Friday, 28 February 2014

The Cherries must take their opportunities against Doncaster

Doncaster Rovers have one of the worst away records in the Championship having only beaten Sheffield Wednesday away from home this season. AFCB don't need to give them any encouragement but should look to put as many goals in against them as they can on Saturday.

Doncaster have only been losing by the single goal away from home in their last few outings against Yeovil and Brighton and their inability to score many away from home must give AFCB some confidence in training this week. They are not helped by the fact that Billy Sharp, who is back on loan at Rovers from Southampton, is serving the last of his three match ban having been given his first ever red card against Brighton.

That is not to say that Doncaster don't have players that can hurt the Cherries. One striker of quality is Chris Brown who is their top scorer on six this season, while James Coppinger we know well from seeing him in League One. Harry Forrester who was at Brentford has not had the impact in the Championship that Donny fans would have wanted but he is also a player who was impressive last season in League One. Mark Duffy is another forward that is looking to build on the two goals he has this season.

Paul Dickov has been under constant pressure all season, but if he keeps Doncaster up he will have undergone a managerial successful step up to the Championship. You can hear what Paul has to say about his team ahead of the game with Bournemouth by listening to the sound bar below where he speaks to BBC Radio Sheffield. He will have targeted this game as potentially one where Doncaster can get something and it will be important for AFCB to get on top in this game straight away and take the lead if they are to help themselves. If Doncaster keep in the game up to half time AFCB run the risk of another bad luck story and we have simply had enough of them.

My main concern will be Doncaster's threat from free kicks and corners. It is vital that AFCB look to minimise the number of these moments against a team that is known to be good at set-peices. It's time to hit these teams hard and start pulling back that goal difference.  

Doncaster Away form:

AFCB Home form:

How can Eddie turn performing well into winning ways?

It's been a hard last couple of weeks for AFCB. The team has been playing well without really picking up the points. You wonder how some teams manage to win without playing well. Those teams are often at the top of the league because the winning habit is just ingrained in them. That doesn't help AFCB though. Our fans want a team that wins and picks up points on the road as well as at home, but you can't say the Cherries have been unlucky every week.
AFCB at Reading earlier in the season.
At the end of the season you tend to be where you should be give or take a place or two. The Cherries are not yet a top 10 Championship team but as work in progress they are doing very nicely to be honest. There are teams in worse positions in the Championship and some of them have not come close to pushing the top teams. AFCB have put pressure on Derby, Leicester and Burnley and while they only received one point from those matches you can't say the Cherries were outplayed or soundly beaten. The problem is us fans don't want to be hearing how close the team was to beating one of the big teams. Aspirations are still high and I think that is important for a club that wants to grow and succeed year upon year.

Steve McClaren knew exactly how good the Cherries were and he was not expecting an easy contest last weekend.

Steve McClaren pre-AFCB match at the iPro stadium.

So what does Eddie Howe need to do different to get the wins on the board? I don't really think there is much going wrong. Yes, AFCB need to start accumulating some clean sheets. Taking opportunities at the other end is always going to be difficult in the Championship as well, but as soon as AFCB get a win it is likely to spark further results.

They have a great opportunity against Doncaster Rovers on Saturday and it's a game that now becomes extremely important not to lose. AFCB don't want to be giving encouragement to those below them and it is vital that Eddie has a full strength side to take on Rovers. At home Bournemouth are now very strong and that is how it must remain for the team for the rest of the season. The home crowd has to make it uncomfortable for opposition teams by making a din all game long. Most of the big tests are out of the way now and it is important that the Cherries don't take their eyes off the prize of another season in this league. The wins have not come against the big teams but they have to come against the strugglers.

It is the final third of the pitch where the passing seems to go astray and now it is important that it clicks. Rantie must try and up his shot rate, forwards have to gamble on Ritchie's crosses and passing in an around the opposition's box must be crisper. If AFCB can just get things right in the final third they will get their rewards. At home there is no reason for the shot count to be low and if you shoot you can get deflections and rebounds that create goals, just look what happened for Olympiakos this weekend and their first goal against Man Utd. I want to see more work in the last third of the pitch and I believe Eddie Howe will have been drumming that into his players this week.  Let's give them all the support we can, because these home games can take the Cherries to safety.

You can also join Free Bet Negotiator and take some winnings if you feel confident about predicting some matches this weekend.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Can Rantie be more than just a nuisance against the opposition?

It appeared that Rantie had a pretty good game against Derby. Even though he didn't score he was a constant threat and caused all manner of panic in Derby's defence, especially in the first half. But why aren't the breaks quite going for him in these big games?
Rantie needs to believe he can score several goals in a game
and must keep firing shots off even when the ball doesn't look like bouncing for him. 
Rantie is a nuisance and opposition defenders don't like his speed of turn and direct running. Luckily for them he hasn't managed to come up with as many top class finished as AFCB would have liked yet. Still he has been in the thick of games when he has started and it seems a regular occurrence for TK to be involved in many of the goal scoring chances.

Against Derby he hounded their defenders so hard that he almost forced Keogh into an own goal. He is persistent enough to keep threatening even if he is not having a great game and I think that is one of the things that Eddie Howe likes about him. In short, TK's head never goes down. He just keeps trying and that is a good quality to have. Once he does start scoring regularly I hope he is not ever satisfied with one goal per match either. AFCB need a tigerish spirit about them if they are to beat teams more often, and TK has to stay hungry for every opportunity he gets because the next one is always the one he should be endeavouring to put away. Forget what has happened in the past and think about this moment. It is that instant of a second that counts when it comes to scoring or not scoring.

Most of the confidence can be built up on the training ground but there is nothing like scoring in a league match that counts towards three points. Rantie has to live for that feeling and remind himself how good that feels. But he should not feel pressured to score every game. He can play his part just as well by putting on passes for others to score and by getting a run in the team he should start to feel that he is part of a team rather than an individual striker. It is only in that environment that AFCB's South African diamond can really shine.

If you missed our chat with Lewis Ward of the Doncaster Rovers FC Exiles website you can catch up on Rival Lines. The Doncaster site has a write up on James Hayter spoiling their day last time out.

Cherry Chimes talks to Doncaster Exiles

AFCB v Doncaster Rovers
Match Preview
Blogger Interview - Doncaster Rovers FC Exiles

Cherry Chimes takes some time out to let Doncaster Rovers FC Exiles have the spotlight as we find out what Lewis Ward thinks about Doncaster's season and how the Championship is shaping up for them as we approach the run-in. Are Doncaster in a good position to stay up?

CC: Did you expect to be about where Doncaster are in the league at this point of the season?

DRE: We’ve experienced the Championship before so we always knew it was going to be tough. There is such a wide range of clubs in this league; anyone can beat anyone, you just can’t predict it.

All Rovers fans knew we wouldn’t be pushing to high up the league. As long as we’re safe at the end of the season we’ll be happy.

CC: Do you think Paul Dickov has done okay since he came in?

DRE: Dickov has surprised many Rovers fans. The general feeling when he was appointed was disappointment, but I think he’s managed to change the opinions of a lot of us. He’s made some great signings, including Ross Turnbull and Mark Duffy. Even when we’ve been struck by injury, he’s not panicked and brought in decent cover.

CC: Is a regular goal scorer the main thing you feel the team needs to get it out of any trouble this season?

DRE: Scoring goals has been a bit of a worry for us so far, Chris Brown works hard up front but there never seems to be anyone to put the ball over the line. With this worry, I think we have to be grateful that we have Ross Turnbull at the back, otherwise we would be in a much worse position.

CC: Who has been your best player this season?

DRE: Ross Turnbull has been fantastic for us so far, without him I could see us being much further down the table. Mark Duffy has also been a great addition while James Coppinger is having a fantastic season. Individual performances aren’t our problem, it’s the end product.

CC: What did you feel when Billy Sharp came back to the club?

DRE: The buzz around the club was amazing. We knew someone was signing and all we had been told is that we wouldn’t be disappointed if Dickov got his man, and we certainly weren’t! After he signed, ticket sales rocketed for our game at Blackpool that weekend, producing a fantastic atmosphere. Hopefully he’ll do the business after his suspension.

CC: What have you thought of Federico Macheda, has he made a difference?

DRE: His first spell was more successful than his second. He scored a brace against Forest and a vital goal to earn our only away win so far at Sheffield Wednesday. When he returned, after a spell back at Manchester United, he didn’t pull up any trees and none of us were too disappointed when we didn’t renew his loan. He seems to be doing well at Birmingham and we wish him all the best there.

CC: Has Tamas been a good signing at the back?

DRE: Tamaş has been a brilliant signing so far. His ability at the back, along with Abdoulaye Méïté, has really strengthened our defence. After the pair signed, we have conceded only five goals which is a major improvement to the side’s form before.

CC: You have a pretty good run of results in 2014 do you see things improving or are you nervous?

DRE: The mini run was such a lift for players and fans alike but the aim was to keep it going and get some points on the board. Over the past few weeks, we seem to have slumped on the road, losing to both Brighton and Yeovil. It is vital for us to keep our heads up and move on.

CC: How has Harry Forrester been doing in the Championship since his move from Brentford?

DRE: Harry’s had a torrid time since joining Rovers. Every time he fights off an injury he seems to be knocked back with another problem. Dickov has said that he will not rush him back and has told him to aim for a return in pre-season to prevent any further setbacks.

CC: What did you think of Doncaster's recent performances against Barnsley and Yeovil?

DRE: The game against Barnsley was a typical local derby. We played well but it’s disappointing that Barnsley equalised so late on and denied us the three point. The performance at Yeovil on Saturday was disappointing. We hardly tested their keeper and probably deserved what we got. The fact that every side below us, except Millwall, won made it even more frustrating.

CC: The last two games between Doncaster and Bournemouth have been close so can you see this match being won by a single goal?

DRE: If our recent form is anything to go by, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the game was so close. We’ve not had too many 1-0 victories this season so, if it’s us who score first, we could add to that tally but we will more than likely concede in the game.

CC: Who do you think is going down this season from the Championship?

DRE: That’s a really tough question, the bottom of the table is so tight that almost anyone from the bottom half could face the drop. The bottom three have been in that position for several weeks now so I’m going to say that Yeovil, Barnsley and Charlton be the ones who are condemned to relegation.

CC: Thanks for taking the time to put those answers together Lewis. I kind of thought you may go for other teams rather than Doncaster to be facing the drop to League One , but I am pleased you did not put AFCB among your three. Charlton seem to be improving so the likes of Bournemouth, Doncaster and Millwall had better look sharp if we don't want to be sucked in. I believe the AFCB v Doncaster game is massive for both clubs and neither club will want to lose this one. You can check out what Lewis and other Doncaster fans have been writing at the Doncaster Rovers FC Exiles website, there's a report on their last outing against Yeovil (James Hayter had a good day) and much more.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Getting the best out of Ritchie

Eddie Howe was keen not to overwork Matt Ritchie against Derby. Matt has been a little off his high standards and playing him for 90 minutes every week is probably something that is not going to help him so much at the moment. By taking him off after 71 minutes against Derby it seems that Eddie is keen to protect Matt as he comes into a period of very important games for the Cherries.
Ritchie has to be used wisely.
It so nearly could have been Matt's day as I predicted when he struck the post in the first half with a viscous shot that Lee Grant could not get anywhere near. But the thin margins in this game really came back to haunt the Cherries this time. 

Kris Temple alluded to the stitches on Matt's head that he was still carrying after the Burnley game. The three stitches were simply picked up by heading the ball. That Matt felt no ill effects and wanted to play is pleasing for Eddie Howe and the team. We need Matt Ritchie to be 100 per cent though in the coming games. While you may say we have lots of potential match winners, Matt is always a big loss when he is out of the team or not quite on top form. He provides many of the quality crosses and passes that Grabban can feed off of and he tackles back to help out Francis.

Matt can't do it all himself though. He needs others to take some of the pressure off of him and with Fraser and Coulibaly looking fit it should be a period when Eddie Howe can manage his star winger a little as and when he is required during the run-in.  

Who is going to step up and get the goals?

The Cherries are in need of some fresh striking accuracy. Lewis Grabban had some good first half opportunities against Derby first after 19 minutes when a ball came back off of Rantie's heel and fell for Grabban just inside the box, which he screwed wide when he looked sure to hit the target, and secondly after 26 minutes when he beat two players on the left wing and raced into the box, only to telegraph his right footed shot that Grant read. So when Lewis Grabban doesn't get the breakthrough who is going to put the ball in the net? The goals are not exactly flying in for the Cherries at the moment and it won't have gone unnoticed by Eddie Howe.
Is Yann the man?
Up front the manager has stuck with Grabban and Rantie whenever he can it would appear. But when the two play I don't think they have ever both scored in the same game. If they have it is not a regular occurrence and there's the rub. AFCB need their strikers to be getting on the scoreboard. Having seen the footage from the Derby game I would say that Rantie's work rate and endeavour was high enough for him to keep his starting place against Doncaster. I believe Eddie is looking for some consistency in terms of players being selected and getting the goals as that is the best way to build partnerships up front with strikers getting a good understanding going. 

At the moment the Cherries have a bit of a gap on the chasing teams but it's not a chasm. While you don't want to keep swapping and changing your strike force there will be calls for Eddie to try something else or give some of the others more time on the pitch when things are not going to plan. But Eddie Howe will pick the players that are creating chances and doing well in training. If Lewis and Tokelo do not find the back of the net consistently it may be that Kermorgant is given more of a chance to contribute more to the team. 
Will Kermorgant win his first start soon? 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Fraser is not done yet

I don't think many AFCB supporters thought that Ryan Fraser would be such a string addition to the squad when he first came from Aberdeen last year. After all, he was only 19 and League One and the Championship are tough leagues and the small stature of Ryan Fraser would come up to chest height on most of the big defenders in these leagues. But he has made Bournemouth his home and fitted into the squad and the first team for most of the season since being in the Championship. How good could he be in the long run?
The wee man  turned 20 this week and could celebrate
with another call up to Scotland U21 squad.
I believe he could be a player who sets the standards for others in future years. He came to the south coast as he knew that Eddie Howe would play youngsters if they were good enough and Ryan has grasped his opportunity. 

An interview in the Bournemouth Echo last week referred to Ryan having picked up bronchitis in recent weeks forcing him to be left out of the starting eleven of late. But he has made 24 appearances in the Championship and he is only at the start of his career. He has to be one of the players that Eddie Howe builds the team around in future years. His energy and enthusiasm for the game have put a smile not only on Eddie Howe's face but also a lot of the Bournemouth supporters.

I am not sure if Ryan knows just how good he is, but it is nice that he just enjoys playing and is loving his time at AFCB. He is thriving at Dean Court and I believe he has great players to learn from all around him as AFCB have a quad with some sensational wingers. He has to be in line for the award for the most improved player of the season and I just see him getting even better as he gets more games under his belt.

He did not get long to impress in the game against Derby but the rest he has had in recent weeks just may help him prolong his season and that has to be good news for AFCB.  

AFCB still have work to do

Looking at the stats from the Derby match it would appear that the Cherries are still not the finished article yet. While they are not fare behind Derby in shots they only managed 10 all match and one on target. When games are tight affairs and there is little between the teams it is vital that the Cherries take their chances and at the moment they need to be better in the last third. 
AFCB players at Leicester City.
In possession it is not surprising that Derby kept well ahead with a strong second half performance which led to them having 56 per cent of the play in the match. But AFCB defended well with Cook especially being brave and getting a broken nose from Chris Martin for his trouble after 63 minutes. It was a bit like the Alamo at Derby in the second period. Bournemouth do keep the ball well though and they have been much less prone to individual errors of late. As a unit they are defending well and should have had some clean sheets.

Pitching themselves against the best teams in the league has not worked out quite as AFCB fans might have hoped which does make things a little more nervy heading into the next series of games. It is not that AFCB have to win that many games to ensure their safety and on paper there is plenty of time to get those wins. But it is the crunch part of the season now when teams have to do the business. The errors now will put you bang in trouble. If you didn't think a match against Doncaster would be that important at the start of the season I bet you are thinking differently now.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Coulibaly will be wanting to play catch up

It has not quite been the season that Mohamed Coulibaly could have wanted when he signed up for the team over the summer. The chance to play in the English Championship must have been so exciting for him and having played pre-season against Real Madrid he must have been pinching himself at times. But then he soon felt his hamstring and then his ankle and it has been an on/off fitness workout ever since, so I was one of many AFCB supporters that will have been so pleased to see him on the bench at Derby. Now I am sure that he'll be hoping for a run in the first team.
Mohamed has great potential, I only hope we get to see some of it this season.
I don't know how much playing time Coulibaly is likely to get for the rest of the season, but he could be just the injection of  talent and energy that the Cherries need right now. He is unpredictable and powerful in his dribbling style and I am not too sure that there are many players quite like him in the Championship. While Mohamed could find it difficult like others have before him to fit into the team and put in consistent performances there is something of a risk taker about Mohamed that makes me excited to see him play.

He will shoot when nobody expects it and he probably will infuriate some when he should pass but instead runs into trouble. Yet, if the team is well balanced and can incorporate a player with a bit of flare and mystique about their play Coulibaly is available again it seems, and it is going to be very intriguing to see how and when Eddie Howe uses him if at all.

Eddie has to be fair to those have already been doing well and are playing at the top of their game and Coulibaly needs careful monitoring with the injuries that he has had. Used to good effect though, Coulibaly is a man who frankly I am not sure how many AFCB supporters know how good he is or could be? It maybe the same for Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall even though they see him in training regularly.

Well Mr Coulibaly, if you want to surprise us and start to play catch up you could still have the season that dreams are made of. Scoring important goals in March and April could yet make him one of Eddie Howe's best buys last summer, even at this late stage.

Cherries can't feel downhearted

The upcoming games are all gong to be battles. Every team has something to play for even if it is just scrapping for mid-table. But I believe the recent performances that the Cherries have put in against Leicester, Burnley and Derby have been excellent and they must take those high energy performances into the next few matches to retain their Championship credentials.
The players have been great but it's about time some decisions went their way.
This is not the time for the team to be feeling sorry for itself. They may have been unlucky in some of the recent games and decisions have not always gone the Cherries way. But now they will be playing teams below or in and around them and if they work hard I can see them going several games unbeaten and along way towards safety.

The belief has to be there. Other teams have lost far more heavily to the top teams in the Championship than AFCB. Now that the less confident teams are to play against the Cherries it is time to turn the dominant possession into sharp and accurate attacking play that gets the three points. The back unit is going to get a clean sheet, because they have really started to cut out the individual errors and are giving top teams very few opportunities to score. Against lower opposition though the Cherries must not be complacent but concentrate even harder.

The Cherries fate will largely be decided in the next five or so games. They will either move towards mid-table security or get sucked into a dog right at the bottom of the table. The team has fought hard so far and has improved and learnt a massive amount in the last few months. It's time to start getting the points on the board now. A series of two or three wins will be a huge factor now and while draws will keep the team in contention, Eddie Howe has to work out away of gaining those precious wins at the crunch stage of the season.

Listen to the All Departments' Kangaroo Court with Michael Dunne and Damien Hill on the All Departments' website or scroll down to the podcast on the right hand side panel on Cherry Chimes and click on the sound bar

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Quality counts in the Championship (highlights video)

Well there wasn't much to choose between Steve McClaren's high flying Derby County and the Cherries. The game at the iPro stadium was one of two halves as they say. AFCB dominated large parts of the first half and Derby knew that they could have been down by a couple of goals as the interval arrived. But it was only 0-0 at half time and that gave them hope that they could only play better in the second half.
Lee Camp couldn't quite annoy his family by keeping a clean sheet against Derby.
The match was won though with a moment of quality. That is not to be frowned upon, because a top class finish is what all players should be looking for at this level. Chris Martin no doubt practises his free kicks whenever he can and on a day like yesterday that proved to be the difference. I had thought that Lee Camp and his defenders were going to hold out for that clean sheet and Tommy Elphick was certainly unlucky to be penalised for his tackle on Will Hughes. The lateness of the goal is what also hurts, because it took away any merit from the very creditable performance that Eddie Howe's team put in against the one of the best form teams in the division away from home.

The quality of the free kick was special and it needed to be to beat Camp. Lee would have been celebrating madly if he had just kept Derby out for five more minutes, but it was not to be. It is now the Cherries turn to try and find that quality themselves to haul themselves away from any trouble. We have seen that Matt Ritchie has that ability but some of the other attacking players have to start finding the back of the net now. Sharp shooting must be one of the main objectives on the training ground next week as Bournemouth must take their chances against Doncaster Rovers.

Elphick must be wondering when his luck will turn

The Cherries put in another great performance yesterday at the iPro stadium. Tommy Elphick was chief among those playing well and putting in a captain's performance but he was absolutely furious to see Mr Mark Heywood give a free kick for his tackle on Will Hughes in the second half as the match looked destined for a draw. Yet again AFCB were to be denied a result that their play probably deserved.
Tommy Elphick needs he pre-match routine to
 start bring him some luck.
There was an instant reaction from Tommy that he got the ball. You don't often see him react in such a way and he felt that there was an injustice. Looking at the incident on playback it is difficult to see what the referee objected to if the rule of the game is that you are able to tackle if the ball is won cleanly, even if the opposition player goes over. At this rate it is not going to be long before tackling is taken out of the game completely.

Eddie Howe rarely says anything about referees, but yesterday you knew that he was very disappointed with the officials performance and his decision on the Tommy Elphick challenge that led to the goal. Eddie felt that the referee had been indecisive all day. When he did make a decisive decision it put the Cherries on the end of a spectacular free kick from Chris Martin. I take nothing away from the goal it was superbly hit and Lee Camp was a mere spectator.
Tommy will hope for better luck at Dean Court next week.
Some will say that such things even themselves out over the season, but I don't really think they do. There are lucky teams and unlucky teams and it's clear in which category AFCB are in at the moment. It is one thing to be beaten by a better team and another to have a result taken away from you in part because of an official's decision. It would be nice to hear what Mr Heywood thinks of his decision now, but I suspect that referees don't like to look back at controversial decisions. We move on.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A hard luck story for the Cherries: Derby 1 v 0 AFCB

Derby Co v AFCB
22 February 2014
Attendance: 27,306  (939 away AFCB supporters)

 Outside Derby County. Picture courtesy of Damien Hill.
There are no easy games in the Championship but this one was likely to be particularly tricky for the Cherries considering Derby's recent form.

AFCB had to make one change to the starting line up as Eunan O'Kane did not make it into the squad after his injury last weekend. Andrew Surman replaced him in the starting 11, while it was exciting to see Mohamed Coulibaly back on the subs bench after his mid-week run out.

It is interesting that Eddie Howe is now keeping Rantie in the starting line up and trying to grow his partnership with Lewis Grabban.

Meanwhile, Derby County brought in Russell and Hendrick as Bryson and Ward dropped out of their starting 11. Mark Heywood from Cheshire was the referee.

My friend Damien Hill was at the iPro stadium so he kindly sent some pictures over for Cherry Chimes.

Match Description: Listening to BBC Radio Solent with Kris Temple and John Williams (Willo).

The Cherries were in black and Derby in black and white. Ian Harte heads the ball out of play. Martin tries to get in Hughes and the ball goes behind off Andrew Surman for a corner. A left footed in swinger from Lee Hughes at the near post but Bamfort shoots wide. Harte heads in field to Rantie but Hendrick has it and passes to Wisdom but the Cherries win a throw. Ritchie now and Harte finds Pugh, but Buxton clears for a throw. Arter is doing the holding role today.

Rantie tries to spin past Wisdom and Keogh clears. Derby have a throw on half way. Camp clears. Forsyth loses out but Eustace wins the ball and Bamford tackled by Arter. Free kick to Derby. Pugh puts the ball out, 5 minutes gone.

Harte up the wing but Hughes has it. Russell tries to beat Francis but the ball is back now with Grant. Arter back to Elphick and Camp. Pugh down the left drags it out of play. Grant has the ball. Forsyth takes the ball out of play. 

Ritchie and Arter with Hendrick, Keogh to Fortsyth but Elphick is back and helps Francis out. Goal kick to AFCB. Pugh's cross is blocked by Wisdom. Arter's pass for Rantie is too strong. Derby goal kick.

Wisdom, behind Forsyth. Bamford drags it out for a goal kick. Cook plays it up to Rantie and its a Derby throw. Cook clears. Throw in to Derby at the corner. Wisdom finds Eustace. Pugh defends and side steps Bamford but puts the ball out. 12 minutes gone.

Ephick clears to Forsyth. Fancis and Russel come together. Ricthie loses out to Forsyth and Derby win a free kick as "Red Army" belts out. Hendrick and Bamford but Harte is on it. Hughes shooting chance but it's out for a corner. Arter gets a block in for another corner. Pugh heads it out. Bamford tries a shot but it's wide.

Camp tried to get Rantie away quick but the forward handled the ball. that was an early release that almost caught derby out. Francis makes a great tackle on Russell. Rantie now and Ritchie hits the post! "A low-left footed snatch shot," says Temple. The keeper was beaten but it came back out! The closes chance so far to breaking the deadlock, 17 minutes gone.

Camp plays it up to Rantie and Grabban. Pugh's cross and Grabban and Surman. The ball is cleared again for a throw. Arter now and Surman. Derby have it with Forsyth but Francis beats Russell to the ball. Surman tried to play Rantie in but did not get there quick enough.

Buxton is a little slow and Rantie might well get in against him. Surman releases Ritchie, Grabban now. It hits Rantie and comes to Grabban but the shot is wide. Another chance for the Cherries, 20 minutes gone.

Ritchie asks for a free kick but it's Hughes with the ball. Derby have a throw. Keogh and Buxton up to Russell and Arter tackles and Francis and Rantie is almost there. Keogh almost put it past his own keeper and it almost goes in but a foot past the left post! Corner. So close to an own goal. The corner is too high for Elphick and it's a goal kick.

"Derby have won seven of their last eight home games," says Temple. Derby have a free kick after an Arter challenge. The kick is 40 yards out and AFCB have a two man wall. Pugh clears and almost found Grabban but Eustace blocks. 

Derby yet to threaten the AFCB goal. Surman is fouled by Hughes. Francis over hits it as Eddie Howe throws a bottle down in frustration. Cook beats Russel and finds Ritchie and Keogh cuts the ball out. Hendrick to Martin towards Russell but Pugh has it. Grabban into the area and a low shot is well saved by Grant. 

"Come on Derby," shout the home fans. AFCB now with Francis, a pull back to Rantie and Buxton concedes a corner. Ian Harte to take on 28 minutes. Low to Rantie and Pugh back to Harte but Martin clears for another corner. Near post with Cook, and Grabban and Grant wins the ball.

Rantie chases down Grant. Forsyth and Hughes. Bamford is plying as a second striker now. Keogh is chased by Grabban and a free kick to Derby is awarded. Hendrick has a chance but it's blocked. Arter blocks and Keogh loses it to Rantie and Grabban. Wisdom comes across to clear.

Derby now are held up. Russell's pass is too strong and it's a goal kick. End to end stuff here. Francis is caught in possession. Derby throw. Forsyth in the penalty area is sandwiched but nothing is given. Ritchie goes down now. The home crowd are getting on to the ref.

Francis' ball up to Ritchie is too strong. Harte is arguing with the referee. Francis to Surman and Pugh now into Rantie. Surman and back to Cook and Arter. Ian Harte into Grabban and Buxton reads the pass. Forsyth with Ritchie and Buxton shanks it into the crowd.

Elphick up to half way and Arter. Wisdom tackles and it's back with Grant. Keogh up to Wisdom and the ball comes off Harte. Harte over the top but Grabban's offside. Bamford is chased by Elphick. Surman gives it away to Hendrick and Forsyth up to Russell. Now Arter looks for Rantie.

Derby now with Wisdom and Hughes. Keogh almost lost the ball. Forsyth and Martin now Russell and Martin as Arter clears. Keogh on the centre circle. Cook forward to Rantie and Keogh comes in. Buxton back to Grant.

Eustace and Rantie chasing. Russel back to Forsyth and Hendrick and it's offside. "Derby keeping the ball in front of us," says Willo. Tindall and the forth official have words, not for the first time.

Grabban has a wild shot that goes out for a throw! Four minutes to the break. Camp up to Pugh. Hughes plays it to Martin but Elphick clears. Hughes under pressure from Surman who finds Wisdom. Now Hendrick and Hughes and Harte and Arter win a throw. 

Bamford tries a shot which is well wide. "As the game has gone on Derby have had some pressure but not a lot to worry us," says Willo. 

AFCB win a corner. Elphick and Cook and Francis go up for the corner. At the near post Martin clears. Cook throws to Rantie and Pugh cross and Elphick heads wide!

Russell takes on Elphick and it's a Derby corner. Elphick heads away. Eustace to Hughes. Russell comes past Ritchie. Forsyth to cross headed away. Wisdom crosses and Russell shoots into a crowd and Elphich clears. Pugh on the break to Rantie. Pugh recovers the ball but it's half time 0-0.

Temple says: "AFCB have had five goof chances in the first half."  "Lots of energy, lots of good passing," says Willo. "it's really good to watch." Tokelo Rantie has looked particularly sharp in the first half.

There was plenty of good play from the
Cherries in the first half. Picture from Damien Hill.
Second half 
Derby make a double sub with Dawkins and Sammon coming on for Eustace and Bamford.

Forsyth has the ball to Buxton and Russell in the box tries to pull it back and only ran into Marc Pugh. Russell looks for Sammon. Surman clears up to Rantie. 

Hendrick wins a throw off Ian Harte. Russell is on the right with Sammon going up front. Wisdom crosses and wins a corner to Derby. Derby have had five corners and the Cherries four. Camp collects the ball well.

Ritchie is out jumped by Forsyth. Francis now and Hughes clears. Pugh to Ritchie and an early cross but Wisdom clears in front of Pugh.

Arter now comes across to stop a Derby attack. Wisdom gets to his feet. Sammon almost gets in but Arter clears. Arter was down but the Derby players played on much to the annoyance of the Bournemouth players, especially Lee Camp who get s a yellow card. "Derby fans love that of course," says Willo.

Arter is okay. Derby have started the second half better than they played in the first. Martin heads the ball over from the corner under pressure from Francis. Buxton and Cook beats Sammon in the air. Dawkins against Francis and the ref points to the corner. Hendrick takes the corner and Pugh clears. Sammon loses it for a moment. Russell and Sammon is up but it's too high for the substitute. Derby fans are getting excited, but it's still 0-0.

Sammon against Ritchie. Hendrick now to Dawkins and Elphick across and Sammon is stopped by Elphick and Cook before Camp saves.

Rantie at the other end passes into empty space. Cook's pass back to camp is heavy and with Sammon closing Camp just clears in time. Thirty-five minutes to go as Sammon is caught offside. "I'm Bournemouth 'till I die," is sung out. "Wooow, wooow" sing Derby.
Rantie over half way is caught by Buxton. Grant has it now. AFCB bring on Kermorgant after 58 minutes and Rantie goes off. Harte takes a free kick and it's out for a goal kick. Rantie went off to a standing ovation from Bournemouth fans.

Buxton makes a high tackle on Kermorgant. Harte runs over to the referee to complain. Jake Buxton goes into the book. Harte with the free kick and it's cleared by Derby. The Cherries have a throw. Kermorgant is playing up top for AFCB.

Russell is on the left with Dawkins and Hendrick hits the ball into the stand high and wide off balance and under pressure from Arter.

Grabban chasing Wisdom and Hendrick to Dawkins. Hendrick 30 yards out and Hughes to Dawkins. wisdom bounces into Pugh and Keogh. Pugh gets the tackle in. Derby have a player down. "Neither side has had a 0-0 draw this season." says Temple. Martin and Cook go over. Cook receives attention for a bang to the head.

Apparently Ritchie got his three stitches in his head last week simply from a glancing header says Kris Temple. I wondered how he had hurt himself against Burnley. Sadly the internet connection has gone down - will be back as soon as I can!

John Russel has a shot blocked. Ryan Fraser is coming on for Matt Ritchie on 69 minutes. Fraser wins a free kick from Hughes challenge. Pugh with a cross and Kermorgrant heads wide. Wisdom is fouled by Pugh.

Cook gives a corner away. Dawkins crosses to martin but his shot is blocked. Pugh is subbed for MacDonald on 74 minutes. Hendrick plays in Sammon but it's a difficult angle and it's blocked. Forsyth fouls Fraser and gets a yellow card. Martin then fouls MacDonald. 

Arter now fouls Russell and he's in the book! 10 mionutes to go. Elphick takes down Hughes and another yellow card comes out. Derby County score with Martin on 85 minutes from a free kick, top corner. Sammon wins a free kick.

Arter goes in with Hendrick. Looks like AFCB will go three at the back. Cook has a throw in. Kermorgrant is beaten by Keogh. Buxton claims a foul. Surman and Cook goes sliding in.

AFCB did not take their chances in a dominant first half and Derby came out much stronger in the second half. Bournemouth played astonishingly well and were again unlucky not to get something against a top six side. That clean sheet is still elusive but it can't be long in coming now. One bit of magic is all it takes to get three points and once again Derby simply came up with the goods and another late goal. Even the most ardent of Derby fans would think that perhaps AFCB could have got a point today. Sammon and Dawkins made a big difference in the second half and you have to give Steve McClaren credit for that.

AFCB fans arrive at the iPro stadium. Picture courtesy 
of AFCB supporter Damien Hill.
Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Ritchie (Fraser 69), Arter, Surman, Pugh (MacDonald 74), Grabban, Ranti

Allsop, Smith, Fraser, Pitman, Kermorgant, Coulibaly, MacDonald

Derby County
Grant, Wisdom, Forsyth, Eustace (Sammon 45), Keogh, Buxton, Hughes, Hendrick, Russell, Martin, Bamford (Dawkins 45)

Derby Subs
O'Brien, Hendrick, Sammon, Dawkins, Legzdins, Whitebread, Bailey, Thorne.

Can the Cherries keep it tight against the Rams?

The game at the iPro stadium is an opportunity for AFCB players to show that they can compete with a top Championship side. Derby will not be sitting back in this match and it would be easy to be overwhelmed by the ferocity of the attacks that the Cherries are likely to have to repel. I assume that Eddie Howe will look to match the Rams though for their passing display and possession of the ball. It will be fighting fire with fire, but who will he play?

As long as Eunan O'Kane is fit I am confident that he will play in front of the back four and Lee Camp that played in the last game. If Grabban plays alone up front then AFCB are likely to bring Andrew Surman back into the team, which is perhaps hard on Shaun MacDonald.

No doubt AFCB will try and soak up some pressure and play a little on the break, but can they do it as well as when they played Reading away? I do expect that the Cherries will have to try and frustrate and defend for large periods. Without Charlie Daniels AFCB might not have such pace on the left wing although Pugh is no slouch and Surman can move about behind Grabban and Surman's quick thinking gives the Cherries an unpredictability that can unlock defences when breaking swiftly. With Arter and O'Kane also able to produce final balls that cut through defences, I don't believe Derby will have it all their own way but there is one player I would like to see taking the game by the scruff of the neck. 

Matt Ritchie could break the deadlock.
That player is Matt Ritchie. I believe he has the talent to destroy teams on his day and I would like to see him more involved than he has been in the last few games. Some days Ritchie is unplayable and that is what I would like to see on Saturday. In a tight game it will simply come down to a match winner and if a chance falls to Ritchie anywhere around the box we all know he can finish.
A sweet Ritchie strike would be fabulous.
In the last two matches the Cherries have scored from corners, so what are the chances of them making it a trio today? Check out all the latest odds for this game and others at Free Bet Negotiator. When the teams last met on 23 November 2013, Eddie Howe just felt that AFCB did not work Derby's keeper hard enough. This is likely to be another game with few opportunities so it is important that AFCB take any chance that comes their way.

  When the teams last met in November, Derby were 0:1 winners at Dean Court.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Injuries are hard to avoid in the Championship

Charlie Daniels' thigh muscle tear is a real set-back for him and AFCB. Hearing that he will be out for up to eight weeks is not the news we all wanted to hear but the Cherries have good cover in Ian Harte and it was always likely that some players would pick up injuries over the winter period.
Eunan was in the wars last weekend.
The depth of the squad is going to be tested at times like these. It does sound like Elliott Ward will be back sooner and I hope he has a speedy recovery, although again Cook and Elphick are guarding the fort well enough at the moment.

It does perhaps mean that Eddie Howe will not let many more go out on loan if the team is getting stretched. In interview though he did say that he is not looking to bring any more players in at the moment. He also sounded confident that Eunan O'Kane's injury was hopefully not too bad, while the head injury to Matt Ritchie did not slow him down in the second half against Burnley.  
Rantie also took a knock as well as Ritchie.
We also saw Tokelo Rantie go down at one stage of the game against Burnley. There does not seem a week at the moment when one of our players is not being flown out to Rome but it is important that the players are treated quickly and recover well to keep the mood in the camp high. AFCB do seem to be one of the less physical teams in this league and it may be that over the summer there is plenty more gym work to be done so that AFCB's players are a greater physical match for some of their opponents in the division.

McClaren has Rams buzzing

Steve McClaren has probably not had the best of press in England because of his term as England manager and yet you can't say that his record as a coach is anything other than excellent. He arrived at Derby County in September with them looking no more than a mid-table team and yet he has given them the confidence and tactical ability to be a real force in the Championship.
Jamie Ward warms up with Will Hughes.
I did not think he would do any better than Nigel Clough, but he has proved me and many others wrong. What's more, I like the way his team plays. When they came down to Dean Court they did not play long balls or use physical strength to over turn AFCB. It was a real tactical battle with both teams playing a fluid passing game. Eddie Howe said at the time that they were the best team the Cherries had faced in the Championship, even though some other teams had beaten AFCB far more convincingly. But I know what he means. Derby play a complete kind of football with everyone working for each other. They have one or two special individuals as well like Will Hughes and Jamie Ward who are capable of dominating games. Ward felt his hamstring on Tuesday night and came off at half time so may not play against AFCB on Saturday.

Their lead scorer is Chris Martin the former Norwich striker who has really hit form compared to last season when he was on loan at Swindon and Derby. Derby also brought in a couple of players on loan in January such as George Thorne from West Brom and the Chealsea players Patrick Bamford who was on loan at Milton Keynes. Bamford has been scoring regularly on the wing and got the winning in their last match.

For all Derby's fire power thought they do not always keep clean sheets even at home. Yeovil recently hit two against them even though they lost, while Wigan also got a result against them this year at the iPro stadium. Derby still lead the goals scored column in the Championship on 59 after the mid-week win against Sheffield Wednesday. But that goals against total of 40 indicates that they are not yet the tightest in defence, which offers me some hope that the Cherries might get something if they play well. Derby also had to change formation to 4-2-4 in their last game which gave them more going forward when they were finding it tough going against Wednesday, but it was also leaving them exposed on the break. The sign of a good team though is not playing well and still winning and that's what Derby did last Tuesday night.

Hughes is one of the conductors that sets Derby's tempo.
The push for promotion is really on now. Steve McClaren will have his team raring to go and the crowd of some 23,000 is going to be right behind the Rams. The confidence the team must have got from beating QPR recently at home tells me that they are serious promotion candidates and they rarely slip up at home. While Leicester City and Burnley were difficult games at home for the Cherries, this will be a harder examination of AFCB's resolve and Lee Camp and his back line need to be extremely well organised if they are to keep a clean sheet, but I think that has to be the Cherries main aim and anything else would be a bonus. Those away wins for AFCB against Reading and Sheffield Wednesday seem a long time ago so it would be fabulous to reacquaint the fans with an away win.
I hope Adam Smith along with Lee Camp knows which side to warm up with on Saturday.
Derby Home form:

AFCB Away form:

Check out the latest odds for this game and others at Free Bet Negotiator.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Can Pitman regain a starting place?

Goal scorers that hit the back of the net consistently are a rare commodity and are worth mega bucks in the Championship. AFCB may not have the strikers that are at the top of the table in terms of transfer fees, but they are a group of strikers that are consistently vying for a starting place in the team whenever two strikers are to be selected. Brett Pitman would have been a shoe-in back in August when the season began. Having banged in the majority of the team's goals last season and with Championship experience already under his belt, I was one of those who thought he would be a big hit this season.
Can Pitman find last season's form in front of goal?
While Brett has stayed free of injuries his form has not been consistently high enough to keep his place in the starting eleven, or at least Eddie Howe has not picked him to start as often as he might. While Brett has undoubted talent, he is finding it hard to make his mark in the Championship at the moment. I am not quite sure why as I said on the All Departments' Kangaroo Court earlier this week. While the Cherries have struck upon some success with just playing Grabban up front, opportunities have been limited for Tokelo Rantie and Yann Kermorgant as well. 
Has Brett been unlucky this season?
The important thing for Brett is to keep working hard and to wait for his opportunity. He did well this week with his goals in the Development squad and last time he did that he got into the team for the FA Cup match against Burton Albion. The competition has stepped up now though. I am sure Eddie Howe is well aware that five minutes on match day for Pitman or any striker is not long for him to make an impression and game time is important when you never know when you may be needed next. Personally, I believe there is not so much to choose between those strikers trying to get a start next to Grabban. The goals column doesn't say that Rantie or Kermorgant should be ahead of Pitman and so Brett still has an excellent opportunity to win more playing time if Eddie Howe believes his style is most suited to whatever opponent the team is playing on the day. 

It's probable that Rantie, Kermorgant and Pitman will all be searching for that bit of consistency that enables them to get more of the action. The competition should make the Cherries a tougher proposition, but like all teams we need them all to be confident of scoring and taking their chance when it comes. I believe that Pitman is capable or hitting his top form in the Championship with a run of games, but it maybe that Rantie or Kermorgant beat him to it this season.
Pitman is ready to fight for his place.
Don't forget to see what Derby Co Blog said ahead of the Cherries visit to the iPro stadium this weekend. See Rival Lines.

Top teams are a real challenge for the Cherries

You could not have asked much more from the AFCB players against Burnley last weekend. After all Burnley are chasing promotion and were looking to do a job on Bournemouth. As Burnley didn't win that gives me confidence that the Cherries have what it takes to stay up this season.
AFCB are still getting better.
But beating the top eight teams is something that has not come easy to AFCB. Apart from the away win at Reading they have not managed to get the better of the best teams in the Championship. It is something that is becoming frustrating because AFCB are right there in these games and pushing for the win. The match against Burnley is typical in that AFCB came out with a draw, but in this game AFCB were more dominant than in most of the other games against top opposition. They managed six strikes on target compared to Burnley's one and eight corners compared to four. Possession also slightly favoured AFCB, just as in the Leicester game.

The number of goal scoring opportunities though were not high and that is a sign that both teams to a large extent cancelled each other out. While the task against Burnley was hard I feel the match against Derby will be a very different kind of test when fighting for possession will be key if AFCB are to stop Derby building up any momentum in their attacks. I suspect Derby will look to pull and stretch AFCB out of position rather than the lightening quick attacks that Burnley tried to use. Therefore, it will be important that the Cherries keep their shape against the Rams and stop them getting in between the defence and midfield where they like to play their football.

Don't forget to see what Derby Co Blog said ahead of the Cherries visit to the iPro stadium this weekend. See Rival Lines.