Previous trips to The Valley hadn’t been very exciting or fruitful, but with Charlton fighting for their life and sure to go all out for a win, and Bournemouth generally playing with some consistency and a little unbeaten run going – we traveled across London hopeful of a good game.
Sadly, it turned out to be anything but a good game! Cherries lined up in our familiar 4-5-1 system, Grabban up front on his own with Pugh left and Fraser right, and the usual trio centrally. Harte continued at left back. Charlton lined up in a similar shape, with one up front most of the time and a packed midfield.
The opening exchanges really set the tone for the entire game. Neither side got any rhythm together, possession changed sides with ease and errors were common.
Despite creating little we did force a string of corners which were all taken short and came to nothing. The set piece specialist Harte was bizarrely only used for a couple of these, with Arter taking the majority. A few long range efforts were about all that troubled Ben Hamer in Charlton’s goal.
In reply, Charlton inadvertently hit the outside of the post with a cross from Green, and again there were various corners and set pieces to defend. Creativity in open play was virtually non existent on both sides.
Ryan Fraser down our right was the only player in a Cherries shirt trying to make something happen. 3 times he beat Wiggins and looked up, only to find nobody in the penalty area to aim at, forcing him to go alone – only to be tackled by the second or third defender.
At half time, we felt that things were cagey and both sides had setup to just not concede early – and that both sides would open up and go for it second half.
That didn`t happen. Aside from more half-hearted efforts from 20 odd yards from the likes of Pugh for us and Wilson for our hosts, which both keepers more or less dealt with comfortably, there was precious little going on.
You did get the sense that the longer the game went on, the more confident Charlton became. I wouldn`t say came on strong or really put sustained pressure on, but they certainly did look more comfortable and clear with what they were trying to do, and had more of a pattern about their play than either side had previously.
An Ian Harte free kick side over the bar was our last attack of note (note it was again a set piece and nothing from open play) the last 20 minutes or so we seemed even more content than before to sit and contain.
This is somewhat contradicted by the substitutions of Kermorgant for O`Kane and Rantie for Grabban going two up front. You`d hope this would signal the side to try and win the game, but the rest of our side didn`t really get the message – and left those two isolated with barely a single kick of the ball in their time on the pitch.
Simon Church was slid through on goal in probably the best and clearest chance either side created in open play all night – Lee Camp blocked well.
If trading set pieces had been the story of the night then all 976 traveling supporters had a bad feeling about how the story would end. In the 93rd minute a right footed in-swinger found an unmarked Dorian Dervite who simply headed into the gap between Camp and a defender on the back post.
As The Valley celebrated a vital 3 points, the Cherries players drudged off the pitch, and in the stand we filed out into the streets, wondering quite why we demonstrated such little attacking intent, in a game against a struggling side when we`re already safe.
It wasn`t as if it was a relegation 6 pointer, where you expect to setup cagey and safety first. Admittedly Charlton were likewise pretty set on containment and the sand covered pitch didn`t make for pretty flowing football, but I would love to ask our 3 central midfielders why not one of them made one single run to support or get beyond Grabban in the hour Grabban played.
The whole point of playing a central 3 is that one of them takes a gamble and supports. Yes that leaves a man over when the opposition also have a central 3, but when you`re as experienced playing that situation as we`ve become over the season, why stop now?
And I`d also ask Grabban why whenever Fraser as our only lively attacker broke free down the right, did Grabban never once get himself into the box, and instead hung around out on the left channel?
As for player marks, I think everyone had a 5 or 6 kind of game. Harte was the pick of the defence, looked the most neat and tidy. Fraser the pick of the attack, the only one to beat a man all night.
When you`ve achieved safety – why not let yourself loose a bit and try expressing yourselves? The pressure is off, so why play as if your life depends on just not conceding?
I can only imagine that there are some tired legs out there, and that last night was just the result of more or less the same 11 playing a lot of games, and now left low on energy.
Barnsley away on Saturday then, who are in the same situation as Charlton. Perhaps we`ll see Eddie change things up a bit, we have enough players waiting for a chance.
Report by northstandmark
I thought it was a poor quality game.
We were on top but non threatening for the first 30 minutes.
After that Charlton took over.
Bringing Smith on said to me that we had settled for a point and Charlton realised that as well.
They therefore stepped up a gear and were a bit quicker, jumped a bit higher and we were pressed further back giving away more & more free kicks, corners and throw ins.
It was no surprise when they scored or who scored.
There number 6 headed wide in the first half from a corner and whenever he came into the penalty area he seemed to get close to a go at goal.
I do not think tiredness was a problem as Charlton were in the same boat.
We, over the 90 minutes, deserved to lose.
Have to agree with all of that. Arter had a pretty terrible game last night, some really awful touches. Fraser had some energy but little end product. I felt Pugh in particular also had a stinker last night, just everything he did being either a wrong decision or pointless wriggling around. Yann hardly touched the ball and aside from his run, Rantie was muscled off it the 2 or 3 times he actually got a touch.
The weirdest thing was how deep Yann played when he came on, defending, hovering around the centre circle when the wingers were ready to cross into the box… Also interesting replacing Fraser with Smith, though he didn’t really do any worse than anyone else. Any idea what’s going on with Ritchie?
I think 0-0 would probably have been a fair result on balance but Charlton got a chance and took it so fair play to them, I suppose. They certainly celebrated it like they’d won the league, that beardy keeper ran over and had a big group hug with the fans!