, top performance today from the lads. What a good game.

I was worried beforehand. I thought we'd miss Savage's running in midfield and that Tugay's lack of mobility would be picked off by Charlton's 5-man midfield. How wrong I was! Anyway, Reid came in for Savage and Dickov was prefered up front to Kuqi - otherwise it was the same team that played Chelsea last week.

We started off like a house on fire. I've been critical in the past of the way we've started our home games but no complaints today. Within two minutes Emerton collected the ball at the edge of the area on the right. Charlton's full back forced him wide but Emerton managed to wrap his foot round the ball and hit a fantastic shot into the top corner of the net. Charlton's keeper looked like he thought it was going wide - big mistake.

Fifteen minutes later we were two up. A cross from the right deflected of a Charlton player and found Dickov in acres of space on the edge of the six yard box. He looked suspiciously off-side, even before the deflection, but he finished with aplomb. Cracking header.

We just controlled the game after that. Our passing was great and Charlton didn't have a sniff - right up until Gray had to go off on about the half hour mark with an injury (looked like his hamstring, could be out for a while). Mokoena came on and went to right back with Neill switching to left back, but we didn't look at all comfortable, and it was no surprise when Charlton scored from a move down our left. Neill seemed to let Rommadahl (sp?) go, he hit a decent low cross to the far post, and Hughes got there in front of Mokoena to stab the ball past Friedel.

Charlton suddenly found an extra yard and put us under some pressure for the first time in the game, but thankfully we held out until half time and went in deservedly 2-1 up.

We started the second half superbly. Within five minutes we should have had a penalty for a completely blatant handball and we won numerous corners and free-kicks around Charlton's box. We didn't get the breakthrough straight away though, but we plugged away, kept playing fantastic footy, and eventually got our reward with a great goal. A pass from the back to the right wing was flicked on skillfully by Emerton straight into the path of the on-rushing Reid. He hit a superb low cross to the edge of the six yard box where Pedersen, running in at pace, got a deft touch with his wrong foot to score a cracking team goal. OK, the shot got a deflection but I'm sure it would have gone in anyway.

Game over you'd think but, credit to Charlton, they came back and gave us a few frights. It didn't help that Todd had to go off with what appeared to be a knee injury (again, could be out for a while) and we failed to re-organise our defence. Hardly surprising though considering that Pedersen was playing left back at this point and Neill was an emergency centre back. Luckily for us though Friedel was in top form, he saved point blank chances from Heriderson (more sp?) and Bothroyd, as well as keeping out a couple of long-range efforts as well.

For all Charlton tried to get a goal back though we looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Another good move saw Kuqi (sub for Dickov late on) winning a flick-on, a Charlton defender getting beaten by the bounce of the ball, and Bellamy tucking the ball away showing the class he has.

And so it finished 4-1, and let no-one be in any doubt, we totally deserved it.

I'll start at the front because that's where our real class is. Bellamy was, yet again, excellent today. His runnnig off the ball is fantastic, he's also got a great first touch, and he passes as clinically as anyone in the team. And, just like Henry does down the left at Arsenal with Pires and Ashley Cole, he's linking up superbly on the right with Emerton and Neill. For the whole game Charlton simply didn't have any answers to the threat we posed down their left, and it was no surprise that two of our goals came from moves down that flank. In addition, Dickov worked his nuts off and scored a cracxking header, off-side or not.

In midfield Tugay was majestic. As I left the game I was going to give my man of the match to Emerton, but seeing the highlights again on TV it just showed how instrumental Tugay was. Considering Charlton had a 5 man midfield you'd think they'd have assigned one of them to close Tugay down, thankfully though they didn't, and Tugay had the time and space to control the game from start to finish. We passed the ball brilliantly today and Tugay was a huge part of that. He looks fit, full of running, and back to the sort of form he showed 2 or 3 years ago for us. Man of the match.

Reid filled in well for Savage, put himself about when he had to, and passed the ball better than he normally does. Emerton was terrific down the right - it just shows the confidence a player gets from scoring an early goal. He could be vital to our chances this season. The way he links up with Neill and Bellamy is such a threat to the opposition. Pedersen didn't do too much going forward, apart from score of course (how many times have we said that?!), but he worked hard defensively and helped reduce Gray's injury to a minor convenience.

At the back Todd and Zurab looked composed, clever, and controlled. Zurab in particular showed himself to be a great footballer, he frequently took the ball out of defence and started off attacks. Gray looked a threat before his injury, and the whole back four look troubled afterwards until half-time. Neill played in 3 different positions during the match and looked classy in all of them. He's been a revelation this season and it's not unrealistic that the likes of Milan may be looking at him.

Finally, Friedel made 3 or 4 great saves when he had to in the second half.

Charlton were overrun today. Their 5-man midfield was simply out-passed by our 4-man midfield (with thanks to our defence). Instaed of getting close to Tugay and stifiling his work they sat off him and allowed him to dictate play. He did it brilliantly. And up front we had the one class striker on the pitch - take a bow Bellamy.

We were brilliant today. Long may it continue.

Rovers: Friedel, Neill, Todd (Bentley 73), Khizanishvili, Gray (Mokoena 28), Emerton, Reid, Tugay, Pedersen, Dickov (Kuqi 81), Bellamy.

Subs Not Used: Jansen, Lee.

Goals: Emerton 2, Dickov 18, Pedersen 59, Bellamy 90.

Charlton: Andersen, Young, Perry, Hreidarsson, Spector, Rommedahl (El Karkouri 70), Ambrose (Thomas 83), Kishishev, Murphy (Bothroyd 70), Hughes, Bent.

Subs Not Used: Holland, Myhre.

Booked: Perry, Hughes.

Goals: Hughes 36.

Att: 17,691

Ref: P Dowd

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