Hull City 0 Charlton 1 (Pearce 18).
By Kevin Nolan off Valley Pass.
The light at the end of the tunnel remains dim but it but glows a little more hopefully after Charlton's vital victory over Hull City at a cavernous KC Stadium. An early setpiece goal scored by pugnacious Jason Pearce was enough to see off Grant McCann's toothless Tigers and catapult the visitors out of the relegation zone, where they'd uncomfortably spent the past four months. Had the Addicks managed to crown their clear superiority with at least one further goal, they might have spared their long suffering fans the inevitable tension that goes with the territory. As it was, the spectre of the last gasp equaliser haunted the laptop faithful until five intolerable minutes of added time amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. More than one housebound zealot spent them crouched behind the sofa. Count me among them.
Charlton's solitary goal was a pleasing combination of pinpoint accuracy and good, old-fashioned physicality. Aidan McGeady's dipping volley from outside the penalty area was initially tipped over his crossbar by George Long but the resultant left wing corner turned out to be the keeper's undoing. Swung inwards by the outstanding Josh Cullen, Tomas Hemed's deft front door flick glanced off Long's groping fingertips before Pearce crashed through the tradesmen's entrance, bullying Tom Eaves and Jon Toral into the net with him as headed irresistibly inside the far post. The skipper's "rough and rowdy ways" were exactly what necessity demanded.
Showing his customary boldness, Lee Bowyer caused more than a few eyebrows to raise with the starting line-up he named for the Humberside crunch clash. Preferring Deji Oshilaja to either Ben Purrington or Naby Sarr at left back, he also chose the enigmatic McGeady on the right of midfield, with young Albie Morgan recalled from obscurity to operate on the left. Meanwhile, Hemed got the nod alongside Macauley Bonne up front, with Andre Green a worrying absentee. A routine 4-4-2 formation vindicated his tactical nous and proceeded to outclass their woebegone hosts.A much improved McGeady and Morgan, with his playmaking ability to pick the right pass, did their bits until replaced around the hour mark. It was in central midfield, though, where Charlton decided the issue. Cullen hardly put a foot wrong apart from wafting an acceptable chance fashioned by rampaging substitute Chuks Aneke over the bar. His blend of tenacity and skill will be crucial during the coming weeks, his contribution including the risky but precisely timed tackle which whisked the ball off Daniel Batty's toes as the attacking midfielder shaped to shoot inside the penalty area late in the second half.
At Cullen's elbow, Darren Pratley was his usual combative self.. Tackling and covering diligently, he ploughed through his own workload tirelessly and was always available to help elsewhere. Age hasn't wearied the admirable veteran, nor the years condemned. You'd name him as company in a wartime trench.
There were other positives to warm Bowyer's cockles. After a shaky start, Oshilaja settled down and combined with McGeady to create a golden opportunity to double the lead two minutes after Pearce's opener. Sent clear on the left by McGeady's cleverly disguised backheel, his fiercely driven low cross eluded the sliding Macauley Bonne and Hemed as it flashed to safety across Long's goal area.
Bonne was on the end of another chance in the second half but misdirected his header wide after lively substitute Alfie Doughty cut City's right flank open and provided the perfect cross. A second goal continued to elude the Addicks and stirred unpleasant memories that Hull had been one of many late goalscorers to frustrate them earlier in the season.Their unease intensified when Keane Lewis-Potter, scorer of the Tigers' sickening equaliser at The Valley in December, replaced Batty with over a quarter hour left but there was to be no repetition of that disaster.
Dillon Phillips enjoyed a virtually untroubled afternoon, a routine tip-over of Batty's drive his only meaningful save until Long's huge clearance caused havoc between Pearce and Tom Lockyer in the late stages, allowing Danish substitute Samuelson a rare sight of goal. The youngster's shot on the run was competently fielded by Phillips and the Addicks were home and dry.
With the marathon which we're regularly reminded constitutes a football season now reduced to a nine-game sprint, Charlton have burst impressively from the starting blocks. Their speed is impressive. Now comes a test of their stamina.
Hull: Long, Pennington, McDonald, De Wijs, Elder, Batty (Lewis-Potter 73), Kane, Bowler (Scott 56), Toral (Honeyman 56), Wilks (Samuelson 85), Eaves (Magennis 56. Not used: Tafazolli, Burke, Stewart, Ingram. Booked: Batty.
Charlton: Phillips, Matthews, Lockyer, Pearce, Oshilaja (Purrington 71), McGeady (Field 82), Pratley, Cullen, Morgan (Doughty 61), Bonne (Williams 82), Hemed (Aneke 72). Not used: Amos, Sarr, Oztumer, Davoson. Booked: Oshilaja, Pratley, Williams.
Referee: Darren England.