What an afternoon at Dean Court! The sun shone, the crowd was vocal, and the football was, at times, superb! What more could we ask for? Oh yeah a large contingent of smurfs who had made the long trip down from Carlisle!!
The match started with the Cherries kicking in the 'wrong' direction - towards the North Stand in the opening 45 minutes. Whethe switch made a difference or not, we will never know, but it was Carlisle who started more brightly - as the side with no pressure on them, while the Cherries were decidedly more cautious in their approach, probably keen not to make any early mistakes.
It didn't take too long for the Cherries to get in to their stride and settle more in to their game as both sides seemed to be quite happy with a more open approach to proceedings. An early corner saw an Elphick go just wide while the passing was excellent, but not quite finding the right range for the front men to capitalise.
Allsop was called in to action when a rasping close range effort from Miller drew a superb reflex save from the Cherries shot stopper to prevent the Cumbrians from taking the lead in the 13th minute.
In the 25th minute Dean Court erupted. A Pugh corner went to Francis whose cross found Steve Cook to head his first Cherries goal! That after an Grabban run saw his shot canon off the feet of the United keeper to win the corner in the first place.
By now news was filerting through that Sheffield United were being pummelled by Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers were 1-down at home to Notts County! Like last week, up went the chant of "Play Up Pompey"!! What ever next?!
Other first half chances came and went, but neither side could take advantage as midfields dominated. Credit to the likes to Arter and O'Kane who ran their socks off in the centre of the park. One such example came just after the goal when Grabban was 1-on-1 with the keeper, he elected to shoot when the better option would have been a square ball to Ritchie, who was screaming for the ball and who was in the better position to score!!
At times, we seemed to get a bout of promtion jitters, most notably when the ball seemed to get stuck in our penalty area. In one such incident, Carlisle could well have equalised, but Loy managed to hit the woodwork instead. If nothing else it was a warning not to sit back.
Similar to the start of the first half, the second started with Carlisle in a positive mood, with the Cumrbrians getting some reward for their efforts when Miller found the back of the net, which silenced the home crowd while exciting the contigent of smurfs in the away end!
The Cherries advantage was restored in the 56th minute when Harry Arter got on the end of a rasping shot which bulged the back of the net with the keeper rooted to the spot. Cue celebrations as the crowd went mad.
To their credit, Carlisle tried to come back at us, using their left flank to great effect as they tried to make a game of it. Thankfully to no avail as the rear guard held firm as Francis, Cook, Elphick and Daniels were dominant. Even when they did find a way through, Allsop was more than a match. Mention to O'Kane who was surperb in challenging back.
The match was eventually sown up in injury time just after I mentioned to Ellis, who was sat next to me that we'd not seen the Chicken Run, then up popped Mr Pitman to rifle the ball low in the net in stoppage time. Cue a mini-pitch invasion.
With the PA announcer asking for the fans to keep off the pitch after the game you just knew that wasn't going to happen as 9000 Cherries fans piled on to the pitch on the final whistle. Then came the wait for news from the Keepmoat that Doncaster Rovers had lost at home to Notts County, which prompted celebrations of promotion. Slightly premature as we actually had to wait another couple of hours for news from Hartlepool that Brentford had failed to win! Now we could celebrate, even if it was, for me, on the 1805 First Great Western service from Southampton Central back to Fratton!
We've done it! We're in the second tier next season! Writing this now, I am still pinching myself!! Is this real?!
At this stage I normally go through player summaries. I am not going to do that this time as every player on the pitch was superb this afternoon. My man of the match though has to go to Harry Arter for his running and industry. But to be honest there were many good performances right across the pitch.
SAY WE ARE GOING UP! WE ARE GOING UP!!
AFCB: Allsop, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, O'Kane, Pugh, Grabban, Pitman
Subs: Jalal, Seabourne, Fogden, McQuoid, Tubbs, Hughes (for O'Kane, 67 mins), MacDonald (for Grabban, 88 mins)
Andy Burton, Portsmouth