Varney brace seals win for Charlton

Charlton 2 Crystal Palace 0

Charlton 2 Crystal Palace 0

Luke Varney gave Charlton’s Coca-Cola Championship promotion hopes a huge shot in the arm with the goals which saw off south London neighbours Crystal Palace.

In a typically feisty encounter between two sides with a healthy dislike for each other, Charlton laid siege on the Palace goal but had to wait an hour before Varney struck the opener.

The striker has struggled to win over the Charlton faithful since his £2million summer move from Crewe.

But he completed a well-taken double late on, his sixth and seventh goals of the season in front of a packed and vocal Valley, which will go a long way towards silencing the critics as Charlton completed the league double over their nearest rivals.

Palace, whose recent 15-game unbeaten run rocketed them towards the play-offs, are now without a win in three and in danger of slipping back off the pace.

The first half was one-way traffic, with Greg Halford, Zheng Zhi and Varney all going close – the latter crashing a shot against a post.

Halford, who switched clubs for the third successive transfer window when he joined Charlton on loan from Sunderland, was particularly impressive.

The former Reading man almost marked his debut with a goal in the 14th minute when he met Darren Ambrose’s corner but his header flew straight at Julian Speroni.

And he came agonisingly close again four minutes later when he collected Lloyd Sam’s pass, embarrassed Danny Butterfield with a superb turn on the edge of the area but dragged his angled shot narrowly wide.

Speroni then kept Palace on level terms with a stunning save to deny Zheng, who was totally unmarked when he met Varney’s low cross but saw his first-time shot acrobatically clawed away by the keeper.

Varney then hurled himself at a Kelly Youga cross but just failed to get a touch on the ball before, with Palace all over the place, the pacy striker broke down the left and fired in an angled shot which cannoned back off Speroni’s post.

For Palace, midfielder Ben Watson fizzed a long-range effort narrowly over the crossbar in their only attack of note in the first half.

Eagles boss Neil Warnock threw on Sean Scannell at the break and the rookie forward almost made a immediate impact as he charged through on goal, only to be thwarted in the area by Youga.

Neil Danns, making his full debut for the visitors, then forced a first save from Nicky Weaver with a curling shot from the edge of the box.

The breakthrough finally arrived when Varney was clattered from behind by Matt Lawrence on the halfway line.

Matt Holland floated the free-kick towards Andy Gray, whose flick-on was met first time by the onrushing Varney to slam the ball home.

Palace captain Mark Hudson was fortunate to escape punishment for a two-footed challenge on Varney.

But the frontman had the last laugh three minutes from time when he jinked down the left, cut inside and curled the ball past Speroni, with Hudson unable to clear on the goal-line.

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