Date: 7 August 2010
So, here we go again. A new season. As last year, an early match in London for me to watch. As last year, a defeat!
The Cherries lined up with debutants Pugh (left wing) and Arter (tucked in behind a lone striker), as widely expected. Arter had played one match as a substitute for Charlton two years ago (aged 18), as the matchday programme-cum-handbook (price £5!) confirmed. If the price of £25 for a seat and £5 for a programme hadn’t already alerted us to the fact that we were now, quite literally, in a different league - then once the match kicked off we were left in little doubt. Charlton ran us off the park! What a fast game! And they allowed us virtually no possession. This situation lasted throughout the first half and soon we were wondering what we’d let ourselves in for. That the score at half time was only 1-0 to Charlton was little short of miraculous.
Our players are supposed to be match fit, and these are more or less the players that gave Derby and Fulham a run for their money preseason, so what’s the problem? Well, partly it’s that we’re still trying to perfect what to us is a new system: 4-4-1-1. Pitman played all alone up front, with two strong Charlton centre-halves to contain him, and couldn’t hold the ball up. Arter ran around enthusiastically just behind him, but seemed somewhat overwhelmed by it all. Feeney was a little slow today, and in any case neither winger seemed able to play to their best in this system. Bradbury was slow at right-back and I don’t feel that Pearce was at his best either. Meanwhile Garry spent the ninety minutes on the bench and was sorely missed.
We were getting so little of the ball that when we did get it we rushed and panicked. An early Feeney cross, that over-shot the target by a mile, was a good example for that. Jalal kept us in the game, saving from Sodje in about the twentieth minute. But he failed to stop a shot from the same player a couple of minutes later: Sodje received a cross that Bradbury had failed to do anything about, and slotted home from close range. It looked as though the floodgates would open, but they didn’t; and we were pleased to go into the half time break only 0-1 down.
The second half was very different. We brought on two players who are not fit: Symes, at the start of the half, and Hollands, a little later. Hollands only had a double hernia operation ten days ago! Both players made a difference; but Symes most of all because he enabled us to switch to a more familiar 4-4-2, bringing the wingers more into the game and providing Pitman with some company up front. Pitman didn’t have a good game - and played a little selfishly at times I thought - but he did get the odd shot in; as did Wiggins, Feeney, Pugh and (several times) Symes.
If we’d still been level on goals when Charlton had Semedo sent off (for a high tackle on Symes) in the 62nd minute we could have gone on to get something from this game. But, as Charlton were 1-0 up at the time, they opted to sit very deep and continue to frustrate us. We played a much more spirited game now, and passed the ball well, but couldn’t break through the Charlton defence, although the eventual statistics for the game would show we had twelve goal attempts to Charlton’s nine. Charlton players, seeing the risk, did a lot of time wasting and - when five minutes’ added time was given - their fans did a lot of whistling. But they held on. A 0-1 defeat away to a high ranking team in an amazingly impressive stadium is hardly the ultimate humiliation, and we should take some pride from the fact that it was only 0-1. In my first match of last season we lost 0-4!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Bradbury (6), Cooper (7), Pearce (6), Wiggins (7);
Feeney (6), Bartley (6), Robinson (7), Pugh (7);