Despite press reports that Curbs might experiment with a 4-4-2, he started with a cautious 4-5-1 formation against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, reports Erith Addick Paul May.
As expected, Andersen was in goal with Bent on his own up front despite reports of agrophobia. Rommedahl and Murphy were given a start in midfield, along with newcomers Smertin and Ambrose, the numbers being made up Bulgarian battler Kishishev.
The defence line had a somewhat makehshift air and was one of my main worries. Veteran Chris Powell was brought back in to the left back role, allowing Hreidarsson to shore up the central defence which was also made up of Chris Perry, perhaps a name we did not expect to feature much this year. Luke Young completed the line up on the right.
The match started in torrential rain as news seeped through that the Canaries had gone ahead against the Glaziers. Ambrose was booed by the Mackems every time he got the ball because of his barcode associations. Despite the weather, the start was very hectic. Rommedahl looked lively and then Smertin had a volley from 20 yards out after a good break down the left by Powell. It was off the outside of his boot and swung away from the target, but was well worth the effort.
Murphy found Rommedahl, leading to a Charlton throw in taken by skipper Luke Young. Charlton pressed forward again, continuing to look lively with Murphy the spare player in the hole in a key role. Then Bent advanced on goal one-on-one with the keeper, showed great composure on the finish and bent the ball into the back of the net on 11 minutes sending the thousand Addickted wild.
Sunderland won a corner, the first of the afternoon with a deflection off the Herminator. Andersen, big and strong, confidently claimed the ball, and threw the ball out to Bent, but Sunderland applied some pressure and Young had to shephered the ball out.
Murphy had a great chance with a good delivery from Rommedahl but his timing was wrong and put his header over the top of the bar, missing the chance to make it 2-0 after 15 minutes. Mervyn Day who had been busy on his mobile ordering his pizza put his head in his hands.
Andersen had to punch the ball clear to deal with a dangerous cross, dealing confidently with a dangerous situation and found Ambrose. Another chance ended with Smertin put the ball into the side netting. Mervyn had his head in his hands again.
Ambrose pushed forward, but was knocked off balance. The referee sensibly tried to play the advantage, but it didn't work, so he brought the ball back for a Charlton free kick 30 yards out. Murphy's effort was easily headed away. A back pass from Perry put Andersen in trouble with a long looping ball under the slippery conditions.
Rommedahl broke again on the right. Young got possession and an effort by Ambrose went off the bar and then for a corner kick. This was good, patient play by Charlton. The Herminator arrived at the far post, but his effort went wide and the refree awarded a free kick. Even with the lights on it was very dark with the rain pelting down.
Charlton were definitely on top, but needed to extend their lead, having failed to take advantage of some good chances. Breen put a header across the front of goal from a free kick, their best chance of the game, but Sunderland appeals for a corner were dismissed. Bent raced forward into the area, taking advantage of an excellent ball from Murphy, but he scuffed his shot.
The Herminator conceded a free kick about 30 yards out which he disputed with referee Webb. The shot was driven through the wall on the surface but straight into the arms of the alert Andersen.
Charlton won a corner through good work by Young. The corner was well taken, the plan worked, the keeper was beaten but Smertin's drive came off the crossbar with the half hour mark reached. Then as Sunderland forged forward down the left, Andersen made a brilliant save from Whitehead, but as he was on the ground he couldn't keep the follow up from Andy Gray out, evening the score at 1-1 and bringing the home crowd to life.
A good build up by Charlton led to an attacking run by Powell that came to nothing, Sunderland were able to counter attack and won a corner. Andersen had to palm the ball away and then Rommedahl was fouled giving the Addicks a free kick.
Charlton won a corner after a deflection off a ball from Murphy, but the ball was punched away. A counter attack led to a corner for the Mackems but the ball went out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Charlton had overhwhelmed the Mackems in the first twenty minutes or so, displaying some neat passing play. But they failed to take some excellent chances and the home side were able to get back into the game. Charlton looked a bit vulnerable at set pieces.Half time: Mackems 1, Addicks 1
It was far from clear what was being referred to in the music that started the second half, 'The Hall of the Mountain King'. The rain had cleared away. Charlton stuck to their starting line up and indeeed there was no need to replace anyone.
Ambrose put in an early left footed shot which was always going wide, but a good way to start. Sunderland won a corner. Hreidarsson was able to head away, but the Mackems played the ball back in. Luke Young dealt with the situation well and Charlton got a goal kick.
Luke Young made a good strong run, but a goal kick was surprisingly awarded by the assistant referee, forcing the Charlton captain to remonstrate with him. Bartlett, Thomas and Hughes came out from the bench to warm up.
Chris Powell defended well and broke away down the left, but the Mackems regained the ball. A Charlton attack was spoilt by a poor cross from Rommedahl. Ambrose went in with the studs showing on Wright and the Charlton debutante was red carded on 54 minutes to the delight of the home crowd. Charlton switched to 4-4-1. Rommedahl was brought off and replaced by Thomas as the Addicks switched to a more defensive emphasis. Kishishev came out to the right hand side.
Welsh broke through on the left, beating Luke Young, but his cross deflected into the arms of Andersen with Herminator providing good covering defending. The Mackems replaced Robinson with Lawrence, a more attacking player.
Kishishev broke through with Smertin taking advantage and the Herminator put in a shot, but it was saved and Smertin on the ground was ruled offside. Bent went on a run but was pushed over by Whitehead some 25 yards out on 63 minutes. Sunderland had a massive wall, but Murphy put in a brilliant shot and bent it over the top of the wall with the keeper like a statue to make it 1-2.
Andersen had to poke the ball away, Thomas got the ball, but the Mackems won a throw in and applied more pressure. The Addickted sung a vigorous chorus of Valley Floyd Road.
The Mackem's Argentinian left back got a yellow card for a foul on Luke Young. Thomas was looking lively, but lacked support. The 34,000+ crowd was getting frustrated despite the sun being out. Wright cynically fouled Thomas after being shown up by the youngster and was given a deserved yellow card. Thomas stayed down for some time.
Wright had another go at Thomas but got away with with it, except for a free kick. Thomas won a corner for Charlton. Sunderland prepared to make a double substitution with Wright taken off with eleven minutes to go. Thomas put the ball over the top of the bar.
McCarthy was screaming from his technical area to his side to lift their game. Sunderland produced a moment of real danger, but Thomas reacted quickly and turned the ball out.
Sunderland started to apply some pressure, but Andersen, having created some danger by rolling the ball out to Murphy, gathered safely. Thomas and Bent tried to create something up front. Sunderland won a corner. Smertin, who had faded after a fantastic effort earlier in the game, was taken off and replaced by Hughes: perhaps Fortune would have been a better substitution. Gray put the ball from the corner over the top of the bar.
Bent won a corner for Charlton as the game went into four minutes of time added on. The corner was taken short, but the Mackems won a free kick. Young showed good energy with the ball. A tired looking Bent burst away to make it 3-1 to the Addicks. The Addickted burst into 'we are top of the league' as they enjoyed the raity of an away win at the start of the season.