Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Cherries hold their nerve to beat Brighton 0-2 (videos)

Match Report
10 April 2015
Brighton 0 v 2 AFCB
Attendance: 25,919
This looks like the right place.
The players are fully charged for this one with the TV cameras looking on.
They don't come any harder than having a derby game to play away from home knowing that your nearest rivals are hoping that you slip up before they play the next day. Such was the focus for AFCB in this match that Tommy Elphick gave a lengthy talk in the team huddle to ensure that everyone was switched on and met the challenge full on. Brighton went into this match having had two defeats and they needed to prove that they were a better side than their league position. They came out of the blocks well and dominated the early part of the match, but they didn't have the talent to really hurt the Cherries, apart from in some fearsome challenges. The quality of play on the pitch was not a great spectacle in the first half and the Cherries had not troubled David Stockdale at all in the last third of the pitch. 
Tommy's inspirational team talk at the huddle.
A brighter second half is what was needed and both teams opened up more and tried much harder to get in front. Still it was the clever substitution of Adam Smith for Marc Pugh that eventually turned the game. Smith's direct running at the heart of the Seagull's defence caused panic and from the resultant free kick, Yann Kermorgant curled an inch perfect shot over the wall and into the top left corner of the goal. Brighton were broken and Callum Wilson signed off with another solo run that twisted and turned before he dispatched the ball into the Brighton net to give the Cherries an unassailable 0-2 lead. AFCB were now four points clear at the top of the table with just four games to go.

I didn't expect the opposition to be quite so confident of an AFCB win 
- I felt they needed a bit of encouragement!

Tommy Elphick stretches his legs.
Eddie Howe only made one change to his starting line up with Marc Pugh coming in for Ryan Fraser on the left wing. This game was huge in AFCB's promotion challenge and the regular first team players were all going to have to perform against a Brighton side who were not yet totally safe from relegation worries.
This is what pressure feels like.
More photographs of the day are now on Match Day Gallery - did you spot yourself?

Those who had not seen Ritchie's well worked free kick trick against Birmingham where he sets the ball down and runs off only to look confused and run back and swing in a cross were given the perfect replay of that with just three minutes gone when Surman acted as the pretend free kick taker. Sadly it didn't really work this time and the ball glanced off Callum Wilson's head, but it made Brighton fans sit up. Most of the early play centred on Mustapha Carayol taking on Francis down Bournemouth's right and Carayol was winning the battle at first. He was well supported by Joe Bennett in behind and the darting runs of Beram Kayal and Joao Teixeira were starting to ring some alarm bells in the first 15 minutes.

Ritchie took a big hit as early as six minutes in when Dale Stephens virtually ran through him, but this referee was letting an awful lot go. Ritchie was hobbling for some two or three minutes after the challenge. It was Brighton that were really pressing for the opening with a couple of early corners , but Tommy Elphick was organising things and making clearances.

Up front for Brighton, Leon Best was was bringing in Calderon and working hard, while Teixeira was looking very dangerous and had a shot deflected off Steve Cook for another corner on 11 minutes. Safe hands from Boruc was helpful at that point. Wilson quickly won AFCB their first corner, but Brighton looked even stronger when playing on the break. This was not going to be easy. AFCB's passing game had again deserted them and Lewis Dunk and Greg Halford looked very assured at the back for Brighton.

In midfield Arter and Surman had hardly had much of a kick. Lost possession was becoming a habit as the ball was being constantly turned over. Yann Kermorgant and Callum Wilson looked like spectators while Ritchie was finding it hard to find team mates. The Pugh and Daniels combination was fairly quiet and Teixeira's influence only seemed to be getting stronger as he kept picking up the ball and running at AFCB's defence. Down the right Brighton also made good use of Bruno who was linking up well and keeping possession. Even if AFCB did start an attack, Stephens was usually there to break things up centrally.

Brighton were switching play well and Bruno was growing in confidence and pushing Daniels back until around the 20th minute when Charlie went on a special run down the left and had Wilson not played him such a hard return ball, Charlie might have beaten Stockdale to the ball. AFCB just needed to keep the game tight, but Carayol was putting in the crosses from Brighton's left and played a great one-two with Bennett to get round the bck after 24 minutes. Luckily Brighton were not accurate enough with their passes around the box and Artur Boruc was never tested.

At this point AFCB were beginning to warm to their task. Pugh started getting on the ball and Surman was starting to pick up the second ball more often. Little mistakes at both ends looked how an opportunity might present itself. Ritchie had a shot deflected just before the half hour but there was no real feeling that the passing at this stage would be good enough to get a player clean in on goal from either side free kicks were breaking up the game which was becoming a stale affair. When Yann did get into the box he simply lost possession and when Wilson went down in the box he did not appeal as it was more of a slip.

AFCB's best chance of the half fell to Ritchie who found himself in space on the right side of the edge of the box when Wilson fed him a cross only to see Matt blast it high over the bar! That was on 40 minutes and I just wanted the half to end for Eddie Howe to sort things out. Things were summed up by Pugh's sudden burst of speed towards the byline only to see him run the ball clean out of play. It had been Brighton's half but luckily Boruc's only regret about the first half was one of his poorly hooked goal kicks. It was 0-0 at half time and it was tense.

Some Bournemouth fans spent the whole day in Brighton. I think 
they might remember this day for a while.

Not a lot to remember in the first half.
Can you do us a favour in that one Brighton?
Second Half
The next 45 minutes was going to be enormous in the context of the Cherries' season. The players knew it and they came out with more purpose with Pugh immediately winning a free kick off Bruno. Both sides were now trying to attack with more venom and when Teixeira was fouled by Francis, Brighton had an opportunity to get a shot on target but Stephens powered his shot just too high of the left upright.

I felt that things were happening now. Bruno was caught offside and little things were starting to go the Cherries way, at least in terms of luck. Charlie Daniels for instance lost the ball and Calderon took advantage finding Teixeira and then Stephens who blasted just over in probably the best move of the game up until that point.

AFCB came straight back at Brighton with Pugh menacing his way up the left wing and having a shot blocked before firing a cross in again and seeing the ball stick in Stockdale's hands. It was starting to go from end-to-end and Stephens again had a chance to work Boruc, but shot high and wide on 54 minutes.

Yann Kermorgant almost put Wilson through, but Callum was offside and finished the move anyway by shooting high over the bar which Brighton fans were none too pleased about. What followed though was a golden opportunity for Leon Best down the left when he got into the box and shot tamely right at Boruc who finally made his first save. AFCB were still slinging the crosses in and Yann Kermorgant got to one from Ritchie but headed narrowly wide of the left post.

It was going to take something special to see a goal in this match I thought and that almost happened when Carayol decided he could gallop through the centre of the pitch and right through the entire AFCB team only to have his shot blocked by Tommy Elphick who was having none of it!

Eddie Howe clearly felt a change was needed and on came Adam Smith for Marc Pugh. Matt Ritchie immediately switched to the left wing and Adam stayed on the right. Kayal then pulled up with what looked like a groin strain and he had to be replaced by Rohan Ince. It was only then that Adam Smith tried to run directly at Brighton's back four and he was up ended by Dunk who was yellow carded. The ball was still some 25 yards out, but with Yann Kermorgant standing over the ball we wondered if he could do something special. I was actually thinking that Ritchie should hit it while Yann could also have slipped Smith in down the side of the wall. But while the various permutations were going through my head, Yann took a quick look up and fired the ball cleanly over the wall and straight into the top left hand corner of the goal - magnificent! AFCB were 0-1 up with 20 minutes to go.

Yann Kermorgant was more active now and sent in a dinked little chip for Smith to chase before Stockdale read it, coming out just in time. Adam Smith was feeling the worse for wear a few moments later when he was flattened by Lua Lua.

While it was hard to see down the far end of the ground there was a lot of shouts from Brighton players and Calderon in particular for a Matt Ritchie handball following a corner. Whether it was just momentum that took him over and he put his hand down on the ball to stop himself falling or whether he was trying to play the ball with his hand was what the assistant referee would have had to decide, and he said nothing. If he had called penalty it could have been a totally different outcome to the game. Titles are won and lost on such matters.

It was a decisive moment as in the next play, Yann Kermorgant found away through to Callum Wilson leaving the striker with just Halford and the keeper to beat. He beat Halford one way and then the other before slotting home passed Stockdale to secure all three points. It was game over. AFCB were 0-2 up and the real party could start now with just nine minutes to go.

Yann Kermorgant was subbed for Dan Gosling to make the midfield more solid in the remaining time. Craig Mackail-Smith was now up front with Best and he went as close as any Brighton player firing just wide from an acute angle, with Boruc struggling to get to his right post. Kenwyne Jones then came on for Callum Wilson with just three minutes to go which did not give him much time to try and send a few cartwheels or flips flying, but an added three minutes did bring something. It was a yellow card both for Adam Smith for a late tackle on Joe Bennett and a yellow for Bennett for a kick out in retaliation on Smith.
Final score.
We salute the team and the manager.
Adam smith get congratulated on his performance.
Up to 106 goals in all competitions and a record points haul.

This was the game that now gives AFCB the platform I believe to go and get the title they so crave. Yes there is still much hard work to be done in those four remaining games, but this team is showing the kind of fight and nerve to be the Champions. It is not always about style, a team needs substance and determination and AFCB had bucket loads of it in this game. The players were more than delighted with the result and their faces tell you that this win was just the boost they needed to feel that they can win this title. They could have played much better in this game and might not have won, but they stuck to their jobs and when the chances came in the second half they found the clinical finishes that puts them four points clear - fantastic!

Well done lads you were terrific.
Recharge the batteries for Reading now lads.
Yann picks up his man of the match award and Tommy
reports on another great captain's performance from himself.
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh (Smith 64) Kermorgant (Gosling 83), Wilson (Jones 89)

Camp, Gosling, Smith, Stanislas, Jones, Ward, Pitman

AFCB Ratings

Boruc 5 (not his fault, little to do), Francis 6, Elphick 8, Cook 7, Daniels 7, Ritchie 7, Arter 6, Surman 8, Pugh 6, Kermorgant 8, Wilson 8

Stockdale, Bruno, Halford, Dunk, Bennett, Stephens, Kayal (Ince 67), Calderon, J. Teixeira (Mackail-Smith 74) Carayol (Lua Lua 74), Best

Brighton Subs

Hughes, O'Grady, Mackail-Smith, Forster-Caskey, Ince, Lua Lua, Walton

Referee watch: Craig Pawson 6/10 - Ritchie certainly put a hand on the ball and luck was in AFCB's favour this time. I do think Matt slipped and was falling and I'm not convinced that he intended to touch the ball - so not a penalty for me. Brighton fans will disagree and I have no grudge with them disagreeing. There were some fouls early on as well that could have been carded.

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