Saturday, 30 March 2013

Charlton Athletic 3 v Bolton Wanderers 2

Twenty minutes into this match and I made the statement about "leaving if they get a third." It was cold, dull, lack-lustre and all the football was coming from the visitors. David N'Gog had been played in on three minutes but slammed his shot at Hamer. Marvin Sordell had followed up a minute later with a fine shuffle and strike to open the scoring and Medo had picked off a second from distance with a disguised shot which beat Hamer tamely from twenty yards. It was looking like a car-crash.

Chris Powell had shaken things up yet again with Hamer back in goal and Dorian Dervite partnering Morrison in central defence. Andy Hughes was a surprise central midfield starter alongside Johnnie Jackson with Pritchard and Harriott on the flanks. Fuller and Kermorgant were picked in the striking berths.

The sloth of our start was quite astonishing given our dreadful home form and the dire need of some commitment and fight in front of our home fans. The response after the opener was a slow trudge back to the half-way line. Bolton continued to press the game and it was no real surprise when the scored again but no-one saw the shot coming, especially Ben Hamer who must have been embarrassed even if he roared out of goal shouting the odds as if it was someone else's fault. Even after that the recovery was pretty slow. 

Finally we did commit men in support of the front two and Johnnie Jackson combined with a rampaging Michael Morrison and he drove a cross-shot beyond Lonergan to give us a sniff. Crucially after that as we applied the pressure, Sam Ricketts was booked for a fairly innocuous foul and I wondered if he might regret that later on. Fuller had been struggling to make any impact but he wriggled free and managed to keep a defender at bay as he closed in and fired across the face of goal. If we had anyone keeping pace we could have equalised before the break.

After half-time and kicking towards the Covered End, we upped the ante and Pritchard was suddenly finding more space and, encouraged by Solly, we were working the right hand side. Wanderers were content to defend but the match swung on the hour. Fuller chased a bouncing throughball and as Ricketts and another defender closed the gap, he timed his leap to perfection and took a tumble that I am sorry to say earned Ricketts a red card. Ricketts didn't touch him as the replay will show but, in the ref's defence, he was in-line with both players and could have been forgiven for thinking it was a bookable challenge. 

As Ricketts departed, Jackson and Kermorgant stood over the dead ball. I was sure Jackson would take the crack but instead it was Big Yann whose drive beat Lonergan and bounced back into play off the post. With panic in the Whites defence, the ball cannoned across the goal to Dorian Dervite who drove home at the far post with some delight. Two-two then, game on. 

Suddenly the home fans were making a noise and the sun appeared. It seemed like a very long time since we had been two down and practically out. We had Rovers on the back foot and smelled blood. Rhoys Wiggins was pushing on now as well and Ricardo Fuller went down in the box again a minute later. I will need to see this one again. The defender was closer this time than Ricketts had been and there may have been contact but it still looked like Fuller had a three course dinner. Yann Kermorgant slammed the penalty home low and left and we were home and hosed as they say in the US of A.

Bolton reshuffled with the unfortunate Sordell having to make way as Danny Butterfield returned to the Valley. Craig Davies was also introduced for Lee as Dougie Freedman gambled on an equaliser. We responded by giving the gallant Hughes a rest and Mark Gower made an unfit looking entrance. 

There was still time for Craig Davies to manage to get himself two needless bookings amid a flurry of late yellow cards as the ref lost the plot. Not even we could blow it against nine men. Yann Kermorgant soared at the far post to meet another Pritchard floater and only an acrobatic reflex save from Lonergan prevented him from planting a thunderous header in the Wanderers net for the fourth. Danny Haynes got on to warm his hamstrings before the finish as did Lawrie Wilson.

The crowd left a happy Valley for only the second Saturday of the season and amongst the talking points were the fact that Callum Harriott (the BBC refuse to accept he's not a Harriotts) was the man of the match. He obviously has a lot to learn but he has pace, strength and no little determination. It was good to see Johnnie Jackson score again and to see Andy Hughes enjoying himself in the middle. Best of all, I saw a team I support win a game - a strange but good feeling.

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