Lowe Moment for Dons allows AFCB success
Saturday 2nd February 2013, 3pm
AFC Bournemouth carried on their magnificent march up the table with a comfortable victory against promotion rivals MK Dons. Taking their chances when presented to them and defending resolutely, the side rose to 3rd place in the league and are now only four points from both an automatic promotion slot and being top of the division. The game however, is most likely going to be remembered for an ugly challenge by Dons striker, Ryan Lowe, on Cherries captain, Tommy Elphick.
On arrival at Stadium:MK, you are greeted by a fantastic modern stadia, you really cannot grumble about the infrastructure, and with an away following just shy of 1500, the AFCB fans made sure they were in fine voice. It was a good job too, because although the stadium is great, it is still incomplete (the top tier is lacking seats) and the MK supporters are not the most vocal shall we say. They were spread out around the stadium and I must say I was truly amazed when the attendance was announced at 9,000. I honestly would have predicted around 3,000 fewer.
We took our seats to news that new signing Matt Ritchie was only on The Cherries bench. Eddie opted to stick with the same starting XI that defeated Crewe seven days previous: Jalal; Francis, Elphick (c), Cook, Seaborne; McQuoid, O`Kane, Arter, Pugh; Pitman, Grabban. Those in reserve were Allsop, Partington, Hughes, Fogden, Ritchie, Tubbs and Fletcher. It was also good to see Shaun Macdonald joining in during the warm-up, his return to the squad is clearly imminent.
The Cherries flew out the blocks and within a couple of minutes Pitman had steered an effort just wide. His strike partner made up for it with our second opportunity though. McQuoid gave away possession about 25 yards from our own goal, but the team then executed some superb defensive discipline which prevented MK from playing through us and eventually working their way back towards their own goal. By the time Jon Otsemobor turned to play back to his 'keeper, Bournemouth had started squeezing up the pitch and when GRABBAN gambled he was presented with an underhit backpass, which he seized upon, rounded Martin and slotted home.
Straight from the restart Grabban nearly curled in another before the tone for the next half an hour was set. This involved The Cherries allowing MK Dons plenty of possession of the ball and asking them to try and play through us. They may have struggled but did persist. This began to irk their fans which resulted in one wasteful long-ball forward that went nowhere. If ever you needed to know patience is a virtue as a supporter this was it. Furthermore, when The Cherries did win possession back, the Dons were keen to press us as high up the pitch as possible and this led to the couple of sights they did get of goal, all dragged hopelessly wide. But the warning signs were there, and striker Lowe soon forced Jalal into a smart save down to his right, in what was MK`s best sight of goal in the half.
Mr Lowe then got involved it what was arguably the game`s turning point. After challenging Elphick for a high ball, the pair fell to the ground and a scuffle broke out between the two, which naturally led to others getting involved. Lowe was clearly irked by what happened and now had a vendetta against the Bournemouth captain. Minutes later he challenged for another high ball with no eyes on the ball and his arm leading. He then left his body in on Elphick`s outstretched leg after he had cleared, all within five minutes before the main moment. Elphick cleared an outstretched ball and Lowe, steaming in, jumped in with two feet, straight into Elphick`s leg. It was horrific. Naturally, it led to a full blown row erupting, and credit to the referee who dismissed the disgraced striker within milliseconds of the incident. Unsurprisingly, Elphick was unable to continue and was replaced by new boy Ritchie, with Seaborne moving into centre-back. This surprised me somewhat. Firstly, because when Eddie claimed Ritchie could play left-back, I think few believed it would be the case, and secondly, how must have Partington felt? Clearly on the bench as centre-back cover currently, he must have been disappointed to see a winger chosen ahead of him within this scenario.
The action still wasn`t over though. Within moments of the substitution, Grabban outmuscled and turned the MK backline and from a tight angle fired towards goal in a manner that Martin could only save with his legs. There to gobble up the rebound was PUGH, and the away fans went bonkers, in what was practically a smash-and-grab half, played wholly on the counter-attack.
Half-Time: MK Dons 0 - 2 AFC Bournemouth
Eddie clearly told his players to go out and finish the game early doors as the start of the second half was played solely towards the AFCB away support. Pitman, Grabban and McQuoid all had efforts either expertly saved, blocked, or wastefully placed off-target. With Ritchie flying forward to combine with Pugh at any given opportunity, there were many balls being delivered into the box. McQuoid was also starting to drift more inside, which left us arguably vulnerable to the break down our right-hand side. As the clock ticked past the midway point of the second half, I would be surprised if I was not the only one concerned with the way the game was going. It should have been wrapped up by now, but instead the next goal was still vital. Let us not forget, MK came back from 2-0 down with 10 men at Dean Court to claim a point.
With that, AFCB started to allow the Dons back into it. A well-worked move resulted in Williams bending a shot that looked destined to sneak in, but cannoned off the inside of the post to an onrushing McLeod who somehow managed to side-foot wide from six yards out with the goal gaping. He must have been mightily relieved to see a linesman flag go up. Further balls were pumped into the box, and McLeod scuffed another effort wide as The Cherries defence began to be tested more and more. The introductions of Hughes and Tubbs for McQuoid and Grabban did help slow the game down and allow AFCB to regain the tempo however.
But then the clincher arrived. When awarded a free-kick around 25 yards out, Pitman stood over the ball as if it was his and his alone. Instead he teed it to ARTER who thumped an arrow of an effort into the top-corner with Martin nowhere near it. Game, set and match. Another flowing move led to Pitman striking the bar, when in reality, the ball deserved to find the net once more. Cook then cleared off the line in stoppage time, but in truth, it would have mattered little. By the final whistle, the AFCB fans were already loudly singing every promotion related song they could think of!
Full-Time: MK Dons 0 - 3 AFC Bournemouth
Shwan Jalal - 7
Simon Francis - 7
Tommy Elphick - 7
Steve Cook - 8
Daniel Seaborne - 7
Josh McQuoid - 6
Eunan O'Kane - 7
Harry Arter - 7
Marc Pugh - 8
Brett Pitman - 7
Lewis Grabban - 8
Matt Ritchie - 8
Richard Hughes - 6
Matt Tubbs - 6