Sunday, 22 March 2015

Arter crashes Boro's promotion run - Cherries win 3-0 (videos)

Match Report
21 March 2015
AFCB v Middlesbrough
Attendance: 10,998
Aitor Karanka leaves the bus heading for his team's biggest defeat of the season.
There was a mood of optimism in the air with AFCB supporters before this game kicked off. You could feel it all around the Goldsands stadium for this crunch match. There was a job to do and the players were ready to put one of their promotion rivals back in their place and it was one of the first time international call up boys who stole the headlines, the Republic of Ireland's Harry Arter.

AFCB got off to a good early start with Callum Wilson being brought down by Tomas Kalas and Yann Kermorgant tucked the spot kick away to lead after just 12 minutes. That is the way it stayed until half time. But the Cherries were driven forward in the second half by Harry Arter's spectacular finish on 48 minutes that underlined the Cherries' dominance. It took a dubious penalty to put the game completely out of reach, but everything was going for Arter and AFCB on the day and Brett Pitman was soon celebrating with his arm's outstretched after successfully scoring the penalty.
The teams line up, Boro in all white.
Minutes to go and AFCB players know what they want to do.
Darren Anderton and Simon Thomas are talking to Sky
viewers around the world who are tuning in.
At the time this was enough to take AFCB back to the top on goal difference but later results saw Watford defeated 0-1 at Vicarage Road and that gave AFCB a clear point lead at the top of the table going into the international break.

Eddie Howe made one change to the team that drew at Cardiff by bringing in Yann Kermorgant to the starting 11 while Brett Pitman was unlucky to find himself on the bench. Middlesbrough made tow changes from their Derby game and brought in Emilio Nsue and Adam Reach to the starting 11 and Jelle Vossen was among the subs, while Jonathan Woodgate was not in the squad.
Middlesbrough players are hopeful before kick off.
Tommy Elphick gets ready to lead his team.
There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

The Cherries had a terrific start to the game with Ritchie being fouled some 35 yards out and fairly centrally by George Friend. Yann Kermorgant chipped the ball over the wall and Konstantopoulos saved to his left down low and as the ball spilt out Callum Wilson looked favourite to get their first, but he was pulled back by Gibson as he never made it. An early let off for Boro we thought.

Callum Wilson was soon in his stride causing plenty of problems for Tomas Kalas. While he was caught with an offside and a handball in the first six minutes he was going to have a lively game. Boro's best option for attack early on lay with Nsue and Albert Adomah up their right wing and a testing cross by Adomah on 9 minutes could have been costly had Patrick Bamford or Lee Tomlin been running on to it.

AFCB were also productive on the wings and on the left and a sharp move on 11 minutes saw Daniels and Arter involved before Callum Wilson raced into the box and was taken down by Tomas Kalas after a simple nutmeg through his legs. Kalas had his arms all over Wilson and clearly trying to prevent him from getting past and Wilson just went down under the force from Kalas. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the sport and the home crowd was delighted to see Yann Kermorgant slot the ball into the left corner of the goal, even though Konstantopoulos got a hand on it as it flew in -1-0!

Boro's reply was to see Albert Adomah fire a shot well over a few minutes later. Artur Boruc was clearly in good catching mood and was taking everything in the air when Boro's crosses came in. A good move on 19 minutes from Arter and Francis led to Ritchie passing to Wilson who fired wide, pulling his shot right across the area. A better half chance came to Yann Kermorgant shortly after when the ball found it's way to him from Matt Ritchie, but his volley also went wide.

Middlesbrough tried to break the stranglehold with a move up the left that Bamford looked to run on to but Art Boruc acted as a sweeper and cleaned out any danger by coming well out of his box to bet Bamford to the ball.

AFCB were constantly looking for Wilson down the channels and over the top and it was a constant headache for Boro's centre backs who just didn't or rather couldn't deal with him all game. Yann Kermorgant was also getting in the action though and on 28 minutes he almost benefited when the ball broke to him in the box, but he slammed his volleyed shot down and saw it bounce up at head height straight to Konstantopoulos.

Boro's best player looked to be Lee Tomlins who was always busy and keeping them tick over well, but he was not finding Bamford easy to link up with while Adomah never really found Charlie Daniels an easy defender to get past.

Ritchie was always a threat on the right wing and he had a low shot saved on 30 minutes. Corners were not that frequent but Steve Cook almost got on the end of one just after the half hour. Boro started to get a bit more possession through Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton was putting himself about a bit too heavily as he received a yellow card for a foul on Wilson. AFCB were finding it difficult to get the second with Wilson again shooting wide on 41 minutes, while Arter saw his shot blocked before Pugh created enough problems to see Nsue given a yellow card.

Simon Francis was working hard on the right and put in a strong cross that Wilson got a head too but it was too big for him and the header went wide. With just a minute added of extra time the Cherries had to settle for just a goal lead at half time.
Half time and AFCB have a slender lead.
Fans join Sky sports presenters Jim White and Nathalie Sawyer in trying to hit the cross bar.
Tokelo Rantie and Elliott Ward look on.
AFCB fans hope the scoreline is extended in the second half.
Second Half
The Cherries came out in this half meaning business. It was only seconds old when Ritchie put in a cross following a free kick on Pugh, and Tommy Elphick met the ball with a diving header that Konstantopoulos somehow miraculously saved from point blank range with the ball travelling at lightning speed. AFCB were getting a lot of joy up the left side with Yann Kermorgant and Marc Pugh keeping the ball tight in and around Boro's box. Soon Pugh was doing Cruyff turn on top of Cruyff turn and toying with Boro players - it was mesmorising. Importantly though he was keeping the ball with with Yann Kermorgant, before Pugh made a swift turn back out towards the left. That's when Harry Arter entered the frame and just took aim to hit an absolute screamer from the edge of the box right into the top left corner with the ball glancing off the post and in! That raised the roof.

AFCB players hurtled themselves over towards Harry who was standing with his arm up in salute while players congratulated him and Tommy Elphick came at top speed over the top of the crowd of players to release all his joy and emotion at seeing Harry Arter double the lead right in front of the Family Stand. It was almost as if the pressure had been lifted and the knowledge that this is a team headed for success this season. Harry Arter had almost snuck up unnoticed when he scored, as if to say to Pugh and Yann stop messing about with it and let me just strike it where it needs to go - it was jolly effective and the Cherries were 2-0 up on 48 minutes.

The lead could have been three moments later when Wilson broke down the left and crossed to Ritchie, but Matt slipped at the vital time and the ball sped away behind him. Boro had not given up though and they won a corner after reach had seen his shot blocked. Lee Tomlin also had a shot blocked. Nothing much was going for the opposition though and on 55 minutes both Nsue and Clayton were subbed for Adam Foreshaw and Kike (Garcia Martinez).

A rash challenge from Harry Arter on Lee Tomlin earned him his customary yellow card on 56 minutes. Again it was an unnecessary challenge, but did break up an attack building from Boro's own half. Boro had an opportunity soon after when Leadbitter found Tomlin and Adomah put in a good cross that Francis had to clear for a corner under pressure.

But if that was the best Boro could do, AFCB came much closer to extending the lead when Pugh put low cross from the left that Ritchie was running onto and managed to scoop the ball over from all of eight yards! Yann Kermorgant was then subbed for Brett Pitman on the hour.

Boro were still testing Daniels and Francis but even from corners against them AFCB were looking dangerous on the break. Ben Gibson was doing his best to keep taking the fight to the Cherries, but Tomlin was seen deeper and Bamford was just not getting on the ball enough to create any chances.

AFCB made another sub on 66 minutes when Matt Ritchie was replaced by Adam Smith. Boruc again was called into action to make a catch which he had done well all afternoon. Even when Boro thought they had scored they found out that they hadn't. Following a Boro corner, Tomlin had put in a deep cross and Kike had headed it back across goal but even with the ball going into the net the assistant Referee's flag was up for offside.

As we entered the last 20 minutes there was no hurry from AFCB to take corners. Still Steve Cook had a go to score and headed over. The left side had been the problem for Boro all game though and when Daniels and Pugh linked up again it spelt trouble. This time Arter took up the pace and left Lee Tomlin trailing before bursting into the box when Leadbitter and Nsue tried to stop him. For me, seeing it just once, neither of them made enough contact for a penalty and I thought Harry definitely went down too easily and I expected to see him yellow carded for simulation and then sent off for the second yellow. Surely, that was the only reason why the referee was delaying, but no - it was a penalty to the Cherries!

Brett Pitman was quick to cradle the ball this time and he put the penalty away with great precision to make it 3-0 on 75 minutes. Boro made a sub on 79 minutes with Leadbitter replaced by Dean Whitehead, Karanka new the game was up. AFCB fans were singing: "Are you Blackpool in disguise?" That was more than likely in retaliation to Patrick Bamford's pre-match comments when he thought Boro would get the win as they were not like Blackpool who had been well beaten at Dean Court in the Cherries last home match.

Marc Pugh was still trying to get his name on the score sheet and hit his shot over. Adam Smith was also going on his fast flowing runs and winning free kicks, while Pitman had a good opportunity which he curled wide. Patrick Bamford did win a free kick at the end, but he could only shoot over as the ball glanced off the bar with Boruc seemingly beaten.

The last minutes were still damaging in a way though for the Cherries as Callum Wilson was first clipped and had to be replaced by Tokelo Rantie and then in the four minutes of extra time Marc Pugh was fouled by lee Tomlin and crawled off on all fours to get treatment. He did not come back on until after the final whistle with a big ice pack around his ankle.
That'll do nicely!
Boro have been well beaten.
The officials are not centre of attention for once.
Marc Pugh has some new footwear following his late injury in extra time.
I was surprised to see Pugh walking around on the pitch after picking up his injury.
Maybe that is a good sign that it is not too bad.
TK shakes referee Anthony Taylor's hand.
AFCB players with Konstantopoulos.
Boro players walk off dejected.

It was a tremendous day for AFCB fans. The crowd really got behind the team from start to finish and it brought the best out in the players. The day will be remembered for Harry Arter's fabulous strike early in the second half, but all the defenders and the keeper made a solid platform for this result restricting a strong strike force to a minimal amount of shots while Callum Wilson was just humongous for the Cherries up front. Boro fans will certainly feel aggrieved about the penalty decisions, perhaps rightly so for the second one, but it is always the referee's call to make and while I don't like to see any penalty unfairly won I felt that AFCB deserved the win being much the stronger side. This is three points that psychologically feel like 10 points. The win was that important.

Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Smith 65), Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant (Pitman 61), Wilson (Rantie 90).

AFCB subs
Camp, Smith, Ward, Fraser, MacDonald, Pitman, Rantie,  

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 8, Francis 7, Elphick 8, Cook 8, Daniels 7, Ritchie 7, Arter 9, Surman 8, Pugh 7, Kermorgant 7, Wilson 9.

Konstantopoulos, Nsue Lopez (Forshaw 55), Kalas, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter (Whitehead 79), Clayton, (Kike 55), Reach, Tomlin, Adomah, Bamford.

Middlesbrough subs
Kike, Ripley, Whitehead, Vossen, Omeruo, Wildschut, Forshaw

Referee Watch: 
Anthony Taylor 5/1 - He was fooled over the second penalty for sure.

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