Monday, 31 March 2014

Our trip to St Andrews - 'a small town in Villa!'

St Andrews' Reception.
The Birmingham City match was one of the away matches that we had planned to go to from looking at the fixtures as soon as they came out. It's was one of those big grounds that I hadn't been to and from Redhill in Surrey it is quite easy to get to. While I was expecting to drive, a last minute good deed by my wife to baby sit for another family meant that we were left with the train option. Not a bad way to travel I thought as I could write up the match report on the journey back rather than having to drive. 
Stephen and Robert are on their way!
So off we set at 10am to catch a train up to Victoria station and then a fast Virgin train from Euston to Waterloo. As usual it was standing room only on the first train but reserved seats would be great for the bigger journey from London to Birmingham New Street. There were no journey problems apart from having to decipher which of the 20 tickets I had needed to be shown to the guards, as none of them would work on the underground barriers!

I suppose dad can tag along.
Pick up a fast train at Euston.
Dad is keen to show everyone his AFCB away shirt.
So we were in Birmingham by 1pm and headed for the Bull Ring and the food halls. Then it was off to the game and working out how to get there was made easier by knowing that Moor Street station was on the way. Before long we picked up a few Birmingham supporters heading the same way and started chatting about Zigic's lack of goals and comparing his performances to our biggest signing Tokelo Rantie, who is also having a tough time in front of goal. I did ask if the lads would not get too upset if they lost today, but they seemed confident that Birmingham would do the double over Bournemouth, after their good win at Millwall. Perhaps they did not know what was about to hit their team - a bit more than a seaside storm!

Robert holds back the bull in front of Birmingham's Bull Ring shopping centre.
While Robert and Stephen marvelled at the strange looking Selfridge building in town and mirrored passage ways in the city centre, we were soon at the gates to St Andrews. We headed to the main reception and gawped in the windows before spying the club shop up the hill. "It's tiny," said Robert. Yes, I think AFCB supporters have come to many away games and can see that we have one of the best club shops around now.  
Bournemouth coaches - we guess the away entrance must be here. Stephen leads the way.
After a bit of confusion we found our way to where the away supporters gathered at the Gil Merrick entrance and after a quick body search we were in St Andrews. The stadium looked very tidy indeed with three big two tier stands and the smaller, older Main stand to our left. It was not long before our fans were singing "Your ground too big for you, your ground too big for you!" That was quickly followed by my favourite: "You're just a small town in Villa, small town in Villa, you're just a small town in Villa!" It was all in good humour.

Everything is very blue!

The big score board - excellent.
Banter launched we enjoyed watching the Birmingham mascots and Armed forces charity mascot warm up on the side lines. We then had AFCB coming out to our right to warm up while Birmingham's team appeared from the left corner. The ground slowly filled up and after taking lots of snaps the game kicked off. As you can guess we were buzzing from the start as soon as Ritchie put us one-nil up. The speed of the attack and the bewilderment on Lee Clark and Birmingham players' faces was a joy to behold. We could tell from very early on that this was likely to be three points in the bag because the football Bournemouth were playing would not have looked out of place in the Premier League, and that is no disrespect to Birmingham because they were giving it their best, even if their supporters didn't always think so. Three-nil at half time was not lucky. AFCB were totally in charge. 

While the second half showed our supporters that there is still more work to be done with Birmingham getting a reaction and a Mecheda double restoring a little pride for the Blues, it had been a great performance and another three points on the road towards what is becoming an impressive total. While some Bournemouth fans shouted to Lee Clark that he was "getting sacked in the morning", I don't ever like to hear that. I think the spirit his Birmingham side in the second half was excellent and proved that they are still fully behind their manager. They simply met a better team that is playing some inspired football at the moment. I enjoyed talking to Birmingham fans and if AFCB don't go up it will be good to go back there next season, so I wish Lee Clark and his players the best for the remaining games.
The mascot's are out.
A difficult job getting the home crowd going.
This is about as close as the mascot's dare come to the away fans.
All the chat leaving the ground was whether AFCB could be in the shake up for the play-offs having seen the points close to Reading to just five. In a way I didn't even want to think about it so as not to jinx the club's progress. But it's hard not to want the team to just keep playing in this kind of form and if that makes them one of the best six teams in the division then they will have earned their place there. Whatever the outcome, watching AFCB on the road is as good as ever at the moment and the singing is tremendous. Can't wait for the next one. UTCIAD!

Match Highlights

Eddie Howe leads his team off after giving us another great away day. Thanks lads!

Blistering first half hours are hard to come back from

The Cherries have found a winning formula that is just a pleasure to watch. The amazing thing is that so many of the players have hit top form at the same time and they are doing it with such panache. It has happened so quickly that it is hard to believe, but great to see. What has been a shock is to see how the team has performed in the first half hour of the last two matches against Leeds and Birmingham.
Yann is looking especially good at Dean Court.
Getting out of that starting box fast is something that wasn't really happening earlier in the season. We had particularly slow start against Millwall, but AFCB have been in most games with a chance of getting points after the first half for most of the season. 

Hitting teams hard early on has really been a signature though of the last month and while it is one thing to know that you need that first goal it is quite another thing to get it. But AFCB are building momentum with the quick starts and knocking teams over in the first half hour. It is what the Leicester's and QPR's of the division have been doing for much of the season and it only happens if you are taking those early chances.
Pugh has been upping his shot percentage.
It's the inclusion of Yann Kermorgant from the start that has given the team a new way of playing. He stands out as a player that has a great understanding of everything that is happening around him and that awareness in the final third is perhaps the key that was missing for some of Bournemouth's earlier games this season. I also think that AFCB's wingers have been on top form of late. While we are not always seeing Coulibaly, Fraser and even Smith, they are all pushing for places and that has stepped up the performances of Pugh and Ritchie. It is the speed of these players on the counter in the first half hour that has been paying off with Francis especially adding his pace and crossing power to proceedings.
Ryan Fraser may be able to slot a few more goals away this season.
I am sure that the number of shots are also much higher on the first half hour now as Ritchie and Pugh along with Grabban are taking more early shots rather than overplaying around the box. It is of course much easier to control games when the team is winning after a good first half and Eddie Howe probably likes to have less to say at half time these days. Long may it continue.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pre-Blues v AFCB: Made in Brum shot questions at Cherry Chimes

I informed you all that Cherry Chimes had spoke to Gabriel Sutton of Made for Brum earlier last week as a preview item for the Birmingham Fanzine. As many of you will not have had the chance to make the away trip and to read the copy I thought I would post the interview up so that you can see what Cherry chimes was asked pre-AFCB's great win at Birmingham.

Bournemouth Fan Questions

MIB: You’re eleventh in the table and seventeen points clear of the drop. Could your first season in the Championship have gone much better?

CC: At the start of the season I predicted a finish of 18th and half way through, having seen the other teams I thought 12th was possible with a good wind, so to see the Cherries sitting in 11th and still a good month or more of games to go is absolutely fantastic. The club’s best ever finish was 12th in the 1988-89 season, under Harry Redknapp. That will be the next target and who knows perhaps a record points total in the Championship. I think the play-offs might be out of reach but it was not about that this season – consolidation is what the club wanted and they have more than achieved that.

MIB: From what I can see, Eddie Howe has got you playing some good, possession football. If we want to see our country produce better technical players, do we need more coaches like him?

CC: I had a joke with my mates this week saying I’ll shoot the next person who says Eddie Howe should be an England manager one day. It’s not that I don’t believe his is good enough or that he has the talent to get there but I just want to keep him all to ourselves at AFC Bournemouth. When anyone mentions Eddie being linked with any move away from the club, I keep saying shush! We have lost him once and we don’t want to lose him again. I think Everton is one club he would consider in the future if they made an approach as it is the club he supported in his youth, but Eddie has just signed a two-year extension to his contract at Bournemouth and we are overjoyed to keep him for as long as he wants to stay.

Brendan Rogers gave an eloquent speech after the FA Cup Third Round tie we had with Liverpool where he pointed out that playing from the back with possession football was the way England players will progress. He also said that Eddie Howe is one of the coaches that players will learn a great deal from in the way he sets up his team to play, being brave on the ball and using movement and quickness to create space and opportunities. It is not just the first team that plays that way at AFC Bournemouth it is all the teams, from Development, to Youth and Junior squads. 

MIBOnly a few years ago, your club went into administration and could have dropped out of the Football League. Talk us through the journey the club has been on since then…

CC: It has been a remarkable experience to be a fan that has seen how close the club was to exiting the football league and yet, in just a few years, has mounted a strong challenge in the Championship this season, following two promotions. In 2008-9 we started with a -17 point deficit along with Rotherham and Luton on -30 points. Bournemouth employed the league’s youngest manager from its own coaching squad and then saw Steve Fletcher score his 100th goal with the winner against Grimsby to keep us up.

Move on a year and the team spirit that had been built up by Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall pushed the team to promotion in 2009-10 to League One. While Eddie and Jason left during the 2010-11 season, Bournemouth still reached the play-offs under Lee Bradbury and Steve Fletcher. But then most of the team were sold to balance the books and while the following season was disappointing and Paul Groves could not resurrect the good times, it was only in October 2012 when Eddie and Jason returned and things took off again. The club went from the bottom three to finish second in League One.

Credit should also go to Eddie Mitchell our former chairman who found new Russian investors to secure the financial future of the club and totally changed the landscape around the ground to make it Championship quality. Now that Bournemouth are in the Championship the ambition is still growing, because Premiership football is something that the club and fans feel can be achieved with this squad of players under Eddie Howe.

MIBWhat did you make of the game back in December – a 2-0 win for Blues?

CC: I probably was not too complementary about Birmingham’s win as I thought the game really showed the naivety of Bournemouth at the Championship level at that time. The Blues showed us that you can defend as a team and just use your quality strikers to win the game as long as they can finish. It was a sucker punch job, but we’ve learned from that. It has taken until March to really get a few clean sheets but the team is defending much better now.

MIBOn my away day there, Bournemouth didn’t strike me as a town that especially welcomes football culture. Has it been difficult for the club to attract fans?

CC: The Saints down the road has a bigger population to pull from but with Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch being one of the country’s conurbations with good wealth creation and more young people now coming for the University and career opportunities in the south there are signs that things are changing. AFC Bournemouth attracted six thousand season ticket holders for the 2013-24 season and I believe the Junior Cherry membership has grown significantly from 303 in 2009 to 1400 in 2013. We average about 10,000 supporters for every home game now and will be looking to build that further next season.

MIBYou spent £2 million this summer on South African striker Tokelo Rantie. With two goals so far, the consensus seems to be that the club has been ripped off a bit. Would you agree?

CC: It is too early to say how good Tokelo Rantie is going to be. Very few players are an instant success when they change countries and leagues. He is a young international striker who plays for South Africa and is still learning his trade. Eddie Howe will work with him over the summer . It’s three goals I think, even if one was a bit disputed but you are right it’s not enough. He has to learn how to make a bigger frame and hold off challenges better with a good first touch. It’s a much more physical league than in Sweden where he played for Malmo. We have already seen that he can do the spectacular as seen in the Burnley away game. If he can start to put away chances from six yards as well he may yet prove to be a valuable signing within the next 12 months. And if the media reports are right, it was nearer to £2.25-2.5 million.

MIB: Time for your prediction. I’ve been looking through my record book, and the last time we scored a goal against you at St Andrews was from Andy Kennedy, a 1-1 draw back in August 1987. We’ve failed in five attempts since then, and with your defensive record of late, are we in danger of making it a sixth?

CC: I am writing this before the Leeds game which will take a bit out of our players. I know Birmingham will need the points perhaps more than us, but I can see more frustration for Lee Clark and perhaps another away win coming for our boys 0-1. We will bring good support.

I was a little out in my prediction, but at least I thought three points was something the Cherries could achieve and it has taken most peoples breath away just how well the team has played in the last two games - roll on QPR! 

I should have mentioned Jeff Mostyn as well who continues to work tirelessly for the cause of AFCB - we think you are great Jeff and we know you are always working behind the scenes to make the Cherries a success on and off the field. UTCIAD! Thanks again Made in Brum.

Birmingham swept aside by Cherries’ dazzling display 2-4! (video)

Match Report
Birmingham City 2 v 4 AFCB
30 March 2014
Attendance: 13,875 (including 1182 AFCB fans)
AFCB in white jackets soon revealed their Darth Vader black away kits.
Having seen Leeds blown away in half an hour at Dean Court in mid-week Bournemouth fans wondered whether Eddie Howe’s team could put on a display anywhere near as convincing against Birmingham away. They needn’t have worried. AFCB not only sparkled in the first half, they played glistening football that would have been seen as graceful and elegant in any European league. The fact that it was in the Championship is something that opposition teams can’t seem to cope with and it is pushing the Cherries towards their highest ever finish in English football.
Even I could see who was in the team for once.
However, I do give some credit to Birmingham who dusted themselves down after a first half battering and with a couple of substitutions made it much more of a game. But it was simply too little, too late. Eddie Howe’s team had swept them aside in a first half that was a real treat to the eye.

Does anyone actually want to play football?
AFCB made only one change to their mid-week line up with Eunan O’Kane stepping in for Andrew Surman. Meanwhile, Birmingham stuck with their 11 that have given them an away win against Millwall in mid-week. 

More pictures can be seen on Match Day Gallery.

First Half

Birmingham kicked off towards the away supporters’ end with Elphick and Francis in the early action against Ibe. Yann Kermorgant soon played Pugh into the box but Caddis cleared. It was clear that Ibe on the left wing would be Birmingham’s main ball out to start off attacks so it looked like a busy day for Francis.

Birmingham won the first corner after two-and-a-half minutes but Francis headed clear. Arter then fouled Shinnie on the edge box. AFCB put three players in the wall and Reilly and Shinnie lined up next to it only to break away when the kick was taken, but Caddis fired wide of the left post! It was close enough for the Birmingham supporters to think it had gone in.

AFCB went straight on the attack. After a quick move with Pugh, Grabban and Kermorgant involved, Ritchie came back on his left foot to fire wide of the left post after five minutes, although it must have been deflected as AFCB won a corner. After Grabban’s back kick AFCB win another corner this time on the right, but Pugh was offside.

Grabban was next to be flagged offside, but AFCB were getting a grip of proceedings and while Grabban fought with Martin, a throw led to Francis and O’Kane playing the ball up to Ritchie who crossed high and over the goal.

Birmingham won a corner on 10 minutes which O’Kane disputed. The kick from the left caused a panic in the box as Kermorgant clipped it backwards towards goal and a combination of post and Lee Camp almost pushed the ball into the goal but a big boot, probably Francis’ cleared the danger. Things were not exactly going AFCB’s way as Kermorgant fouled Ibe, but the ball in was too strong for everyone.

The ball out from Elphick then started what has to go down as another sublime goal by the Cherries. Bournemouth fans were shouting olays while Birmingham fans were booing the seasiders possession which switched from O’Kane to Gabban, to Pugh and Harte on the left and back to Grabban before a left sided cross to Ritchie, who fired in a shot that rippled the back of the net as he speeded in from the right. It was like a practise ground move. No Birmingham played got near the ball and AFCB were 0-1 up having stroked the ball around effortlessly before passing it into the net on 12 minutes!

Birmingham must have been a little stunned but they fashioned a move of their own that saw a right wing cross make Elphick scramble a header that fell to Ibe in the box but he crewed his shot over from about 8 yards out. That was a good chance.

While Yann Kermorgant received an injury he was soon back up. Arter was getting caught in possession, but Zigic was luckily offside. But it was just about to get worse for Birmingham. Spector’s header fell for Elphick and the ball went via Kermorgant and Arter over to Pugh on the left wing and his cross on 19 minutes was met by Grabban, who basically walked it into the net with Randolph sprawled at his feet 0-2. It had been laid on a plate for Grabban and he was up to 18 goals for the season.

Birmingham were not able to deal with the pace and penetration of Bournemouth’s forward play. It was lightening quick stuff and it happened again on 26 minutes when O’Kane and then Francis battled with Martin before Kermorgant released Grabban and with only the keeper to beat it looked like Grabban would go round him until Randolph brought him down – penalty! Where was the red card? It didn’t matter up stepped Grabban to smash his 19th goal of the season home high and to the keeper’s left – 0-3.

By this time AFCB fans were in full party mood and their glee was almost extended further when Ritchie shot wide on 28 minutes. The Cherries were not quite perfect as Francis also hit a cross too long, but otherwise you could not grumble with the cutting-edge that the team now has.

Kermorgrant was coming in for most of the punishment as Martin dumped him on the floor, not for the first time. Birmingham’s best hope seemed to be in getting the ball to Zigic, but even when he had it on the right wing his cross went straight across goal with no one there to put it away.

Shinnie was subbed on 32 minutes and Frederico Macheda came on for Birmingham. Arter picked up a foul while running at full speed on 35 minutes as AFCB looked to further dominate the game. AFCb wona corner a minute later and Kermorgant headed over. The next meaningful attack saw Yann cross to Grabban who went for a spectacular volley on the edge of the box but he did not hit the target this time.

Birmingham were starting to put more pressure on AFCB by bringing Blackett more into the game on the left. They were not having much luck on the right side because Ian Harte was having another good game as AFCB’s left back. There were a couple of handball shouts on the half way line first against Kermorgant and then against one of the Birmingham players, but time was clicking towards half time. That’s when Caddis won Birmingham a corner and from it Robinson rose well and I waited for the ball to land in the net only to see Camp make a last second save at full stretch to tip the header over! So at half time it was 0-3. 

Half time and all we can do is applaud - fantastic performance by AFCB.
Wow - what a great half.
I think Lee Clark was pleased it was only three!
Second Half

I expected a bit of a drop off in the standards set in the first half and while AFCB would not want to ease off you guessed that it might happen a bit. AFCB won a free kick in the 46th minute, but things remained fairly quiet. Both Grabban and Arter put in crosses that did not worry Randolph in goal. Cook won a free kick as play neared 50 minutes, but then Birmingham’s resistance went again. Francis won a corner and while Zigic headed out, Ian Harte took hold of the ball on the left again and as he stepped inside he hit a shot that curled superbly into the left hand side of the goal to make it 0-4 on 52 minutes.

That was about the last of the action for the big Birmingham forward who was subbed on 55 minutes for Novak. Kermorgant fouled Ibe on 56 minutes and Robinson took the kick from around half way. Kermorgant got a head out, but moments later Ibe put a header across and  Macheda got the ball under control and hit a fierce shot passed Camp – 1-4! Birmingham were off the mark.

The goal inspired Birmingham to win a couple of more corners and start to push AFCB back. Elphick was now heavily involved in winning headers as AFCB played on the break.Arter almost played Pugh in as he raced with Martin on 63 minutes but Martin was just strong enough to hold Pugh off.

Burke was next to go close with a shot that went just wide. Birmingham were winning free kicks and doing all they could to get back into the game. A trip on Kermorgant by Blackett bought some rest bite on 67 minutes.

AFCB then made a sub with Fraser replacing Pugh on 68 minutes. Ritchie had made his way over to the touchline and looked a bit surprised that he was not the one coming off. Grabban immediately won a free kick against Martin for shirt pulling and Fraser then had a battle with Blackett before shooting just past the left post on 70 minutes.

Two minutes later and Birmingham were celebrating again as Elphick’s clearance fell nicely to Mached and he hit a firm shot past Camp to make it 2-4.

Birmingham were not done there either. A good cross first from Burke and then by Spector was headed just over AFCB’s goal.

Grabban then missed a great chance to kill the game off as he chose to round the keeper instead of shooting straight away and his shot was blocked for a corner.

Bournemouth made another sub, changing Kermorgant for Surman on 77 minutes. Fraser then had a shot well saved by Randolph and Birmingham took Martin off and threw the dice by bringing on Lovenkrands on 78 minutes. Camp had to make a smart save to his right low down a minute later as Birmingham sought an unlikely comeback.

Fraser was getting caught offside frequently while Arter was doing his best to get on the score sheet. Ritchie was meanwhile defending well and when Arter was tripped by Caddis on 84 minutes, Harte played the ball wide to Ritchie to fire a shot just wide. Caddis was actually given a yellow card – I though the ref had left his cards in the dressing room for most of the match, although Grabban and Randolph had also been shown yellow during the game.

Apart from a Grabban break that won a corner, having seen him hold off a couple of challenges in the box when he could have gone down there was not much more incident. Six minutes of extra time seemed a bit over the top, especially as many of the Blues fans had already left.

Still, we played on and Elliott Ward ran out as Arter was subbed. Final score 2-4.

Eddie Howe's Barmy Army!


If you were planning an early summer holiday in May you just might want to hold off a bit if you’re an AFCB fan. The football that they are playing at the moment is exhilarating stuff. The presence of Yann Kermorgant on the pitch with Grabban is already turning into a dream partnership . Moreover, the team build up play for the first goal in this was exquisite. Ritchie is back scoring and even Ian Harte opened his AFCB account.

There is a game afoot – AFCB are playing catch the leaders and the momentum is building. At the moment you just want this season to be extended if you are a Bournemouth fan and with a bit of luck it just might be.

Francis clenches his fists in victory.
Is this a team that is even better than we think?
Eddie says - that one's for you away fans.
Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Arter (Ward 92), Ritchie, O,Kane, Pugh (Fraser 68), Kermorgant (Surman 77), Grabban

Allsop, Ward, Fraser, Smith, Pitman, Rantie, Surman

AFCB Ratings
Camp 8, Francis 8, Elphick 8, Cook 8, Harte 8, Arter 7, Ritchie 8, O,Kane 7, Pugh 7, Kermorgant 8, Grabban 9

Randolph, caddis, Blackett, Reilly, Martin, Robinson (Lovenkrands 78), Burke, Spector, Zigic (Novak 56), Shinnie (Macheda 32), Ibe

Birmingham Subs
Macheda, Lovekrands, Novak, Doyle, Lee, Ferguson, Rusnak.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Cherries March on - Birmingham next!

The feel good factor just keeps growing at AFC Bournemouth. All the fans are fully behind what Eddie Howe, Jason Tindall, Jeff Mostyn and Maxim Demin are trying to achieve and the club continues on its upsurge pushing aside the so-called big clubs. Is this as good as it gets?
Cherry Bear must have enjoyed this season.
 He has had so many more Junior Cherries to look after.
I am not sure that AFCB want to slow down any time soon. It is a shame the season won't continue past the 3rd May unless AFCB are involved in the play-offs, because I think the players are just beginning to hit their stride in the Championship. The last minute win against Barnsley gave the team another injection of pride and passion and it was unleashed on Leeds United with a fury that the opposition could not live with. The month of March has been fantastic and we still have Birmingham to play today.
It's certainly been good looking on from the stands.
Lewis Grabban said in his post-match interview that AFCB don't want to be known as a little club any more. Indeed he said that they "are a progressive team that is developing." The development has been nothing short of sensational in the last four months. The team has picked itself up from some heavy defeats and has set about embracing the Championship and results have steadily come, supported by the addition of Lee Camp and Yann Kermorgant, making the defence more solid, while giving the forward department another dimension.

If you see a plane circling the ground at St Andrews it is most likely to say "Great job Eddie Howe." We may not be Man Utd, but we know when we have a good manager. 

Bournemouth look a powerful side now and in full flow they are a real handful, which is something they did not have at the start of the season. It's not job done yet, but the omens are good and all the players already know that they are re-writing AFCB's history again this season. So there's plenty to smile about. 

Champagne football Michael Dunne called it on All Departments - I'll have some of that. UTCIAD! Safe trip to everyone! 

Don't forget to get you bet on at Free Bet Negotiator.

The Made in Brum Fanzine fanzine should be out just before the game at the St Andrew's stadium. I hope some of you can pick up a copy. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

New targets in sight for the Cherries

AFCB have over achieved in their first season back in the Championship and the team is now looking at new targets with safety clearly already secured. I felt that the team could go unbeaten in March perhaps with a bit of hope, but more because the team has become harder to beat at the back. It didn't quite happen but the points return has been incredible this month. The run may have come late in the day as far as the season is concerned, but there is still plenty of things to try and achieve.
There are still a few great away day trips to be had.
It is an outside chance but the play-offs are not quite set in stone yet for all contenders. There are eight games for Bournemouth to try and add another 24 points to their total. While it is hard for any team to achieve that many wins in a row in the Championship AFCB can endeavour to pick up as many points and see if they can get further into the top ten.

What could make things interesting is that teams above Bournemouth are finding the pressure catching up with them a bit now. Seven points is not such a big gap and Eddie Howe is canny at getting his players to believe that they can do anything. We've seen it before last season and we may just see it again now. The performance against Leeds was unlike anything I have seen this team do before and that kind of form is going to be hard for any opponent to live with.

More importantly AFCB still have the chance to take points off of teams that are above them and some of those are at home. QPR, Reading and Forest all have to come to the Goldsands and there is also Ipswich away. 

I would like to see a few more clean sheets although I am not sure what the record is for the club at this level. Perhaps those with a passion for stats will look it up. From what I can see in the 1988/89 season, when they finished 12th, the team won 18 games, 5 of which were away and recorded 9 clean sheets. I believe we have 14 wins this season and have already achieved 6 away wins. I'll let you work out how many clean sheets we have this season. The team certainly has a chance of catching the highest total of Championship wins for an AFCB team. If the team can do anything similar to how they ended last season then AFCB fans are in for a fun time. 

I already have my bag packed for the Birmingham trip, so if you are confident of a win make sure you put your money on AFCB at Free Bet Negotiator.

Are Birmingham still shot shy?

Looking at the league position of Birmingham City you might think that they are a team that should be doing better. Lee Clark would probably agree with you. They have certainly been goal shy and getting shots on target is something that they have suffered from, although they did well in their last game against Millwall. One clean sheet and two wins in the last 10 games tells you that Birmingham still have a bit of work to do if they are to creep over the finishing line come 3 May.
Birmingham City players at the Goldsands stadium earlier this season.
Last Saturday they were well in the game with Reading but were scuppered by an 82 minute second goal from McAnuff. Yet Birmingham had had 20 shots at goal themselves with just 6 being on target. For a team playing at home they are not taking their chances and it is coming back to haunt them.

But a few weeks ago they would probably have been pleased to score three at home against Burnley even if it only meant gaining a point. That day they were well out shone with Burnley having 22 efforts at goal to Birmingham's 11. So where are Birmingham slipping up? Their sharp shooters just haven't been that prolific. Lee Novak is top scorer for them but he only has 10 goals and the lack of a striker capable of getting 20 goals gives any team a problem. Nikola Zigic has been a real disappointment with just 5 goals this season, but one of those was against the Cherries at Dean Court. Chris Burke, and on loan Jordan Ibe and Frederico Macheda might be other goal scorers that Lee Clark plays.

The mid-week game of Millwall away was the ideal opportunity though for Birmingham to put some distance between them and the bottom four. They managed that in a 2-3 win which they had control of up until the 88th minute, when Millwall made it a tight finish. Birmingham only had five shots at goal all night but three of them counted. 

So Lee Camp may not be peppered with shots all day at St Andrews, but he'll have to be alert when he is called upon.

Birmingham Home form

AFCB Away form

I mentioned yesterday that I was asked about Tokelo Rantie by a Birmingham fan. In fact, I was asked several questions about the Cherries and if you are travelling to Birmingham to see the game look out at St Andrew's for a copy of the Made in Brum Fanzine that I contributed an article to this week. You'll have to save a few pennies for a copy so make sure you don't spend all your dosh in the pubs before going to the match.

Rival Lines also has an interview with  (Aka  Almajir)of the Often Partisan blog. 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Cherry Chimes chats to Often Partisan

Match Preview
Birmingham V AFCB
Blogger Interview - Often Partisan

Cherry Chimes talks to Daniel (Aka  Almajir) Often Partisan about the situation at St Andrews and the impact that Carsten Yeung is still having on his team thousands of miles away. This has not been a great season for Birmingham, but under Lee Clark they have shown great togetherness and under what must be mounting pressure Lee has been steadying the ship towards safety, so AFCB will have to be at their best to get anything at Birmingham's ground. This interview took place pre-Birmingham's mid-week 2-3 away win against Millwall.

CC: Are you fed up with the Carson Yeung saga?

OP: I think most of us are - the time has long gone when BIH need to sell the club and it can't come soon enough.

CC: Lee Clark has had it pretty tough at Birmingham since he arrived hasn't he - no money to spend and financial worries hanging over the club - can he really say he is able to do a good job?

OP: It's a tough one. There is no doubt he is working to constraints but his erratic team selections aren't helping him.

CC: Do you hope that all ties with Carson Yeung are severed now - his brother is still on the board isn't he?

OP: Until he sells his shareholding they won't be - his brother in law is on the board along with his son on the football club board.

CC: Blackpool and Chartlon are the only wins you have had so far in 2014 so do you think the fans and players are in need of a lift?

OP: Absolutely - we've not won at home since October 1. This season hasn't been pleasant at all.

CC: What did you make of the referee mocking claims Lee Clark said James Linington made against Paul Robinson in the Birmingham v Burnley match and the Macheda handball dispute - "good dialogue" being the official verdict of the club now to the ref's actions?

OP: I don't think Macheda touched it with his arm, it looked like his chest to me. As for the ref mocking Robbo... that was just the icing on a poor performance from the ref - and it's not the first poor ref we've had this season. The standard of officiating this season has been very poor overall.

CC: Have you seen Lovenkrands playing enough this season he always looked a good player to me?

OP: I don't think he's close to good enough any more - he was made available on a free at the start of the season and the fact no one wants him even for nothing speaks volumes.

CC: Has Zigic been a disappointment this season?

OP: He has - but he's getting old and he's injury prone. It's been a big decline for him - mirroring the club in truth.

CC: Will you just be pleased to get this season over and finish where you are now around 19th?

OP: Absolutely- although without investment I fear for us next year.

CC: What went wrong with the Sheffield Wednesday defeat?

OP: I wasn't there so it's difficult for me to say but Clark was honest enough to say the players were off the pace. I think the formation was wrong too though.

CC: What is St Andrews like for visiting fans - I'm coming by train so I hope it is easy to get from New Street to St Andrews?

OP: It's not the fortress it once was. It's a fair old walk from new street - allow yourself twenty minutes at least. I wouldn't recommend drinking around the ground - maybe get a jar or two in town before heading to the ground.

CC: How do you think Lee Clark will set the team up against Bournemouth?

OP: With Lancelot and set of balls number three. No joke, he's impossible to second guess - it's become a standing joke.

CC: I am so glad that Often Partisan has not lost his sense of humour. While every team sets out with high hopes at the start of the season there can only be a few winners and when your club is saddled with off the pitch problems it makes the whole job so much more difficult. Birmingham though are a big club and their fans expect to see big performances by talented players. My only hope is that they can save that for the next game. St Andrews may not seem like a fortress to Birmingham any more, but to AFCB and our players to play in such a stadium is wonderful and we take it as a challenge to be embraced.

To read more on Birmingham City and what has been happening on and off the field for them take a short trip to Daniel's Often Partisan blog for a good read.

You can relive the best moments of Cherries big win against Leed Utd by tuning into the All Departments' podcast that Michael Dunne has produced. Just visit All Departments website or scroll down the right hand panel on Cherry Chimes until you come to the All Departments' sound bar and click on that for some Kangaroo Court. I wonder who may get a few mentions, Mr Rantie by any chance?

Just a message for Rantie - focus

The Cherries had plenty of focus when they took on Leeds earlier this week. They passed the ball like a knife through butter and looked to cause trouble at every available moment. In fact I can't remember a better performance this season although I have not seen every game. What I did like was the attitude of the players from the off. They really wanted to get at Leeds and the desire was there from the first minute. I have not seen that before in a Bournemouth side - it was as if this match was personal to so many of them.

Some may say that Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall's extended contracts had something to do with that performance as well it might, but the team was focused on the task and nothing was going to move them from that.
Tokelo please get in the zone.
And so we come to Tokelo Rantie. An enigma perhaps, as he is a puzzle that is still being worked out by Eddie Howe and others I feel. At one moment he looks like he has the instinct of a world beater and on another day he does not look like he is in the office. He had two clear chances in the Leeds match and could not manage to take one of them. It can happen to any player, but he has to wipe it from his memory and next time focus on seeing that ball in the back of the net. Maybe he can take his mind to a happy place whenever he has a chance and feel that it is great to be in with a chance rather than have any negative thoughts of what if I miss?

Physcology is having much more impact on sporting performance these days and even the England football team will take that on board for the World Cup, so I hope that someone is able to help our players like Rantie find a happy place when they are about to shoot. I thought Rantie could feel the pressure of the crowd on his back after missing his first chance and while I hope we all want him to score he needs to blank us all out sometimes and just focus on the task.

I was asked a question by a Birmingham fan ahead of this Saturday's game about TK and if AFCB had paid over the odds for him. I still feel that it is too early to tell, but for sure he comes behind Yann and Lewis in terms of selection. I maybe more patient than most AFCB fans with TK, because I realise that Tokelo is not the only choice Eddie has and TK may still be far from the finished article in Eddie's eyes. If there is still work to do though, the project will have to start coming together soon.

This afternoon Cherry Chimes chats with Daniel
(Aka  Almajir)
 of the Often Partisan Blog.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Yann and Lewis - the perfect double act

Eddie Howe can only have been delighted with the work and understand that is already building up between Lewis Grabban and Yann Kermorgant against Leeds Utd yesterday. The pair looked like they were a partnership that knew exactly what they should be doing and they played to each others strengths. I especially thought that Yann popped up just about everywhere in the first half and really showed his commitment to keeping a starting place.
Lewis Grabban keeps his eyes and shots on target.
There is no doubt that Yann has more about his game than most strikers. He is so comfortable with his back to the goal and sees things very quickly which creates opportunities for himself and others. His link play is particularly strong and you can already see that he is enjoying himself at Bournemouth.
Yann looks like he has been playing at AFCB for ages. He is fitting in so well.

I have said that Lewis Grabban is sometimes underrated but I expect most Bournemouth fans are beginning to see by now that he has qualities that have progressed massively since last season. He is carrying the fight up front for 90 minutes in most games and is scoring regularly at this level.
Lewis has got the scoring habit.
I think that we are starting to see something more from him now though. With Yann beside him he is even more assured and looks like he can rely on Yann to give him good layoffs while making the runs he needs to. It is going to be an exciting end to the season with these tow in the team. AFCB fans like many others might have been envious of Ings and Vokes but it is just possible that Eddie has found a new double act that can carry the Cherries forward to even greater things than they have already achieved this season. 

Leeds despair as Cherries run riot 4-1

Match Report
AFCB 4 v 1 Leeds Utd
25 March 2014
Attendance: 10,109

There were only two points between these two teams before the start of play, but at the end of the game you would have thought the gulf should be much wider. I have know idea what Eddie Howe said to his team before they came out, but the appetite they had for this game was clear to see from the start. They wanted this win more than anything and Leeds were a well beaten side in just half an hour as the Cherries cut them open on numerous occasions. The pace and direct play caused havoc in the Leeds ranks as they tried to play a high offside line which was easily penetrated with both Grabban and Kermorgant helping themselves to the goals.
All seemed well for Leeds at this point.
More pictures can be seen by going to Match Day Gallery.

Eddie Howe kept his team management in mind by leaving O'Kane on the bench and keeping Fraser out of the squad, while Pugh and Arter came back into the team. But this game was about the running power of Simon Francis and the finishing power of the two up front who look a threat to any defence now.
The teams prepare to play.
Brian McDermott had to make one change to Leeds Utd as Connor Wickham had been recalled by Sunderland so Hunt came in to replace him in the starting 11.
Leeds players, ready to kick off.
Most fans had just taken to their seats when Grabban forced his way into the box but slipped at the vital moment. Pugh then picked up the pieces and fired a shot in that from some parts of the ground looked like it was in but only rippled the net behind the goal. From the corner Francis was lined up to hit a shot on the volley from outside the box. It pinged its way to the far post and Yann Kermorgant was in the right place to stick it away and give AFCB an amazing 1-0 lead after one minute and seven seconds.

Leeds did there best to restore the damage with a right wing cross that Cook cleared and McCormack was seen off by Surman. When Austin went in for a tackle on Grabban Pugh almost benefited from the rebound. Grabban was next to have a shot go over on seven minutes.

Hunt, Smith and Danny Pugh were working hard for Leeds, but Bournemouth were knocking it around confidently at the back. Grabban fouled Tom Lees and gave Leeds a free kick, but Surman cleared Danny Pugh's cross. Austin was effective in closing AFCB players down, but a move could have ended in Grabban being in the clear if Pearce had not have got a thin header on the ball from Kermorgrant's lofted cross.

The game began to settle with Grabban getting caught offside and Pearce winning a free kick, but Leeds were playing into Bournemouth's hands by pushing up all the time, leaving plenty of space in behind. The second goal came after a superb move with Ritchie waiting for Francis to time his run up the right wing and once the offside trap was sprung, Grabban raced into the box where he steered the ball effortlessly across the outstretched Butland and low into the left hand corner of the net. Two-nil and just 18 minutes played.

It was almost three a moment later when Ian Harte zipped in a cross from the left that span up off Butland. Ritchie then went down having been hit in the face by  Alex Mowatt.

Cook and Elphick were again dominant at the back for AFCB wining headers and tackles on the industrious Ross McCormack who was always buzzing around Bournemouth's back line. But while AFCB were holding out, Leeds succumbed to another smart finish as Yann Kermorgant and Francis began a move which saw Arter get involved before Francis back heeled a pass for Grabban in the box, who cut inside and made it 3-0 on 28 minutes. "Easy!" was the chant from the Steve Fletcher stand. Indeed, Leeds were being cut apart. 

The best move of the first half was still yet to come though. Ritchie fed Grabban with a pass to the right wing and he pulled the ball back for Kermorgant who thundered a shot against the right hand post! Butland was well beaten but the goal frame kept the score down.

Leeds just couldn't find a way into the game and when Grabban broke on goal on 35 minutes with Ritchie to his right, he decided to try and lay off a pass to Matt which was too strong when he could have chosen to shoot himself. I wish he had because it would have been his hat-trick.

There was a slight scare for Bournemouth when Camp dropped a corner on 39 minutes but he recovered and the ball was soon cleared. Leeds best chance came when McCormack did some good work on the left wing and found Mowatt who blazed over, leaving McCormack to shake his head in displeasure. So it was 3-0 at half time and you wondered just what the score might total at the end at this rate with AFCB playing so freely.
Half time score line 3-0.
Second Half
We all hoped for more of the same in the second 45 minutes, but Leeds were onto the field early determined to make a decent fist of it. Ian Harte immediately responded by fouling Sam Bryam. Leeds made a mess of the kick putting it straight out.

We did not have long to wait before normal service was resumed. Bournemouth had won a free kick and while Harte's delivery from the left wing was too long and over everyone's head, Ritchie recovered the ball and crossed from the right, picking out Yann Kermorgant who nodded home number four! That was enough for some Leeds fans who headed for the door. 

There had been 51 minutes played and you could not see a way back for Leeds now. Eunan O'Kane was brought on after 53 minutes and off went Andrew Surman to generous applause.

Leeds then won a free kick for a foul on Matt Smith and the ball in bounced off a couple of heads and out for a corner which Camp cleared with a fist away.

Leeds made a double sub on 57 and 58 minutes with first Noel Hunt coming off and White coming on and Murphy came off for Stewart. Francis was continuing to play well with a superb sliding tackle on McCormack.

More pressure came from a Bournemouth corner on 63 minutes that saw Steve Cook make Butland make a save at full stretch. 

Leeds though grabbed something from the game as a header on from Smith found Ross McCormack with Arter and then Tommy Elphick still to beat, but the Leed's top scorer found space on 69 minutes and smashed in a low shot from the edge of the box that nestled in the corner of the net to Camp's left. The Leeds fans finally had something to shout about 4-1.

Elphick tried to cushion a header back to Camp a few moments later that evaded the keeper and went out for a corner, but Leeds could not mount anything of a big comeback. McCormack tried his best though firing a shot high and wide of the goal on 74 minutes. Arter also conceded a needless corner two minutes later but the following header went wide.

On 78 minutes on came Tokelo Rantie for Bournemouth as Ritchie was brought off and within seconds Rantie found himself with a one-on-one chance which perhaps came to him a bit quick but Jack Butland made the save when Rantie had been favourite to slot the chance away! The home fans could not believe it and were quick to let TK know it.

Yann Kermorgant was subbed on 82 minutes to let Pitman have a bit of a run out. Rantie might have had a penalty another day when he was pushed in the box, but the referee looked long and hard at it and gave nothing on 83 minutes. Meanwhile, Pitman's first contribution was to get caught offside.

Rantie tried to spray a ball wide for Grabban that was too long and as we approached 90 minutes know body expected too much more. But then Rantie again broke through to have another one-on-one with other Bournemouth players either side of him. He decided to take responsibility and yet again Butland made the save! To miss one chance was unlucky, but two and you have to start to wonder if Rantie is made of the quite the right stuff. 
4-1 a big win for Bournemouth.
While some Leeds fans left early the majority kept singing right to the end.
AFCB simply out played Leeds on the night.
Stewards and police in front of Leeds fans.
Not a good night's work for Brian McDermott.
Now that's what you call entertainment. It was an emphatic win for the Cherries at home, but this was against a Leeds Utd team that on their day can cause problems for any team in the division. Yet on occasion they looked devoid of ideas and totally unable to cope with the running power and intelligent movement of Kermorgant and Grabban. Had AFCB been a little more clinical it could have been double the scoreline that it was. Simon Francis was my man of the match. He ran up and down the right wing all night and provided most of the assists - it was a perfect performance in my book.

At the back AFCB were solid and only the outstanding talent of Ross McCormack stopped them from picking up another clean sheet. So in all it was job well done. Emm, seven points off the play-offs. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Keep racking up the points and let's see where it takes us.

Match Highlights

Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte, Ritchie (Rantie 78) , Arter, Surman (O'Kane), Pugh, Kermorgant (Pitman 82) and Grabban.

AFCB Subs:
Allsop, Smith, Pitman, Rantie, Macdonald, O'Kane, Ward.

AFCB Ratings
Camp 7, Francis 10, Cook 9, Elphick 9, Harte 7, Ritchie 8, Arter 7, Surman 7, Pugh 7, Kermorgant 9 and Grabban 9.

Leeds Utd
Butland, Byram, Pugh, Murphy (Stewart 58), Lees, Pearce, Mowatt, Austin, McCormack, Smith and Hunt (White 57)

Leeds Subs:
White, Tonge, Wotton, Zaliukas, Stewart, Cairns, Walters.