Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Charlton Athletic 0 v 3 AFC Bournemouth

Saturday 2nd May 2015
The Valley, Charlton
Football League Championship
Admission: Season Ticket
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 21,280 (4,668 away)
Match Rating: 3

The final game of the season for Charlton - and most likely my final game as a season ticket holder for at least a season - promised a strange feeling of hosting someone else's party in our own home. Arguably, it would have given us Charlton fans a taste of what might have been, had it not been for a truly wretched run between November and February which probably cost Charlton a playoff berth which would have been a fair reflection on how we played before and after that run.

For Charlton, today was the definitive end of season dead rubber, going into this final game in tenth place but four points adrift of ninth, but could fall down to 14th with a defeat. Since beating Leeds 2-1 a fortnight ago, Charlton lost 1-0 at Birmingham City. As for today's visitors, AFC Bournemouth have almost unbelievably secured promotion to the Premiership - barring Bournemouth losing today and Middlesbrough overturning a 19 goal deficit today. A far more likely outcome for Bournemouth was battling for the title, being a point behind leaders Watford and with their superior goal difference, all Bournemouth needed to do today was better Watford's result. Charlton did have a good recent home record against Bournemouth, winning on the last three occasions without conceding a goal. Bournemouth's recent form has been excellent, unbeaten in their last twelve games going back to late February. The Bournemouth fans certainly came for a party, demand ensuring they were given additional seats to the usual away allocation in the Upper West stand, and came in fancy dress and accompanied by all manner of inflatables.

On a sunny afternoon, this match went pretty much how one might have predicted. At no stage were Bournemouth not in complete control of this game, impressive with quick, incisive passing game while the Charlton players seemed to be already on their holidays. Indeed on ten minutes, a lovely passing move around the penalty area conjured up the first goal, Matt Ritchie poking the ball home off the inside of the far post. They doubled their lead on 12 minutes when Yoni Buyens, almost certainly playing his last game for the game at the end of his loan spell from Standard Liège, was dispossessed far too easily on the edge of his own area and former Charlton youngster Harry Arter headed towards goal before placing the ball past the keeper. One had the feeling that the scoreline could become embarrassing for Charlton, but somehow Bournemouth's almost total domination did not yield any further goals before half time. Their joy was tempered with the news that Watford were winning their game at home to Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.

Charlton certainly improved after the break, having more of the ball without ever looking likely to score, particularly after they went down to ten men with 15 minutes left after Tony Watt limped off and Charlton had already used their substitutes, and Bournemouth added a third on 85 minutes when Ritchie scored his second of the game. The away fans' joy multiplied when news came through that Sheffield Wednesday scored an equaliser in added on time, to ensure the title would be Bournemouth's. Charlton's fans gave Bournemouth a standing ovation when that was confirmed, as they had given to former cult hero Yann Kermorgant, unpopularly sold to the Cherries last season.

As depressing as it was as a Charlton fan watching the other team run rings around us, Bournemouth's play was a joy to watch, and good luck to them in the Premiership next season - a refreshing and welcome addition in my opinion. As for Charlton, today was a disappointing end to a rather bizarre season that could be split into three...the first and final thirds giving cause for considerable optimism, the middle third unbelievably and depressingly bad, that provoked a toxic atmosphere that I don't think I had ever experienced as a Charlton fan. It will be an interesting summer - the last couple of months have shown considerable promise, and with some quality additions to the squad, as well as either signing up or adequately replacing the loan signings, hopes may be high for a serious push for a play off berth next season.

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