Saturday, 6 August 2011

Perfect Start

There was a great buzz around The Valley today. Many people were excited at the prospect of getting their first glimpses of our new signings. The atmosphere as I took my seat was as good as I can ever remember and with the sun shining on the pitch, I had a feeling it was going to be a good afternoon.

AFC Bournemouth lined up with a 4-5-1 formation and were clearly hoping to overrun the midfield with numbers. A sound tactic one might think, but fortunately for us, the Cherries couldn't make it pay.

Our passing today was slick, accurate and we kept the ball very very well. It was a real contrast to what we saw last year. Chris Powell was vocal about his philosophy to play his way out of this division and it looks like he finally has the players who can do just that.

Hollands and Stephens look like they have been playing together for some time. It's hard to believe they were thrown together little more than a month ago. They seemed to be on the same wavelength and there was some neat inter-passing between the two.

The first 20 minutes were relatively even with both sides knocking it about pretty well. Michael Morrison went close after 8 minutes when corner was floated in by Dale Stephens, but the unmarked defender failed to convert. Bradley Wright-Phillips also had a good chance 10 minutes later when Chris Solly provided a superb cross, but the striker could only head the ball over the bar.

The first goal came courtesy of some excellent play from Chris Solly again. The young full-back picked up the ball on the right hand side and surged ahead, he found BWP with a good pass and continued his run into the box. His run was enough to provide some confusion in the defence and Wright-Phillips slipped the ball to Dale Stephens who coolly side footed the ball into the corner of the net.

Rhoys Wiggins, a target of the Bournemouth boo boys for much of the game, had a good shot from 30 yards. It looked speculative, but it forced a good save from Flahavan in the Cherries goal. The resulting corner hit a few bodies but didn't really fall to anybody, and it went out for a goal kick. Charlton were starting to assert their authority on the game.

Bournemouth at this point were starting to look very average. Although they passed the ball well, there was no cutting edge to their play and they were limited only to a couple of half chances. Danny Ings looked uncomfortable playing the lone striker role, but more than that, he was isolated for much of the first 45 minutes. If the Cherries were to get back into the game, they needed to find him some support.

Our final chance of the half was again involved Dale Stephens. Another corner was lofted into the box and Michael Morrison got up well but failed to connect well and the ball went across goal rather than towards it.

Lee Bradbury made a change as the second half kicked off. Matthieu Baudry was replaced for former Millwall youngster Lyle Taylor. Bournemouth were the fastest out of the traps and in the first 5 minutes had some good possession, but again they failed to create anything of note.

Scott Wagstaff then shocked both sets of fans with an early contender for goal of the season. A Dale Stephens pass found Wagstaff who hit it on the volley from 20 yards, and the ball crashed into the back of the net. It was a superb strike and which probably gives Chris Powell a bit of a selection headache, as it was widely accepted that Scott was only an understudy to Danny Green who was unavailable due to suspension. It will be interesting to see who plays in the next match.

The game was sealed on 77 minutes when Bradley Wright-Phillips went on a mazy run into the Bournemouth box. He rode one challenge but a second floored him; penalty, no doubt. New Captain Johnnie Jackson was the man on the spot and he didn't miss. It was game over. Bournemouth were offering very little and Charlton were playing keep ball magnificently.

Despite neither of our strikers getting on the score sheet, it has to be said that they both played very well. Wright-Phillips surprised if I'm honest as his work rate was tremendous. There were times last season where it was said that if he wasn't scoring goals, he didn't offer much to the team. That couldn't have been further from the truth today. He definitely gave everything, as did Paul Hayes. Hayes got into some good positions and shot agonisingly wide on one occasion.

It was a good all round performance and the whole team worked tirelessly for each other. It's hard to single anybody out as a man of the match though the headlines will definitely be all about Dale Stephens. I think we might have dug up a little gem here.

Bournemouth had a few half chances here and there, but the team that reached the play-offs last term has been stripped of it's major assets. You do wonder if they are going to be the next Swindon. I spoke to a couple of their fans after the game, and though some were upbeat as they lost to us this time last season and managed a good campaign, there were many who clearly think that the club need to spend some cash if they are to stay in this league.

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