Brett Leaves Irons Cold
1st April 2013, 3pm
On fire hit-man Pitman powered Bournemouth to their fifth consecutive victory - and having scored in all of them he can truly claim to be leading the promotion charge. A mere £60k secured Brett's services back on the South Coast and with 15 goals in 17 starts it has to be one of the bargains of any season.
All managers will tell you 'Its all about results at this stage of the season' and to be fair the result today totally overshadowed what was an average performance against a poor side. The old cliche is all that matters though and when the newspapers come out tomorrow Eddie will see his side an a more comfortable second position than they started the day.
Howe was forced into one change today with Grabban succumbing to flu to make way for Tubbs. The team opened in the manner you would expect on the back of four straight wins stroking the ball around comfortably without causing Scunny too many worries. That changed in the eleventh minute when the intricate play finally became incisive play. Daniels released Pugh into the box and Tubbs arrived far post to head back across goal for PITMAN to volley in with Johansen stranded.
Bournemouth looked to really bury it early on, Ritchies sublime 60 yard cross field cross was volleyed over by a confident Pitman and Ritchie then flicked the ball up and volleyed it at Johansen. The big Norwegian stopper was probably getting worried about how busy an afternoon he was going to have but it all started to slow down from that point.
Bournemouth still dominated the possession but with the front four on show-boat mode it was all very pretty to watch but normally well outside the area and suffering from one touch to many on too many occasions when a routine ball might have done more damage.
Scunny, having weathered the early storm, started to play their way back into the match. Their best player by far was former Morecambe winger Duffy and he tested Allsop twice with decent but routine efforts. The home defence was excellent though, Elphick in particular commanding on his home return, and one slight Allsop slip aside when Mirfin was left to volley over never looked likely to concede.
The rest of the half was played at a slowish tempo with a lot of keep-ball and no real chances except when Daniels skipped past a couple of challenges and fired across goal missing the far post by inches.
Ht Bournemouth 1 Scunny 0
The second half once again started with Bournemouth playing slow possession football trying to draw Scunny out. The visitors weren't coming though which meant most of Bournemouth's best efforts came from deep. Arter went on a winding run but Johansen saved his shot well.
At the other end Elphick crucially slipped to allow in Duffy but to the relief of the whole ground he fired wide when wonderfully placed.
This spurred Bournemouth into action and they had four great chances to put the game beyond doubt. First O'Kane's great run released Tubbs - he should have shot but elected to play the ball back to Pitman who thumped a drive off the top of the crossbar. The top scorer had another chance one minute later but his first time shot from Pugh's cross was deflected wide. Ritchie then joined in with a curling drive that Johansen spectacularly saved at full strength. Finally, in what would have been a goal of the season contender, O'Kane finished a brilliant twisting run from his own half by firing at Johansen from the edge of the area.
The goal hadn't come and Bournemouth started to become a little nervy as a result - the prospect of drawing with opponents that with respect were not great - seeming to panic them. A series of passes were misplaced and some last ditch tackles were needed to keep the lead as the crowd grew restless. Scunny had thrown on two extra forwards in Sodje and Alabi and this was causing our defence to re-think it's plan.
Eddie withdrew Tubbs for Mcquoid and then pushed Macdonald on for Pugh with Mcquoid going to the left wing and Pitman playing on his own up front. This strangled Scunny a little but also left us with reduced options and the game descended into stale-mate. Bournemouth moved to playing it down the channels and holding it by the corner flag for the last 12 minutes and Scunny had the odd break but a desperate final ball or some stout defending stopped them equalising.
Ft Bournemouth 1 Scunny 0
Allsop 7 Solid enough but relatively untested.
Francis 7 Defensively excellent and moved forwards well
Elphick 7 Good commanding captains performance and voice.
Cook 7 Dogged, read game well and some great passing.
Daniels 7 Characteristic all action performance.
Pugh 6 - Bit off colour and seemed to tire second half.
Arter 8 - Driving runs, good passing and great tackling.
O'Kane 8 - Read game superbly, great runs and inventive.
Ritchie 7 - Imaginative with great vision and clever link play.
Pitman 7 - Hard working goalscoring performance in a great run.
Tubbs 6 - Held ball well at times but quiet in other areas.
My personal feeling is therefore that our real chance of promotion is via a top two slot rather than the play-offs. We are just beating very ordinary sides by one goal margins at the moment and living life on the edge. Better sides won't allow goals as soft as Pitmans (with two players unmarked) and they will not waste as many final balls when attacking. If we were sweeping people aside it would be a different matter.
Don't get me wrong, I think we could beat anyone on our day, but I wouldn't put a lot of money on it. Our defence is infinitely better with Elphick and Daniels back and we now have a balanced midfield (although Pugh is not at his best). It's the forward line where the problem lies - or rather half of it. Brett is on fire but Grabban is misfiring and Tubbs and Mcquoid are not the answer with the former too similar to Brett and not able to stretch defences like Grabban and the latter able to stretch defences but with the first touch as subtle as a 14 year old fat lad in the back row of the cinema.
Grabban is the best solution and we need to hope he finds the form that has dried up since Pitman has gone on his run. Our other problem is over-elaboration, Pugh in particular and we sometimes tie our forwards up in knots trying to stay onside while we play 15 triangles at speed.
Other than those two factors we are sitting pretty and not conceding (albeit against poor opposition). If we continue to tighten this and can find a way how to score twice we will be fine. Whether we will or not is anyones guess but it's going to be an exhilarating last four games and we should never forget how far this squad has come.
Report by Neil Dawson
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