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Match Report


Posted Sat 05 May 12 at 19:20 PM

Champions finish in style

Gary Haines reports from The Valley

It was CharlTON Athletic on Saturday as the Addicks were crowned champions in style at The Valley.

Three goals in 10 second-half minutes paved the way for a victory that saw Chris Powell's side break through the 100 point barrier, just the ninth club to ever achieve that feat in the Football League.

A blistering strike from Yann Kermorgant was the pick of the bunch after Peter Hartley had threatened to ruin the script.

The Hartlepool midfielder had turned in a 31st minute corner to give his side an interval lead, but the champions were in no mood to drop points on final day.

Hollands levelled matters as he converted a Rhoys Wiggins corner for his eighth goal of the season as the clock reached 71.

Six minutes later Danny Haynes nodded home his second goal in as many matches and then Kermorgant's scorching volley put the hosts 3-1 up nine minutes from time.

The Frenchman has scored some special strikes this season, but this was plucked right out of the top drawer as he volleyed home spectacularly after a cross from substitute Bradley Pritchard.

There was still time for Gary Liddle to pull a goal back with a drive that veered past Ben Hamer, via a deflection, but this would be Charlton's day.

A season littered with records ended with skipper Johnnie Jackson proudly hoisting aloft the League One trophy to cap a campaign that will long live in the memory banks.

A campaign that started way back in August with a win against AFC Bournemouth ended in perfect symmetry with a success against Hartlepool United.

Last season those two fixtures topped and tailed the season, but to say the two have been different would be the understatement of all understatements.

It took Powell's men 43 games to seal their objective of promotion, a further 90 minutes to clinch the title - and the century was brought up with this final day win.

Having edged to 98 last weekend at Deepdale, the points tally reached 101 thanks to three goals, all in front of The Covered End.

At one stage in the afternoon, in cricket terminology, the Addicks looked like they might have edged one behind, as Hartlepool silenced a raucous Valley by nabbing the lead.

26, 187 natives had arrived for the party to end all parties, but it was the 500 plus Pools fans, that included some 150 Smurfs, that were celebrating at the break.

Moments after losing Johnnie Jackson to a groin injury, the hosts failed to adjust at a corner as Dean Austin's flag-kick was turned in by Hartley.

This wasn't in the script.

The hosts went closest in the opening period when a goalbound shot from Bradley Wright-Phillips was cleared near the line by Neil Austin, but they rallied in the closing quarter.

In scenes similar to the opening goal they forced a corner on the left with 71 minutes on the clock and Wiggins' delivery was met flush on the volley by Hollands.

It was his first goal since Boxing Day and a 'Bournemouth Special' as both confirmed after the game.

Level, the Addicks pushed on and the speedy Haynes, having replaced Jackson out on the left, put them in front with a fine header after Matt Taylor's hook-back was helped across goal.

Then came Kermorgant's stunner.

The Frenchman, who barring a few souls in SE7, was a complete unknown when he arrived in September, has established himself as a hero in South London.

And his legendary status will only grow after a strike of staggering beauty.

Pritchard delivered a diagonal from the left and there looked nothing on as Kermorgant loomed on the far side.

Like most of this season a nod back across goal looked the only option , but he had other ideas, smashing a volley back across goal and into they far corner of the net from an impossible angle.

Sacre blue! Tres Bien. OMG. In any vocabulary it was a stellar finish and a superb cake-icer.

Pools did grab a late second through Liddle but that will be a mere footnote as the class of 2011/12 became just the fourth league champions in the club's history.

The fight-back has begun.

In terms of team news Powell fielded a strong side as League One champions Charlton concluded their dream campaign against Hartlepool United.

After handing several of his fringe men an outing last weekend at Preston North End, the Valley boss welcomed back his heavy hitters as the record-breaking Addicks went in search of a century.

The Addicks could also record a 30th win of a memorable campaign that had seen landmarks fall by the wayside with alarming regularity.

There was also a final day landmark for centre-back Michael Morrison, who made his 50th appearance for the club.

Ben Hamer reclaimed the gloves from John Sullivan and takes his place between the posts while Chris Solly continued at right-back and was joined at the back by left-back Wiggins and central duo Morrison and Taylor.

Danny Hollands and Dale Stephens were in the engine-room with skipper Johnnie Jackson and Scott Wagstaff supplying the width.

Up front Kermorgant was joined by top-scorer Wright-Phillips.

Sullivan offered the goalkeeping back-up on the bench and he was joined in reserve by Leon Cort, Pritchard, Haynes and veteran Jason Euell.

The visitors, who visited SE7 on the last day of last season, were roared on by a group of Smurfs in the Jimmy Seed Stand after the North East natives embraced the final away-day fancy dress tradition.

There was a start for Ritchie Humphries wide on the right while frontman Ryan Noble was supported from the other side by Andy Monkhouse.

After some spectacular pre-match entertainment with opera on tap and a drop-in visit from the Red Devils, the Addicks kicked off 

The first shot in anger didn't arrive until the ninth minute when Noble fired well over the bar for the visitors.

Charlton went much closer two minutes later, however, with Baldwin well placed to rescue Pools.

As the Red Devils did a lap of hour in the west upper, the applause tracked a run by Solly down the right.

His cross was headed down by Kermorgant and Wright-Phillips' goal-bound volley was blocked by Baldwin and the ball hit Wagstaff, who had little time to react, with the ball sailing over.

A good challenge by Wiggins on the overlapping Austin led to a Pools corner, which eventually fell to Liddle to hook over the bar.

Jackson's excellent corner was met by Wright-Phillips on 20 minutes, but the striker's header lacked direction and was saved by Scott Flinders.

Wright-Phillips then scuffed a shot well wide after helping the ball on to Jackson on the left and Humphreys' effort on the run was held by Hamer after a quick break from a corner on 26 minutes.

Morrison glanced a Stephens free-kick well wide after a quick break ended with the flying Wagstaff sent flying.

There was a change for the Addicks as skipper Jackson left the action on the half hour with what looked like a hamstring injury and Haynes came on in his stead.

There was little time for the hosts to regroup with the visitors claiming the lead from the subsequent corner, that had arrived following hesitation between Taylor and Hamer.

And it was all rather simple too as Neil Austin's flag-kick from the left was turned in from close range by Hartley.

Wright-Phillips was in on the right moments later as the hosts sought in immediate response, but he dragged his shot across the face of goal and just wide of the left upright.

Soon afterwards Haynes leapt well to flick on a Stephens corner, but the ball flashed through a sea of players and wide.

After another Pools corner, this time from the right, Liddle found space to glance a header wide of the left upright.

Wright-Phillips stumbled his way into the box but his effort was blocked as Wagstaff waited in vein.

Noble's neat lay off teed up Monkhouse to curl a shot inches wide of the far post as the board went up at the end of the half.

At the start of the second half a neat flick from Kermorgant was a carrot for Wright-Phillips, but Flinders just beat the striker to the ball.

After Morrison upended Noble three minutes in the visitors were given a dangerous-looking free-kick right on the edge of the box.

Hamer plunged to deny Neil Austin and although he also blocked Monkhouse's follow-up, the winger was offside.

On 50 minutes Kermorgant headed down a Wiggins cross but Wright-Phillips again couldn't capitalise as he sliced an appetising-looking volley well off target.

Kermorgant headed straight at Flinders from a corner after a good block challenge from Holden moments earlier.

Pritchard came on for Wagstaff on 65 minutes - and Hollands hauled his side level with a terrific finish six minutes later.

Wiggins had buccaneered forward in typical fashion to win a corner, and the left-back took it himself, picking out the run of Hollands who scored with a sweet volley.

The Valley erupted as parity was restored and Holden was wayward with a curling effort before Humphreys made way for Luke James.

Kermorgant was foiled by a brilliant stop from Flinders on 76 minutes after bringing down a diagonal pass and taking aim, albeit unconventionally.

But the Addicks were ahead a minute later.

Haynes was the man on target with a super header, bulging the back of the net after a secondary passage of play in which Taylor had hooked the ball back into the dangerzone.

The ball was nodded back across and the speedy striker sent his header beyond the grasp of Flinders and into the back of the net.

The home bench could not contain their delight as they spilled onto the pitch but Powell remained on the right side of the whitewash - although the gleeful boss sprinted along the touchline to join in the celebrations with all 11 players.

It then got even better - literally - as Kermorgant brought the roof off with a stunning third goal nine minutes from time.

Pritchard was the architect this time, flighting an angled ball to the far post and there was the big Frenchman to connect with a magnificent volley that positively flew into the bottom left corner of the net.

It was a sensational strike, and a late contender for goal of the season. Think Marco van Basten in Euro 88 and you are not far away.

It was too much for Powell, who again tore down the touchline and disappeared down the tunnel in scenes of utter jubilation.

When he returned it was time to introduce Euell, possibly for a last time in an Addicks shirt with James Poole coming on for Pools.

The sensational scoring was far from over, as Hartlepool pulled a goal back three minutes from time.

Liddle connected with a rasping drive from 25 yards that flew past Hamer and into the back of the net.

The Smurfs behind the goal rejoiced another superb goal, and there was even the odd rippled from the Addicks fans, already well in the party mood.

Kermorgant headed a curling cross from Pritchard over the bar as the clock wound down.

Sensing a first goal of the season, Solly cut in from the right in injury-time and sent a curling shot inches over the bar.

Kermorgant careered back to make a telling challenge right at the death, highlighting just how much desire there was in the home camp.

And the final whistle sounded seconds later to leave the Addicks century-bound and on their way to collect the trophy with a win under their belts.

This being Charlton, it came after a wobble, but after a season devoid of any real turbulence Chris Powell are flying serenely into the Championship.

Charlton: Hamer; Solly, Wiggins, Taylor, Morrison; Wagstaff (Pritchard 65), Hollands, Stephens, Jackson (Haynes 30); Kermorgant, Wright-Phillips (Euell 83).

Subs (not used): Sullivan, Cort.

Goals: Hollands 71, Haynes 77, Kermorgant 81

Hartlepool: Flinders; Austin, Holden, Baldwin, Hartley; Humphreys (James 73), Murray (Poole 82), Liddle, Sweeney, Monkhouse; Noble.

Subs (not used): Rafferty, Collins, James, Boyd.

Goals: Hartley 31, Liddle 87

Referee: I Williamson

Att: 26,749 (562 Hartlepool, including 150 Smurfs)

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