Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sheffield Utd win ugly but deservedly

Match Report

AFCB V Sheffield Utd 0:1 
23 February 2013
Attendance 8497
(included 1177 away supporters)

Sheffield Utd supporters arrive at the Goldsands Stadium
It was a cold and crisp Saturday afternoon at Dean Court for the highly anticipated top of the league clash between the second placed Cherries and the Blades who sat in fourth place before kick-off. Cherry supporters knew how important this tie was to win and it was also clearly evident to both sets of players that a win today could put either one of them at the top of the league if other results went their way.
Players greet each other before kick-off 

The game started with opportunities for both sides to score early on as the contest began in a fairly open and expansive fashion with Sheffield kicking towards the Steve Fletcher stand in all white. After three minutes, Dave Kitson nodded a ball on to Barry Robson on the left wing and he thundered the ball against the bar from outside the 18 yard box with Jalal well beaten. It was a warning that fired the Cherries into action as Grabban raced through on five minutes one-on-one with the Sheffield keeper only to see his shot cleanly saved and pushed wide for the first Cherries corner of the game. It was a set piece favourite with the first runner stepping over the ball for Arter to run on to and he came close to opening the scoring.

Sheffield then began to take control and Eddie Howe started barking out orders from the dug out as the visitors won a couple of corners in a row. Sheffield pressure continued when the referee gave a further contentious corner after 15 minutes which had the home crowd screaming in disapproval at the poor decision. It was a scene that repeated itself many times throughout the game. 

While Ritchie has a shot saved shortly after the quarter hour mark it was Kitson that was winning lots of headers and setting up play for the Blades in the Cherries half. When Grabban was booked after 18 minutes, Sheffield took the free kick and hit a cross ball towards Bournemouth's left side and Painter slipped over at the vital moment letting in Jamie Murphy who smashed his shot against Bournemouth's left hand post only for the ball to rebound kindly into the forward's path so that he could put the Blades one nil up.

Sheffield continued to come forward after the restart and Tony McMahon fired over as the assistant referee and referee ignored all shouts of off-side. The home crowd were by this time getting more and more angry at the referee Mr Sutton who was having a shocker. Ritchie and Pugh began to feed some crosses in but nothing was coming off for the Cherries in the final third with ball being hit too long and the sand-laden pitch not making for a smooth playing surface. Indeed, the aerial ability and more physical style of Sheffield's play seemed more suited to conditions. While Bournemouth tried to play their patient passing game our midfield couldn't create any quality threatening moves. Meanwhile, the home crowd grew more quiet and dissatisfied with the officials.

The Steve Fletcher stand saw Sheffield take the spoils in a scrappy encounter

The second half saw Eddie Howe try to liven things up from the start by taking Painter off and moving Ritchie to left back, while McQuoid came on to take up a position on the right wing. Bournemouth began the second period fairly well winning a few early corners, but Sheffield were playing a spoiling game and preventing the Cherries from getting any rhythm going. 

There was a confrontation when Pitman went down some eight minutes into the second half but to the home fans consternation nothing was given. This was turning into a  messy affair which suited the Blades' big, hefty centre backs. Maguire was hoovering everything up at the back for Sheffield and was having a great game at centre back. While for the Cherries, O'Kane was giving the ball away too frequently in midfield. Even when Bournemouth thought their was a strong handball claim on 61 minutes the ref waved the players away. The Cherries were by now making a few mistakes with Cook heading the ball into the path of the opposition in front of the Cherries D and more passes were going awry.

Ryan Fraser made his home debut on 66 minutes when Pitman was subbed and McQuoid went up front. Soon after Grabban was replaced by Tubbs. We only saw one moment of skill from Fraser on the right but sadly he slipped after he had convincingly beaten his man. That was about as good as it got for the Cherries as the Blades easily saw time out. Home fans were left to vent their frustration at the referee the end of the game, but it was't a day when Bournemouth were anywhere near their best and a lot of that has to be down to how Sheffield Utd played.

It was a disappointing day for the Cherries but these games are won and lost on small margins. One mistake was all it needed in a game that ended up not seeing hardly any goal scoring opportunities. My man of the match for Bournemouth was Dan Seaborne who looks more and more comfortable and assured at the back. I wanted to see Francis and Pugh deliver more crosses and I felt the midfield did not provide enough quality to really hurt the opposition while Grabban and Pitman had little to feed off. Let's hope for better on Tuesday. The table still looks very close.

Player Ratings
Jalal (6), Francis (6), Cook (5), Seaborne (7), Painter (4), Ritchie (6), Arter (6), O'Kane (5), Pugh (6), Grabban (5), Pitman (5)

Subs: McQuoid (5), Fraser (6), Tubbs (5)   Not used: Allsop, Hughes, MacDonal Fogden 

Booked Graban and Arter

Sheffield Utd fans cheer their team on to victory as the blades go top of the Table

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