Olly Groome reports from the Goldsands Stadium
Eleven and out.
It took until the twelfth game, but the sun has set on Charlton's impressive unbeaten start to the season after defeat at the hands of AFC Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.
Callum Wilson’s strike, coming as early as the third minute, was the difference as the Addicks, dressed in their striking 'tequila sunrise' change strip for the first time, failed to stage a comeback on a frustrating afternoon on the South Coast in which they simply did not look like scoring.
After a two-week rest from action thanks to the international break, Bob Peeters welcomed Johann Berg Gudmundsson to the starting line-up following an ankle injury but the big news came up front in the form of Karlan Ahearne-Grant.
The 17-year-old academy graduate was set to make his first ever start in professional football, adding to his cameo off the bench in the victory over Norwich City in September.
And with the youngster banging in the goals for both the club’s U18 and U21 sides, all eyes were on the striker to see how he would handle a Championship defence.
With the action under way, it was Bournemouth who got out of the traps quickly.
A sloppy pass from Gudmundsson in the centre of the park saw the ball gifted to Matt Ritchie who proceeded to race towards goal and unleash a low drive which was well kept out by Stephen Henderson.
Moments later, however, and the Cherries scored what would turn out to be the winner.
With the Addicks failing to clear their lines, Marc Pugh got to the byline, beating Jordan Cousins before squaring the ball to the edge of the six-yard box where Wilson lay in wait. And the former Coventry City forward stroked the ball home to ensure an early uphill struggle for the visitors.
In truth, the opening exchanges saw Charlton chasing shadows as the hosts closed down Peeters’ men quickly, applying intense pressure as they surged forward.
But with 10 minutes on the clock, the Addicks had their first sight of goal.
Igor Vetokele lay the ball off for Ahearne-Grant whose shot just inside the box was well blocked by Steve Cook, and the youngster had the travelling fans on their feet three minutes later when he bamboozled the Cherries’ defence, turning one way, then the other before finally being dispossessed just as he was about to pull the trigger. And with Johnnie Jackson firing a half-volleyed follow-up well over the bar, Charlton would have to go again.
Referee James Linington was hardly endearing himself to the away fans having given a number of very contentious decisions against Peeters’ side early on, and one such decision nearly cost them dearly after he adjudged Rhoys Wiggins to have committed a foul along the side of the box.
And with the ball being cleverly played low across the face of goal, Wilson very nearly tapped in a second only for the men in orange to make a last-ditch clearance off the line.
The South Londoners had a free-kick of their own shortly after when Gudmundsson was chopped down on the edge of the box as he bore down on goal. And the Iceland international dusted himself off to arrow a superb effort seemingly into the top left-hand corner, but was thwarted by the Superman-like reactionary save of Artur Boruc in the Cherries’ goal.
While Charlton had settled into the game somewhat, Wilson was still proving a huge threat up top for Bournemouth, consistently finding a gap between Andre Bikey-Amougou and Rhoys Wiggins.
The pacy striker stripped through the defence once more, rounding Henderson and, thankfully, putting the ball into the side netting from a tight angle before repeating the trick again minutes later – this time halted by a timely sliding challenge courtesy of Rhoys Wiggins.
Henderson was forced into a diving save of his own on 34 minutes when Andrew Surman tried his luck and the referee made another questionable decision shortly afterr when he harshly awarded a free-kick for a handball when a shot was thrashed at Johnnie Jackson (with hands down by his side). But Brett Pitman’s effort sailed safely over.
The half-time break saw two changes with the booked Jackson being replaced by Franck Moussa while Callum Harriott entered the fray in place of Vetokele who was suffering from a slight niggle.
That left Ahearne-Grant to operate as a lone front man with Harriott and Gudmundsson supporting from the wings.
The Addicks had the first chance of the second period when Yoni Buyens had a volley blocked after latching onto Bikey’s knockdown from a corner while Linington continued to confuse when he bizarrely booked Henderson for time wasting.
Undeterred, the Irishman made a fine save low to his right shortly after before former Addick Harry Arter skewed the rebound over the bar from eight yards.
Charlton were struggling to make an impact in the final third while the Cherries continued to threaten at the other end as they looked to be knocking on the door for a second.
Ritchie dragged a shot agonisingly wide of the post on 67 minutes and Cook dipped a header over the bar from a corner while the visitors tested Boruc for the first time in the second-half through Ahearne-Grant. His shot from 25 yards was, however, tame.
And so, the clock ticked down to signal an end to the Addicks’ unbeaten run, although there was one glimmer of hope deep in injury time when Lawrie Wilson got on the end of a long ball over from the left.
But with the ball heading for the side netting, Charlton’s reign as the last unbeaten team in the division was over.
Of course, it had to happen sometime and it came against Eddie Howe’s extremely organised outfit in the Autumnal sun on the South Coast.
Nevertheless, Peeters men lie in a heatlhy position in the Championship thanks to their impressive start, and with two more games coming up in the next six days, they do not have long to wait for an opportunity to get back on track.
Charlton: Henderson, Solly, Wiggins, Ben Haim, Bikey; Gudmundsson (Wilson 67), Buyens, Jackson (Moussa 46), Cousins; Ahearne-Grant, Vetokele (Harriott 46).
Subs (not used): Pope, Morrison, Fox, Tucudean.
Booked: Jackson 7 (foul on Pugh), Solly 55 (foul on Wilson), Henderson 57 (time wasting)
AFC Bournemouth: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Surman, Arter, Pugh, Pitman, Wilson.
Subs (not used): Camp, Smith, Harte, Gosling, Stanislas, Fraser, Rantie.
Booked: Surman 22 (foul on Gudmundsson)
Goal: Wilson 3
Referee: J Linington
Att: 10,360 (1,388)