Date: 6 August 2011
Why is it that a poor pre-season is always followed by a good season, and vice versa? Even those eternal optimists who thought this would be our season, must be wondering after today. 3-0 is our worst defeat in a long time, and although Barrett and others subsequently, unsurprisingly, used the cliché about taking positives out of the game, I can’t for the moment think what those were.
Some may blame the lengthy delays endured by the team bus on the M25 last night; others may blame the last minute failure of Lovell to pass a fitness test - resulting in both Symes and Lovell being absent from the starting line-up; but I was more concerned by the fact that three players who evidently like to get forward (Byrne, Malone and Baudry) all failed to do so. There was no overlapping play on the wings; Feeney and Pugh made too many mistakes; Byrne and Malone defended well but offered nothing more; Baudry played really deep and showed nothing of the style he displayed at home to Bristol Rovers in April. So where was lone striker Ings going to receive service from? The liveliest player by far on the pitch was Arter, but many of his clever passes were misread by his colleagues and hence wasted.
The teams were announced, and the visiting fans loudly booed Wiggins (probably because of his nonsense about wanting to join a “bigger” club - despite The Valley looking almost empty!) while cheering Hollands (if only to contrast with the treatment of Wiggins). Wiggins would continue to be booed every time he got the ball, jeered each time he gave it away (which was often!), and greeted with chants of “What a waste of money”. Meanwhile, the Bournemouth line-up - as expected - had five debutants, but as already stated the biggest surprise was the absence of Lovell who hadn’t even made the bench. Although Taylor had been the star of the pre-season he wasn’t seen by Bradbury as the ideal strike partner for Ings, so we switched to a 4-1-4-1 system. Both teams began drearily and Bournemouth seemed to be somewhat in awe of their hosts. Nice passing play; but usually lively players like Feeney weren’t showing much flair. It was consequently hard to see where a Bournemouth goal would (ever) come from under this system. Even the occasional corner kick was completely wasted. There was no evidence of anything having been taught on the practice pitch and tried out for real today. Despite a run of pre-season friendlies the players seemed unfamiliar with each other. Barrett had looked uncomfortable leading the team out, as it’s unusual for a new player instantly to become captain of his side. Bournemouth fans in fairness supported their team well, though whether the five new players knew what cries of “Boscombe” meant, is debatable!
Charlton’s first goal was slightly against the run of play, but no less deserved. A slip up by Pugh, gifted the ball to Wright-Phillips; and from there it quickly found Stephens who coolly slotted it home. Flahavan wasn’t to blame, and even if he had been he would have redeemed himself shortly afterwards when he had to really stretch to make a save and keep the score at 1-0, which was how the half ended.
The second half was more interesting, which isn’t saying much and isn’t just because the temperature turned unseasonably cold for the first week of August! Bradbury switched to 4-4-2 by bringing on Taylor for Baudry. Ings was immediately able to get more involved, though he must learn not to get into offside positions so often; Taylor looked lively and indeed a header from him late in the game was probably Bournemouth’s best chance - though a goal by this stage would have been no more than a consolation. Oh - Feeney had a shot at goal too. But all this is grasping at straws to be honest, because before the new line-up had chance to gel Charlton had gone 2-0 up. Six minutes into the second half we conceded a free kick and from this Wagstaff shot powerfully from distance and Flahavan again had no chance. Bournemouth’s best spell came just after this goal, but we were now chasing a 0-2 deficit. Molesley came on for Gregory and Fletcher for Ings (I make that Fletch’s 599th league game), but Charlton still looked more likely to score than we did.
Insult was added to injury when Barrett tripped Wright-Phillips who was the last man, giving away a 78th minute penalty. I think Flahavan had saved a penalty in pre-season, but he couldn’t repeat that trick today. So Jackson scored to make it 0-3. It’s going to be a long season at this rate…
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Byrne (7), Cooper (7), Barrett (7), Malone (7);
Feeney (6), Gregory (7), Arter (8), Pugh (6);