DEFENCES, who needs them? With only minimal assistance from the men at the back, Charlton Athletic and West Ham conjured up the most memorable London derby of the season, surpassing Charlton's dramatic 4-2 victory at Arsenal in their previous match. This one might have finished with a scoreline closer to that of the most famous match ever played at The Valley, when Bill Shankly's Huddersfield Town lost 7-6 after leading 5- 1 with 20 minutes to play.
On that occasion the defending was presumably not too clever. Last night it was woeful, and West Ham were the worst offenders. After conceding 12 goals in successive away games at Everton and Blackburn, they seemed to have tightened up, with the Czech Tomas Repka looking a solid acquisition. Here, he was as flimsy as those around him. But what wonderful entertainment it all made.
Two heroes emerged for the visitors: Paul Kitson, who had not started in 21 months, nor scored for a year longer, claimed a hat- trick in little more than an hour of an astonishing return; Jermain Defoe, the teenager lured away from Charlton in acrimonious circumstances after training with them since the age of 10, appeared in his now familiar role as a substitute and seemed to have won the game in the 85th minute. Instead, it was Jonatan Johansson, with an overhead kick in stoppage time, who brought it to a breathless climax, adding his second goal to two from the rapidly improving Jason Euell.
Euell, who had made an indifferent start after becoming Charlton's most expensive signing in the summer, swapped goals like sword-strokes with Kitson in an enthralling first half. The West Ham man - only playing because of Frederic Kanoute's hamstring injury - was first to strike after just three minutes, driving in Paolo di Canio's pass off the post.
Changing formation to match their opponents' 3-5-2, Charlton slowly began to look much more dangerous, and equalised in the 21st minute following the first of many defensive howlers. West Ham's three centre-halves failed to deal with Mark Kinsella's gently chipped free-kick and Euell was left on his own to beat Shaka Hislop at the second attempt. …