Ultimately a fourth successive clean-sheet win for the Addicks. A rare live TV victory and it never really looked in doubt.
Charlton were first out of the blocks and controlled much of the first half. Thomas was finding a lot of space and no real challenge on the right. Zheng Zhi was busy in front of him and Iwleumo laboured tirelessly up front. Lloyd Sam saw less of the ball and Andy Reid had a very quiet game or Charlton might have wrapped this up long before the end. The back four looked comfortable throughout. Basey and Mills were sound and it was left to Sodje and Fortune to huff and puff against what pressure Preston did have. Charlton created the few real chances of the first half and it was no surprise when Zheng Zhi controlled a ball on the penalty spot away from all of the rest of the players with his first touch and pushed a low shot back against the on-rushing defence and through a narrow hole into the far corner of the net. It was perfect timing, coming as it did on 47 minutes.
Preston tried harder in the second period and forced three good saves from Nicky Weaver; the reflex stop from Sedgewick's close shot was the best since he's been at the Valley and he deservedly collected the Sky Man of the Match award. Charlton didn't create a lot in the second half but continued to have plenty of possession in the opponents half and you felt we had another gear if we had to use it. Holland, Ambrose and Varney were introduced towards the end of the game and it was left to Varney to add the second late in extra time; Iwelumo headed on a throw from Count Basey into the channel and Varney latched onto it, accelerating passed the last defender and turning in to goal where he beat the unfortunate Lonergan on his near post.
This was a good, professional performance and came on a day when Watford, Bristol City, Ipswich and Coventry all lost. The Addicks have stormed into second and closed the gap on the Hornets to 5 points. We are a point in front of West Brom and they are now under pressure to beat Wolves in their derby game tomorrow. With two home games coming up this week we again have the opportunity to consolidate our automatic position, especially as West Brom face tricky away games at Plymouth and Palace after their derby tomorrow lunchtime.
Let's get behind them this week!