Sunday, 8 May 2016

Ritchie grabs a point for the Cherries against WBA

Match Report
AFCB 1 v 1 WBA
7 May 2016
Attendance: 11,040
AFCB welcome WBA to Dean Court.
Super sub Matt Ritchie came on in the last 16 minutes to snatch a vital goal for AFCB to halt their losing streak and for once it wasn't his left peg but a headed goal. Matt had to watch much of the match with Rondon putting the Baggies ahead on 16 minutes after some slack play from a Boruc throughout led to a left side cross from Evans that Rondon beat Steve Cook too. The mood at Dean Court changed almost instantly from upbeat and joyful to a flat worry about how the side had continued to lose its way at the end of the season. It could have been worse as well when Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot for an innocuous challenge by Tommy Elphick on Gareth McAuley in the box, but luckily Artur Boruc saved Craig Gardener's penalty onto the cross bar and also blocked the follow up. That roused the home crowd and with Callum Wilson and Josh King entering the game after an hour it was only in the last 10 minutes when the Cherries looked like setting about WBA with a hunger that had not materialised earlier. While WBA came close with Craig Dawson's late a shot against the post, both sides can probably be happy with a point.
Simon Francis picked up four player awards.
There were four changes to AFCB's side as starts were given to Max Gradel, Junior Stanislas, Benike Afobe and Lewis Grabban as Eddie Howe hoped for some sharper shooting and some goals to end the home series of games with. 
WBA ready to go to work.
There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

First Half
WBA wanted to finish above AFCB though and they started fast with an early corner. Craig Dawson then shot wide. AFCB gradually got into the game with Max Gradel providing the inspiration. He gave Lewis Grabban a sharp pass in the box which was perhaps mis-controlled but it found its way back to Gradel who shot and Ben Foster had to make a save at his near post.

WBA began to back off a little as the Cherries took control. Andrew Surman was making a few mistakes though and Benik Afobe was dropping back deep just to get involved. Arter then made a great ball for Afobe who might have shot but chose to find Surman who passed to Gradel and then Junior Stanislas on the right but the door closed on Stanislas just as he was shooting. Gradel next put in a super cross but no forward was there to capitalise on it.

There did not seem to be much threat on the Cherries goal. Rondon shot from distance but it was well over. It was from the restarted goal kick that things went array. Surman pointed for Boruc to throw to Tommy Elphick, Boruc did not find his man, as his pass out went straight to Jonathan Leko, and WBA funnelled the ball over to the left, where Johnny Evans put in a measured cross for Solomon Rondon who was first to the ball heading the ball down and into the bottom left corner of the goal on 16 minutes. Steve Cook just could not hold the forward off.

It was another early setback for AFCB in a game. Gradel was again looking the most likely to come up with some kind of a response and he shuffled into the box past a couple of players but lost his balance just as he shot over.

Harry Arter was also making his presence felt and he am into contact with McAuley on the edge of the WBA and was none too impressed with the WBA player, who left a mark on Arter's thigh and seemed to push the defender away. Referee Mark Clattenburg gave them a talking to but there were no cards.

The Baggies posed a few questions with Gardner beating Arter and forcing a touch save from Boruc for a corner on 28 minutes. AFCB didn't seem to be quite at it and the slickness of control just wasn't there. Arter even tried to help the ball on with his arm to start an AFCB break but Clattenburg saw it and gave WBA a free kick. Jonathan Leko looked WBA's best chance of providing something on their right, but Daniels was sticking to him well, just conceding a corner after a strong tackle.

As the corner came in from the right the referee stopped the action and pointed to the spot. Elphick was said to have held back his man, Gareth McAuley, unfairly and a penalty was awarded. Craig Gardner hit the ball to Boruc's right but well of the ground and the big keeper pushed the shot onto the bar and on the follow up Boruc quick to react and kept the ball out with the help of Steve Cook who made the final clearance.

AFCB's best chance at the end of the half fell to Benike Afobe after Charlie Daniels saw his shot deflected. The ball looped up behind Benike and while he swivelled and shot on the turn it went agonisingly wide.
Craig Dawson shares a word with Mark Clattenburg at half time.
The Cherries are behind again.
Second Half
The second half did not start with much excitement. Stanislas and Gradel had switched wings and Gradel won a corner on 51 minutes. A second corner was won by Stanislas a few minutes later but WBA were defending well enough on these AFCB set plays. When Stanislas did link with Daniels and got a shot away it was well saved by Foster at his near post.

Matter stepped up a gear or two on 60 minutes when King and Wilson replaced Grabban and Gradel. Josh King immediately was fouled by Claudio Yacob and while play carried on with the advantage, Yacob was given a yellow card when play broke down.

Dawson then put in a good break on the left and his cross was headed wide by McClean. AFCB replied with a move from Arter that saw Wilson in on the turn but he shot wide past the right post with plenty of anguish on his face.

A strong period of AFCB play with them trying to find a way through the Midlander's defence ended when Arter, with his studs up, fouled Darren Fletcher and was yellow carded with 21 minutes to go.

WBA came again with McClean firing in a cross that Rondon headed wide.

Matt Ritchie then came on for Junior Stanislas, which saw Grabban switch to the left wing. Berhino also replaced Gardner. It was WBA that were looking like they might get a second goal, even if Foster was running the clock down in their goal whenever he could.  Fletcher tried a ball over the top that Berhino was on it and only a block from Simon Francis stopped Boruc having to make a save.

Josh King was stretching his legs and added much more sparkle to the attack but his early shot was not directed on target. Better was to come though as Steve Cook wound up a long throw that he arrowed towards the six yard box. While Yacob got his head to the ball, he could only flick it back on and Matt Ritchie suddenly found the goal gaping with a simple task to head home from a couple of yards in the centre of the goal - 1-1. 

Could the Cherries now find a winner? Well it was WBA who came closest . While Leko was subbed for Sandro, seconds later Berahino found Dawson on the right and his driven shot from 20 yards was fired at the foot of the post, but rebounded safely away. Three minutes of added time did not lead to any more incidents.
A welcome point from the last home match.
The players get some drinks on a hot day after 90 minutes.
Summary
The Cherries will have a bit more confidence going into their last match having got something from this game but it was still not a sparkling performance. Whether the players are just tiered or finding it physically hard to raise their game is hard to say, but the vigour of the games when points were keenly needed has not been their for a while now. The sharpness of pass and the tempo of the team has slipped and for the neutral it would have seemed that a draw was a fair result. The most pleasing aspect of the day was to see the player trophies given out mainly to Simon Francis and the end of season walk around the pitch by the players and staff and their families. They have enjoyed entertaining us and we have loved every minute of AFCB's first season in the Premier League.

Heavy steward presence by the tunnel, just to make
sure Tony Pulis' trainers stay whiter than white.
WBA players go and see their fans.
AFCB
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels Stanislas (Ritchie 74), Surman, 
Arter, Gradel (King 60), Afobe (Wilson 60), Grabban

Cherries' Subs
Federici, Gosling, Iturbe, O'Kane, Wilson, King, Ritchie

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Francis 7, Elphick 6, Cook 7, Daniels 6, Stanislas 6, Surman 6, Arter 6, Gradel 7,
Afobe 6, Grabban 6

WBA
Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Evans, Yacob, Fletcher, Leko (Sandro 86), 
Gardner (Berahino 74), McClean, Rondón

Baggies' Subs
Myhill, Chester, Field, Roberts, Sandro, Berahino, Lambert

Referee Watch: Mark Clattenburg 5/10 - not sure about the penalty award - seemed harsh at the time, but the game could have boiled up and it was the ref's calmness and authority that stopped it getting a nasty affair.

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