Friday, 26 August 2016

Rival Lines: The Eagles Beak - our league form is horrendous!

Rival Lines
Match Preview: Crystal Palace v AFCB
Blogger Interview: The Eagles Beak
Twitter @TheEaglesBeak

This week we had the chance to chat with Jay Crame who jointly edits the Palace site The Eagles Beak. I have a confession to make in that visiting Selhurst Park is always something I look forward to as it is only about 40 minutes drive from my house or a quick train trip. But even with that convenience, I would rather travel down to Bournemouth most Saturdays to watch the team that means everything to me. But what does Jay think about the club he loves and the start they have made to this season?

CC: Are Palace fans as gutted as AFCB supporters that this is already a bottom of the table clash?

TEB: Perhaps but it is very early days indeed. I think most fans were expecting to win the opening game against the Baggies but lose the trip to Spurs, so I guess we are a win behind where we should be. The start of any season is always quite odd in terms of expectations as you hope new signings gel immediately but they often need time. Puts a little more onus on our clash as we will want to pick up a point or three going into the international break.

CC: How unlucky were Palace in their two games against Spurs and WBA as you seemed to have been victims of late goals in these games?

TEB: Against West Brom we played well in the first half and had we scored I am convinced that we would have gone on to win the game. You know what you are going to get against a Tony Pulis side, more so having seen what he did at Palace. The longer the game went on without us scoring you could just see them scoring from a set piece which is exactly what they did. The performance against Spurs was better but it was the very same result, late set piece proving the difference. One thing is clear, Palace are hard to break down but need to be much more clinical with chances that come our way.

CC: Do you think the side has fully recovered after the defeat to Man Utd in the FA Cup semi-final and the loss of form at the end of last season?

TEB: The league form in 2016 has been absolutely horrendous and there really is little excuse and it is foolish to think that the start of a new season wipes the slate clean. The fact is, these opening two games have continued in similar vein and that is the last thing Alan Pardew would have wanted. It sounds crazy but he is under pressure to get a result now as the fans are becoming restless. You cannot ignore the form that got us to the cup final though which is proof that we can get results against Premier League sides. Maybe we just need to go back to treating every game as a cup tie!

CC: Is the £27m spent on Benteke well spent or would you have preferred a quicker striker like Berahino for that kind of money?

TEB: Having seen Benteke make his debut for Palace against Blackpool in the League Cup the initial signs are good. He showed glimpses of what we can expect - strong in the air, agile and has quick feet. It was only forty-five minutes but it certainly wets the appetite. Is any player worth that kind of money? I don't believe so but football is in a world of its own and being in the top division you just have to try and keep up while trying to keep on the straight and narrow. I would never have said Palace would shell out this amount of money on a player which has smashed our transfer record but I'm hopefully that it will be a very wise addition.

CC: Was Conner Wickham the right striker to keep considering that Palace let Dwight Gayle go to Newcastle in the summer?

TEB: We seem destined to play a formation that will be much more midfield orientated with a lone striker. Dwight Gayle is a natural goalscorer but he struggles to play the loan striker role. He tried but it just did not work out. He will score 20+ goals in the Championship this season, no doubt about it so I will be intrigued to see how he does on a potential return to the Premier League. Connor Wickham plays the loan striker well but he need support from the midfield which he has not had in the two league games so far. Now he has Benteke to compete with which should make him up his game, in fact, he did just that against Blackpool, scored minutes after replacing the Belgian.

CC: Has the departure of Jedinak to leave for Aston Villa left the team more exposed?

TEB: It is telling that Mile did not sign for another Premier League side and facing facts, he would not make our first eleven with everyone fit. He goes with our very best wishes as he been a huge part of where we find ourselves today but however much I do not like saying it, there is always a time for a player to move on and this was his.

CC: Was the Yannick Bolasie move (£28m according to Sky Sports) good for Palace and is Andros Townsend a good enough replacement?

TEB: I am confident that the purchase of Townsend was not to replace Bolasie but it did soften the deal going through as it looked as though we did. The fee was too much to turn down and while many think we should no longer be a selling club, every player has their price. It is a great deal for Palace but while Bolasie is an exciting player, at the same time he is frustrating but that is what you have to put up with from skillful, wide players. He really needs to learn to perform more often as with the price-tag there is no doubt that the Everton fans will not be as patient as the Palace fans have been with him.

CC: Is Pardew the right man to lead Crystal Palace to a top 10 finish?

TEB: That is a hard question to answer at the moment with the possibility of a couple more players expected to come in before the transfer window ends. We are likely to have the personnel to push for a top 10 finish but I would prefer that we put an end to this wretched form we have been on since the start of the year. With Benteke on board now, I am sure he will add a new dimension to the team as well as that boost that we can actually score goals.

CC: Which three clubs do you think will be relegated from the Premier League this season?

TEB: This is a massive season both at the top and bottom of the table. It is likely to be close at both ends too but for me, the three that I think will go down are Hull City, Burnley and Sunderland.

CC: What formation do you expect Pardew to play against AFC Bournemouth and do you expect many changes from the starting line up in the last game?

TEB: The classic one up front formation with Benteke starting in that role while hopefully we will see the return of James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye to the starting line up. Many, including myself want to see Steve Mandanda replace Hennessey in goal but we may have to wait a couple more games for that.

CC: What do you think the score will be between the Eagles and AFCB?

TEB: We owe you one from last season and with the addition of Benteke, Palace will just edge it 2-1

CC: Thank you Jay for your thoughtful answers. I am pleased to hear that there is optimism in your words and the season is as you say two-games young. AFCB and Palace need to improve fast though and I get the feeling this could already be a 'six pointer' or at least steer one of the sides in the right direction and the other one into a more despondent mood. I'm backing AFCb to get a win though for the first time this season having suggested that they would lose their first two games. It's a 1-2 away win for me - same as last season!

Make sure you have a read of The Eagles Beak. There are not so many Crystal Palace sites and this one is a good one with views on Christian Benteke and the departed Jedinek who will be playing his football with Tommy Elphick this season and the Villa.

Premier Talk: Have the BBC got it right with another Premier League show?

Transfer News - Ben Whitfield has joined Yeovil Town until January.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Visiting the London Stadium did feel special

Some fans have already described visiting the London Stadium like going to Wembley and I can see why that is said, even though it is slightly different experience. You have the long walk up to the stadium and it emerges from the London skyline, like some majestic football paradise with the claret colours splendidly adorned around the stadium's sides, which I can tell you takes some time to walk right around.
Walking up towards the Olympic Park.
With throngs of people walking up to the stadium from the overland rail station and Westfield Shopping precinct, it was like being on a big pilgrimage. Most of the fans were in good humour and expectant of a good game. The programme sellers were keen to call you over with the cellophane wrapped programmes in hand too, all ready for the special day.

The flag seller is doing good business.
We had to make a special diversion to the section between gates J and K as our tickets from AFCB had not arrived in the post before the game. But, true to their word, there was a ticket issuing area at the part of the stadium where we were directed to and an envelope was all prepared with my name on it and the tickets inside. There was not much time to take in all the outside views but having seen the funfair and managing not to trip over all the West ham fans busily looking down at the ground, to see if their names have been set in stone on the floor, we managed to find a father and two sons who we interviewed for the blog before going into the stadium.

Great view.
The vast size of the arena was very apparent when you had passed through the electronic ticket gate and enter the hall, where AFCB fans were already sampling the refreshments on offer. We caught up some friends before heading out to the seating area. It was a good walk and there was an intermediate area that had a big canvas hoarding draped over rows of seats that slid away to where the athletics track was hidden, beneath the temporary seating which is where we would be. Looking back up to the top of the stand really gave you an appreciation of the enormity of the ground. We were so glad we had booked seats just behind the goal in the lower tier.
The floodlights and the structures behind that keep the sound in.
As the ground filled up and the players came out to warm up I got going taking pictures and talking to fans. There was plenty of room between the seats and both sets of fans could make a good deal of noise with the transparent roof structure above the floodlights holding a lot of the sound in. The big screen allowed for both logos and team sheets to be visible and the atmosphere really started to build when the bubble machines were turned on and the teams were led out.
AFCB getting down to work.
Getting near to kick off.
While there was nothing in terms of half time entertainment the fans busied themselves in and around the drinks area with plenty of information about not taking alcohol back to seats and no standing, the latter was certainly ignored. West Ham threatened fans with eviction for standing and yet I could hardly see anybody seated.
AFCB fill out their ticket allocation.
Bubbles at the ready.
Not the best of scores.
While the result was disappointing it was an away experience that was worth the trip. We were less pleased with the route back home though as the crowds were held by marshals just before the underground, and people were moved into two different lines with one moving far faster than the other. It was a shepherding exercise that was not particularly pleasant, but while it may have helped the through through the public stations it frustrated the majority in the queues. Goodness knows how some fans of big Premier League clubs will react when they are faced with that - I see trouble ahead. Indeed, even unbeknown to us some AFCB and West Ham fans had skirmishes after the game. I guess the stadium is christened now!

Marc Wilson fires AFCB past Morcambe in the EFL Cup

Match Description
Morcambe 1-2 AFCB
EFL Cup 23 Aug 2016
Attendance: 2542 (incl. 293 AFCB)

AFCB travelled up to the Globe Arena to play Morecambe in the second round of the English Football League Cup last night. Marc Wilson was the hero scoring the winner - a low drive to the bottom corner on his debut from 35 yards out! Perhaps the other Mr Wilson can take inspiration from that. But the game was not as easy as AFCB might have hoped for.

AFCB got the perfect start with an early Max Gradel goal from the edge of the box, but Morcambe hit back by the 14th minute as Cole Stockton stabbed the ball into AFCB's net. 1-1 at half time meant the game was far from won and although AFCB had good possession and Aké and Marc Wilson had strong games at the back, it was a shame that more strikers did not get their names on the score sheet for me. yet, Marc Wilson will be delighted with his debut that was watched by 293 AFCB fans. 

Eddie Howe went for a very strong line up for the game with 10 changes from the West Ham defeat. It was a surprise to see Junior Stanislas back in the frame and while it would have been exciting to see Hyndman and Mousset make their starts even if they were on the bench. Marc Pugh was back on the bench too after a couple of matches when he was injured. 

It will be Preston North End at home in the next round for AFCB.

Official AFCB Tweets and Live Blog

01: We're underway here in the @EFLCup at the Globe Arena. Come on you Cherries!
Live Blog: Another warning sign for the Cherries as Barkhuizen fires wide after a lovely move on the edge of the area
06: First save of the night and it's Federici who denies Barkhuizen's effort from in the box. Good stop!
It has to be said
08: A lovely move sees Gradel pick the ball up on the edge and smash a low left-footed effort off the post and in! 0-1 here!
Live Blog: Gradel picks the ball up on the corner of the area and strikes the ball low into the bottom corner - in off the post. 1-0!Live Blog: Nice play from the Cherries - the goal has definitely settled them.
Live Blog: Stanislas almost makes it two! Francis' ball towards Stanislas on the left inside the area, he advances and its a great save from Roche
13: Chance! Francis feeds Stanislas and he hits an effort in the box which Roche has to 
palm away.
Live Blog: Goal to morecambe 1-1
Live Blog: A disappointing blow for the Cherries as Stockton receives the ball inside the area and from inside the area turns and squirms the ball into the bottom corner beyond Federici
GOAL for Morecambe. 1-1.
14: Stockton was alive to a ball in the box and poked the ball into the bottom corner. All level here
Live Blog: Short Cherries corner
22: Close! Francis crosses for Grabban who glances a header an inch wide of the left post. Unlu
ckyLive Blog: The game has quietened down a little here now
Live Blog: Great defending from Ake as he battles with Dunne to chase down a long ball - the Chelsea man is eventually fouled
28: Stanislas' cross from the right hits Afobe before Gradel's effort in the box is well blocked.
Live Blog: Great save from Roche to deny Afobe
30: Double save! Roche denies Afobe low to his right before getting up quickly to deny Gradel the rebound!
Live Blog: Smith might get booked here - a late challenge on On Barhuizen. He escapes a booking and just gets a ticking offLive Blog: Short corner, Gradel then crosses to Cook inside area, He curls a shot goal wards but it is blocked
43: Blocked! Gradel and Grabban combine and the striker's shot from eight-yards produces a great block from the Morecambe defender.
Live Blog: Morecambe break and Wilson is the hero as he gets down well to prevent Stockton scoring before the Cherries clear
Live Blog: 1 min of added time to play here
Wide to Barkhuizen and his shot comes off the post what a chance!!! 1-1 here HT
45: Off the post! Barkhuizen gets the ball in the box and hits a venomous effort which bounces off the inside of the post! Close shav
HALF-TIME: #mfc 1-1 #afcb - Gradel's opener followed by Stockton's strike mean the Cherries go into the break level.

Second Half
Live Blog: Cherries get the second half underway - a reminder it is 1-1 here thanks to Gradel's first half goal.
Live Blg: Ake has looked solid tonight
Live Blog? Nice turn from Grabban on the edge of the area. He advances and shoots from the edge of the area but the shot is blocked
Live Blog: Not had much luck from corners this evening.
Live Blog: Afobe wide to GradelPlays it to Gosling - but its mis hit
Live Blog: Lots of possession for Howe's men but the chances aren't clear cut
Live Blog: Molyneux shoots but Francis blocks
Live Blog: Attendance 2542 - 293 away fans
Live Blog: Credit to Grabbs - he is persevering! He has had lots of chances, just needs to score one to get his confidence back you feel

Live Blog: Ake shoots. Charged down
Live Blog: What a goal!
Live Blog: Its Wilson on his debut
from 35 yards out, he shoots low and hard and it nestles in the far bottom corner of the net
Live Blog: 2-1 to the Cherries - what a debut for Wilson!
53: A corner was cleared and the ball fell to Wilson who hit a wonderful effort into the bottom corner 25-yards out! Great strike! 1-2 here!Live Blog: Morecambe going forward here now. They aren't out of this. However Molyneux's shot from 25 yards goes comfortably over\
Live Blog: Pugh is coming on here. Pugh replaces Stanislas here
Live Blog: They aren't getting beyond half way
Live Blog: Great challenge again by Ake to deny morecambe as they burst into the area
Live Blog: Solid debut from the former Stoke man
Live Blog:  Francis tries to take on his man and shoot
Live Blog:  Attack attack attack the away fans chant!Live Blog:  Dunne shoots from 30 yards out
70: Close! Dunn hits a powerful effort from 20-yards and it whizzes just past Federici's right 
post. Morecambe go again but the offside flag is up
Ellison comes on
Live Blog:  Here comes Mousset - i am excited about this
76: Second sub for #afcb - Lys Mousset comes on for his full #afcb debut to replace Grabban.
Live Blog:  Brad Smith showing some pace on the left. He then has a shot but its well over the barLive Blog: Dunno coming off for Morecambe as Mullin comes onLive Blog: Mousset is played in inside the area, but he is off balance and shoots wide at the near postLive Blog: Mousset on the ball - advances forward. He then shoots, it takes a deflection and goes wide
Live Blog: Late bit of pressure here from the hosts, who trail 2-1Live Blog: Silly foul committed by Mousset inside his own halfLive Blog: Mullen with a diving header - he was unmarked but Feds dives to his left to catch
Live Blog: Afobe in space inside the area, he shoots but its under hit and an easy save for Roche
90: THREE minutes added time for #afcb to see out their lead.
Live Blog: And finally the referee blows up! The Cherries have won and are through!

Federici, Francis, M Wilson, Ake, B Smith; Stanislas, Gosling, L Cook, Gradel, Grabban, Afobe.

Subs: Holmes, Lee, Buckley, O'Kane, Hyndman, Pugh, Mousset.

Roach, Wakefield, Edwards, Whitmore, Conlan, Fleming, Rose, Barkhuizen, Dunn, Molyneux, Stockton

Shrimps Subs
McGowan, Kenyon, Mullin, Ellison, Nizic, Turner, Hedley

Republic of Ireland call ups
There were call ups for Marc Wilson, Eunan O'Kane and Harry Arter.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

AFCB have to up the goal count

The Cherries may have played two top-end sides from last season, but they have not managed to score more than one goal, despite all that summer spending. That is not great reading for the fans that want to see the net busted a few times to get the Cherries on their way. It is hoped that tonight's League Cup match will see the goals start to flow, but the match against West Ham really should have seen more goals.
More shooting practise is required.
Whether Jordan Ibe was caught up in the moment or not, he will be wishing he had taken on the shot himself when he was through against Adrian. Instead he chose to pass and while that was unselfish, it didn't bring the result that he or the team were expecting in that position. James Collins made the block and the chance was gone. Wilson may need goals more than most to get himself going, but AFCB are not good enough to pass up opportunities that were as open as that opportunity.

Josh King's following long-shot may have looked spectacular, but it didn't ultimately trouble Adrian enough and there has to be more efforts on goal earlier in the match. There was a typical rally right at the end where AFCB could have got off the hook if King or Francis had found the net, but why did it take until the 90+ minutes for the side to get that close to scoring? It would be easy for Eddie just to change things and give Benik Afobe a go but the root cause of the side's failure to score at the moment is the fact that it is not creating many chances.

I'd like to see Andrew Surman getting on the ball more and seeing Ibe, King, Wilson or Grabban making decisive runs. Yet, the movement has been fairly pedestrian in an attacking sense and central defenders have not found too much difficulty in holding AFCB at bay. Taking shots earlier and when not always fully set is not always a bad option. AFCB have to up their desire when they get to the opposition's box. perhaps some new faces will do better against Morecambe tonight. UTCIAD!

Morcambe probably fancy their chances against the Cherries

When the English Football League Cup tie came out of the hat I was not rejoicing at AFCB drawing the Shrimps. They top league two and are a fairly settled side having seen only a couple of departures this summer and their results have been eye-catching.

They have been busy recruiting as well in signing striker Rhys Turner from Oldham, Aaron Wildig on a free in midfield and striker Anton Forrester on loan from Blackburn Rovers. Jack Dunn and Kevin Ellison lead the Morcambe goal table with four and two, respectively.

It's the results that will give them confidence having turned over Rotherham Utd of the Championship already in this competition and making a strong start in their League Two campaign with home wins against Blackpool and Portsmouth as well as away points with a 0-1 win over Yeovil Town. As AFCB could not beat Pompey in pre-season I hope that Eddie Howe takes minimal risks in this game as the club needs a win.
Could it be Afobe's night to stake a place in the starting line up for future games? 
Whether players can play themselves into form or not we will quickly see as the team selected must be with a partial view to getting players up and challenging for Premier League places considering the start that the Cherries have had. Whether players such as Pugh, Stanislas, Hyndman or Mings are yet fit enough is one matter, but if Eddie wants to give some of the Development squad some action it is going to be a nervy evening. So don't be surprised if we see Mikael Ndjoli on the bench along with Corey Jordan perhaps.

I'd expect him to take some regulars not getting games up north. So we should see Federici, Eunan O'Kane, Dan Gosling, Afobe and maybe a few of the new signings such as Brad Smith, Aké, Mousset and perhaps Marc Wilson. If this kind of side can get a win though it will improve the mood at Dean Court which needs lifting now.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Can Ryan Fraser keep his place?

It has been a long time to wait to see the 'wee-man' back in an AFCB shirt running at full-backs. In fact it has been so long that it sent me scurrying back to my programme cupboard to try and find out when it was. I knew I had to look in the AFCB v Aston Villa opening game programme from last season, as it would have all the Championship promotion games in it and while I remember seeing Ryan celebrating at Charlton, I didn't remember him getting on. Indeed it was back on 27 April in the last home match of the 2014/15 season when Ryan came on with seven minutes to go against Bolton Wanderers. For those who wondered when he last started a game for AFCB, I believe it was Birmingham  at home on 6 April 2015 when the side won 4-2.
Keeping pace with Ryan Fraser is never easy.
Last season at Ipswich Ryan had a strong loan period and while it ended with him being injured he must have been anxious to start playing again for the side he signed for. Now he might have got his Premier League start a little earlier than expected and with Marc Pugh carrying an injury (not sure what exactly), Junior Stanislas still fighting his way back and with Max Gradel on the bench for West Ham, it is possible that the Scotsman might yet extend his time on the left wing. 

As usual Fraser was fairly much a bundle of energy from first minute to last and while he tried to bulldozer his way past players, it will have been important for him just to get this first Premier League game out of the way. Now he can concentrate more on his game and contributing in the team not feeling like he is the latest addition, and he may well push himself ahead of one or two others. Football is a game of opportunity and the door is currently open for Ryan. I hope he grabs his chance and does all he can to help the side.

From memory it is always a special moment when Ryan scores as the crowd really want him to do well and if he can get that first Premier League goal in the next few weeks, it could be that bit of excitement that gets the Cherries hunting down the sides in front of them. 

Is it just intensity of play that AFCB lack?

Diagnosing what has gone wrong in the last two games is something that Eddie Howe and his team will be working hard to find out. Match of the Day 2 suggested that the intensity in the Cherries' play from last season has somewhat diminished and that they are not running as hard as they were against teams. Yet, I don't believe the answer is quite as simple as that.

While the stats may show a change in the passing and running numbers, I am more concerned with how the players are feeling and what they want out of this season. It was simple last season - survival was the clear object, but that gave them very high desire as if climbing a mountain. Now I am not sure if this group is yet to find its identity in what it is setting out to achieve. Survival is one thing but most of the group have done that before. Now it must be about improvement and yet the side has already lost two games against sides that it beat in the corresponding fixtures last season. It's not going to be easy but the players must set themselves new challenges.

Is staying up enough motivation? No one wants a relegation scrap.
The first challenge is to get some points on the board. It doesn't matter who the points come against but the side needs a pick up. The Morecambe match offers an opportunity to get the winning feeling, but even they are top of League Two and the side Eddie puts out is likely to be very different from the starting line up against Crystal Palace. The next two Premier League games are massive in AFCB's season as they are winnable games and they can't afford to loose more ground.

Playing with more intensity may have more risk attached to it in trying to win the game quickly, but we did see signs of the players trying to get off to a quick start against West Ham. The play on the wings has been more ponderous and Adam Smith and Jordan Ibe have to fast-track their learning of how each other likes to play on the right side, while Daniels has already had two different partners starting in front of him on the left in King and Fraser and Gradel also used as a sub against Man Utd. The side isn't settled yet and it may take a few more painful lessons before things settle down.

I have faith in Eddie and Jason though to work out why the side has been below its high standard of play we have come to love. In trying not to lose though AFCB might have lost a bit of zest in its play and while Man Utd and West Ham were seen as difficult sides to play, they were also nervous about the start of the season and the Hammers had many good players not even playing. What Eddie Howe needs is something to ignite the next performance - just a moment of brilliance from one player could do the trick. Keep the faith UTCIAD!

AFCB's U21 lose to Burnley 3-2 in Premier League Cup.