Saturday, 30 November 2013

Barnes' stunner deprives Cherries of derby win 1:1

Match Report
AFCB 1 v Brighton & Hove Albion 1
30 November 2013
Attendance: 9870

There was a chill in the air at the Goldsands stadium today. AFCB had not won at home since their miraculous come back against Millwall last month, and the need for a victory was never more clear. It looked like Matt Ritchie had given the home fans exactly what they required when he struck the back of the net with a superb drive after a free kick, just before the half hour. But Brighton are a hardy Championship team and a magnificent strike by Ashley Barnes deprived the Cherries of all the spoils, with the SKY cameras looking on.

AFCB and Brighton are ready to get the match started.
SKYSports  finally comes back to Dean Court.
Eddie Howe pulled a bit of a fast one in his team selection by revealing that, former Brighton player, Steve Cook had fully recovered from his injury time knock last match and would line up next to captain Tommy Elphick. O'Kane kept his place in the middle alongside Harry Arter. With Lee Camp retained for another month he kept his place in goal and, with Matt Ritchie and Ryan Fraser fit for selection, the only other surprise was Pitman and Rantie starting up front with Lewis Grabban's illness keeping him out of the squad. On the bench too was Arsenal's Nico Yennaris, who had just been captured by the Cherries on loan until January.

The match began in typical, frantic activity for a derby with end-to-end attacking and jostling for the ball. Cook began as he was to do most of the match winning headers, while Rantie was busy making early runs into the Brighton half. Ritchie gave away one of the early fouls, but he was soon up the other end driving in a cross past Matthew Upson, which Thomasz Kuszczak got down to save.

The next chance came with Rantie being held back and a free kick, which Elphick tried to knock down for Pitman, but the ball sped out of play. Brighton's Stephen Ward tried a long ball from the back which Ashley Barnes chased up the left wing, but Lee Camp shepherded the ball out of play, much to Barnes' annoyance as he gave Camp a shove in the back for his trouble.

Craig Conway was getting some good early touches on the left wing and he had a cross collected by Camp. Cook looked for Fraser on the break, but he was fouled by Indigo Calderon to give the Cherries a free kick on 9 minutes. Unfortunately, Pitman's kick did not clear the first defender.

The sight of Rohan Ince on the pitch was quite something as he stood head and shoulders above everyone else, but that did not stop Elphick from beating him in the air. Bournemouth's players were getting run off the ball with Brighton's physical style, and the referee (Jonathan moss) was determined to give no yellow cards all match if he could help it. But no team was dominant in this period. Bournemouth did win a corner from O'Kane's aggression in the 13 minute as he flew in for a tackle, but the corner fell out again to Francis who drove in a wicked cross that eventually looped up off of players in the box for the keeper to collect.

Brighton were certainly looking for Craig Conway on the left as an out ball, but failed to find him more often than not. For AFCB it was Daniels who was driving with the ball and when he found Fraser who crossed, Pitman connected with an ambitious overhead kick, but straight at Kuszczak.

Fifteen minutes had passed already. Now Barnes and Conway were on the break and Jake Forster-Caskey took a shot from outside the box, which went wide. Arter and Pitman sandwiched Forster-Caskey a moment later on half way but gave away a foul. David Lopez made a cross for Ince whose shot was blocked, but Brighton were getting more into the game now.

Cook and Barnes had a head clash on 18 minutes as they both went for the ball but both got up okay. The referee was finding it hard to work out when players were being fouled or just falling over. He did give a foul on Rantie one minute, but would then ignore a more blatant foul on him the next. O'Kane and Arter were working hard in midfield, but a cross from Forster-Caskey on the left gave Calderon a good chance to shoot. Thankfully he shot well over.

O'Kane then started a good AFCB move with Ritchie and then Francis ending up passing to Pitman, who headed wide. Andrew Crofts managed to cross to Ward a moment later who thundered a shot from a tight angle on the left, almost parallel with goal, which Camp blocked out.

On the break, Rantie and Pitman played the ball to Ritchie high up the pitch when he was fouled. The resulting free kick on 29 minutes opened the scoring. Daniels laid the ball off for Ritchie who shot, true and hard, through a gap and the Cherries were one up!

A few moments later it could have easily been 2:0 but for Thomasz Kuszczak. Fraser and Daniels had been working their way up the left wing when the ball was crossed right across the Brighton goal, with Ritchie running in on the blind side. His instantaneous touch on the ball, sent it towards goal, but Kuszczak made an instinctive save to keep the score at 1:0.

Brighton won a corner on 33 minutes which Camp caught cleanly. Kuszczak then did the same on a Bournemouth corner a minute later. Fraser then got caught in possession by Calderon, but the resulting cross from Conway was wild.

Meanwhile, Rantie was having no luck, even when he was held he was not given a free kick. However, Pitman did win a free kick on 39 minutes for a shove in the back on the edge of the box. Ritchie's shot was deflected for a corner and while Francis planted a header back across the face of the goal, the ball ended up going wide. Bournemouth had played well first half and worked hard for each other with Ritchie being the star man.

Players warm up at half time.
The Mayor goes for a half time walk on the pitch.
Second half

The second half saw Forster-Caskey being replaced by Birdcutt for Brighton. Pitman swing in an early cross from the left wing but it was well over Rantie's head. A few moments later Brighton had a better chance with Ince and Lopez linking to find Crofts in space, but he blazed over. Then AFCB had another chance to increase their lead with Ritchie's cross getting a toe poke from Pitman that had Kuszczak scrambling.

Arter then had a chance but shot well over from outside the box. Pitman also almost got in clear after a Rantie touch, but Calderon nipped in ahead of him. Andrew Crofts was then flattened by O'Kane but no free kick was given. AFCB played on with a break but, because Crofts stayed down, play was suddenly stopped, which sent the home crowd mad. Ritchie then went in hard on a Brighton player but no card was shown.

The Brighton players were soon keen to get going again and after a moments hesitation, on 55 minutes, the ball landed with Ashley Barnes on the edge of the Bournemouth box. There was no time to close him down and as the ball sat up for him he belted it on the turn, right into the top left corner of the goal 1:1. Camp could only watch it fly in. Sometimes the shot is just struck to well.

Ince was now striding through midfield and had a shot go wide, only to be followed by a long ball to Barnes that had he controlled, it would have given him a great chance, with only Camp to beat. The game became a bit scrappy with both teams now looking for a killer blow.

On 64 minutes Brighton brought on Andrea Orlandi and took off David Lopez. AFCB brought on Wes Thomas for Tokelo Rantie on 66 minutes, while Brighton subbed Ince and brought on Keith Andrews just a minute later.

Craig Conway was still doing well on the left wing and sending in crosses for Brighton, but luckily no one was getting on the end of this one which went right across Bournemouth's goalmouth. To relieve the pressure Fraser was taken off and Pugh came on after 70 minutes. Elphick was making more challenges now, keeping out Conway and Barnes who both made dangerous runs towards the box when they could.

But AFCB had a great chance on 73 minutes when O'Kane's strong run found Pitman who was in against the keeper, but Kuszczak made the save. From the corner Ritchie took a shot from 25 yards which led to another corner. Thomas was making some good runs but Pitman's passing was a bit wayward at times, when it could have made all the difference.

Elphick made another great, last-man challenge on Conway I think on 77 minutes. AFCB were also going for the win with Pugh doing a great back heel for Pitman on the left edge of the box, but even with space in front of him he smashed his shot over.

Brighton had a corner with 10 minutes to go which Elphick cleared and a second that Camp caught. There was something of a kerfuffle afterwards as Ashley Barnes stopped Camp from throwing out the ball and Camp swung his arm in retaliation to try and get him off. Barnes hit the deck, but either the ref did not see it clearly or missed the incident, much to Barnes' and the Brighton supporters fury. Camp played up to the Brighton fans by holding his arms out and acting all innocent, but I think he was lucky and could have been sent off.

Matthew Upson and Kuszczak almost made a horrendous mistake as they tried to clear a ball with Thomas chasing them down, but Upson's strong back pass was somehow hastily cleared by Kuszczak before Thomas could prosper.

Camp also had to make a low smart save near the end when Conway tried his luck.The last major incident was Rantie getting caught by Upson who collected the solitary yellow card of the game. But even in the last minute of extra time AFCB kept trying with Ritchie taking a shot, which went just wide.

While AFCB did not get the win we so wanted and needed this, was an improvement again on the previous home match. There were more chances created and at least there were some shots on goal. The back line with Cook and Elphick in front of Camp is looking solid and Ritchie is the talisman of the team since his return. I am so glad that Ritchie still makes those late runs into the box, he is a real goal threat and will score a few important goals this season. He lifted the whole teams performance, but don't underestimate the role that Tommy Elphick played today. Elphick was calmness personified at the back and almost back to his imperious old self. It was like old times with Cook also having a strong game.

Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, O'Kane, Arter, Fraser (Pugh 71) , Pitman, Rantie (Thomas 67).
Flahavan, Surman, Pugh, Thomas, Harte, MacDonland, Yennaris

AFCB Ratings

Camp 6, Francis 6, Elphick 8, Cook 7, Daniels 6, Ritchie 8, O'Kane 6, Arter 6, Fraser 6, Pitman 6, Rantie 6. 

Kuszczak, Calderon, Ward, Ince Greer, Upson, Forster-Caskey (Birdcutt 45), Crofts, Barnes, Lopez (Orlandi 65), Conway.

Brighton Subs
Andrews, El Abd, Agustein, Birdcutt, Orlandi, Ankergren, Lita  

Thomas Kuszczakand Matt Ritchie shake hands after the game.
A point gained for AFCB.

Targeting points against the big teams

It's clear that AFCB have to take points off clubs that are riding high in the Championship if they are to get more points on the board. Getting those wins though has proved elusive. Still if they can get a win against Brighton & Hove Albion it could be the start of a run that would bring rewards against QPR and Reading. 

Eddie Howe has to see it in that way to keep a positive outlook on events and possibilities if the team is to climb the league. AFCB can't worry about how many points they might have had or didn't get. It's on to the next game, because the performances have not been poor in the last two games and fans should be well aware that the Cherries have come close to upsetting the odds against the bigger teams.

In the Derby match, the Cherries had to work hard to retain possession but they managed to acquit themselves fairly well against a team that were very confident and who have destroyed other Championship sides on the road. That didn't happen at Bournemouth. AFCB might even had won the game if they had taken  some chances. So there is no need for doom and gloom.

The one thing that is probably annoying Eddie Howe is the inability to name a regular unchanged team. It would be such a bonus if we did not keep picking up injuries. I do wonder how much Eddie's plans are effected every week when he targets how he wants the team to play against a side and yet cannot use the players he would most like to.

The good news this week is that Lee Camp will be keeping at AFCB for another month and he will want to get his first clean sheet under his belt. I am really pleased because his experience and confidence will be massive for the Cherries as they taken on QPR and Reading away. I just hope Lee finds that he is not very busy in goal this December.

I expect we are all wondering how good Nico Yennaris is and if he can bring some of Arsenal's winning luck to AFCB. Good luck to Yennaris today if he does make his debut for the Cherries.

Finally, for those who got up early this morning, I hope you listened in to Up the League on TalkSport I thought the Eddie Howe interview was great. To get a mention on the radio as well was terrific, although I must get organised and hit the road or I'll miss the match today!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Don't drop Rantie, pleads AFCBPete

Cherry Chimes has handed over this evening's post to a regular reader of the blog who wants to say a few words about the striking options to available to Eddie Howe.

AFCBPete is a big AFCB fan who I've been trying to get to write on the blog for a while, so I am pleased to let him have centre stage rather than just commenting at the end of my posts. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he certainly has a strong opinion on Tokelo Rantie.

If you want to follow Pete on twitter you'll find him @AFCBPete   

Over to you Pete!

Tokelo is still an automatic choice for Eddie Howe and AFCBPete.
I've written a couple of times this season, about how talented Brett is, yet he's just not hitting the heights I feel he should be attaining. True, he's been in and out this season, and fair to say his contribution to the team has improved a great deal when he does play, but like Grabban, where defences have done a job snuffing out those two we've stopped scoring. 

Now Rantie, I can't believe the stick he's getting from some quarters. I have to say I'm pretty disgusted. It goes without saying we all want to see him score, yet he brings so much more to the team, yet some seem unable to see this. Where Grabban and Brett have looked ineffective, and you can throw Thomas into the mix as well, Tokelo has the ability to take on 3 or 4 defenders and beat them. Agreed he made a bad error of judgement Saturday when he should of passed back to Pugh, but for crying out loud, how many times do the others screw it up? Tokelo hasn't had the benefit of Ritchie supplying him, Matt showed Saturday in 30 minutes what we have been missing. Yet there is much much more to the signing of TK than just scoring. Firstly coming into the English game, it takes time to adjust. Some don't have a problem and take it in their stride, others find it more difficult, as TK is, add to that a new country and environment, all in all, it's a huge change. He's desperate to succeed, not just for himself/club, but his family, and I feel sure he now senses the tension in the crowd, which isn't going to be helpful to him.

I'm one of those Old Git's who was fortunate enough to see our best ever strike force of Ted McDougal and Phil Boyer. True the two of them were almost telepathic, but they'd succeed where those of today are failing. Ted would get on the end of the kind of crosses that Fraser and Pugh supply, and score, or come very close, or at least testing the keeper, or knock it down for Phil, who in turn would often set up chances for Ted, it was a perfect partnership. We don't have anything coming close to that. Pitman might win the ball in the air, but it's not often a knowing flick into the stride of one of our players, nor does he get on the end of much in the box, not in a constructive way, head it perhaps, but it could go anywhere. Does he ever get it right? Of course he does, but my point is, it's not often enough.

Strikers today have far more defensive in their duties these days, yet it still means you have to build a partnership. Rantie has such quality, he reminds me of Defoe, and I can hear some falling off their chairs in laughter now at that remark, but it's true if they did but open their eyes and watched the guy carefully. It goes without saying the difference are goals at the moment, but that's not my point. He's quick, clever, and with the service (that at the moment has been sorely lacking), I have every confidence he will come good and make a few look pretty stupid. I would personally like to see Brett playing alongside him, if midfield can get their act together, plus our wingers, Ritchie in particular, causing all sorts of problems, I can see both Brett and TK becoming the major beneficiaries. 

If anyone watched the City game at the weekend, there were some incredible misses from the City attack for all their goals, even the best miss. Brett and Grab's were missing chances by the hat full last season, yet we were still the top scorers. Give our strikers several chances a game and they'll score, get confident again, and will hopefully take the odd chance in a game when it presents itself. At the moment, we're creating so little, Rantie misses and the world falls in on him, yet the others have been doing that on a regular basis. 

Rantie has far more about his play than Brett, Grab's, Thomas put together, that talk of dropping him at the moment, is absurd!! Football is a game of opinions, there were probably over 9000 different AFCB ones there Saturday, and it was obvious TK was not having his best game, probably due to the South African match, so Eddie rightly made a change, but drop him? Absolutely not at this moment in time. Rantie is our most expensive signing, but as I've often said, money doesn't bring success, and if TK turns out to be a duff signing, then fair enough I'd hold my hands up and admit I'd got it wrong, but I'm not giving up on him yet, not by a long way!

Keep the faith, get behind the team who ever play and make some noise for the boys, we can't always leave it to the usual few!!

Tokelo walking out before the Derby County match.
Thanks afcbPete, can't knock you for your passion!

If you have a player you feel particularly strong about why not tell other readers of Cherry Chimes why you think they deserve more credit than they may be getting. You can always comment on articles on the blog or send me an email if you want to post something on the site like AFCBPete did - email:

Bring on Brighton

A few weeks ago I was fairly confident about AFCB. They were sitting high up in the Championship when teams like Brighton were struggling for form. But with a few defeats for the Cherries and a couple of wins for the Seagulls, I now see Oscar Garcia's team sitting handily just outside the play-offs, while AFCB are trying to hold on to the tails of those in mid-table. 

AFCB fans though should not be too downhearted. Our recent games against Brighton have been fairly tight affairs, but ones in which we have done okay. Who could not forget Liam Feeney's spectacular right wing volley at the Goldsands stadium, in January 2011, the last occasion we played this derby match? Perhaps Matt Ritchie can do something similar this weekend. I also remember the away game that season at the Withdean, when all seemed lost and AFCB were handed a very soft penalty in extra time which gave us a point, which was probably undeserved if I am honest. Still it was good to see us get the better of Gus Poyet and I remember him blowing AFCB fans a kiss as he left the ground, after all the banter.

Now Brighton have installed Oscar Garcia as manager and while he had a slow start he seems to be getting the results now. AFCB will have to be watchful of some new strikers instead of the more well known Hoskins, Ulloa and Lua Lua. It is more likely that AFCB will face Barnes and Conway or Lita in the forward line. Forster-Caskey in midfield has also been getting rave reviews from pundits. But at the back they also have experience in terms of Greer and Upson, while Kuszczack has been preferred to Ankergren in goal this season.

I expect another tight game, but I think this is one AFCB can win on their day. Brighton play a good attacking game like the Cherries and it could well be a high scoring match, but AFCB are due a home win and a clean sheet. It would be a sweet victory if AFCB get one tomorrow against the Seagulls with the SKY cameras looking on.

Catch up on the opinions of We Are Brighton ahead of tomorrow's game as Cherry Chimes puts some questions about Albion's current performances to Scott who writes on the blog. Click on Rival Lines to find out more.

Elphick can inspire the Cherries to win (We are Brighton interview)

There will not be any more important games than this weekend's for Tommy Elphick. Having just got his place back in the starting 11 he knows that this is a great opportunity for him to regain his place permanently in the side. I know Tommy will be up for this game. Tommy will probably also be playing for his fellow team mate Steve Cook who also has had much of his playing career at Brighton.
Brighton will be a big game for Tommy. 
It will be good to see Tommy step up his performance and show that he is capable of leading the team in the Championship. AFCB need a captain's performance right now. The skipper was inspirational last season in his performances and his communication in leading the Cherries to countless victories, but the match against the Seagulls is one where he can really motivate his team mates towards getting a victory.

Home games are so vital for the Cherries. Brighton have moved up the table in recent weeks while the Cherries have been finding it hard to pick up points, but the mentality and performances have to pick up now. A derby atmosphere, an early kick off and the knowledge that three points would really give the club a lift has to mean a packed Dean Court again. Now we just need our skipper to make the rest of the players know how important a win on Saturday would be for the fans.

In his previous game I thought Tommy was still slightly off the pace when up against quick attackers, but he simply has not had many games this season. I think adrenaline alone will have him playing our of his socks in this match. If he ever wanted to prove a point to those Brighton fans in the away end then this will be the day to do it. Lead on Tommy we are all behind you. UTCIAD!

Did you know that Gus Poyet was not that popular with some Brighton fans? Get the low down on the opposition for Saturday's match and discover what Oscar Garcia has done to get his team playing well. Read We Are Brighton's comments on Rival Lines.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Eddie active in loan market

The move to bring in Arsenal's Nico Yennaris may seem a surprise to AFCB fans but the 20 year-old Gunner could well allow Eddie Howe to keep the team formation he is used to playing at home against Brighton and gives more competition to places. In the last few days I have been pondering how the team will set up against Brighton with Ward and Cook missing at the back. At first I thought three at the back would be the way to go but with Nico now joining the squad it would give Eddie Howe the chance to play him at right back instead of Simon Francis. Would Francis then be moved to centre back? Does Miles Addison still come into the team? Is Cook recovering better than we think?

Of course we could be jumping the gun here. Nico also plays in midfield, which would make me wonder if Ritchie or Fraser may still be feeling slightly below par after their half hour returns last week. Whatever the ramifications to the starting line up, the sheer fact that Nico Yennaris has been signed for a month would indicate to me that Eddie wants to play him and that could even mean playing him in centre midfield. While Francis has been pretty much ever present at right back for the Cherries, I also wonder if he needs a rest and that is the simple reason for the signing.

The great thing is the quality of player that AFCB is now recruiting. Not only has the team attracted the experience of Lee Camp in goal, but Eddie Howe has also gone for some youthful talent in Nico who will have been training with the elite in Arsenal's Premiership squad. 

While it would be good to have a settled team at least AFCB are trying to bring in players who have something that is likely to improve the quality already at the club. I am very excited that Nico is likely to make his AFCB debut against Brighton on Saturday and to see how good this U19 England player is.

It was also announced that Jayden Stockley had been recalled from his loan period at Leyton Orient, but has now joined Torquay until 2nd Jan.

Fraser has to play

A lot of the post match talk after the Derby game focused attention on Matt Ritchie's return, but for me there was another winger that was instrumental in AFCB's play who is improving all the time - Ryan Fraser. There was no sign of the thigh injury he had and he tore down the wing and put some good crosses in. At one point he almost got a header on target, even if he was stretching and it was put wide of the goal.

Fraser, an automatic choice?
The fact that we could now see Ritchie and Fraser on the wings gives me confidence that the team will be better balanced.  Francis may not have to be so exposed as Ritchie is very capable of stopping attacks and Ryan and Ritchie will be fast outlets on both wings for our players to find. I would not have expected Fraser to be first choice to start on one of the wings at the start of the season but I think he now comes before Pugh, even though Marc has a slightly better goal scoring record. It's Fraser's direct running style that makes him more of a first choice for me. He carries a real threat when he drives into the box and defenders don't like being pushed back.

In the Derby game, Ryan could really have a good go for half an hour. He looked fit and strong and I can't see why he can't play for longer if he lines up against Brighton. 

Ritchie can bring the best out of Tokelo

There was a big cheer at Dean Court when Matt Ritchie stepped back onto the pitch last Saturday. It was his first taste of the Championship and he had to come into a game against one of the better teams at home. That Matt performed well in the half hour he had should perhaps not be a surprise given his talent and skill, but I hope the fans are patient with him because he will take time to adjust to the league and he could spur on others like Tokelo.

While most fans seem to feel that Ritchie played amazingly when he came on I still would have liked to see him getting in the box himself a little more. His crossing is excellent and he does have a flare that few other players in the team have, like the outrageous back heel he did to set Simon Francis on his way down the line, shortly after coming on in the Derby game.

If Ritchie, Pugh, Coulibaly and Fraser are available to Howe then the wing positions will suddenly become one of the strong areas for AFCB after being down to the bare bones for so long. The need for AFCB for Ritchie to have a good run in the team is very evident and it is something that us fans have been waiting for. The only reservation I have is that Ritchie does not over do it too soon and builds his performances. We also need to let him settle back into the team.

There was quite a heated debate on Twitter yesterday among a couple of readers of Cherry Chimes as to whether Grabban and Tokelo were the best striking combination to play up front? I don't yet feel that Tokelo has had the team playing to his strengths and with Ritchie in the team I expect him to feed Tokelo the ball more often. Rantie makes a lot of runs during a game and it will be key to see how he and Grabban perform with Ritchie. This game is about combinations and I believe Eddie Howe has finally got the front two and two wingers that he always wanted to start games with this season. Eddie always wanted to play a set way and I hope that Ritchie can bring the best out of other players like Rantie.

Talent on show: Ritchie could bring the best out of Rantie. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Grabban is at his best up front

I was pleased to see the return of Ritchie and Fraser not least for the fact that Lewis Grabban could revert back to playing as a striker rather than on the wing. In recent weeks AFCB have seen their attack score fewer goals and I think it is important that players are able to play in their best positions if the Cherries are to start picking up points again. While Grabban does a reasonable job on the wing, I like to see him have more of an opportunity to get the goals up front.

Is Lewis wasted on the wing?
Eddie Howe has been keen to see his strikers play on the turn with swift movement, but there is an argument to say that the centre midfield players would get more of an opportunity to link in with attacks if they had forwards willing to hold the ball up more. There have also been calls for a striker that can head the ball better than our current crop of strikers. It appears that that is not the way that Eddie wants to play. 

The fact remains though that AFCB need to be getting more shots on target and giving the strikers more opportunities to score. I think Fraser and Ritchie will add creativity and Grabban leading the line would have more or a basis for midfielders to link in. Whether Pitman or McQuoid or even McDermott could play in the whole is something that could be alternated. I would use Rantie as a sub with his pace in the last half hour of games.

Shoot on sight policy

Hearing the reaction of Eddie Howe to AFCB's small number of shots on target against Derby it looks like there may be  quite a bit of shooting practise ahead for the team this week. I don't think AFCB have become shot shy overnight, just that the teams they have played in the last few games have been more organised at the back and they knew that the Cherries were a team scoring in just about every game. Some of AFCB's play will be studied and opponents will look to see ways in which they can set up to stop our players doing well. If you like, an element of surprise has perhaps been lost.

If we need the element of surprise, Rantie can always
sneak up on the opposition.
Looking at the last game I can't say that I saw AFCB get into many areas where it was easy to get a shot away when they didn't. AFCB are not over playing, it's more a case of not getting that dominance of a 10-15 minute spell, according to Eddie Howe, when they are really on top of the opposition and stretching them. I suppose that was true in the Millwall game, but the team were on top against Bolton when they could not break them down. 

What our players have not found is much space around the edge of the box, and that has to be created with skill and movement. That could come from Matt Ritchie now or another midfielder opening the door. It's not been something that the team has struggled with in the past but more chances are probably required before the strikers can be clinical. If AFCB are not creating much and only get one or two opportunities a game to score it will heap pressure on the forwards to scorers and indeed the defenders to keep a clean sheet. So while shooting practise is welcome, there are other areas of the game where AFCB might also look to improve. Tindall and Howe have to find some way of making AFCB more ruthless, and hungrier to get that first goal. Let's hope they succeed this week.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Defensive worries for Howe

It is good to hear that Steve Cook has not broken his leg and it is ankle ligament damage that he has sustained. Still if it is expected that Steve Cook is not quite up to playing after the injury he picked up against Derby, it is possible that Eddie Howe could decide to look again going three at the back or keep it to the flat back four with different personnel. 

To lose the centre back pairing that has started most games for AFCB this season would be a massive blow, but it certainly looks like Elliott Ward is to spend a spell on the sidelines for sure with his calf injury. Tommy Elphick already filled in for Elliott Ward against Derby and you would imagine that he will be central to any plans Howe has for the next few games.
If Cook is absent against Brighton what would Eddie's plans be?
Elphick looks certain to start against the Seagulls.
I can't really see Eddie chosing to go three at the back against teams like QPR and Reading away, but it might be something he looks at for the Brighton home game. All the swapping and changing dd not really make a huge difference early on in the season though and the three at the back option appeared to be consigned to the training ground, but necessity may make it an option again.

AFCB fans will hope Cook recovers quickly.
Addison could have a surprise recall.
If a flat back four is retained we could see Miles Addison play his first match for the Cherries in the Championship. A friend of mine said there were rumours of Miles leaving the club but I have not heard anything in interviews or in the news. The former Derby defender will be eager to have some playing time as he has been out of contention for a place in the team for a long time.

I spotted also Joe Partington before the game on Saturday and while I am sure he will get an opportunity at some point, he has not been playing in the centre back position for long and has had very little game time to build strength back into his legs. Perhaps Stephen Purches has also called time on any ideas of playing for the first team in the Championship. Of course AFCB could look for another player in the loan market as well.

Whatever the case, we hope Steve Cook and Elliott Ward can recover quicker than is forecast. It just seems that AFCB are getting injury after injury at the moment and players are slow to recover. It must be a concern and Howe must be fed up with answering questions about who is fit and who isn't.

Can Howe get the wins without bringing in new faces?

It is a question that I have been putting off for a while as I am an admirer of AFCB's current squad and I am genuinely pleased that so many of last season's promotion winning squad have been given the opportunity to try and do well in the Championship. Arguably though the shortage of experience and muscle, even if not the effort are a little short in the squad. AFCB have been found wanting in recent matches and the task is not going to get any easier as we go into the winter matches.

We don't want to see Eddie trudging off at home too many more times.
Eddie Howe will come under pressure if he can't pick up more points. His strategy may have to look into the loan market not just because of injuries, but because the team is getting turned over at home, where it needs to be more resilient. The defeats to Bolton and Derby were narrow and it is one or two changes that may make the difference, but I would like to see the team get a lift.

I can see Eddie Howe being more than keen on finding some new faces for some sections of the team, because there is room for improvement throughout the team. Top of the list has to be defenders as AFCB are conceding goals even though the rate of late has dropped. Now the cover is thin at the back and it must feel like starting again for Eddie Howe with Ward out for some time and AFCB waiting on news on Steve Cook. 

In midfield too, MacDonald and O'Kane did work extremely hard against Derby. They were constantly on the move and putting in challenges, but could not get superiority over the opposition. I think another powerful midfielder who plays something like Marvin Bartley used to for AFCB would be the kind of addition that could interest Howe. Now that would get you all angry. Still I am not saying him but a similar box-to-box player, who loves to tackle might add a bit more grit and aggression to the team.

Even up front though there are questions over Rantie's abilities to hold the ball and not lose possession so quickly. Yes, he drops his shoulder and beats defenders for breakfast, but he has to have an end product or pass at the end of it on a more regular basis for me. Josh MCQuoid is said to be training as a forward again so perhaps we will see him on the bench soon.

Eddie will have to think about changing things soon though, because as we all know it is a results business and while he may have faith that his players will turn things around the clock is always ticking. I would like to think that our Russian owners will be patient and understand the challenge that Eddie and his team have in the Championship, because he is one manager in a million and must be given as much help as we can all give him to keep AFCB in this league. AFCB have waited such a long time to earn their place here.

Eddie Howe can't pick players on sentiment and he must decide if his players are up to the task or if he needs to bring in replacements, because this is an unforgiving league and AFCB are already slipping down the table. Will Howe wait until January or will he act now? 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Camp's authority will be missed if he can't be retained

There has been a confident figure between the sticks in the last three games. Lee Camp has proved that he is a very good Championship keeper and will have been a person to whom many of our players will have looked up to for his experience and decision making. I thought that in the Derby game we saw the best of Lee Camp and he shaded man of the match for me. There were times when he made difficult saves look very everyday saves for him and I never felt that Derby would find it easy to score with Lee in goal.

Lee prepares before the Derby match at Dean Court.

There was one moment in the second half that did make me smile. Lee was getting a lot of stick from the away supporters asking him what the score was. In fact. Lee had taken a lot of banter all match from the Derby fans, but all he did was make his goal kick and then hold his hand out and suggested that the Rams calm down, as if he was talking to a small child who had been getting carried away. To be fair, Lee has seen it and done it all before. Little tricks and tactics to put him off his game were not going to upset him and that is something that only comes with experience. He has suffered bad games and has come back to perform better.  

The sad thing is that Lee's loan period comes to an end now. I really hope that Eddie Howe can get the loan extended as AFCB have some massive games coming up against more top teams in the  next couple of weeks. On the All Departments' podcast it was rumoured that Lee Cap was looking to sign for another month at AFCB so we will just have to wait and see if this happens. Otherwise, I expect Darryl Flahavan to come into the team if Lee has to go back to West Brom and Ryan Allsop will probably fill in as cover if his glandular fever clears up.

Darryl Flahavan.
Darryl has not had much of a chance yet, having got injured just after making his great penalty save at Leed's Elland Road. 

AFCB have to roll up their sleeves now

Eddie Howe has always believed this would be a very difficult season for the Cherries. The points tally from the last 10 games of just 9 points, including two wins, is not great reading. While I think AFCB have been unlucky not to pick up more points at times and have had some great performances, they have also been found a bit wanting at times.

Confidence as we know is a big factor in performances. AFCB need to really roll up their sleeves now in my opinion and make themselves impregnable, especially at home. That is going to be difficult with the changes at the back but all 11 players have to defend better and set the tone for a resilient performance. It is no good AFCB going into games worrying that they are now up against great teams. AFCB have to reduce that fear factor and have belief in themselves to get results and a lot of that confidence must come from the crowd's enthusiasm when we see the payers doing things well.

The focus has to be on getting back up the table now. There are plenty of teams around AFCB that are catchable and the Cherries need to hang in and pick up some points at this point even if that does mean defending for longer periods of games. If the team can just go unbeaten for two or three games that would give them the confidence to turn some draws into wins. The next few matches are serious play-off contending teams, so avoiding defeat will be difficult but with the past run of games AFCB have to try and pick up points somewhere.

I don't believe any one has to press a panic button yet, but the next three games are now very important. The team needs to go into the Christmas period with a better points return and while most games are tight in the Championship, AFCB have to start coming out on the right side. Eddie Howe is shrewd though. He knows it is a hard job and will be looking to give the Cherries every chance he can to win more games.

'Frustrating' is the word that has been banded about in the last month or so with AFCB's results because the performances have been good on the whole. Now we need to hear that the teams has not only been working hard on the training pitch. but are getting the rewards that they deserve.

We'll try and keep thinking positive. A win will make a huge difference to this team.  UTCIAD!

Michael Dunne has released his All Departments Kangeroo Court on the Derby County match. His guest is Dean Court Match Day announcer Mike Botto. You can visit All Departments or listen on the side bar pannel on Cherry Chimes.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Cook would not want to miss the Brighton game

There is common agreement among many an AFCB fan that Steve Cook is in the midst of his best season for the Cherries. Only last week his performances were said to be courting the attentions of Premier League clubs like Norwich City, Cardiff City and Crystal Palace. How cruel a blow was it then to see him being stretchered off the Dean Court pitch at the end of the Derby match? The fact that Cook was in the box in extra time trying to gain his team a point tells you everything about Cookie.

Steve Cook is one man AFCB really want to keep in the team.
It's the fixture list that really hurts though. AFCB's next game is against Brighton & Hove Albion, Cook's former club and he will be devastated if he has to sit the game out. Of course he would still have the prospect of playing them at the Amex on New Years Day, but I am sure he would have made a mental note of next weekend's derby game. Neil Perrett of the Echo tweeted that the injury to Steve Cook may not be as bad as first expected and that he might be okay to play next weekend. Let's hope he is correct, because AFCB need a fit Steve Cook.

What Cook adds to the team is amazing spirit and effort. He has also developed a talent for being the last defender and making important match saving tackles. Good in the air and equipped with a special long throw which even Steve McClaren picked up on, who wouldn't want to have the likes of Steve Cook in their team?

I don't think I'll be alone waiting and hoping to hear the club confirm that Steve's injury is only bruising and nothing more serious.

Narrow defeat for Cherries against Derby 0:1 (plus Gallery)

AFCB 0 v 1 Derby County
23 November 2013
Attendance: 10,720 (inc 1391 Derby fans)

While AFCB had seen a mediocre performance last time out at home, there was a feeling that they could and needed to do much more when they took on Derby County. Still, I had my worries about this game, because the Rams had shown in previous games that they were a strong outfit and so it proved to be.

A full gallery of Dean Court yesterday is on show at Match Day Gallery

Team photo for AFCB.
Eddie Howe made a few changes. In came Shaun MacDonald to partner Eunan O'Kane in midfield and Tommy Elphick joined Steve Cook in the centre of defence. That meant Harry Arter and Elliott Ward, who had picked up knocks against Burnley, did not make the squad, while Matt Ritchie and Ryan Fraser were among the substitutes. Pitman was to play just behind Rantie up front and Grabban was to start on the right wing.

Derby County players just before kick off.
Bournemouth ring.

Bournemouth were pushing Derby back at the start with O'Kane making a great run as early as the second minute and as he looked for Rantie, the ball was played out for a corner. Pugh came flying in for the cross but could not make contact.

Derby looked a big physical side and Chris Martin was able to win headers fairly easily in the centre of the pitch. Pugh got caught in possession and Simon Dawkins had an early shot that was high over the bar. AFCB countered with a move including Cook and Daniels before Pitman squeezed out a shot wide, as he struggled to get a powerful connection.

Daniels tried to find Grabban with a speculative long range pass moments later, but 
Craig Forsyth dealt with it well and got the ball back to Lee Grant in goal. Daniels was working hard defending against Andre Wisdom and Jamie Ward. Simon Dawkins was also getting involved early on with a stern challenge on Francis.

Shaun MacDonald failed to find Rantie with a long ball, but AFCB won a corner on 8 minutes. Francis missed in his attempt to get his head on the cross. Elphick was then pulled up for leaning on Chris Martin when going for a header. Pugh eventually cleared the ball from the free kick. While AFCB's attacks with Rantie and Grabban were petering out around the box, Derby looked lively on the break with Will Hughes chief organiser on the gallop, putting in Jamie Ward whose shot needed Lee Camp to make a low save on 11 minutes.

Derby were winning more possession now and Francis blocked a shot from Craig Bryson. Simon Dawkins was also finding space on the right wing and while Daniels and Cook got in a tangle with a short pass they escaped with a throw. Derby were certainly looking to catch the Cherries high up the pitch in possession, but AFCB seemed alert to this.

A good chance fell to Chris Martin on 16 minutes when he was just inside the box. He turned quickly to fire a shot that Lee camp turned over. Pitman cleared the resulting corner and was fouled any way. Derby then had a great move with Ward and Simon Dawkins, but Dawkins got the ball stuck under his foot just when he had a real opportunity to open the scoring.

AFCB almost did get on the scoreboard, after 17 minutes, when Grabban found Rantie and Tokelo got round the back of Derby on the right side, only to see his shot from six yards pushed away by Grant. If only Rantie had pulled the ball back, I think Pitman, Pugh or Grabban would have scored. Still, it was a corner that was cleared.

On the break Derby kept the ball well and Wisdom's shot was blocked. The referee was having a strange game in that he seemed to let just about everything go, including a strong Dawkins challenge on Pugh. Daniels and Cook were holding up Ward, Hughes and Dawkins as they tried to get Bryson round the back. It was Derby in the driving seat with Ward forcing Camp to save.

AFCB won another corner on 27 minutes, but Pitman's header went wide. Pugh was dropping back a lot making it a back line of five at times. 

Derby then won a corner on 31 minutes which O'Kane headed out and when the Rams were awarded another corner Lee Camp was held back and given a free kick. Rantie was up against Andre Wisdom through the middle on 32 minutes, but when he went over he made rather a lot of it and nothing was given.

The Cherries had another free kick and then a corner on 35 minutes which Grant caught. Pitman then put in a cross which O'Kane through himself out but could not reach, while a second Pitman cross was dropped by Grant although he recovered quickly to gather.

The game got rather messy before half time with both teams winning free kicks but it was not until the 41st minute that the referee actually booked some one - Jake Buxton. He had scythed down Rantie.

Martin had his shot blocked and O'Kane stopped Hughes, before Dawkins shot over after Shaun MacDonald got a foot in the way. The corner was headed over by Buxton. The only other major point before half time was Francis being given a yellow card for a challenge on Will Hughes. So it was 0:0 at half time.

Cherrietts on the touchline.
Eddie Bear and the penalty shoot out.
Matt Ritchie warms up at half time.
Second Half
Derby came out quickly in the second half with a cross come shot from Dawkins. Pugh then got on the ball and made mincemeat out of Jamie Ward on the half way line with a terrific turn that left Ward dumbfounded. AFCB then made a great move down the right wing with Grabban making a cross that Rantie dummied leaving Pitman to run on to the ball, but he blazed over on 48 minutes.

Derby got back on the ball and Martin lifted his shot over. Dawkins and Ward continued to link up well. AFCB tried to get things going with MacDonlad on the right hand side, switching play towards Pugh but he was given offside on 51 minutes. Derby were also seeing lots of possession, but Hughes of all players was careless with his passing.

Rantie won a corner on 55 minutes. Pitman's ball in did not beat the first man though. A short while later AFCB were thankful for Cook who made another heroic tackle on Ward, when he would have been clean through. MacDonald fouled Bryson in a dangerous central position in front of the box on 58 minutes. Ward took a curling shot which Camp saved to his right, catching the ball in full flight.

Just when the threat seemed to be dying down and the away supporters started their "La, lal, la, lala, las" - alah Stevenage songs, Derby broke up the left wing with Forsyth in front of those fans and a fast, early cross found Jamie Ward closing in on goal in the box. Lee Camp managed to get a hand to the ball, but Ward buried it in AFCB's net from six yards out. It was 0:1 to the visitors!

That was right on the hour mark and from the restart Derby quickly won a corner. AFCB brought on Fraser and Ritchie on 63 minutes and took off Pugh and Rantie. Fraser got straight into the action with Daniels. Fraser made a good cross which Pitman had a go at with an overhead kick, but his contact took the ball well wide.

Derby were still looking great in possession and O'Kane and MacDonald were working hard. While Fraser was getting crosses in, Derby were repelling them fairly well. Daniels was giving Fraser good support. Ward decided to take a time out, which annoyed home supporters and Derby had decided that time wasting was the order of the day now, although Grant had been doing that as early as the first 10 minutes with his slow goal kicks.

Ritchie made a strong run down the right and his ball in found O'Kane with a free header in the middle which he put over. Eddie Howe then subbed Pitman and brought on Wes Thomas after 73 minutes.

Derby subbed Dawkins and brought on Mason Bennett. Derby took a corner on 75 minutes which Camp caught. Hughes was then given a yellow card for kicking the ball away I think. On 78 minutes Ward was substituted and Johnny Russell came on. The snail's speed with which Ward came off the pitch was unbelievable.

Matt Ritchie was proving very lively on the right and took on a shot that went wide. There was a better chance for Fraser when Thomas' cross was headed wide by Fraser on the run, under pressure from Wisdom. AFCB won a corner on 83 minutes but it was punched out by Grant.

Lee Camp had to make a last ditch save then against Bennett on the break when he was one-on-one in the 84th minute. Derby then subbed Chris Martin and brought on Conor Sammon. While AFCB had five minutes of extra time the only major incident was Cook getting injured when he tried to shoot inside the box. He came off worse as a defender tried to block the shot and the medics came on and strapped up his leg, before taking him off on a stretcher. Bad luck can really hurt some times. The game was also lost 0:1.

Steve Cook receives medical attention.
Single goal defeat.
Eddie leaves the pitch.
I thought it was a brave effort by the Cherries. Derby are going to be one of the sides near the top of the table and they showed that they are one of the best technical sides in this division. While AFCB still did not threatened Derby's goal nearly enough, they were always in the game and just needed some luck in the final third to get them the lead they so desperately needed. It didn't come and much of that has to be down to Derby's great defence. 

We found out where AFCB are today. They are close to being on a par with teams like Derby and the gap is not so big, but they could do with a bit more physical presence up top to hold onto the ball better in my opinion. I prefer it when Grabban leads the line. The Cherries defence is getting better and Eddie Howe must do what he can to try and extend Lee Camp's services, who made several high quality saves.

The overall performance of the team was pretty good and it was great to see Ritchie and Fraser back on the pitch. I feel what AFCB needs though is a bit more steel against Brighton, QPR and Reading and as we know a lot more shots at goal!

Cook and Francis picked up yellow cards, but I must have missed Steve Cook's card.

Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Grabban, O'Kane, MacDonald, Pugh (Fraser 63), Pitman (Thomas 79), Rantie (Ritchie 64).

AFCB Subs:
Flahavan, Addison, Harte, Surman, Thomas, Fraser, Ritchie

AFCB ratings
Camp 8, Francis 7, Elphick 6, Cook 8, Daniels 7, Grabban 6, O'Kane 6, MacDonald 6, Pugh 6, Pitman 6, Rantie 5.

Derby County
Grant, Bryson, Forsyth, Buxton, Keogh, Hughes, Eustace, Dawkins (Bennett 74), Wisdom, Martin (Sammon 88), Ward (Russell 79)

Derby Subs:
Smith, Davies, Bennett, Sammon, Ball, Morch, Russell.