Date: 5th May 2015 at 7:54am
Written by: simonhpieman

What a bizarre season. Ahead from the first minute, up in the air for the entire remainder bar the last minute. Rollercoaster doesn’t even cover it…

I must admit I toyed with even going to this game. For starters, as a non-season ticket holder, I didn’t even get a chance to join the queue. Luckily, a friend managed to sort me out with a ticket in the home end just behind the goal on the proviso that I was on my absolute best behaviour. As one of her relatives was back at the Valley for the first time following a fairly major illness, she really meant it! There was also far less riding on this game than there could have been and I’d resigned myself to the season being over. I couldn’t even party with my own in the away end so I’d have to hope for a decent game of football. I should have been more confident – how often has an Eddie Howe side let us down?!

On one of the more bizarre walks to the ground after getting the bus from North Greenwich, and dressed in an inconspicuous blue hoodie, I managed to spy a vicar, some plastic toy soldiers and a number of inflatables. Still not sure what the AFCB connection is, there… The ganets were also on form, offering all the tacky flags, badges and t-shirts they could from the side of the road. I’m certain there was more AFCB merchandise than there was Charlton, probably by some distance.

Having arrived at the ground and picked up my ticket, my friends were surprised just how many Cherries had made the trip to London. The atmosphere around the ground was buzzing, though the Charlton fans were expecting little else than a defeat. And they didn’t have to wait long to be proved right…

The teams came out to a rapturous noise from the Jimmy Seed stand. It was truly something to behold – a wall of noise and inflatables and balloons flying everywhere. The game kicked off and with almost their first attack the Cherries were given a free kick on the edge of the Charlton penalty area which Kermorgant put just over. Despite the Addicks fans being still holding Yann dearly in their hearts, the miss threw up a cheer of delight.

With barely 10 minutes gone and Bournemouth already knocking the ball around nicely as we’ve come to expect this season, Pugh surged towards the Charlton box. He crossed to Kermorgant who laid of to RITCHIE who unleashed a placed shot to our former keeper Henderson’s right which flicked in off the post – another brilliant finish in a distinguished season for the honorary Scotsman.

Not 2 minutes later, under almost no pressure, a simple pass to Buyens resulted in a poor touch. ARTER nipped in, got a little lucky with a ricochet and advanced into the box, placing past Henderson’s right once more, effectively ending the contest there and then.

Charlton offered exceptionally little in a half that barely got out of pre-season friendly mode. Bournemouth were keeping possession and making space all over the pitch, though I also get the feeling that certain members of the opposition were making it easier than it should have been. The main chance of note was one for Wilson who waltzed left to right across the Charlton box, skipping past all the defenders but having his goal-bound shot blocked.

Half time came and the BBC stated 61% possession. My Charlton friends’ only surprise was that it wasn’t more. Over an interval pint, I finally discovered why Francis suffered such abuse at Charlton. It turns out, local boy Solly (who Pugh had on toast all afternoon) was being kept out of the team by Francis and the fans didn’t like it, essentially giving him continual dogs abuse despite him doing well. The feelings against him appear to remain with a number of unpleasant comments directed at him during the second half.

The second half was a little more of a game, at least for 15 minutes. Charlton had a bit of a go and the crowd half-heartedly got behind them as a few half chances came and went. It was all about the Bournemouth faithful, however, who were partying for almost the entire 90 minutes, the wall of sound a real joy to behold from my end.

After a first half injury to Ventokele, Charlton made two more changes on 69 minutes. Shorltly afterwards, their man forward Tony Watt took a nasty knock to the calf or shin and left Charlton to see out the match with 10 men. Many around me suggested this was all a ploy to get off home early. A ploy that would have worked if it weren’t for our mid-week friends from Sheffield…

5 minutes from time, Daniels found himself in an advanced position following some good pressure from substitute Gosling. He played a defence-baffling reverse pass across the box to Ritchie who carried the ball into the box. His blocked shot fell straight back to him and he half-vollyed a finish into the top right corner to give the Bournemouth fans something to cheer given that Watford were still 1-0 up and heading for the title. It seems Surman saw another consolation, as he ran the ball quickly back to the centre circle, obviously eyeing the 100 league goal record that seems to be the only one this incredible Bournemouth team have failed to break this season.

But this is the Championship season to end all Championship seasons and it wouldn’t be right if there weren’t another twist! The referee announced 3 minutes of stoppage time. From the already riotous away end came a cheer as if one of our players had just unleashed a screamer into the top corner. Sheffield Wednesday had equalised! We were top of the league! What must have been one of the most enjoyable 3 minutes of many fans lives, what a shame it couldn’t have happened earlier!

The game came to an end and a roar went up as the players and staff flooded onto the pitch to congratulate the team. It was at this point that I could only join the Charlton fans in polite applause and recognition of the unprecedented achievement this incredible group of players have undertaken over the last 9 months. It wasn’t all bad, though, as I’d got a great view of 2 of the goals and a fellow undercover Cherry flashed what looked like a police badge at the stewards which meant we could get up the other end and applaud the players as their celebrations came to an end. I’m sure many other fans will be better placed to describe the scenes from ‘our’ end but it looked like a hell of a lot of fun – I wish I could have been there!

The Chartlon players took their lap of the ground and waited by the tunnel to form a guard of honour as the Cherries returned triumphantly to the pitch to receive the replica trophy (the proper one being at Watford. Lol). It was noted that Rhoys Wiggins joined the line at the last possible minute. I wonder what pain was etched across his arse… I mean, face…

And so the curtain came down on a Championship season that has seen almost unbelievable levels of excitement, tension, but most importantly some spectacular football. As a mere regular away fan, I fear this might be my last match for some time but if I’ll be at any game I can get tickets for next season, riding yet another wave of excitement in this, the golden age of Eddie Howe’s Boscombe dynasty.

Boruc – Little to do once again. Kicking better than usual. 7
Francis – Solid performance, good overlapping. 7
Elphick – Another assured performance from captain fantastic. 7
Cook – As Elphick, never put a foot wrong. 7
Daniels – Overlapping, linking with Pugh, good energy. 7
Ritchie – Two great goals, what a season. 9
Arter – Busy in the middle, some great passing. 8
Surman – Had the midfield sewn up. 8
Pugh – Some great trickery impressing the Chartlon fans around me. 8
Wilson – Great running again, linking and creating, working tirelessly as always. 8
Kermorgant – Had one of his better games today, as his treat is sometimes neutralised. Still adored by the Chartlon fans. 8

Smith – Energetic and probing once again. Could be crucial next season.
Gosling – Attacking, energetic, pressured opposition.
Jones – A token appearance but marks for red stripes in his dreads. 10