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Matt Helps Bournemouth to Ritchiely Deserved Title

The gulf in class between the two sides competing at The Valley was almost as large as the space Yann Kermorgant was constantly afforded.

In fact, it would be wrong to say two sides were competing. The only real competition was between both sets of supporters as they attempted to have their appreciation for the French striker heard the loudest.


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For Charlton were decimated. A performance of perfect organisation, high energy and skilled execution was required to spoil Bournemouth’s promotion celebrations, but their tired efforts only contributed to the Cherries securing the Championship title that they deserved.

Little resistance was offered as the champions elect cut through Charlton’s tame defensive efforts, and on few occasions were Bournemouth’s backline made to seriously work.

You could even suggest that for the hosts to punished on just three occasions was a little generous. There were fears for a more embarrassing beating after Matt Ritchie, a stunning finish, and Harry Arter, capitalising after dispossessing Yoni Buyens, gave Bournemouth a two goal lead with 12 gone.

But it took countless attacks and a further 73 minutes for Ritchie to add a third; a goal scored almost simultaneously with Sheffield Wednesday’s equaliser at Watford that confirmed top spot for Eddie Howe’s men.

The only solace that could be taken for the home supporters was that they could take some enjoyment from witnessing such an exciting and devastating brand of football. Anger at the tame Charlton effort replaced by applause for Bournemouth’s brilliant moves, and further appreciation for the Cherries as they celebrated their title win.

But it was an indication of just how far off the Addicks are from a day like that. It was only natural to feel envious, and not just because they had Kermorgant, who applauded his former fans on several occasions, in their side.

He’s got a league winners’ medal around his neck, and will be in the Premier League next season. We’re someway behind.

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There was an expectation that Charlton would be in for a tough afternoon prior to kick-off, and the team news only increased that feeling.

The partnership of Roger Johnson and Tal Ben Haim seemed the wrong way to go against the pace of Callum Wilson and the creativity of Kermorgant, while the absence of the injured Jordan Cousins, replaced by Alou Diarra, seemed huge against such a quality Bournemouth midfield.

Straight from the off, it was clear the Cherries would have no trouble in dominating the contest. After the free-kick that Kermorgant won and took was defended well enough by the Addicks, a clever move from the resulting corner saw the Frenchman blast an effort over the bar.

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His strike partner was also providing concern for the Charlton defence. Johnson misjudging a header, with only a desperate block from Diarra preventing Wilson from scoring.

With Bournemouth, backed by a barmy away end and 1,400 further supporters in the Upper West, relentlessly pressing forward and the Addicks unable to do much about it, it was only going to be a matter of time before the visitors went ahead.

And the goal that gave them the lead with ten minutes played was as fantastic as any seen at The Valley this season. A flowing move eventually resulted in Kermorgant being picked out with his back to goal, and the striker unselfishly sat the ball back for Ritchie to perfectly place a side-footed effort in off the post.

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But if Charlton were largely faultless for conceding such a fantastic goal after a brilliant Bournemouth move, they only had themselves to blame for allowing their deficit to be doubled two minutes later.

Buyens dithered on the ball on the edge of the box, and was easily dispossessed by a fired up Arter, playing against the club who released him as a youngster. The Irishman composed himself superbly to tuck past his countryman Stephen Henderson in the Charlton goal, before celebrating in a manner that suggested he was rather pleased to be inflicting misery on the club that let him go.

Bournemouth supporters delirious; Charlton’s disillusioned by their side’s efforts.

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It meant that instead of jokingly hoping for the 19-0 win that was required for the Cherries to throw away promotion, the home fans were beginning to worry that it would be their side who would be on the end of such a hammering.

Tony Watt, having left Charlie Daniels for dead out wide, at least attempted to inspire the crowd into believing that the Addicks were capable of a comeback, with his resulting drive across the face of goal just missing the out-stretched boot of Igor Vetokele, but they remained a complete mess at the back.

Far too much space was being given to Wilson, with each member of Charlton’s defensive unit seemingly afraid to get close to him, and the former Coventry man jinked his way past three men in red before seeing his shot superbly blocked by Johnson.

And Johnson was required to block another Wilson effort moments later, with the forward left in an alarming amount of space. To his credit, his movement was outstanding, but the Addicks were far too slow in reacting to him.

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So were they too slow to close down Simon Francis. Half-heartedly booed by a flat crowd, the Charlton flop came a whisker away from silencing them as his drive from distant just flashed past the post.

You could also argue that Luzon was too slow to change his system. Despite the unrelenting pressure that was being applied to them, and the minimal control they had in midfield, the Israeli persisted the same set-up and personnel. A weak effort from Frederic Bulot, comfortably held by Arthur Boruc, the only reward for such perseverance.

In fact, their first noticeable change came on the stroke of half-time. Vetokele hobbling off the pitch after falling awkwardly, and replaced by Simon Church for what would probably be his final appearance in Charlton red.

But, after Kermorgant had teed up Andrew Surman to loop narrowly over the bar as the final action of the first half, there was certainly a change in the attitude of the Addicks at the start of the second half.

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Helped by considerably by the effort and energy of Church, there was suddenly some intent from the hosts. Blocked crosses and shots may have been all that they produced, but such encouragement finally got the Covered End into song.

Alas, the rather optimistic positivity was misguided. Bournemouth, having done superbly to stamp out the brief sign of threat from the Addicks, soon got back into their impressive stride, meaning the home supporters quickly lost the lust for chanting.

Instead, they were busy praying for mercy. The Cherries were getting plenty of joy down their right-hand side, with Morgan Fox struggling to cope, and only the post’s width prevented Ritchie from taking advantage. The winger’s deflected strike hitting the woodwork while Henderson stood motionless.

Maybe the home supporters should have been praying in the direction of Church. You couldn’t fault his tenacity, and the Welshman did well to turn Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s shot goalward to win a corner, but that a stopped strike felt like a small achievement sums up Charlton’s afternoon.

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For stopped strikes were a regular occurrence for Bournemouth. So were clear cut opportunities, and one more would have been created had Arter passed to Marc Pugh instead of horribly slicing wide.

Nonetheless, there was no let-up from the Cherries. Their supporters still having a party, and their players still striving for more despite the fact that no amount of goals would prevent a victorious Watford from winning the league. Daniels flashing an effort across the face of goal just after substitute Joe Gomez had knocked a few million off his price tag with a horribly wayward strike.

But introducing Gomez, who came on alongside Chris Eagles in place of Diarra and Bulot, proved a little costly. For just five minutes later, Watt’s legs finally gave way. The striker, who had worked tirelessly in testing circumstances, could do more and Charlton were left with ten men for the final 15 minutes. A scary prospect against a still rampant Bournemouth.

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At least Howe did the honourable thing and withdrew his side’s focal point, saving heartbreak in the process. Instead, the entire ground stood and sung for Kermorgant as he left the pitch. The Frenchman as happy to applaud his current supporters as he was those he cherished for two and a half years. A cult figure and a bloody brilliant bloke to boot.

Those getting misty eyed, however, were soon furious. There was still a third goal left in the Cherries, with Ritchie once again finishing in tidy fashion to compound Charlton’s misery and round off a brilliant performance from his side.

But it did not round off their day, nor their season. For as the Addicks, displaying the sort of body language I did for days after Kermorgant was sold, prepared to kick-off again, celebrations resumed in the away end. Wednesday had equalised at Watford and, arguably deservedly so, Bournemouth were now in possession of the top spot.

Henderson was called upon to deny Wilson and prevent the ongoing party in the away end becoming a full-on rave, while Boruc’s fingertips kept Gudmundsson’s effort out and denied the Addicks a small amount of pride, but it was largely immaterial.

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For the home supporters were applauding the Cherries, while their substitutes and staff were waiting to invade the pitch. The title was theirs, and only the full-time whistle was stopping that from being confirmed.

And you couldn’t fault their celebratory efforts once the game’s conclusion was confirmed. Carnage in the stands and a bundle on the pitch; you wanted to join in but soon remembered the side you supported had just been torn apart by the one who deserved every ounce of enjoyment from such a moment.

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Instead, the home supporters were left to show their appreciation to Kermorgant. The Frenchman classy enough to not only take time out of his side’s celebrations to hug friends and family in the West Stand, but also to once again acknowledge the Addicks. The decision to sell him remains as disgraceful as it ever was.

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It, along with the players come to give their thanks after a up and down season, was a nice note to end on. And probably needed after the majority of the afternoon provided few moments of positivity.

For the Addicks were both outclassed and abysmal. In truth, they could not have stopped such a frightening attacking force under any circumstance, and I’m very happy that Bournemouth have achieved a deserved title win, but Charlton’s efforts, regardless of the game meaning little to them, were very disappointing.

The most frustrating thing was that, against a side where effort and energy was desperately needed, the Addicks were half-hearted and lacklustre. Passes misplaced and defensive errors constantly giving Bournemouth the ammunition to attack, while the Cherries were constantly left in space, both with and without the ball.

Arter was able to walk through the middle time and time again, Kermorgant constantly dropping off with no one picking up, while Wilson and Ritchie effectively did whatever they fancied. A class above, yes, but they were given far too much freedom.

I had hoped that we might be able to compete with the Cherries, and a suggestion be provided that maybe we’re not too far off challenging for promotion ourselves. But, while Johnson is constantly caught out at the back, Buyens provides absolutely nothing in the middle and Vetokele continues to struggle up top, we’re nowhere near.

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Bournemouth, however, show that it can be done. With some ambition and investment that focuses primarily on winning games of football, replicating such an achievement is not impossible.

And, after that performance, it’s apparent a lot of improvement is needed in the summer. Keeping onto our key men alone won’t be enough.

I’m off for a three month long lie down.

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I’m lying, of course. Part One of my annual awards blog will be online tomorrow. 

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3 Comments

  1. […] Matt Helps Bournemouth to Ritchiely Deserved Title – Chris Powell’s Flat Cap […]

  2. A big THANK YOU for all the reports and insight you have given over the season, you have been fantastic – did you miss any game at all this season?
    I thought you were a tad harsh on Charlton – I have seen far worse performances this season (I was at Watford!!!) and thought that with the introduction of Simon Church until Tony Watt’s departure we looked as likely as them to score. They were having trouble containing Gudmundsson , Watt and Solly down their left flank. Like you, I thought Church had a good game but I also give praised to Johnson – yes he is slow and Gomez would have dealt with Wilson better – yet Johnson cares, shows passion, you see how annoyed he gets when the opposition scores, and he puts his body on the line blocking shoots. And Yann the man, like Chris Powell, what a Gent! I hope he gets a chance to show the Premiership what a talent he is. What odds him scoring up there against Leicester (provided Leicester stay up)!!
    Thank you again for your efforts throughout the season.

    All the best for the close season – have a good rest!!

    Behind Enemy Lines

    • Kyle Andrews says:

      Thank you! I missed two – Leeds and Blackpool away.
      I certainly agree with you that Church’s introduction brought some improvement, but I still felt we were very poor. Bournemouth, obviously, were excellent, but our efforts were less than pleasing.
      I’ve got absolutely no problem with Johnson’s commitment, but he’s been at fault for so many goals now, and would have been at fault for many more were it not for Henderson and tame strikers. A liability, which is a shame considering how superbly he started.
      He surely will. it’s just a shame that age isn’t on his side. I would imagine it will be just a season, but I’m sure he’ll make an impression nonetheless. I have no doubt that he’s good enough to play in the Premier League. And no one deserves to play in that division more.
      Absolutely no problem at all. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed what I’ve produced.

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