Promotion Push Prospers at Pompeys Peril
9th February 2013 3pm
The result had been widely predicted before the match but the manner of the win was as tough as Howe prophesised..... as Bournemouth eventually overcame a resilient Portsmouth side.
Bournemouth made one change - Ritchie starting at left back to allow Seabourne to deputise for the missing Elphick. The new lad was quick to make himself at home, dominating the early exchanges with some great interaction with Pugh.
Portsmouth lined up with two banks of four and both central midfielders (Cooper was one) not venturing forwards. Their game plan was clear from the start - Bournemouth were going to have to break them down and they were happy to let them have the ball.
And so the half panned out - much to the large crowds growing frustration. There was plenty of Bournemouth possession - a lot of it sideways and backwards and Pitman and Grabban breaking onto the wings to cross for nobody in the middle.
Most of Bournemouth's play was aimed at the left which left Mcquoid drifting in to get in the game and then no options on the right wing when the ball switched. This led to an incredible amount of interchanging of little passes and triangles but Portsmouth were not getting stretched or pulled out of position so no chances were created at all.
'How S*** must you be, you haven't scored yet' was the ironic chant from the loyal Pompey following used to their team conceding bucket loads as we huffed and puffed in front of their defence. We tried to dink balls into to the central forwards but Pitman in particular was out of sorts, once being beaten four times in a row to the same clipped pass to him with his back to goal.
As the possession stats mounted it resembled an Arsenal v Stoke game with one team playing pretty football and getting nowhere and the other whelting it down the pitch and hoping for a free-kick or corner.
Bournemouth finally mustered a shot on target, Arter's piledriver from Cook's long throw blocked by a defender. But as the clock ticked towards half time it was Jalal that made the first decent save as Reid curled towards the top corner on a rare foray forwards.
Bournemouth finished the half slightly more penetrative with two good chances. Firstly Grabban did brilliantly to take a long pass around the keeper but shot over from a tight angle. Then, in the halfs best moment, a flowing move down the right saw Pitman thunder a header against the cross-bar from Francis's pinpoint cross.
HT Bournemouth 0 Portsmouth 0
The second half started as the first half finished with Pitman again meeting a Francis cross but firing wide. It didn't prompt a siege though and if anything Portsmouth then went on to have their best spell of the game. Jalal was lively off his line with his feet to deny Akinde a debut goal and then Reid curled a great effort inches over.
The frustration of the home crowd was growing by the minute with the percieved laziness of Pitman and the errant passing of Arter causing the usual suspects to go apoplectic. When Butler ran unopposed to fire a 35 yard rocket that Jalal acrobatically tipped over a man next to me actually shouted 'How much more of this do we have to take before you change it Eddie'. It's been tough watching Bournemouth this last four months so that shout was well warranted!!! I wonder what he made of Paul Groves?
Anyway, I digress. That final Jalal save seemed to be the necessary wake up call for the team who were starting to see a straight-forward three points possibly turn into one.... or less. Finally they went for the jugular and stopped the tip-tap.
First Pitman saw a 25 yard free kick beaten out by Eastwood and then finally the dead-lock was broken with the move of the match. A sweeping move across the back to Francis saw him release Mcquoid down the wing to cross first time into the box. GRABBAN picked it up around the penalty spot but with a defender in front of him there was still a lot to do. Showing all the composure he has built under Eddie the top scorer sidestepped his marker and fired calmly past Eastwood making a difficult chance look routine.
With the pressure of scoring off their backs Bournemouth poured forwards with much more conviction. They soon doubled their lead when a beautiful Pitman reverse flick released PUGH to expertly fire low with his left foot across Eastwood and into the bottom corner.
Hughes, Macdonald and Tubbs came on for Grabban, Pitman and Arter as the game wore down and there was still time for Tubbs to miss a great opening when clean through, Eastwood denying him with a strong outstretched arm.
FT Bournemouth 2 Portsmouth 0
Jalal 7 - Handled and kicked well and two smart saves.
Francis 7 - Good outlet and often on his own as Mcquoid drifted.
Cook 7 - So strong in the air and confident on the ball.
Seabourne 7 - Good solid support as the hang back centre half.
Ritchie 8 - Clever feet and surprisingly strong in tackle and air.
Pugh 7 - Played in bursts but was outstanding at times.
Arter 6 - One of his errant passing days but worked socks off.
O'Kane 6 - Busy but not as dominant as usual.
Mcquoid 6 - Inconsistent -better in middle & keeps heading there.
Pitman 6 - Slow to the ball as a target man. Good pass for 2nd.
Grabban 7 - Worked prodigiously, took goal well, ran channels.
In the end talent tells and Portsmouth's new team couldn't keep up the work-rate needed and left gaps at the back. Performance wise though it probably raised more questions than answers for Eddie unless he just chalks it down to 'derby day' and moves on. I suspect he will.
He did allude to imploring his team at half time to be more direct in getting the ball into the box and that was necessary. The football played in the first half was pretty but also dreadfully safe with no-one taking up strange positions or gambling and leaving Portsmouth so sure in their formation.
There are a couple of things that need looking at without nit-picking. Firstly the central forwards pull wide and then cross to where they were. We either need a midfielder arriving in the box who is good in the air (Macdonald?) or tell them not to do it. At the moment we are doing neither.
The second thing is that the wingers come in pitch a lot (might be deliberate) and then when we are playing against two banks of four we can't stretch them. There were several occasions in the first half when if Mcquoid had been on the touchline to double up with Francis we would have ripped them apart and exhausted them. By condensing it we played into their hands. In the second half Pugh did the same thing and Ritchie was less effective as a result.
Both of these will need looking at if better teams come here to defend (which will be increasingly likely as we climb the table). Defensively we were superb again today - whoever plays with Cook it works. Eddie reckons Elphick will be back soon, maybe even Tuesday, and that he will go into the loan market for a left back if Daniels becomes long term.
If he does, I hope Ritchie plays instead of Mcquoid who should compete with Pitman to start up front in my book. Having two full time wide midfielders of Ritchie and Pugh's ability should allow the forwards to stay in the box and wait for the service and the last bit of this emerging epic jigsaw will be in place.
Report by Neil Dawson