Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Artur Boruc will be a Cherry at least until the end of the season

I was delighted to hear that Artur Boruc had signed an extension to his loan deal from Southampton that will keep him at AFCB until the end of the season. Artur has had a fabulous start to his loan time at Bournemouth having only lost in the Carling Cup quarter final game against Liverpool. Apart from that, Artur has on the winning side and has been instrumental in the Cherries' excellent league form of 14 games unbeaten.
Southampton give AFCB an early New Year's present.
Artur Boruc is allowed to stay at AFCB on loan.
I don't think that Southampton were that worried about Artur being out on loan this season and as he has done so well for the Cherries it would have been a big blow if he had not been able to continue his season at Dean Court. It may mean that AFCB have a better chance of reaching their objective of Premier League football in 2015-16. Artur has let in only 16 goals since arriving at Bournemouth and has kept nine clean sheets in his last 18 matches. The shot stopper joined the Cherries on 19 September 2014 and since then it has been hard for Lee Camp to get a game. 

The spine of AFCB's squad is certainly strengthened by the extension to Boruc's loan and there must be some hope that if the Cherries did win promotion they would have a good chance of securing Artur's services in the top flight. This is the one bit of business that AFCB fans can be pleased with already and if nothing else happens in the January window it will have been a pretty successful window in my opinion, but I would expect a bit of movement of some players who are not currently getting a game such as Shaun MacDonald who has made it known that he would like to play somewhere.

Meanwhile, I hear that Charlie Daniels has signed a new contract keeping him at the club until summer 2017.

Breaking News: The Daily Mail reports that AFCB have had a £1.5m bid for 18-year old, winger, Demarai Gray at Birmingham City turned down.

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Good signs for AFCB

It's well known that Bournemouth can win games with their pretty football. Now they are showing another side to their game in that they can roll their sleeves up and go to away grounds and boss games, even when they are not able to fully play their smooth passing game. Mixing it is not something that Eddie Howe probably set out to do, but you have to show a tougher side to your game when you visit grounds where teams are scrapping for every point at the bottom of the table.

The run of 14 league games unbeaten did not feel under threat at Millwall. AFCB created 19 shots during the match with five shots on target. It felt that the Cherries were even more dominant than that and that is probably because Millwall could only record three shots all game. Much of the possession was Bournemouth had was causing Millwall to foul frequently and 23 fouls against the Cherries shows what Bournemouth players, especially Adam Smith had to cope with.

Tommy Elphick helps AFCB keep another clean sheet - this time against Millwall.
I also thought that Tommy Elphick was busy in defence despite Bournemouth's control of the game. He did make one big slip up that could have led to a goal, when he lost the ball on half way, but he also made some great tackles and blocks that gave the team another clean sheet. Whether Tommy can keep his place when Elliott Ward comes back will be a big contest that I'm looking forward too. Steve Cook is still looking confident and calm at the back and is now probably the best central defender in the league, especially when bringing the ball out of defence.

Will Tommy lead the team out against Rotherham? Or is he due a rest?
With an FA Cup game up next, the league is looking very good for the Cherries. There are some pressures to come though, as the transfer window looks more of an annoyance than a blessing to teams already doing well, while I am still touching wood that the Cherries can get through this winter without any injuries to key players.

Tomorrow I will release the Cherry Chimes' January Newsletter where we look back at the most viewed articles that featured on the blog last month. It was a surprise that the League Cup tie against Liverpool was not among the top viewed stories, but you certainly like to read about transfer news.

The special story on the Newsletter asks:
Is 2015 to be the breakthrough year for AFCB? 

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Adam Smith certainly knew he was in a game at The Den

In his post-match interview Adam Smith was quick to point out that the players knew it would be a hard graft at The Den. Trying to play your football is not easy when you are just trying to stay on your feet. Smith was well up for the game though and knew what to expect.
Adam might put a clause in his next contract not to play at the New Den. 
Mr Versatile, Adam shows that he can play in midfield as well as in the back four.
"I just needed to make sure I didn't get booked early doors and just keep my head a little bit," said Adam. "I was getting a lot of abuse and players were targeting me a little bit but you just have to deal with it and I did....They just don't like me. And don't no why, but I'll take it as a compliment really."

Adam came into the starting 11 wide on the left wing which is not his ideal position but he did fairly well to help give Marc Pugh a rest. Pugh had taken a knock in the Fulham game so it was no surprise that he did not start this one, but Ryan Fraser must be thinking he has fallen down the order a bit with Adam Smith preferred to come into this game. I suppose Eddie Howe was confident that Smith would be able to deal with the hostile game okay and Fraser may not have taken to being up ended frequently quite as well. If you also have a Millwall progromme on you, you will see that in the player profiles Ryan Fraser has aged a bit as he is described as Polish, 34 and a goalkeeper! Watch out Artur, someone is after your place!

At least Adam Smith's profile in the Millwall programme was a little more accurate. Kris Temple at BBC Radio Solent pointed out that this was only Adam Smith's fourth start since returning to AFCB and it does seem strange that Adam has not managed to force more starts yet, but such is the standard of the squad now.

Rotherham could provide another chance to see Adam in action.
Perhaps we will see Adam able to start at right back against Rotherham Utd if Simon Francis can have a Saturday off. I know Eddie never likes to make too many changes but the Rotherham match offers opportunities to play some players who are not getting regular starts in their preferred positions.

Thanks everyone for pushing the blog over 400,000 visits yesterday. The next landmark is half a million views!

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Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Penalties are no problem for Yann

I was not at all worried when Yann Kermorgant decided that the penalty at Millwall was his responsibility. AFCB have profited from a few penalty decisions this season but have not always converted as many as perhaps they should. The fact that the team gets so many spot kicks though has to be down to the way they attack teams in the last third with their pace. Charlie Daniels took on the role that Marc Pugh usually undertakes in trying to get in front of his man when making the cross and while AFCB were lucky to get a penalty, Charlie certainly committed his man into a rash challenge.
Yann takes care practising his spot kicks.
The need for Yann to score though was a really big moment in the game. Had he missed I fear Yann's confidence would have fallen away. But he didn't just score, he thumped his shot into the bottom left corner and the despairing dive of David Forde was never going to be enough to keep the ball out.

Having scored though I don't feel that Yann went on to have one of his best games. The pace of play might have seemed a bit quick for him and I just wonder if having missed a few games he is in need of a few games to get his sharpness back. I don't recall a significant chance other than a free kick and the penalty falling to Yann, and I can see that Eddie Howe has a tough decision at the moment who to play alongside Callum Wilson, who also will be keen to get a goal soon.

If Eddie needs a deciding factor though when choosing between the number 10 and 18 he can look to the free kicks and penalties, and on that score I would say that Yann has the slight edge. I still want to see more from Kermorgant though as he still has not quite hit the form we know he can. Perhaps January will be his month.
Yann warms up at Millwall.
All Departments has released a Festive Cheer Podcast reviewing the Fulham and Millwall matches. Just go to the All Departments' website or scroll down the right side panel on Cherry chimes until you cone to the sound bar and click on it to listen in.

Eddie Howe targets Wigan winger so is Ritchie going?

And so it starts. Expect the January transfer window to grab a few headlines in the next few weeks. It was reported today by the Daily Mail that Eddie Howe is interested in signing Callum McManaman from Championship side Wigan. The signing would need to be around £5m according to reports, but does thoughts of bringing another winger to the club mean that Matt Ritchie is now likely to depart AFCB?
Matt Ritchie's future - is it still with AFCB?
I have been having a running debate with my friend Damien Hill for several months about the prospect of other clubs coming in for Matt Ritchie. Damien advised his son Deckland not to get Ritchie's name on the back of his new AFCB shirt in the autumn as he said he'll be off in January. Sunderland I believe was the likely destination with Gus Poyet, but I find that a hard one to swallow as Ritchie has been a major part of the Cherries' success and even on bigger money in the Premier League it would be hard for any AFCB player to leave the club in its current position. A move for Callum McManaman though does put a big question mark over the likelihood of one of AFCB's being sold in this window and Ritchie is the obvious choice seeing how well he is playing.

It would need to be a move to a Premier League club for any of Bournemouth's players to be tempted with a move I would think - sorry Fulham fans. The managerial disruption at Crystal palace and WBA may scupper those clubs from making moves for Steve Cook now while Leicester City don't look in a strong enough position to entice our central defender north of the Watford gap. 

Matt is under contract with the Cherries until the summer 2016.
I am pleased to hear that Harry Redknapp has been quiet at QPR and has not sought to pick players from Eddie Howe's team. I'd be more concerned if Tony Pulis found himself back in employment as a manager of a Premier League club, as I think he would have designs on some of Bournemouth's team. AFCB have lots of admirers, but it is arguable that AFCB don't need to spend or sell in this window with the exception of Artur Boruc. That would be great business in my book.

Following the Cherries to Millwall

I was really looking forward to the trip to Millwall this season. On the back of a good win at Fulham it was going to be a special day with so many Bournemouth fans due to make the journey. I set out a little later than usual as I only live some 20-25 miles away from the New Den and yet the route to the ground was far from simple.
On route to Millwall.
I guess I'll go left.
The first part of the journey included a train from Redhill to Purley which only took 10 minutes but then it was a short wait before catching another train to Tulse Hill. Then the London network rail maintenance works meant that I needed to catch a bus via, Dulwich, East Dulwich, Peckham, Queens Park and finally South Bermondsey.

I arrived fairly early at the ground having followed a few well placed signs that directed away supporters to the New Den. I thought I would see whether I could grab a quick word with a Millwall fan on a memorabilia stand who was selling hats, scarfs and badges to see if he would tell me about how he felt his team were playing. The thought of appearing on a video had him running for cover behind his programmes, so I had to see if I could find another more willing volunteer.

No interview but plenty of acknowledgement that
AFCB are a strong team from the local scarf seller.
Cold work standing selling programmes.
That led me towards two ladies selling match day programmes. They seemed friendly enough and having purchased my programme I asked if they would spare me a second to test my camera skills, but again I was turned down. This time the ladies were worried about their boss coming across seeing them on film when they should be selling programmes. Fair enough I thought, even though there were only about five people in the road leading up to the ground. I thought Millwall fans were noisy and always keen to talk about their team. I must have picked out the wrong ones to speak to.
Chips for £1.50 - not bad.
Everything is for sale here. The cash might come in handy in January.
The wise fans were in the cafe, in the warm, on the corner of the ground but I wanted to have a look in the club shop before getting some chips. The shop had massive sale signs all over it and it kind of made me think it never looks great to see a football club having for sale signs up everywhere. Still, inside the shop was well decked out with items and I particularly liked the mask of Ian Holloway. I imagined that if Bomb Fire Night had been around the corner after Millwall's recent run a few of those masks might have adorned one or two suited Guy Fawkes to go on the fire.
Get ahead with your very own Ollie mask!
Having seen the shop I walked towards the lane to the North stand for away fans that was still shut, so I carried on only to see AFCB media team members, Max Fitzgerald and Kelly Sommers, coming out of a car park towards the ground. They were full of smiles and looking forward to the match. I tried to spot any passing Millwall fans, but there were very few around at this point. Even the Community Centre where Millwall's younger supporters could have a kick about was still quiet.

The Millwall Community Centre.
I decided to take the long walk around the outside of the ground and around the industrial park to waste a bit of time. That led me in towards a temporary hospitality tent where lots of Millwall fans were enjoying a pint in the open air and watching the Spurs v Man Utd match. I stopped to have a chat with a steward before talking to a group of four Millwall fans who were less than confident about the prospect of their side taking on the Cherries. They were quick to point out that Millwall doesn't have any money and that they faced a relegation fight in 2015. "Fingers crossed we'll get a good striker in January," they said.
Outside beer tent.
 Climb on board the Double Decker. Budapest is a bit distant for an away game!
Main reception.
Moving on I found a big blue Millwall bus that was spreading the message to get more supporters to the ground. It was quite a nice idea to have an old London bus in club colours I thought. It was then that I met Jack and Jamie who I thought might be Millwall fans as one wore a blue top. They turned out to be Bournemouth fans, hiding their colours underneath their coats, but they were happy to give an interview on video.

Having walked past in the reception the number of people about was growing fast now and so I quickly eat my chips before making it to the North stand gate. Once through I had a good chat with the stewards who wondered why I had brought a radio with me? "Was it in case the game was rubbish?" they asked. I told them that watching AFCB is never dull or boring. They worryingly nodded and acknowledged that taking on the top of the league team might be a very difficult day for them.

TK is back.
I'll be trying to catch all the South African games with
Tokelo Rantie over the next few weeks.
There were plenty of seats to choose from in the Upper stand so I picked a spot just above the goal so I had an excellent view of everything. Last time I had visited the ground we were in the Lower Tier, but this was a much better view. While I started taking pictures of players for the blog I was delighted to see Tokelo Rantie warming up with the squad. I was less excited with the noise - supposedly music - blasting out from the ground's tannoy system that made it almost impossible to listen to a personal radio at less than deafening levels. Having been joined by Michael Dunne of All Departments and some of his relatives we got ready to watch the game.
Flags over the Dockers stand.
Cold Blow Lane fills up.
Floodlights on in the Barry Kitchener stand.
I found a good spot near an AFCB flag.
The teams are out.
The game soon became a procession of free kicks and with going close as Yann Kermorgant got his sights set on goal. The drama though came a bit unexpectedly after half an hour when Charlie Daniels was brought down for a penalty. Ian Holloway said the referee was 200 per cent wrong and that the foul was outside the penalty area, and that he was too eager to give the spot kick. When you are down the wrong end of the league these things do irritate and anger managers and fans. Still the referee makes the call and pointed to the spot. Yann Kermorgant made no mistakes from 12 yards and we were celebrating in the North stand's Upper Tier.

The second goal came before half time and it felt like the game was over as a contest. While Millwall had come back after half time at Dean Court a month ago, I could not see it happening again. The win for Bournemouth really underlined them as the number one team at the moment and the thrill of being top only gives the players more resolve to keep winning. I still view the situation as another two points required to get over the 50 point safety mark, but it is obvious to everyone that AFCB will take some stopping now if they are not to grab one of the two automatic promotion places and certainly a play-off spot at the very least.

Another three points towards the total.
There is an enjoyment factor about watching this Cherries team that is infectious. Even Millwall fans remarked to me that you follow a great team and what Eddie Howe has done is truly remarkable. The job still has to be finished though and while I set off home content with the win I could also imagine what it is like to be a fan at the other end of the table. A few defeats for the Cherries and pundits will be saying the bubble has burst. So I am just enjoying going from one game to another for the moment.

The journey home was not so great as I had to wait 35 minutes in the cold for a bus back to Tusle Hill and then it took another hour and a half to complete the trip back to Redhill in Surrey. I was home at 7.30 which was half an hour slower than when I drive back from a Bournemouth home game! Still, I had plenty of good memories from the day's events.

Monday, 29 December 2014

This was Harry's game

It is always a special day when you are a professional footballer that has the chance to play a game on your birthday. When it turns out that you score on that day and help your team to a victory as well as end the year, with your club, clear at the top of the Championship, you wonder if it can get any better than this.
Harry is delighting the AFCB fans.
Harry Arter will have fond memories of his day at the Den as just about everything went right for him and AFC Bournemouth. It was especially good to see that Harry concentrated on his football and didn't get a booking as it would be easy for him to do that the way the tackles were flying in at times. "People listening or watching it would have put their money on me getting one, but we were told not to get involved," said Harry.

Harry's goal was another significant plus point. While he could not get a clean strike straight away it was pleasing to see him turn and keep three defenders away from the ball and still allow himself enough space to fire home his shot under pressure. Harry put it down to his "swivel" and was delighted to score with his right foot for a change.

Harry is certainly getting in the opposition's box more often and even in the final moments of the game he had a great chance to make it 0-3, but he just lifted his shot too high. As long as Harry keeps getting into such positions though his goal tally should keep rising.
Harry now has six goals this season, just one behind Pugh and Pitman.

Cherries make short work of Millwall 0-2 (videos)

Match Report
Millwall 0 v 2 AFCB
28 December 2014
Attendance: 10,407
Danny Shittu and Tommy Elphick contest the coin toss.
The fixture calendar put Bournemouth up against Millwall again with only a month since the previous meeting. This game was far different though from the draw at Dean Court. Since then AFCB have learned how to put games to bed and are masterfully going about their business to try and win the league. There was never much doubt that AFCB would extend their league unbeaten record to 14 games, but for Eddie Howe to see a consecutive match where the opposition did not even have a shot on target must give him a lot of pleasure. Ian Holloway felt that Millwall did not get the key decisions to go their way, but they were also out played.

Cherry Chimes' FanCam: AFCB fans Jack and Jamie give their pore-match thoughts

AFCB players run out.
Bournemouth prepare to face the Lions.
More pictures can be viewed on the Match Day Gallery.

In truth, AFCB hardly got out of third gear. The cold weather perhaps took some bite out of their play, but their quality on the ball was in clear evidence and Millwall gifted them a lead with a spot kick, even though Millwall fans can rightly argue that the challenge was just outside the box. Once Yann Kermorgant dispatched the penalty, Bournemouth looked good value to extend their lead and Harry Arter duly obliged with his fifth goal in his last five matches.

Not even the appearance of Ricardo Fuller after half time was going to give Ian Holloway an escape clause this time. It says a lot that arguably Millwall's best player was the debutant Sid Nelson who had the unenviable task of keeping Callum Wilson quiet for 90 minutes. That he managed it is great credit to him, while Scott McDonald worked tirelessly in an effort to keep Millwall in the game. But it wasn't enough. In fact, the demise of Millwall was a formality after 80 minutes when Shaun Williams was given the red card having tussled with Callum Wilson and then stamped his foot at the Bournemouth striker. It was just a question of whether the Cherries were going to be able to score more or not in the time remaining. In the event a four point lead will bring much cheer to the south coast as AFCB go into 2015 on top of the Championship, even if Ipswich win against Charlton on Tuesday.

The starting line up
Eddie Howe made two changes to the Boxing Day team with Yann Kermorgant and Adam Smith coming in for Brett Pitman and Marc Pugh. It was also great to see Tokelo Rantie back fit and among the subs. Just like last season Adam Smith had won a start at Millwall's ground but I wonder if he wished he hadn't after a few minutes when the challenges start to come in at him one after another as an ex-Lion.

First Half
While we were still singing "We're Top of the League," Callum Wilson had already won a free kick right in front of goal and Yann Kermorgant gave David Forde his first job of the day as he bent the ball to the right around the wall, forcing Forde to save down low to his left. Moments later Arter was to win a free kick for a foot up in the face - happy birthday Harry! Welcome to the game.

Artur Boruc soon had to deal with a cross from Martyn Woolford on the right and while he dropped it, referee David Coote gave a foul as Scott McDonald and Lee Martin challenged. Boruc would be glad to be involved at this point because he did not have a great deal to do for the rest of the match. While the kept being stopped for free kicks, Danny Shittu picked up the first yellow card on 12 minutes for a foul on Adam Smith - no surprise there. A few boos for Smith followed from the home supporters.

AFCB's own favourite boo boy on the day, Scott Malone put in a powerfully driven cross that Cook some how managed to clear for a corner ahead of Boruc. Millwall could not keep any pressure on for long though.

A curious incident happened around the 20 minute mark when Harry Arter went down in the centre circle and Callum Wilson chased down David Forde right at the other end of the pitch. Wilson claimed that the ball had come off Forde for a corner and it was not clear what the referee would do as the assistant referee was on the other side of the pitch and probably did not see clearly either. The decision was a drop ball on the goal line but 10m or so to the left of the goal. Millwall fans were up in arms as they wanted a goal kick, but Yann Kermorgant soon lost the ball having won the initial drop ball.

A slight hands in face moment occurred soon after when Tommy Elphick inexplicably gave the ball away on the half way line, leaving the Cherries wide open. Lee Martin had the chance to make the most of the incident, but Artur Boruc sprung out of his box like Usane Bolt to clear any danger. A quick apology from Elphick followed. 

Not to worry. Daniels burst up the edge of the box on the left side drew a mistimed challenge from Lee Martin and the referee pointed towards the spot. On watching replays it certainly looked like the foul was outside the box, but from the other end of the ground Bournemouth fans could not see much apart from Daniels going down. Yann Kermorgant's big moment had arrived and, on 32 minutes, the French forward confidently struck the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal to make it 0-1 to the Cherries!

AFCB fans reaction to Yann Kermorgant's goal.

Millwall did not help their cause when Wilkinson and Forde were given yellow cards shortly after. Things got better even for AFCB on 42 minutes when Callum Wilson squared a ball from the right to Harry Arter in the box. Even though the ball got stuck under his feet, Harry had time enough to spin round having received the ball with his back to goal and he buried the chance from little more than 7 yards out - 0-2 to AFCB.

If anything all this did was intensify Millwall's ambition to deal out some treatment to Adam Smith who went head over heels from a Lee Gregory challenge. I wondered if Adam Smith might even be subbed at half time just so that he did not have to endure anymore fouls.
Half time zorbing fun - the Cherries even won this as well.

Cherry Chimes' Fancam: Michael Dunne of All Departments gives his view at half time.
Second Half 
Ricardo Fuller came on in the second half as Ollie tried to do a repeat comeback of the game at Dean Court from 0-2 down. At least it meant we would see the offside flag be put to use as Ricardo did not take long to stray. While Adam Smith had been kept on he picked up a yellow card himself for a foul on Sid Nelson. Millwall were doing their best to get amongst the AFCB players and on 54 minutes, Lee Gregory missed a great chance to get a header in on target after a superb cross from Nadjum Abdou just inside the right corner of AFCB's penalty box.

Lee Martin was replaced by Magaye Gueye on 56 minutes, while Kermorgant made way for Dan Gosling on 58 minutes. It looked like Eddie Howe was content to play five in midfield and just stop Millwall from getting a foothold now. Ritchie was still looking to play killer passes though and he found Smith on one of his Mazey runs, but Nelson did just enough to make Adam shoot over.  

Scott McDonald fouled Daniels once too often and received a yellow with around 65 minutes gone. Blocking shots were now order of the day for Millwall as Arter and Wilson tried to extend the lead. Danny Shittu had not had a great game and had been jeered every time he booted the ball out into touch, which was pretty much every time some one passed to him. But his game was over on 67 minutes and Dunne replaced him. AFCB replaced Smith soon after for Marc Pugh - I doubt Smith was that displeased to come off after his day. Pugh immediately made an impact by offering a great chance for Dan Gosling, but Dan shot agonisingly wide of the left post. Pugh tried to claim a corner by putting the ball down there, but kicked it away when he realised it was going to be a goal kick, much to the annoyance of Millwall fans.

Francis provided a good chance for Wilson to score with a header on 78 minutes but he could not get a clean header in with two defenders either side of him. Scott Malone tried a more spectacular volley from wide out on the left which he sliced into the crowd at the other end. "That's why you're going down," was the shouts from the Upper North stand.

Millwall's game was virtually over then when Shaun Williams was red carded, having struggled with Wilson. Wilson had lifted Williams into the air as he got up and Williams then reacted with by trying to stamp on Wilson's foot with Ritchie in close attendance. Wilson was also given a yellow card for the incident.
The game resumed with Gosling setting up Ritchie with a chance that he hit right at Forde and later in a good AFCB spell, first Gosling, and then Ritchie saw their shots blocked just inside the penalty area. The last few minutes saw Ryan Fraser come on and replace Matt Ritchie. Fraser had one good opportunity to shoot right on full time but shot wide. Four minutes of extra time saw Wilson and Pugh have shots blocked before Arter had a golden opportunity to score right in front of goal but he hit his shot over!
Harry Arter had a great birthday.
Francis claps the fans.
David Forde and Tommy Elphick after the match.
AFCB are top at the end of 2014. 

It was a descent, professional performance by AFCB. Wins are coming as regular as clockwork now and even if they did not get a full head up of steam it was more than enough to dispatch a Millwall side that had a lack of a goal threat all match. At least Millwall contested every ball which is something that Holloway would expect as a minimum. Bournemouth can play better, but even on this evidence they are in a winning groove now. Listening to TalkSport after the game Stan Collymore announced that "Eddie Howe's Bournemouth was headed for the Premier League," in a surprised voice but there was nothing surprising about this result. It was a comfortable win.

AFC Bournemouth
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Fraser 88), Surman, Arter, Smith (Pugh 69), Kermorgant (Gosling 58), Wilson Booked

Camp, Gosling, Pugh, Rantie, Pitman, Fraser, Cargill

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Francis 8, Elphick 7, Cook 7, Daniels 8, Ritchie 7, Surman 8, Arter 8, Smith 7, Kermorgant 6, Wilson 7

Forde, Wilkinson, (Fuller 45), Shittu (Dunne 67), Nelson, Malone, Williams, Abdou, Martin (Gueye - 56), McDonald, Woolford, Gregory

Millwall Subs
Dunne, Easter, Upson, Beevers, Gueye, Fuller, King

Referee: David Coote - 2/10 a few strange decisions and he got the big penalty decision wrong.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Rival Lines 2: Cherry Chimes chats to Oz if MillwallFC blog

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Millwall v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Following Millwall FC

Your are being spoilt today with a second Rival Lines that I have just received in time. Oz has kindly come back with some answers to the questions I sent out to him a short while ago, but the Xmas period proved a bit hectic for him so that is why this is a bit of an extra time Rival Lines. I hope you all enjoy it. You can visit Oz's blog at  Following Millwall FC.

CC: What is the general opinion about how Ollie is doing with the players he has at Millwall?

FMFC: Ian Holloway has tried them all and in different positions and they have not responded to him apart from Ian Gregory and a couple of others. It could be that the majority are out of contract in the summer and, with the constant changing of the team and the formations, the players are not to bothered in securing a new deal.

CC: With Brentford announcing a new ground, Charlton’s tie-up with Standard Liege and Leyton Orient attracting a new Italian owner, what of Millwall’s long term future can you survive in the Championship without more investment and do you feel like you are being left behind?

FMFC: I am not sure that I am worried about Millwall being left behind if it means that we do not get massively in debt. Our Chairman spends money but not the amount that could cause the club to fold if it all went "tits up" Brentford and yourselves can spend a fortune trying to reach the promised land but it can all go sour, it's along way down.

CC: What are the prospects for Millwall signing a striker or creative midfielder in January that can get you more goals – anyone in the championship, league one or two take your fancy?

FMFC: We will be looking in January to strengthen the side but, unless thing change, the new signings will be rotated just as much as the rest of the players, and I am not sure that we will gain much from any new signings used in this way. We need Lee Gregory to play regular unless he is injured and not be dropped for the sake of rotation. We need a front player that can win a header and show some presence and support Gregory and we also need at least another 4 or 5 new players throughout the rest of the team. Will we get them? I doubt if we will get two.

CC: Was it much of a shock that you came back to get a draw at Millwall as the team you have seems to make a habit of comebacks?

FMFC: We were for a time the "comeback kings" and at the time there was a belief that we could pull something back from any game we played but then the Boro' game came along and blew that belief out of the water. We were dire at home for the Boro' and the Bolton game and there was no sign of a comeback with either of them.

CC: The Boro and Norwich defeats must have been hard to take. However, you have had a good result against Brighton in recent weeks – can you see things turning around for Millwall in a positive way with the fixtures in January that you have?

FMFC: How will we fair in January? I think I will be able to ask that a bit better after the Bournemouth game. If the players have any shame after the rubbish they served up at Norwich on Boxing Day they will respond against Bournemouth and wear the shirt as though they are fit to wear it. If that is the case and they do us proud than January may be better for the Lions, if not League 1 will be our new home.

CC: Have Millwall some young players that are likely to break through to the first team soon?

FMFC: We have some decent young players that have already played in the first team and we have also loaned some out. Our young players are our jewels in the crown, but it worries me that the senior players or some of them at Millwall are not really playing for the shirt and that does not make a very good role model for them.

CC: Who do you feel has been your best player this season?

FMFC: That's a tough question. Danny Shittu has hardly played due to injury, Lee Martin is also injured a lot. Lee Gregory has done well and for a bloke who has come from non-league he looks like he wants it. Shaun Williams is decent and can win a game for us but he needs to be more forward thinking with his passes. I suppose it will have to be keeper David Forde even though he had a mare at Norwich. (CC - oh, yes I saw that!)

CC: What is your score prediction for the game?

FMFC: 5-0 to Millwall.......I wish. If the players have any pride whatsoever they can make a game of it, but if Holloway makes wholesale changes the players coming in won't have the fire in their bellies to make good the result as after all Norwich wasn't their fault. If I must give a prediction 1-1.

CC: Hey, Oz you can go 5-0 if you want. It's a funny old game and you never know what's coming around the corner, In the last two games AFCB have had against Millwall the Lions have come away with four points from six. So Ollie has had the upper hand against Eddie Howe and AFCB have to do better against sides like Millwall that dig in and fight like they did at Dean Court. Perhaps Ollie will use that to inspire his players today, but AFCB have never found Millwall an easy team to play against so I don't expect anything less than an end to end game today. Millwall have to play well today for their home fans after recent results and AFCB also need the points to stay top, so let's hope it's a cracker of a match.   

You can visit Oz's blog at  Following Millwall FC

Tweet me your score predictions for today @peterbell19

Cherry Chimes speaks to Millwall fan Mark Litchfield

Rival Lines
Match Preview
Millwall v AFCB
Blogger Interview: Mark Litchfield Blog

I managed to make contact with a Rival Line blogger this week from Millwall. Mark Litchfield has his own blog on the Lions and we ask him whether Millwall have enough about them to stay up this season? Millwall have flattered to deceive in the first few weeks of the season and yet fought back heroically at Dean Court in November to earn a draw, so what type of Millwall will we see on 28 December?

CC: Do you think Ollie is getting Millwall to play more consistently now?
MLB: Yes and no. When it comes to passing the ball about, we do it with the utmost calmness in our own half – we more often than not dominate the possession stats – but that all seems to go to pot in the final third. Instead of being direct and going for goal, passing the ball like we do further down the pitch, we resort to long-ball tactics; more often than not up to the lone striker, Lee Gregory. As talented as Lee is (he has bags of potential, if you ask me), he cannot do it all on his own. Our lack of goals is due to poor decision making in the final third.

CC: I saw Ollie at the Bournemouth fixture and he was kind enough to sign many programmes for the Bournemouth fans, I even lent him my pen. So do you and home fans in general find it easy to be able to approach him before the games at the New Den?

MLB: I wouldn't really know the answer to this question personally – I don't see the players and/or manager before the game, but I see enough photos etc on social media to know that Holloway is easily approachable. One thing Millwall managers and the fans have in common is respect – as long as they make time for the fans, they'll always be supported. An ex-West Ham midfielder aside – we won't talk about him much!

CC: How much of lift do you think the win at Brighton will have done for your players? (this question was asked before the Norwich drubbing)

MLB: Despite playing badly, we gained a much-needed win at the Amex. You would've thought that grinding out three points like we did would boost morale, but on Friday night against Bolton, despite the fact that we were looking good coming forward, our failure to put the ball into the net coupled with the ridiculous formation put out and substitutions, made by Ian Holloway, ensured that the win was a distant memory.

CC: Millwall have not been scoring highly so do you expect a new striker to come in during January and have you any likely candidates?

MLB: Absolutely. As previously eluded to, our lack of goals is due to poor decision making in the final third. A large factor in this, in my opinion, is Holloway's choice to start each game with one up front. Fans have been crying out for months for him to play two up front – it is the Millwall way – but the boss has stuck to his guns. On the rare occasions we have seen two up front, we came back from 3-0 down against Wolves, 2-0 down against Blackburn, 2-0 down against Brentford (although we went on to lose the game) and 2-0 down against yourselves, so the proof is in the pudding.

With regards to targets, the names of James Hanson, Tom Pope and Benik Afobe have been thrown around in recent months, but being a Millwall fan, you know that we'll never go for the obvious choice. What we do need, though, is a target man. Lee Gregory is a natural finisher that'll benefit hugely from someone doing the dirty work for him – perhaps Hanson fits that bill.

CC: Are Millwall good enough to stay up?

MLB: Yes. I had us down to finish mid-table at the beginning of the season and, providing we do some good business in January, I don't think we'll be too far off. As everyone knows, the Championship is a tight division. Even in March/April, the majority of promotion and relegation places aren't decided – a few wins will see you shoot up the table, while a few defeats will see you in trouble. I think we'll be fine – if we play two up front!

CC: What went wrong in the Middlesbrough drubbing Millwall received, because you played well against AFCB the week before?

MLB: Everything! Because we'd been finishing games strongly in a variation of a 3-5-2 formation (most notably against yourselves), the manager decided to start that way against Boro. The problem is, the five in midfield didn't really know their positions – Andy Wilkinson, a loan signing from Stoke City, is a right-back, yet he found himself having to play further up the field, getting caught out of position too many times. Scott Malone, who is one of our most promising players, has believed the hype about himself just a little too much and now seems to play as a left wing-back – that meant we were vulnerable down both sides, which Boro ruthlessly exploited with their pace, power and direction when on the ball.

The midfield five offered no support to the front two, who despite working hard, received nothing but aimless long balls all afternoon. It was all a bit of a mess and Boro fully deserved to hand us our annual thumping at home.

CC: Millwall pummelled AFCB with high ball in our box in the second half at Dean Court so do you expect the same tactic against AFCB at home?

MLB: One would hope not. Away from home, for me, that tactic works wonderfully. But, as the home team, my way of looking at things is you should set the tempo of the game, you should play your own way and you should make the opposition adapt to your way of playing. Most Millwall fans would love to see a return to days gone by – a time where we played 4-4-2, with two wingers swinging in crosses for two strikers. But Holloway doesn't see it that way.

Should we go 2-0 down again, then yes, expect it!

CC: Do you think it is helpful to Millwall players to take on AFCB again so soon after the away match for you?

MLB: I'd say so. Things will still be fresh in the memory, such as the way you play, who your danger men are etc. But, then again, it'll also be of benefit to Bournemouth because of the same factors.

CC: How is the injury situation - are any players definitely out of the AFCB game from your side?

MLB: We have a long-term absentee in Nicky Bailey, but apart from that, the rest of our injuries are just little niggles.

CC: Adam Smith used to play for Millwall at right back and Scott Malone is still in your team at left back, so are attacking wing backs a strong feature of your team in this current season?

MLB: They are on the left. As previously stated, Scott Malone seems to operate as a left-wing back now – he is very attack-minded. Unfortunately, this leaves us open down the opposition's right too many times for my liking. I've said for a while now that we should move Malone to the left-midfield position and let someone else do the job of a left-back. We have Matthew Briggs in our ranks or, with January on the horizon, we could bring someone in.

CC: Who would you say has been your best player up to this point in the season and why?

MLB: Shaun Williams. The Irishman has added class to the club since his arrival from MK Dons in January. Calm on the ball with an outstanding range of passing, Williams offers so much to the team. His strike against Blackburn on November 4th showed his quality, for me. If we had a team of Shaun Williams', we'd be in business.

CC: How difficult do you rate the Bournemouth game compared to your other Christmas fixtures against Bolton and Norwich?

MLB: I think it's the toughest by far. We'll go to Norwich on Boxing Day with absolutely no pressure on us. The Canaries will be expected to win – just how we like it. Whilst Bournemouth will also probably be expected to win, as the home side, there will be a lot more pressure on ourselves than there will be at Carrow Road. I personally think Bournemouth are one of the best sides in this division (along with Middlesbrough and Ipswich) and you have an fantastic manager in Eddie Howe, so we'll have to produce our best performance to gain all three points.

CC: Finally, what is your score prediction for the game?

MLB: With Ian Holloway in charge, who knows. One thing is for sure – there will be goals.

CC: Thanks Mark for sparing the time to write all those very detailed answers. I think AFCB players have a healthy respect for what Millwall did down at Dean Court and that should make this quite a re-match. I just hope that both sides really go and playing some attacking football and as you say let their be goals! It's cold sitting in the stands in December and we will all need a reason to get up and jump about a bit. If it's a nil-nil affair then we all get cold!

If you liked Mark's answers, please go and take a look of his excellent blog. Us bloggers put a lot of hard work into our sites and it's great for us when we see that we've had a lot of visitors, so get over to Mark's blog and see what you can find out about Millwall before the game. UTCIAD!

Tweet me your score predictions @peterbell19