Thursday, 29 August 2013

Good signs despite Capital One Cup defeat

Capital One Cup second round
Watford 2 v 0 AFCB
Attendance: 9824

The players are led out.
Eddie Howe made a few changes to the last game with Ward now available and Hughes coming in for Arter and Pugh back in the starting 11, while Grabban was kept on the bench. By the end of the night we would also see Couliably, Thomas and McDermott. 

AFCB before the game.
While an a way defeat was perhaps half expected for AFCB last night against Watford, the game was far from another hammering and was more evident for the flowing style of football that Eddie Howe is trying to get his team to play. Admittedly, it was not like that in the first 15 minutes. Tentative passing and lots of sideways balls among the back four characterised the early passages of play with Hughes sitting in front of the two centre backs. It was a very nervy start from AFCB perhaps after what had happened at Vicarage Road before.

Watford had lined up with three at the back and five in midfield and, while they did not have Troy Deeney on the pitch or among the subs, they still put out a strong side with Forestieri particularly playing well. The early warnings for the Cherries playing their tippy-tappy football around their own box were examined in the first three minutes with Ward and Hughes almost getting caught out. Surman gave a couple of poor passes straight to the opposition early on as well, as Bournemouth were slow to settle. MacDonald was next to sloppily give the ball away in front of his own box and after a quick cross from Forestieri on the right, Ward tried to cut the cross out, but only succeeded in shouldering the ball into his own net as Allsop on two Watford players were beaten to the ball. It was a very strange own goal and only Ward can know what he was doing, but communication was clearly lacking between him and the keeper. Head in hands, Elliott Ward looked totally deflated by his error, but Macca had also played a part in what was a self-inflicted goal. One-nil to Watford!

Hughes was tackling best in the first 20 minutes and Bournemouth started to have a bit more movement as Fraser started some runs up the right wing, winning a free kick that Harte took but did not even beat the first man. Watford broke quickly with Faraoni crossing for Acuna whose despairing dive for the ball in the box, coming from right to left, was too late to make contact. AFCB continued to be guilty of playing around their own box too much with Hughes turning into Forestieri, who was caught trying to turn quickly. A free kick was the result and despite the slow marshalling of AFCB's wall, Watford put the ball well over the bar.

AFCB were not really putting enough pressure on Watford when they had the ball, while Pudil and Acuna were closing down fast on Bournemouth players when we had the ball. Faraoni was next to play a dangerous cross across AFCB's six yard area after 28 minutes. 

Bournemouth had some chances though. The first came after Pugh was given a free kick on the left. Pitman stepped up and bent his kick right towards goal only for Bond to get a hand to it and touch it onto the left hand post. A couple of corners for the Cherries followed with Shaun MacDonald taking aim, but Bond saved again. Pitman also shortly after blasted a shot well over.

Watford's next chance fell to Murray who, falling back, lofted an easy shot for Allsop to save. There was a better chance that fell to Acuna on 40 minutes, but his shot was deflected for a corner.

Pitman had been left on his own up front and rather isolated, but Surman and MacDonald got up to support along with Pugh. Marc Pugh's cross was met by Surman who headed just wide on 42 minutes - another great chance. Fraser won a subsequent free kick which Harte got deeper but the keeper caught it unchallenged. While a few more attacks at both ends came to nothing it was 1:0 at half time.

Harry was there again, enjoying himself before kick off in front of AFCB fans.
Second half

Watford were on the front foot after the break. AFCB were finding that Faraoni was just as fast as any winger we might have as he outpaced Harte but Allsop managed to cover. Meanwhile, Pugh and Fraser swapped wings. The next AFCB player to give the ball away in the wrong place was Hughes who inadvertently fashioned a chance for Pudil, but he shot wide.

Elphick and Acuna had a clash of heads on 57 minutes but Elphick rose okay and Acuna was slower to get up, needing some attention. What followed was probably AFCB's best chance of scoring with MacDonald coming straight through the middle as Pitman came back from an offside position and with just Ekstrand in close attendance, Shaun hit his shot against the keeper and then put the follow up wide of the post from close range - incredible! The goal was looming but the ball just wasn't going in. Bournemouth kept pressing though with Pugh and Pitman working a one-two that Pugh finished with a shot that Bond saved.

While the referee was not giving us any decisions and missed a clear handball in the Watford half, Bournemouth were attacking in waves. Two AFCB subs came on after 63 minutes with Coulibaly replacing Fraser and Thomas coming on for MacDonald. Wes went up front while Coulibaly started on the right wing, and Pitman dropped back into a five man midfield. Watford also made a change with Angella coming on for Brown.

The game then took a final slide towards Watford when AFCB could well have been given a handball at the Watford end, but instead the referee waved the complaints away. Both Francis and Harte had been left stranded up the pitch. Watford broke down the left with Alcuna before he crossed to Battocchio, as Ward tried to cover, but Battocchio scored off the bar with an exquisite lob to make it 2:0 to Watford after 66 minutes.

Bournemouth had a good chance to reduced the deficit from a corner but Pugh shot over. Pitman was putting a great shift in chasing back and taking the ball off of Murray. Zola then brought on the pacey Anya for Faraoni on 72 minutes and shortly after Allsop was made to tip a shot over.

The game was slipping away but Bournemouth had shown their class and with a bit of luck could have been on the score sheet. Coulibaly and Pugh swapped wings, with Pugh now on the right. Francis almost provided a good opening when he zipped a ball across the six yard area on 78 minutes, but nobody managed to get close to it. AFCB just could not find any gaps in the Hornets' defence.

For the closing seven minutes McDermott came on for Pugh and he showed some intelligent passing and decision making, working well with Francis. There was a great reverse ball he did to put Francis away on the right wing. Coulibaly was also putting himself about but was not getting the bounce of the ball. At one point he was completely flattened by two Watford players but nothing was given and despite four minutes of extra time you kind of knew when it wasn't going to be our night.

All over. AFCB put in a good performance. The goals just didn't come.
While Bournemouth could put their past big defeats behind them, they will know that a lack of sharpness in front of goal was part of the reason why the team did not score. It would be nice to think that Tokelo Rantie could have had a field day. Let's hope he is that good. 

Individual mistakes do happen and Elliott Ward will not score too many like the own goal he scored. What was more a factor was the dallying when we had the ball around our own box. It's okay to play from the back as long as you are quick and there is plenty of movement in front. Heaping pressure on your self though with sloppy passes in front of your area is not a great tactic. 

I was enthused though by Bournemouth's general play. Francis had a much more enjoyable game than a few weeks ago in the league match and MacDonald would have pipped him for my man of the match if he had not have contributed to the first Watford goal by giving the ball away. It was much brighter and more confident for AFCB once the tempo got going. If we have Grabban and Pitman with their shooting boots on, the Doncaster match could finally bring some away points. Final thought, getting better!

Allsop, Francis, Elphick, Ward, Harte, Fraser (63 Coulibaly), Surnam, Hughes, MacDonald (63 Thomas), Pugh (83 McDermott), Pitman. 

AFCB Subs bot used
Flahavan, Cook, Grabban, Addisson

Allsop 7, Francis 8, Elphick 6, Ward 5, Harte 5, Fraser 7, Surman 6, Hughes 7,  MacDonald 7, Pugh 7, Pitman 7.

Bond, Brown (63 Angella), Belkalem, Ekstrand, Battocchio, Murray, Pudil, Faraoni (Anya 72), Smith, Foriesteri, Acuna (McGugan84).

Watford subs not used
Almunia, O'Neil, Fabbrini, Ikpeazu.

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