Pardew rolls with punches
Alan Pardew feels his Charlton side are standing up to the Championship's bruisers as the promotion race hots up.
Last Updated: 29/01/08 10:57pm
Alan Pardew feels his Charlton side are finally standing up to the Coca-Cola Championship's bruisers as the promotion race hots up.
Lloyd Sam's late goal got the Addicks back to winning ways with a 1-0 victory which brought Stoke's 12-match unbeaten league run to an end.
The winger was on hand to tuck away substitute Luke Varney's cross as Pardew's side moved level on points with their fourth-placed opponents.
The result - and also the performance, in the face a dogged Stoke display - were a far cry from the second game of the season when Charlton were outmuscled in a 2-1 defeat at the Britannia Stadium.
But the Addicks went toe-to-toe with Tony Pulis' men to grab a crucial win as the top of the Championship gets tighter.
"I'm pleased with the quality and patience we showed, that was a big, big win for us," said Pardew.
"In our recent games, we've played well but we needed to back that up with a win.
"I've played against Premier League sides who haven't defended as diligently as Stoke. But we wouldn't give in and fortunately we got the break.
"My flair players did really well. We are stronger than when we played them earlier in the season and we are getting used to this division.
"But we have a bit to do to get to the top, we are still chasing teams."
Pardew handed new £1.5million striker Andy Gray his full debut and is backing the former Burnley man to have an impact over the second half of the season.
The Addicks boss was also indebted to a stunning save from Nicky Weaver in stoppage-time as Stoke substitute Jon Parkin swept the ball goalwards.
"I thought we panicked a bit when the ball came over and Nicky has got us out of jail there," Pardew added.
"Andy Gray did make a difference and his ability to hold onto possession in not a lot of room is key. He has taken us up a level."
Zheng Zhi also scraped a post and Chris Iwelumo missed his kick in front of goal as Charlton created the most opportunities.
But Stoke also had their moments, not least through Ricardo Fuller, who forced another fine save from Weaver just after the break and also fired narrowly wide.
"We worked hard off the ball but we didn't play as well as we can," said manager Tony Pulis.
"But we still created five or six chances and Ricardo could have had a couple of goals.
"Weaver's made two great saves - the one early in the second half, and then he's kept them in it at the end.
"But, to put it in perspective, we've played a team who have just got relegated and who have millions of pounds worth of players on the bench - and we came here and put a performance on.
"Alan is fortunate to have the squad he has here and I think they'll be devastated if they don't get promoted."