Hoult unable to stop a Pitman brace
The Northern Echo Arena
Hoult was certainly MOM for Darlo and it was a good time to play the Quakers with 3 new boys in for their first game not having had much time to gel, but more on that later.
Bizarre happenings slightly delayed kick off with Wally coming out in a Fletcher 9 shirt and having to strip off and run back to the dressing room to change into his No 28 top and Danny forgetting the captains armband and having to have white masking tape wrapped around his upper arm.
If one can imagine a reserve game at Dean Court then this is the surreal atmosphere for a Darlo home game with one and a half sides of the ground empty and the few Darlo fans lost in their section dotted around like roosting starlings.
Team News - Hollands in for Igoe and no Bartley on the bench.
Against this atmosphere the game kicked off with the Cherries kicking towards the Darlo fans, and having the upper hand but time and again after good approach play we were unable to create an opening usually a shot was blocked by a desperate Darlo defender. From one attack Pitman received the bouncing ball with his back towards goal and in one movement turned and sublimely flicked it towards Hoults right hand post and the ball nestled in the net. 1-0 to the Cherries.
To their credit Darlo tried to come back at us with some long balls for Gall to chase after but he was well marshalled by Pearce and Garry. Darlo then realised that their right winger Devitt, with his blue boots, had the beating of Cummings who never initially got close enough to him to give him a good whack and their lad proceeded to monopolise the ball for the rest of the half with some good runs and cheeky skills and Jalal had to be on top form to save a couple of his stinging efforts.
Our midfield regained the ascendency and Pitman went close with a number of long range efforts. Half time 1-0 to AFCB.
After a few half time words from Eddie the second half saw Cummings stick closer to their danger man Devitt and after a good clattering their winger wasn't so much of an influence on the game in the second half and half time substitute, 'sack of potatoes' Windass was easy meat for our central defenders.
Feeney was receiving more of the ball and was a constant threat to the Darlo defence with his trickery, Hollands made his presence felt with some determined tackles and interceptions but still quite often the second ball wouldn't run kindly for us.
Hoult was again kept busy from thunderous shots from Pitman one in particular which the keeper palmed over in spectacular fashion. Brett also had a number of efforts whistle past the post but he got some ear wigging from Eddie for losing the ball cheaply a couple of times in our own half from clearances from our central defenders which could have proved costly as it set up Darlo chances. They did have a couple of half chances but Windass made a complete hash of moving his leg to accept a chance and Gall was just over the top with a lob when Jalal was off his line. Otherwise Jalal handled confidently.
As the match entered the closing stages, Robinson was put through and went on a mazy run and looked certain to score as the Darlo defenders closed in on him. From my position I couldn't make out what happened but the ref gave a penalty and booked the Darlo defender so it must have been for hand ball. Hoult then tried to outsmart Brett by offering him more of the right side of the goal, but as Hoult went to his right Brett smacked it to Hoult's left and the 200 odd Cherries supporters were in ecstasy. We are top of the league echoed around the stadium until the whistle went to end the game.
Jalal - Deserved clean sheet. Safe handling. 7
Bradbury - Did what was asked. 7
Pearce - Another solid display. Marshalled Gall well. 7.5
Garry - A couple of crunching blocks and won most in the air 7
Cummings - A few good runs to support our attacks and finally got to grips with Devitt in the second half. Younger would have clattered him a lot earlier though! 7
Hollands - A good captains performance. Gave no quarters in midfield and bossed midfield. 8
Molesley - Better than last week. More industrious and some decent runs into the Darlo half 7
Robinson - Quietly did his job and a good run at the end 7
Feeney - Some excellent wing play in the second half 7.5
Fletcher - Led the line and won a lot of headers giving Darlo defenders problems. 7
Pitman - Sublime first goal and on another day could have had more than a hat trick. 8.5
Away support approx 200
Added thoughts from cardiffcherry
Jalal 7 - Excellent handling and a couple of good saves
Bradbury 7 - Assured performance winning headers and some good touches
Pearce 6 - Rarely troubled but a solid performance.
Garry 6 - As above
Cummings 7 - Their right winger definitely had the beating of him but he stuck to his task well and ventured forward more in the second half
Feeney 6 - A little out of sorts but delivered one or two good crosses and nutmegged their full back brilliantly
Hollands 8 - Superb all round performance and great to have him back in the side
Robinson 6 - Solid, hard working performance but should have scored prior to the award of our penalty
Molesely 7 - Excellent endeavour and trademark dummies although I think he is more effective in a more central role.
Pitman 8 - Good first goal (even though it was at the other end and didn't have a great view) and excellent penalty. Good interplay with him and fletch and he worked very hard.
Fletcher 8 - Great performance and the most important player in the team in my opinion.
Overall an excellent result and I'm really glad I went