Banana skin avoided....eventually
22nd August 2017, 7.45pm
Turned up at St Andrews with Eddie's promise to give youngsters a run out echoing in my ears, but was pleasantly surprised with the team we started with. The big Pole was back, with Mings and Smith (B) replacing Ake and Daniels. Gosling and Cook (L) were to be the dynamo of the team, with Wee Man and Puuuuugh feeding Mousset and (yes!!) Defoe. Confidence was pretty high amongst the Bournemouth faithful spread across the open part of the away end. The atmosphere was pretty much non-existent for the most part, with two sides of the ground not open, although I have to give special mention to the AFCB family towards the back behind the goal. Most songs during the night were started by the two kids, who kept singing all through the game even when nobody else joined in, brilliant support.
The game started with Bournemouth having lots of possession but flattering to deceive (sounds familiar....). The frustrating sight of both Smiths getting the ball, moving forward a couple of steps, stopping, looking backwards and knocking the ball back to Mings or Cook (S) was a recurring theme of the game. Pugh was trying to work his magic down the left but all too frequently ended up sideways or backwards (or bumping into Brad Smith) and Fraser was not having his best game. Lewis Cook was trying to impose himself, but Gosling seemed strangely subdued. We had a couple of chances for the very lively front pair, but either their communication failed at the last minute or the keeper made a couple of smart saves.
Then the inevitable happened.....Just over ten minutes in, City got a corner, Smith lost his man on the far post, the ball came back across and landed at the feet of KIEFTENBELD who, with an acre of space all around him two yards out, had the easiest of tasks to wake the Blues fans up from their slumbers.
Here we go again....or maybe not. It would have been easy for the heads to go down, but in general we kept passing the ball and looking for a way through a pretty efficient Birmingham midfield. However, it was all very slow, with Mousset and Defoe both on occasion coming deep to get the ball as it wasn't coming to them otherwise. Many times we had the ball wide and failed to get round the defence with either run or pass, and on the occasions we did get through Kuszczak was equal to it. Mings had one lungbusting charge forward to try and stir things up in attack and nearly got his name on the scoresheet, but his effort was wide.
Then the turning point of the game. Cook was roasted 30 yards out, the striker rounded Boruc and fired the ball towards the goal, only to be thwarted by an astonishing clearance from Mings, who had started the chase ten yards behind the attacker and backheeled the ball off the line. In doing this, he fell into the net and smacked his head on the support pole behind the goal, leading to a couple of worrying minutes with him motionless in the net. However, he was back in the fray a few moments later, heading a clearance which must have added to his headache.
Half time, 0-1, and we were confident Eddie would have some strong words to try and get some more impetus in our forward movement.
Well, it worked. Barely a minute in, with many punters still finishing their halftime cocoa, Fraser fed Adam Smith who for once went to the byline, looked up and squared an inch perfect pass back to the WEE MAN, who sidefooted in from a few yards out.
Game on! 'We want 9', went the chant, but in fact, we nearly went behind again immediately. A Brum attack from the right ended up with a shot bound for the bottom corner, but the Big Pole came up with what looked like an astonishing save to keep us level.
From that point on, we seemed to have the game pretty much under control. Harry had taken off the lively Vassell, and Birmingham didn't offer much more than a couple of free kicks into the box which caused minor panic but were cleared, once brilliantly by Adam Smith.
Mousset and Defoe were continuing to form a lively partnership, great movement and willingness from both, and Defoe thought he had scored when he placed an absolute peach of a finish into the bottom corner from outside the box, only for it to be ruled out for a close offside decision. Mousset then went on another charge forward before laying the ball off to PUGH, who did what Pugh does. Jink left, go right, curl ball into top corner, 2-1, game over. Another fabulous piece of skill from the evergreen winger.
After Mousset tried an elaborate volley from outside the box, he went down with severe cramp and was subbed by Afobe, who started off looking lively with the full support of the travelling fans, and was unlucky to see a shot bound for the corner saved by the excellent Kuszczak. The game carried on with Ibe coming on for Fraser and AFCB buzzing around the area without too much penetration and a couple of shots over the bar. City gave us a couple of scares towards the final whistle but you sensed we weren't going to give up a pretty hard-fought win. One notable feature was Defoe continuing to chase lost causes and outrun much younger defenders right up to the 94th minute. His fitness is quite unbelievable.
The relief at the final whistle to get a win on the board was obvious in the stands and on the pitch. Eddie will have some thinking to do about the team for Saturday, especially given his comments that last night's team wanted to get the win for the club. Boruc, Mings, Lewis Cook, Mousset and Defoe all staked a claim for a starting birth against Citeh, but will Eddie revert back to tried and trusted?
Adam Smith 6 - Very frustrating, slowed down our attacking to a standstill on several occasions and lost his man for the goal. Would have rated him a 5 but for the assist and one great bit of defensive work in the second half
Mings 9 - Class act, never troubled and was unlucky not to score when he burst upfield. Incredible pace, intelligence and skill for the goalline clearance. SuperMings is the new owner of Fletch's old song
Steve Cook 5 - Looked uncomfortable on the right side of centre and was absolutely roasted on at least one occasion. Not his usual commanding self
Brad Smith 5 - Didn't really offer much, never looked likely to get past a defender and almost got in the way of Pugh on several occasions
Fraser 7 - Not great first half but created and finished the goal after which he got more into the game. Again, too happy to just knock the ball backwards
Lewis Cook 7 - Looked lively enough and at least wanted to move the game upfield
Gosling 6 - Didn't impose himself on the game and went through periods of anonymity
Pugh 7 - Too often got stuck up blind alleys but didn't receive great service. Typical wonderful finish for his goal
Mousset 8 - Lively, attacking mindset, constantly causing problems for the City midfield and defence. Obviously not attuned to Defoe, not a surprise given their lack of playing time, but we saw enough to say he's a real prospect and could end up being an absolute bargain
Defoe 8 - Again, ran his socks off from the first minute to the last and caused problems for the defence all game. Had a couple of shots well saved and saw a sublime finish questionably chalked off.
Afobe 7 - Had one good shot well saved and added solidity defensively as well as in attack, but was stranded too deep to form any sort of partnership with Defoe
Ibe 6 - Not really on for long enough to judge, but did ok in his brief time on the pitch
All in all, a better night than I went expecting. A win under our belts and a few players knocking hard on Eddie's door for a starting spot on Saturday. Will he answer?
Report by adam0102
Uttoxeter cherry wrote...
2nd half much better. Well worked Fraser goal. Super finish from Pugh for 2-1. Mousett worked hard all night and Defoe looks dangerous. Ibe came on and looked much better than last season.
Boruc 6- not much to do
B Smith 6- lost Possession in dangerous positions.
Mings 8- adds strength, aggression and height to team
Cook 6- outpaced at times.
A Smith 6- defensively weak. Beaten several times. Some good forward forays.
Lewis Cook 8- surely has to start on Saturday
Gosling 6- didn't grab his chance. Lost for options sometimes
Fraser 7- good 2nd half and goal
Pugh 6.5- took goal very well. Kept turning back though
Mousett 7- worked very hard and took a shot
Defoe 7- as Mousett
MOM - Mings, just from Lewis