Sunday, 28 April 2013

No trophy but a great season for AFCB

Match Report

Tranmere 0 v 0 AFCB
17 April 2013
Attendance 6745

Prenton Park soaks up the sunshine 
AFCB players get their elastic bands out for stretching exercises

Spot the Tranmere fan

We all knew some 10 games ago that it was going to be a special occasion when AFCB supporters would make the trip up to the Wirral on 27 April. What we did not know then was whether it would be important for a play-off place, automatic promotion or even the title.

Players line up before the match

Teams enter Prenton Park 

As Tranmere Rovers' challenge has faded it was only the Cherries that really had anything to play for in this game and the expectation of becoming the Champions of League One had the 2000 or more travelling fans in party mood right from the off with balloons, inflatables and fancy dress characters the order of the day. Tranmere stewards and fans looked on bemused at what could have been for them as we taunted their demise and informed the stewards that, "we've got inflatables.''

Did someone say no inflatables? Oh well.

The pitch was looking pretty ropey with hollows and sand all over the place and some big wet puddles where the sprinklers had soaked some patches that did not drain away. Still the sun was shining and there was a match to win and the banter started almost immediately with Tranmere's Robinson hoofing his cross into the Cowshed end much to the delight of the Cherry fans who shouted, ''that's why you're not going up."

Harry Arter was the first AFCB player to have a shot at goal after 3 minutes and Grabban tried to follow up but was just a bit  too slow.

Tranmere were managing to cope with the bobbly pitch with Bakayogo and Sidibe trying to find away past Bourenmouth's back line.

Ritchie then fed a strong cross in for Grabban, but he could not reach it in time. A few moment s later Ritchie tried again to centre a ball only for it to fall behind Pugh. Arter was doing his best to get Grabban through while Shaun MacDonald was the one doing most to break up Tranmere's play in midfield.

Steve Cook had Sidibe virtually in his pocket all day. Every time Sidibe was chasing with the ball with Cook in attendance, Cook would win out. Pitman was winning headers up front but Grabban wasn't getting the breaks.

Arter though was striding forwards and would have had goal of the season if he had converted after 23 minutes having run the length of the pitch with the ball glued to his foot.

Tranmere too were crossing from the right with Robinson but Allsop was catching the ball cleanly under the posts.

Ritchie also did some defensive work, shepherding out the ball from Bakayogo when another Tranmere attack faded away. 

Pugh and Daniels were not able to get their free flowing moves working well in the first half, although AFCB were winning corners and after 33 minutes a Pugh corner was dummied by Pitman for Francis to strike but the ball was snatched away from him before he could let a shot go.

My favourite moment of the half came when Allsop received a tricky back pass that left him facing Akpa Akpro, whom he neatly side stepped and cleared when AFCB hearts were in their mouths for a second or two. "And that's why we are going up,'' sang the Red Army.

While MacDonald had a strong run up the left wing that went nowhere in the end, there was a feeling that AFCB had started to play to their strengths now with some great interplay in the middle of the park between Arter, Ritchie and Pitman. Such a build up led to a weak shot from Pugh in the box which the keeper easily gathered after 40 minutes.

Arter was showing some of his powerful running game which was sounding alarm bells for Tranmere's back four and if he had seen Pugh, darting in from the left, a break through might have come before half time. As it was, it was Tranmere pressing after MacDonald gave away a foul for what looked a reasonable attempt at a tackle.

Grabban then almost had a gift when their fall back slipped but Grabban dallied and failed get past the centre half before the fall back recovered and the chance was gone. Half Time.

Half Time was quite an event because a large throng of Bournemouth fans had decided to party hard in front of the bar below the Cowshed stand. The noise was deafening as the fans celebrated being top of the league, while stewards and the police looked on wondering whether things were going to get out of hand. I was just glad the rest rooms were away from the boisterous celebrations or things could have got nasty if I had to sit through a further 45 minutes with my legs crossed.

In the second half AFCB attacked down the right wing at first with MacDonald and Francis who crossed to Arter, but he shot wide. 

Tranmere had a corner that Stockton headed but it went out for another corner. Tranmere were upping their game an a few moments later Elphick made a big saving tackle. Tranmere's Robinson was making the most runs.

AFCB were also pressing to get the goal with Arter and Ritchie looking most likely.

Robinson again was prepared to shoot at any opportunity and shot wide after 53 minutes. It was a case of your go, our go, for a while but AFCB fans were frustrated when Arter came in from the right heading right across the box beating players but failing to get his shot off.

Pugh then made a good run on the left and found Pitman free in their box but his header was planted right into the keeper's hands. Pugh himself then shot wide to the left of goal. Ritchie and Daniels were also more influential now but no one had brought their finishing boots today.

Tranmere made a double substitution on 65 minutes taking off Sidibe and brought on McGurk, then subbing Robinson for Bell-Baggie. Bell-Baggie reminded me of Shaun Wright-Philips on the right and he immediately had a shot that went out for a corner.

Daniels and Pugh were working hard on the left but were not having their usual success. Meanwhile, Tranmere would break fast with Bell-Baggie their quick outlet, scampering down the right wing.

MacDonald then went down with cramp in his own box in what was his first start for a while with O'Kane being injured. AFCB brought on McQuoid and Hughes to replace Grabban and MacDonald on with 15 minutes to go.

Arter than made a great play on the left rounding the full back and gliding along the dead ball line before reaching the six yard area and trying to pull back the ball for someone to tap in but he could not find anyone who had made a run.

Pitman was doing his best at getting angry at everyone who did not make the perfect pass as the frustration mounted. He hit a good shot that the keeper saved stretching high to his left.

Tranmere had an effort from McGurk that Allsop saved well before Stockton could get there. Tranmere then subbed Palmer and brought on Harrison.

McQuoid was dithering most of the time and not managing to get the ball from out of his feet. Francis was pinging crosses in but nothing was really working. Even when Hughes fed in McQuiod on the penalty spot he shot wide when the goal was gaping.

Ritchie and Pugh carved out another chance only for Pugh to head wide while Elphick was still having to make some big tackles at the other end. 

Arter was then booked for taking down his man in a miss timed tackle as full time approached.

The huge cheers of the day took place then when Super Fletch replaced Ritchie with chants of: ''if Fletcher scores we're on the pitch.'' But it was not to be.

Trophy snatched away from AFCB's grasp
As the whistle went and the crowds flooded on to the pitch we all waited for news from the Brentford and Doncaster match. Still 0:0 things were looking good, then Brentford had a penalty, even better we thought. Trotter had stepped up and hit the bar unknown to us and Donny had gone down the other end with Paynter and Coppinger and had won the game in injury time. Donny were champs and AFCB were second.

Good news at first, AFCB could be champions

Bournemouth fans await the Brentford and Doncaster result 

The air in our lungs had been sucked out just like the beach balls had been deflated by the smiling stewards. It was the end of the season and it had left with a whimper on the pitch but we were still going to celebrate out team's achievement even if there would be no cup to show for it.

It's not good news, but second is still a great achievement for AFCB

Long trip home

AFCB Player Ratings
Allsop 6, Francis 7, Cook 8, Elphick 7, Daniels 7, Ritchie 7, Arter 8, MacDonald 8, Pugh 6, Grabban 6, Pitman 7 

My man of the match was Arter although Cook pushed him hard.

AFCB unused Subs: Jalal, Seaborne, Fogden, Tubbs

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