There are two types of final day scenarios: the Bermuda shorts, beach ball party or the nerve shredding season decider. On a day in which phones were frantically being refreshed (if you’re lucky enough to get internet signal inside a football ground) fingernails were being mauled and hearts were stopping and starting with regularity throughout the division, Charlton Athletic had it easy. Already secured of a top half finish and out of the play-off race, there was little to play for at the Valley with already relegated Bristol City the visitors. That ‘little’ was points, pride, and securing 9th place in Charlton’s first season back in the Championship. But with Chris Powell in charge, you could almost guarantee he wouldn’t allow the foot to be taken off the pedal and the Addicks would go out to win and only win. That in itself would create the party atmosphere for Powell, something he knows all too well following Charlton’s 4-1 win over Coventry in 2008 in which he scored an emotional goal with almost his final touch in an Addicks shirt. No Bermuda shorts for Powell and his players, but there certainly was an end of season party to remember as Charlton romped to an impressive 4-1 win.
It was certainly a game of two halves; the first dire, the second dynamic. It took just two minutes of the second period for the Addicks to take the lead as Mark Gower’s cross was emphatically volleyed past Tom Heaton in the City goal by Yann Kermorgant. There wasn’t long to revel in the marvel of Kermorgant’s exquisite strike as the Frenchman added a second four minutes later, heading home from Solly’s pinpoint ball to the far post. Bristol City pulled one back just before the hour mark in calamitous circumstances as Michael Morrison’s under hit back pass was snapped up by Bobby Reid and the youngster lobbed a stranded David Button in (by which I mean away from) the Charlton goal, but that blip failed to stop the Addicks playing some excellent football. Kermorgant was inches away from a hat-trick as his outrageous chip from 25 yards rebounded off the post, but Obika was there to nod the ball into the net and give Charlton their third. Bradley Pritchard’s fantastic driven ball across the face of goal for Johnnie Jackson to turn in at the far post rounded off the scoring for both the game and the season with five minutes to play. The players and Powell got the appreciation they deserved during the lap of honour following the full time whistle. Another successful season, another season promising more for next; we’ve got our Charlton back.
The Addicks made a trio of changes from last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough. Out went the injured Ben Hamer with Button coming in to replace him in goal, whilst Ricardo Fuller also sat out the final game of the season giving Jonathan Obika the opportunity to start up top alongside Kermorgant. The final change saw Charlton welcome back skipper Jackson following the hamstring injury that kept him out of the trip up north to Riverside. Danny Hollands vacated his place in midfield, pairing Jackson with Gower. Pritchard and Harriott maintained their starting roles on either wing, whilst the back four of Solly, Morrison, Dorian Dervite and Rhoys Wiggins started for the 9th game in a row. Third choice keeper Nick Pope was given a place on the bench, as was Scott Wagstaff in what was widely regarded to be the academy graduates final game as a Charlton player. Andy Hughes had also recovered from his hamstring injury to earn a place amongst the substitutes.
Following Bristol City’s 3-1 thrashing at home to Huddersfield last week, manager Sean O’Driscoll made half a dozen changes to his side’s starting XI. Out went Richard Foster, Matthew Bates, Liam Kelly, Marvin Elliott, Albert Adomah and Steve Davies; in came Liam Fontaine, Louis Carey, Paul Anderson, Joe Bryan, Reid and Ryan Taylor. The changes reflected O’Driscoll’s comments after last Saturday’s game in which he made it all too clear he wasn’t impressed with the performance, but well publicised former Charlton transfer target Sam Baldock was able to hold onto his place up front, as were Louis Nyatanga and Greg Cunningham in defence. Heaton kept his place in goal, whilst Neil Kilkenny, another survivor from seven days ago, started in a four man midfield.
To call the first half mundane would probably be a little too kind; there was very little to speak of in terms of action or chances at all, whilst both sides were incredibly sloppy. It had the feel of just what it was; a relegated side against a side with nothing to play for. Of the few chances created in the opening period, it was Charlton who had the best of them. Pritchard and Harriott linked up well down the right inside the first minute for the latter to cross but Obika could only glance his header wide, whilst Kermorgant, despite connecting well, headed off target from Gower’s corner kick.
There was an early change for the Addicks as Wiggins, hobbling off with an injury, was replaced by Lawrie Wilson with less than ten minutes played. It was a shame to see the Welshman’s season end with injury after the struggles he has had throughout the year; an injury free Wiggins next season is vital. It took Charlton a while to adapt to the change in personal and position, Solly moved to left back and Wilson slotted in on the right, with the side seeming to miss Wiggins’ threat down the left flank. Neither side could muster up any meaningful chance in the period following Wiggins’ injury; Obika’s run down the left flank forcing Heaton into action as he tipped the ball away from goal whilst Pritchard slipped attempting to react to the loose ball the closest either side got. Jackson’s optimistic volley that was sliced away for a throw proved to be the only moment of humorous relief in a tedious 25 minute passage of play.
The game needed a piece of magic to kick it into life, and Harriott tried to provide just that. Played in by Jackson, the winger cut inside before skilfully bearing down on goal, but he didn’t hit his shot cleanly and the ball skewed wide. Despite Harriott’s attempts, the game remained solemn as Bristol City earned themselves a dangerous looking free-kick just outside the area, but Baldock’s attempt was fired straight at Pritchard in the Charlton wall. Jackson headed from Solly’s cross in the last minute of the half, whilst the visitors tested Button through Anderson’s strike in stoppage time but the ‘keeper was equal as the sides went in level.
If this game had have been live on TV, most would have switched over to Antiques Roadshow long before the start of the second half, but what a mistake it would have been had they had done so. Whatever Powell said to his side at half time seemed to do just the trick. It took just two minutes for the game to come alive as Charlton took the lead in fine fashion. Obika played in Gower down the right and his first time cross sat up perfectly for Kermorgant with the Frenchman volleying home with some ferocity. It had taken 47 minutes, but finally the Covered End were vocal as Obika fired a shot just wide soon after Kermorgant’s strike, and they had even more reasons to be loud as a second goal came with 51 minutes on the clock. Harriott and Solly combined down the left hand side and the latter put in a delicious delivery, one that Kermorgant couldn’t turn down, rising above everyone else at the far post and heading past Heaton.
Bristol City didn’t cave in completely though, and the impressive Reid headed wide, but Charlton so nearly put themselves three ahead soon after. Jackson’s corner was flicked on by Dervite at the near post with Morrison somehow not making contact at the far. With the goal at his mercy, all Morrison had to do was make contact with the ball, but it just evaded him. It was to prove somewhat costly as City immediately went down the other end and pulled a goal back, with Charlton paying a huge helping hand. Wilson lost the ball in the middle of the park but it appeared Morrison had the situation under control as he regained possession. His back pass, however, was short of Button by quite some distance, allowing Reid to steal in and chip the ball over an out of position Button. In attempting to stop the ball, Button appeared to injure himself against the net, but that was of no concern to Reid who celebrated his first goal for his boyhood club.
The goal sparked a short spell of pressure from the away side as Reid fired wide from distance and then forced Button into a comfortable save low down to his left. However, that was to prove Button’s final act as the keeper left the pitch, unable to continue due to his injury sustained during City’s goal, and was replaced by debutant Pope. It wasn’t exactly an easy start for the youngster in between the sticks as the talented Adomah, on as a substitute, fired wide after a run down the left, whilst the same man carved out a free-kick close to the goal line and not too far from the area. Kilkenny found Carey in the centre from the set piece but, somehow, the defender fluffed his effort over the bar when it appeared easier to score. Pope’s sigh of relief was greater than any inside the Valley.
That clear opening spurred Charlton on again and Kermorgant’s volley from just outside the area bounced fractionally wide, whilst Wagstaff came on for Harriott to make what will almost surely be his final appearance in a Charlton shirt. Just seconds after the substitution, Charlton sealed the three points. Kermorgant collected the ball 25 yards goal and, when it seemed easier to drive at goal, opted to attempted a chipped shot over Heaton. He came so close to his hat-trick as the crossbar denied him, but the ball practically fell onto Obika’s head, giving him the easiest of tasks to give Charlton their third and the striker himself a well-earned goal. The Addicks kept on coming and Jackson raced through, put his pass to Obika was soft and Heaton got down well to save, but Charlton soon added a fourth. Pritchard was played in down the right and his defence splitting ball across goal was met by Jackson who regained his position as top goal scorer from Kermorgant with a fine finish at the far post.
Kermorgant’s free-kick in the dying embers of normal time was blocked away for a corner, and Gower’s resulting delivery was volleyed at goal by Wagstaff and, heartbreakingly, blocked on the line. A goal mouth scramble ensued but neither Obika nor Morrison could poke the ball into the net and Bristol were able to clear. Wagstaff looked like he was one result off winning his accumulator; absolutely distraught. Kermorgant, desperate for his hat-trick, pulled off one last spectacular effort but his scissor kick ballooned horribly wide and he had to settle for two as referee Berry blew for full time. A second half of attacking play from Charlton to rival any other performance this season; truly outstanding.
As the players received their deserved lap of honour, there was still time for the now yearly emotional address for Chris Powell. Not a dry eye was left in the house as he praised every aspect and every individual of Charlton Athletic Football Club and spoke about his ambitions for the future. Just like last season, the final walk away from the Valley was filled with sadness that such a fantastic season was coming to an end, but the overwhelming emotion was excitement to what the future will bring for this football club.
Once again, another fantastic team performance as won Charlton the points in emphatic style. Baring the mishap for Bristol City’s goal and Wilson’s performance in general, every individual was exceptional. Obika and Gower were both excellent and involved in almost every attacking movement; I for one hope to see them at the Valley in a red shirt come August. Pritchard and Harriott were as threatening as ever down the wings, whilst captain Jacko put in yet another brilliant display from the centre of midfield. The defence were also solid too, if a little limited by Wiggin’s withdrawal early on, but Solly did well down the left. You wouldn’t expect anything else from him, would you? But there’s only one man of the match: Yann Kemorgant. The two goals would almost certainly do it on their own but his performance was much more than that. Not a single header was lost from minute 0 to minute 90 whilst his touch, build up play and his work dropping deeper and coming out wide were all exceptional. Displays like that really do make you wish we had a team of Kemorgant’s to call upon.
After three seasons in League One, Charlton Athletic have finished 9th in the Championship, just three points off a play-off place with a squad made up of the players from last season. We’ve beaten the Champions, taken points off second place and 3 out of the 4 clubs in the play-offs, including Leicester. We’ve finished above last season’s play-off finalists and one of the play-off semi-finalists. We’ve had a record away win, and an away record only bettered by the top three. We’ve pulled off incredible victories at home and more than once fought back from the dead. We’ve scored some incredible goals and defended like warriors to earn points in games we should have had nothing from .To top it all off we’ve unearthed some real young talent with both the U21’s league and U18’s league being one, as well as Harriott becoming a first team regular. Chris Powell is a hero. The players are all heroes. We’ve not only got our Charlton back, we might have just a little bit more than that.