Saturday, 7 March 2015

Majestic Cherries crush Fulham 1-5

Match Report
Fulham 1 v 5 AFCB

6 March 2015

Attendance: 16,317 (including 1894 AFCB fans)
AFCB love going to big clubs.
Arriving at Craven Cottage just 10 minutes before kick off I had no idea of what I was about to witness. We have been singing for the previous couple of ours in the Eight Bells pub, near Putney Bridge, and had probably outstayed our welcome (more on that in a later post), but the party was already in full swing. So when we climbed top the back of the Putney end stand we sensed that something special could happen if we kept the AFCB Anthem's going. But how could we have foreseen the powerful and clinical finishing of the Cherries against a team that had given Derby and Watford such hard games only a few days before?

More pictures are now up on Match Day Gallery.
Great views of the Craven cottage ground.
As soon as Pitman scored on the half hour it was a case of how many would the Cherries get and Ritchie wasted no time in doubling the lead and at two up at half time we were sure there was more to come. Indeed there was, as Pitman raced through from half way to get a third and even while Fulham grabbed a consolation goal, there was time for Matt Ritchie to flash in a free kick and Steve Cook made it five with a cracking finish. Maybe Steve fancies the number 9 shirt - ah but Rantie did come on and I think we really would have been on the pitch if he had scored as well.  This was startling stuff - the Cherries unleashed - Fulham had no answer to it.
TV cameras watch every step of the players
Eddie Howe only made on change from the last game with Brett Pitman coming in for Yann Kermorgant. It proved to be a great selection as Pitman refound the form we had seen from him two seasons ago when he propelled the Cherries to promotion to the Championship. Brett was on fire.

I can't say that from the start AFCB were dominant, but the scrappy first half hour settled any nerves and got the Cherries concentrating on pushing forward to get the breakthrough. Cook and Daniels were making the clearances in the first five minutes with McCormack proving to be a threat. Marc Pugh was the first AFCB player to have a good sight of goal but his shot to the left side of Bettinelli was palmed over the bar on nine minutes. Bryan Ruiz was playing in the whole for Fulham and put in a cross that hit Arter for a Fulham corner just three minutes later. Fernando Amorebieta had come up for the set piece, but headed over.

The game became more lively though around the 15 minutes mark when Pugh put in a cross for Callum Wilson and the ball was cleared off of Fulham's goal line before a final shot went wide. It was chaos at the back for the white but some how they kept the ball out. Fulham tried to hit back on 20 minutes when Artur Buroc had to make a great save from Ross McCormack although he was later to be flagged offside. The Cherries were beginning to get on top now and Wilson was next to test Bettinelli low down to his left. Ritchie and Pugh were finding plenty of joy on the wings and Pitman was next to shoot but just too high on 23 minutes.

Steve Cook was doing the blocking at the other end whenever McCormack tried his luck, but Rodallega was not really giving Ross McCormack much support. Come half time Rodallega was subbed! It had been quite a scrappy game up until now but a Daniels' run down the left with a low cross left Brett Pitman with a crisp finish from around the penalty spot to put the Cherries one up on 29 minutes, beating the keeper to his left! Come'on you Cherries!! 0-1.

We were already bouncing in the stand but before we could celebrate for long with a bout of "We're top of the league!" Fulham were trying to get an immediate reply only for offside flags to go up against McCormack and Ruiz. With the ball pushed out to AFCB's right wing, we waited for Ritchie to cut inside, with Francis cleverly taking runners out wide, and while we expected Ritchie to play the ball square his sudden shot from the edge of the box seemed to get deflected and shot in at the near post to make it 0-2! It was not something Fulham's keeper will not want to watch back too many times.

With 37 minutes on the clock it already looked like game over. Fulham's only reply was to win a couple of corners as the half ran out of time.
The Championship table at half time. I had trouble keeping
the camera straight as the drink had been rather flowing last
night but I think that's the Cherries back at the top.

Cherries FanCam: AFCB Richard gets the camera pointed toward him at half time.
 The other fans around me had had a little too much to drink 
so I was pleased to speak to someone who was still coherent.
Second Half
Rodallega was replaced by Matt Smith at half time and Fulham came out with much more about them from the start. Boruc had a few early catches to make but nothing too strenuous. McCormack as usual was the only Fulham player that looked capable of troubling the big Pole but he could not get his shooting on target and fired over on 49 minutes. Arter was clearly winning the midfield battle came close to scoring when he hit a drive over the bar on 53 minutes.

Fulham were trying to close down more and with a bit of possession Bryan Ruiz might have done better on 54 minutes when he shot wide. The following incident saw Wilson out muscle Nikolay Bodurov for the ball and having won the chance he promptly went on to lash the ball past Bettinelli, but the assistant referee adjudged the shoulder charge to be a foul and the goal was chalked off on 56 minutes. Andrew Surman was pushing forward more now as well as the Cherries looked to finish the Whites off.

AFCB's third goal was a stupendous effort from Brett Pitman. He picked the ball up from Tommy Elphick in his own half and set about running straight at Fulham's back line. He shrugged off Scott Parker and suddenly saw a space as the advancing Shaun Hutchinson left a big whole in behind him. I never thought Brett was the quickest of players but he had too much about him for Hutchinson who ended up on all fours, while Scott Parker was left in Pitman's wake. Left with the keeper to beat, Brett tucked his shot neatly away with his left foot in the bottom left corner - it was 0-3 and AFCB were cruising.

The Cherries dominance did stutter for one moment on 66 minutes when Fulham played some accurate passing around AFCB's 'D' and McCormack slipped in Matt Smith down the side of Tommy Elphick and he wasted no time in finding the roof of the net from 12 yards -1-3! Fulham were on the score sheet. But It only made the Cherries work even harder.

Pitman had the chance to extend the lead shortly after when his volley was well saved by Fulham's keeper, but Fulham landed themselves in all kinds of trouble when Amorebieta came in from behind to stop a Wilson run down the right, only to take him down just outside the box. I expected a yellow card, but the referee showed a red and Fulham were down to 10 men with 20 minutes still to play.

The free kick was in a good area to the right side of goal and while Fulham had built a five-man wall which split in two as Andrew Surman played a short pass to Matt Ritchie. Ritchie's shot was directed right in the right hand corner and the keeper didn't even get a chance to move - it was 1-4! Kit Symons will have nightmares about that one!

Fulham made two substitutions immediately after with Seko Fofana and Konstantinos Stafylidis coming on for Ruiz and Kavanagh on 72 minutes. Almost straight away Fulham had a chance to reduce the deficit as McCormack and Smith linked up well again, but this time Boruc made a stunning save with his left hand to keep the score at 1-4.

AFCB were in total command now and Pitman put a header wide in search for his third of the night. Arter also fired wide a few minutes later. Fresh legs then came on for the Cherries with Tokelo Rantie replacing Callum Wilson on 77 minutes. Pugh was also replaced on 80 minutes by Adam Smith.

The Cherries had not quite finished though as there was to be a fifth goal and not from a striker but from Steve Cook who was found by Adam Smith. Cook let a ball drift out to the right side of the box before he simply lashed a shot right into the top corner on the angle to leave his team mates absolutely stunned by the strike that had put them 1-5 up and out of sight. It reminded me of when Ian Harte had scored last season at Birmingham and was pointing to his left foot - this strike was probably even better. Goal of the season is going to be a difficult one this year.

With four minutes left Ritchie was subbed for Junior Stanislas and there was just enough time before the five minutes of extra time for Fulham's Seko Fofana to pick up a yellow card for fouling - you guessed it - Adam Smith. Extra time was merely denying Fulham an early exit from the pitch because this was Bournemouth's night when they had shown irresistible form once again.
Not many Fulham fans left in the ground now.
Blurry end to the game - my excuse is we were
 jumping up and down too much and nothing was very much in focus by this time.
Thanks lads - absolutely magnificent! What can I say?



Summary
What a cracking night of football for AFCB fans. It was just a joyous occasion from the first to the last minute. It makes you wonder how this Cherries side ever failed to beat teams like Huddersfield and Blackburn, because they were just on a different level to Fulham for the whole game. The movement and the slickness of the passing was just a pleasure to watch and this kind of performance would have ripped much better sides than Fulham apart. While it is nice to know that the Cherries have been able to perform like this in front of the cameras, it was the three points that they wanted and that is just enough to put them on top of the league again at least for a few hours before the Saturday matches.

Player of the match is a hard one as the whole team was first rate, but i'm giving it to Brett Pitman because his finishing was on another plant tonight, what a shame he did not get three!
Cheers Eddie have a great weekend and then let's get ready for Blackpool.

Fulham
Bettinelli, Hoogland, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Amorebieta, Parker, Tunnicliffe, Kavanagh (Fofana 72), Ruiz (Stafylidis 72), Rodallega (Smith 45 ), McCormack

Fulham Subs
Kiraly, Stafylidis, Smith, Fofana, Voser, Woodrow, Burn

AFCB
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Stanislas 86),Surman, Arter, Pugh (Smith 81), Pitman, Wilson (Rantie 77)

AFCB Substitutes
Camp, Rantie, Smith, MacDonald, Kermorgant, Stanislas, Ward

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 7, Francis 8, Elphick 7, Cook 8, Daniels 7, Ritchie 9, Surman 7, Arter 7, Pugh 8, Pitman 9, Wilson 8

Ref Watch: Andy Madley 5/10 not really sure that he should have sent a man off but these things go against you when you are down near the bottom.

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