If ever there was a way to announced that the Cherries had arrived in the Championship, this was certainly it after an absence of 23 years at this level! The last time we played in the second tier I had hair - oh how times have changed!
The game started brightly enough as the Cherries started off kicking towards the new south end, which was well populated with plenty of vocal home support, determined to make their presense felt behind the goal. While at the other end our opponents pressed to gain the upper hand, but resolute defending across the back four kept the Addicks front line at bay.
As the half progressed, the Cherries got in to their stride, releasing Daniels/Pugh down the left, and Francis/Coulibaly down the right. Every now and again, Pugh and Coulibaly switched to keep Charlton guessing. It must be noted that there was a certain dynamic in the wing play that we've not quite seen in pre-season, which was a joy to watch through out the match, even with a change in personnel in the second half - more of that later.
By the time the quarter hour mark had been reached, the Cherries were just beginning to dominate, winning a succession of corners, while Charlton were largely penned in to their own half. Sadly though the possession wasn't made to pay during this passage of play - something I am sure the management will be looking to improve upon. Possession is all very well, but a little more clinical would be nice. But this was only match one of a long season - plenty of time for that to be work on and improved. That said though, Charlton were no where near rarely 'hurt' the Cherries when they had possession. Allsop was hardly tested in the opening 45 minutes.
The break through came from one of the Cherries corners in the 26th minute, when a quick corner was looped in to the penalty area, which saw Lewis Grabban loop a header over the keeper to nestle in the back of the net! Cue celebrations amoung the home support. Credit to Harry Arter for putting in the final cross for Grabban to get his head to.
I was expecting Charlton to up their game. Amazingly, for a side of their size, strength, guile and experience they seemed to loose it in midfield, seeming content for the Cherries to continue in their dominant vein. If anything, it was the Cherries who could, and probably should have doubled their lead. First through Thomas who ghosted in at the far post (but wasn't quite quick enough) and then a shot from Arter, which the keeper had to get his body behind. Grabban could also have doubled the advantage with an arrowed shot. Again the keeper was equal to it.
Chris Powell must have fired a rocket at his players at half time as the Addicks came out all fired up at the start of the second period, managing to draw level within 4 minutes of the restart as a scissor kick from Kermorgant levelled matters with a neat strike.
For a brief period, the Cherries were on the back foot, but as the half progressed, the home side regained their composure once again, regaining the upper hand. During the period while the Cherries were slightly on the back foot, Coulibaly went in for a clumsy challenge, who was eventually taken off for Fraser to come in his place in the 56th minute.
Fraser caused all sorts of problems when he came on - he simply ran at the opposition, who didn't know what to do with someone with such a low centre of gravity as he twisted and turned. Quite funny as he was making Rhoys Wiggins look stupid!
Reward for the Cherries came midway through the second period when Grabban picked up the ball from a move down the left flank. From no where, in the 66th minute, he unleashed a thunder strike from approx 25 yards out, which flew past Hamer in the Charlton goal in front of the North Stand!! One to watch again on the highlights DVD.
If Charlton harboured any hopes of a come back, they were dealt a blow when Pritchard too out his frustrations on Fraser, putting in a challenge which saw both feet off the floor, leaving the ref with no alternative but to send the lad off. A stupid challenge as Fraser was in the centre circle at the time, even if he was about to show his opponent a clean pair of heels!
An agonising 6 minutes of added time were played out before the points were in the bag.
Allsop - Is probably still there waiting for something to do!
Francis - I thought Francis was superb today. Not much caused him a problem throughout.
Ward - Excellent header of the ball, composed at the back.
Cook - Excellent in the heart of the Cherries defence.
Daniels - Again, superb at left back. Was given the run around at times, but was largely very composed at the back.
Coulibaly - Showed some excellent pace while he was on the pitch. Needs to add to his game though, which I am sure will come.
Arter - Simply excellent. Shame about the customery booking!
MacDonald - Also excellent in the centre of the pitch.
Pugh - Caused problems down the left wing. Will have to out smart the 2 defenders opposition are going to put on him!
Thomas - Wasn't far off from a couple of goals. Hopefullyn they'll come.
Grabban - One excellent header and one strike of pure class! My man of the match.
Fraser - Caused all sorts of problems while he was on the pitch.
Surman - Wasn't on the pitch long enough.
Pitman - Tried a couple of ambitious shots which were never going to sneak in, but being Brett, always worth a try!
AFCB: Alsop, Francis, Ward, Cook, Daniels, Coulibaly, Arter, MacDonald, Pugh, Grabban, Thomas
Subs: Flahavan, Elphick, Harte, O'Kane, Fraser (for Coulibaly, 55 mins), Surman (for Thomas, 85 mins), Pitman (for Grabban, 90 mins)
Andy Burton, Portsmouth