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The Cherries got their return to the second tier of English football off to a winning start thanks to a brace from Lewis Grabban.
Having failed to find the target for 14 consecutive games at the end of the last campaign, Grabban dropped into the space behind Wes Thomas to start the new season in style. A well-placed header and a thumping 25-yard strike had the Cherries fans cheering their team to three points on the opening day for the first time in what seems like an eternity.
Eddie Howe raised a few eyebrows with his team selection, leaving Tommy Elphick on the bench with the preferred defensive duo of Elliott Ward and Steve Cook. Up front, Brett Pitman's fitness and lack of training meant that his role was taken by Wes Thomas, who looked determined to make the most of his opportunity this season. New signings Ian Harte and Andrew Surman only made the bench, along with Eunan O'Kane who has spent most of the pre-season batting a knock.
Playing essentially a 4-5-1 with Grabban in the central role behind Thomas, the Cherries looked lively going forward, although could easily have gone behind as early as the fifth minute. Following a slip from the generally impressive Simon Francis, Charlton's pacy winger Callum Harriott smashed a powerful shot over Ryan Allsop's crossbar from close range.
Up the other end, and it was pre-season star Mohamed Coulibaly that went closest for the Cherries, curling a 20-yard effort just the wrong side of the post. It was a show of intent from a side that were more than holding their own against the visiting Addicks side, themselves seeming struggling to keep up with the pace of the game in the middle of the park, with Harry Arter and Shaun Macdonald buzzing around breaking up the game and making progress through the middle challenging.
The home side took the lead through a rare goal from a set piece. A short corner routine involving Harry Arter curling a cross in from the left resulted in Grabban rising highest on the far post to guide a header over Ben Hamer into the top left corner of the net. In many ways this was a real rarity - not only had it been so long since Grabban had last found the target but he had scored with his head which is something that few would see as his strong point. Either way, it had the Cherries in the ascendency and there were some positive signs that the lead could be extended.
Wes Thomas arrived on the end of a Pugh ball at the near post only to scuff his shot just wide, Harry Arter smacked a long shot wide and Grabban gave it a go from twenty yards only to see Hamer claim the ball comfortably. The half wore down with the visiting side struggling to get a real foothold in the game, and beginning to look more direct.
It was direct football that saw the visitors claim their equaliser in the early stages of the second half. Looking more of a threat when they looked for the early ball forward, Charlton brought the game back level with a peach of a goal from Yann Kermogant. AFCB's own visiting pantomime villain Rhoys Wiggins delivered a deflected cross from the left that was acrobatically swiped home with real venom by the French striker - his left leg at an awkward angle as he struck the ball home sweetly and unstoppably beyond an unaware Allsop.
This sparked the best spell of the game for the visiting side, who went close through wide man Bradley Pritchard moments later. Fortunately for the Cherries, the ball was cleared and no second goal was forthcoming, for the Addicks at least.
The injury to right winger Mohamed Coulibaly had a telling effect on the game, although not in the way many would expect. What it did was give the opportunity to young winger Ryan Fraser. The mid-season last term from Abderdeen was lively from his arrival. Running with pace at the Charlton full-back Wiggins, he immediately turned the game back in the Cherries favour with his direct running drawing Charlton deeper, and taking the support players for the longer balls up field away.
It was Fraser who first tested Hamer's gloves with a powerful shot on his left foot, the keeper comfortably dealing with a cleanly-struck shot that was just too close to the keeper. Hamer would stand no chance with the second shot from distance to come in though, Lewis Grabban collected a ball on the left and turned into the middle of the field with seemingly oceans of space around him. With time, he bode his time for the right moment and struck the ball sweetly past Hamer and into the corner of the net, leaving the Addicks' keeper with no hope.
The Cherries could have extended their lead further, Charlie Daniels curling a twenty yard free-kick just past the post and late on Marc Pugh saw his right footed effort off a cross from the right flick up over the cross bar when it looked easier to score.
A straight red card for Pritchard when he went through Fraser on the half way line gave Charlton a short boost, the effect of ten man mentality kicking in long enough for a header to be cleared away by the Cherries, but there was no way back for the visitors who spent a lot of time clearing the ball away from their corners as the home side ran down the clock through six minutes of injury time.
It was hardly a classic performance from a hard-working Cherries team still short of fit players in key positions, and missing a striker from being at their most potent. What it was, in practice, was a well-fought result in warm conditions against a team who themselves looked a fair way short of hitting full speed, missing key midfielder Johnnie Jackson and seemingly lacking in midfield, both in terms of creativity and combative play.
The first game is down at Dean Court, and the first three points won. The Cherries will require plenty more of those down at Dean Court this season, against a lot stronger opposition, to maintain their Championship status. This was in itself a good start.
AFCB 2 - 1 Charlton Athletic
Man of the Match:
Two goals, one a real quality one and plenty of clever running made this the perfect start to the season for the second highest scorer on the books last season.
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