Saturday 20th July 2013
Fratton Park, Portsmouth
Admission: "Pay what you want"
Match Rating: 3
Having almost inexplicably never previously visited Fratton Park, when Charlton announced that they would be playing a pre-season friendly here this summer, with the decision of how much I paid for my ticket up to me, taking in this match was an easy decision.
Fratton Park is about a ten minute walk from Fratton train station, and having anticipated an old-fashioned ground oozing with character - a break from the functional but bland modern stadia - I was not to be disappointed. I chose to sit in the South Stand, which had good views from where I sat in the front row of the upper tier, however there are lots of obstructing pillars in this stand, and the lower tier is positioned very low indeed. On the opposite side is another two tiered stand, again with obstructing pillars. Behind one of the goals is a large, modern single tiered stand where the hardcore Portsmouth fans congregate, whilst behind the other goal is a smaller stand for away fans. The programme, an 84 page double issue also covering next week's friendly against Rayo Vallecano, was very impressive for a pre-season friendly, and it seemed to be what would be produced for a league game.
How times have changed for these two clubs. As recently as 2010, Portsmouth were a Premier League club and Charlton were in League One. Portsmouth now have the prospect of League Two football to look forward to after a disastrous season on and off the field last season resulting in relegation, whilst Charlton claimed a top half finish in the Championship. The signs are that Portsmouth have turned a corner now though, with the football club now "owned by the fans", and with some reasonable looking signings having been made and club legend Guy Whittingham now in charge. Signings have so far been thin on the ground for Charlton this summer, although they gave another run out to Adamo Coulibaly, a big powerful striker who has been prolific in the Hungarian League.
On yet another warm and sunny afternoon, this was in many ways typical friendly fare, being rather slow paced, although it was refereed in quite a bizarre manner. The referee was quick to give petty free kicks and insisting they were taken from exactly the right place, did not stop the game when Charlton's Mark Gower lay on the ground having been hit full in the face with the ball, and gave a yellow card to a Portsmouth player for diving. Portsmouth actually looked the better team in the early stages as they did most of the attacking. However, Charlton always looked dangerous on the break, and Callum Harriott missed an open goal, but they did take the lead on 39 minutes when the ball was crossed from the byline by Cedric Evina, it sailed over the keeper John Sullivan - who had left Charlton at the end of last season - and was headed in from close range by Bradley Pritchard. Charlton went on to dominate the rest of the half, although the scoreline remained 0-1 at half time.
The second half started much as the first had ended, and Charlton extended their lead on 67 minutes. Captain Johnnie Jackson floated in a free kick from close to the corner flag, the ball was only half cleared to the feet of Harriott, who drilled the ball low and powerfully into the net. A flurry of substitutions then followed, and one of the substitutes, Yann Kermorgant, had a big part in Charlton's third goal on 76 minutes. He threaded a wonderful slide rule pass into the path of Chris Solly who strode into the penalty area before being clumsily brought down. Kermorgant retrieved the ball and took the penalty, which he drilled into the bottom left hand corner despite the keeper diving the right way. Both teams had slight chances to score in the remaining minutes - a Portsmouth consolation goal would have been more reflective on proceedings than a Charlton fourth - but 0-3 it remained. Credit to the Portsmouth fans for drumming up a reasonable atmosphere for a friendly match. But then, if any fans can really support their team through thick and thin, it's Portsmouth.