Charlton break 100 point barrier at The Valley

By Rob Virtue on May 5, 2012 5:49 PM |

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Daredevils parachuting on to the pitch, opera singers and a guard of honour from visitors Hartlepool greeted champions Charlton for this glorious season's finale.

But if the runaway leaders expected an easy ride in their quest for the three points they would have been mistaken.

For Hartlepool led the game for a big chunk of this match and proved tough opposition for the south Londoners.

However, it was Charlton's day and they would go on to celebrate their trophy-raising with a flurry of late goals in an entertaining 3-2 win at The Valley.

It took nearly 10 minutes for the first real effort on target and even then it was almost by accident.

The ball ricocheted to Scott Wagstaff after a Bradley Wright-Phillips shot was blocked but it bounced off the Charlton winger's foot and went just over the bar from 10 yards out.

The away side replied in kind when Gary Liddle volleyed harmlessly over from a corner.

Not quite matching Charlton's success on their travels, Hartlepool had still only been beaten six times in 22 away matches before visiting The Valley and presented a tough opposition for the Addicks.

Cheered on by an away crowd including over a hundred smurfs, their neat passing game and compact formation frustrated the champions, who themselves were inspired by a full house of nearly 27,000 as well as the prospect of breaking the 100 point barrier in a season for the first time in the club's history.

Seconds before the 20 minute mark Wright-Phillips was twice fed by Jackson, first heading direct at goalkeeper Scott Flinders and then scuffing his shot in front of goal.

Despite his profligacy, the striker, who has scored over a quarter of the Addicks' league goals this season, was proving to be a constant thorn in Hartlepool's side.

It was seconds after the supplier to those chances, Jackson, was substituted, seemingly injured, Hartlepool took the lead with their first shot on target.

A Neil Austin corner low into the six yard box was tapped home by Peter Hartley and the threat the side from the north could ruin the Addicks' title party became a distinct possibility.

Seconds later it seemed not when Wright-Phillips was put through, Yann Kermorgant this time the supplier.

However, Wright-Phillips effort was this time dragged just inches wide of the far post.

A sweet curling shot from Andy Monkhouse then nearly doubled the away side's lead but it drifted just wide of goalkeeper Ben Hamer's far post.

Half-time saw Charlton legends Alan Curbishley and Richard Rufus take to the pitch - as well as some more opera - before the second half recommenced with Hartlepool nearly grabbing a goal but for the agility of keeper Hamer.

The Charlton number one was at full stretch to push away an Austin free-kick, while at the other end Wright-Phillips shooting was wayward again volleying over from the edge of the area after being set up by Kermorgant.

The French-born striker was next to have a go, meeting a Dale Stephens' corner with a strong header, but it was saved by the impressive Flinders.

Hartlepool's striker Antony Sweeney cast a lonely figure in blue and white at the middle of the pitch, as the match was increasingly being played in the final third of the Charlton pitch.

Despite that, there were few chances of note. That was until the Addicks' lively full-back Rhoys Wiggins marched into the Hartlepool half to win a corner.

He took the kick himself and his outswinger fell waist-height for Danny Hollands to volley past ex-Crystal Palace keeper Flinders with just 20 minutes to play.

Like the Pools opener it owed more to poor defensive concentration than anything else.

Minutes later Charlton looked odds on for getting a second, when a beautiful searching ball by substitute Bradley Pritchard found Kermorgant.

His control was superb, but Flinders somehow got a hand on the ball to flick his goalbound shot over.

Addicks fans would not have to wait long for the goal, which came again from a Wiggins' corner.

Poorly cleared, the ball was hooked back in the danger zone by centre-back Matt Taylor for Jackson's replacement Danny Haynes to head home on 76 minutes for his second goal in successive matches.

The party atmosphere was complete thanks to Kermorgant. The Addicks striker's intent was clearly to cross the ball from the touchline after meeting a Pritchard ball to the far post.

With no-one expecting him to keep the ball in play, the six yard box was empty, and it was fortunate the cross found its way inside Flinder's far post.

Kermorgant's celebration was Cantona-like but rather than basking in his own glory like the former Manchester United star, we can safely assume it was shock and awe from the Charlton forward.

As the sky became full of military aircraft - of which it's not clear whether it was a pre-Olympics exercise or paying homage to the champions - Hartlepool made sure it was going to be a tense finish when Gary Liddle fired into Hamer's near post thanks mainy to a deflection off Pritchard with just five minutes remaining.

The Addicks held on to finish the season with 101 points and the celebrations continued with Jackson returning to the field go lift the first championship trophy to have been won by Charlton in 12 years.

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