Charlton 0 Blackburn 2
After some 15 seasons at the helm, guiding the Addicks from troubled times to promotion glory at Wembley and into top-flight stability, Alan Curbishley deserved better than to see his final game as Charlton manager at The Valley end in a 2-0 defeat by Blackburn.
The impromptu, and somewhat unexpected pre-match announcement on the pitch by chairman Richard Murray that Curbishley was to step down at the end of the season added an extra sense of occasion to a game which had little resting on it for the home side.
Curbishley was given a hero’s welcome when he finally emerged from the tunnel and, tearfully, returned the affection to The Valley faithful before then heading to the dugout where many of the club staff shook his hand as they walked back off the pitch.
There was, however, no room for sentiment from Rovers as they closed in on a UEFA Cup place after Steven Reid’s first-half header and an own-goal from veteran defender Chris Powell handed Mark Hughes his third victory of the season over Curbishley’s men.
What the future now holds for both the south-east London club and their soon-to-be former manager remain uncertain, the 48-year-old having been linked with the England job, but more likely destinations seem to be old team Aston Villa or indeed Newcastle after Curbishley had told Murray he did not intend to renew his contract when it expired at the end of next season.
Charlton head to Old Trafford for the final match of the season, where Curbishley can expect a few words of encouragement from mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, who himself knows a thing or two about how to rise to new challenges year after year.
The afternoon may have been all about the long-serving Charlton boss, but Rovers were in no mood to allow him the send-off the home crowd craved.
On five minutes, Florent Sinama Pongolle, on loan from Liverpool, flashed a shot across the face of goal after being put in on the right by Craig Bellamy.
Despite their poor away form, Charlton had remain unbeaten at The Valley since Boxing Day. And slowly, the home side found their rhythm.
After 15 minutes, captain Matt Holland picked out Darren Ambrose in the centre of the penalty area. The winger hit his shot well enough, but it was straight at goalkeeper Brad Friedel.
Holland then tripped Morten-Gamst Pedersen on the edge of the Charlton box.
Reid sent a fierce low strike goalwards, which Addicks keeper Stephan Andersen did well to turn behind.
Attacking midfielder Reid was seeing plenty of the ball, and created space for a low strike from 18 yards, but his effort was wide.
With 11 minutes left of the half, Pedersen was cautioned by referee Rob Styles for apparent diving as he tried to cut into the area from the left.
Ambrose skipped away down the Charlton left, and darted into the area, where his cross towards Darren Bent at the far post was cut out by a last-gasp block from Tugay.
At the other end, Reid flashed an 18-yard effort over the bar after Pongolle had whipped the ball in from the right.
Rovers full-back Ryan Nelsen then went into the book after a late challenge on Bent.
Robbie Savage soon followed him for protesting after a barge from Radostin Kishishev, the Bulgarian eventually also was shown a yellow card by the busy Hampshire official.
With three minutes to go to half-time, the visitors took the lead.
Pedersen launched a long throw into the penalty box from the left.
The ball flew over the jumping Gonzalo Sorondo, and Reid got ahead of Powell to nod in from close range.
Styles soon had his yellow card out for the sixth time following a sliding challenge from Sorondo on Pongolle in the second half just inside the Rovers half, which did not seem to have any malice.
Charlton slowly started to get a foothold in midfield, but without really troubling the Rovers backline. Substitute Lloyd Sam came on for Kishishev, and soon got into the action, his low centre across goal from the right hacked behind for a corner.
But on 65 minutes, it was 2-0 to Rovers. Pongolle whipped the ball in from the right, which Andersen came out to try to collect ahead of the on-rushing Bellamy, with Powell in close pursuit.
Neither the Addicks keeper or the Wales striker could make contact, however, and the ball bounced in off the unfortunate Charlton defender, who had tracked back into the six-yard box.
The atmosphere in the ground then, not surprisingly, went flat.
Bryan Hughes’ dipping dive almost gave the home fans something to cheer, but his 25-yard effort flew just over.
As Charlton looked to be slumping to a first home league defeat since Boxing Day, many of the home fans in the 26,000-strong contingent had clearly had enough and headed for the exit, a somewhat surprising snub to the manager who had served them so well.
At the final whistle, though, Curbishley was still greeted with rapturous applause – the result now immaterial.