Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Marc Pugh can be delighted with his season

Some may have thought that Marc Pugh would not get as much game time in the Premier League as he did in the Championship. There’s been no guarantee that Marc would keep his place and yet I believe the fans are overjoyed that he is being rewarded for his long service to the club and the special goals he has scored to keep the Cherries in the Premier League. He grabbed another goal at Everton at the weekend and he still may get some more goals yet.
The season could have started very differently of course. Eddie Howe signed Josh King and Max Gradel in the summer and he has had Junior Stanislas and Adam Smith eager to spend time on the left wing, especially since the Ryan Fraser was sent on loan to Ipswich. But there is a bit of genius in the feet of Marc Pugh, whether he is boxed in at the corner or dashing to get on the end of a through ball from Charlie Daniels and to get his cross in. He is one of the reliable performers I suppose who you can see giving his all whenever he puts on the number seven shirt.

“Pugh!” We scream from the stands as he races by and torments a baffled defender before beating him all ends up. Wingers have always been very important at Dean Court and Eddie Howe has designed his team to be extremely fluent with the flying wingbacks overlapping and whizzing past on the break.  

The value of Marc Pugh is not simply his finishing or his trickery though it’s his partnership with Charlie Daniels. They lean on each other and get the best out of each other and the team simply does not look as balanced when the two are not paired up on the left side of the field. 
When Junior Stanislas was having such a good run in the team and Marc picked up an Achillies problem it seemed that the Bacup-born winger may have to wait some time before getting back into the team. That would be to underestimate the determination of Pugh though who came storming back with goals in the FA Cup against Portsmouth and another special twister of a goal against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park.

So what more is there left for this family stand favourite to do? I am sure he has looked back and thought life doesn’t get much better than when scoring against Bolton Wanderer’s to get your team promoted to the Premier League or a hat-trick in the 0-8 demolition of Birmingham City last season. But then he scored a typically special goal at Upton Park for his first goal in the top flight.

That is Marc Pugh though – he gives everything to the cause. What I think fans like about him more than anything though is that he is just a fabulous straight talking, regular guy and a strong family man. He’ll be happy to talk and listen to you about what you are doing, as much as telling you about his favourite game and I wonder whether the Cherries have a team of excellent listeners and whether this is really half the secret to their success. Some players can take things onboard when they are told to play in a certain way and others find it hard to adapt. But Pugh is one of those who can listen and improve. He’s done it season after season, and somehow I think he still has a few more tricks to learn.



Our day at Goodison - if only people would sit down!

We set out on the road with high expectations for the visit to Goodison Park. Stephen and I had been up in Liverpool earlier in the season for the Capital One Cup match but this time we would not be staying over so it was a mad drive up, see the game and a dash back all in one day! I knew I would get to know the motorways pretty well. 
Kirkdale at last.
We started at 7pm which is probably later than some of the Bournemouth fans on the south coast with our first stop turning out to be the services at Oxford on the M40 as top journalist Cherry Chimes had forgotten to pack his notebook! I did not get the pad that I wanted though and so after a quick break we drove on and I thought I'd have to see what I could find in the way of paper later on in the day.

It was only after passing Birmingham at 10.30 that we had another stop off at the Stafford services on the M6. It was good that we rested up there as when we got back in the car a hail storm started to pelt us and the weather closed in. The last 25 miles of the M62 before the turn off for the M57 were set at a painful 50mph as the road widening scheme was in full flow.

Having made it to Liverpool at 12.00pm, operation park and find notepad became a bit more urgent as well as finding somewhere to eat. I had already scouted the best parking places and while I motored around Walton Village I decided that with my well emblazoned AFCB car it would be best to pay the £5 to park at the Walton Sports Centre and still have a car to return to later. That sorted, we walked on down towards Goodison and started taking photos. We had a quick look in the Everton FC Shop where we saw Big Rich and Adrian who both sell MatchDay programmes at Dean Court. 

Then it was a food stop as a fast food chain. We had been stopping at every newsagent on the way down but none of them seemed to sell notepads, not even a Post Office. Eventually after eating from food we did find an Echo newsagent and while there were no pads on display the seller did come back with a pad from out the back and our problems were over.
Friendly Everton fans are pleased to talk and share the day with away fans.
The crowds were filling the streets now and we were approached by a lady who asked for some change for a phone call. I managed to find a £1 and handed it over only for her to say she wouldn't put as much as that in a phone box. So I hastily delved into the pocket again and replaced the £1 with a 50p. Stephen laughed, but I am not sure the lady saw the funny side of it as I switched the coins and headed off sharpish. By the way, if you are worried about our finances eagle eyed Stephen found £1.50 on the streets of Kirkdale - maybe money comes to those who give?
Get your Everton gear here.
Stephen and I headed back to Goodison next and we bought a programme before being asked by a Bournemouth Echo photographer in Goodison Road for our photo which we duly provided, scarves waving and happy faces. We then interviewed two Everton fans who were just finishing off their fish and chips. I picked on them as the young lad called Cameron had a splendid white and blue Everton jester hat on and I thought they were a good father and son combination to talk to. Cameron did not say much but I liked his pessimistic view of his team with his score prediction of a 0-4 win for AFCB!


Mark and Cameron discuss Everton with Cherry Chimes.
The Everton fans were very friendly and some of them saw me getting out our tickets to see where we needed to head to. They were quick to tell us the quickest direction to go and we headed off to the Bullens Road Lower Tier stand. Having seen our entrance though we had one last walk around to the fan park by the corner of the Park End stand where two AFCB fans were getting grilled on their preferences for AFCB's team selection. 
We even said hello to the local constabulary who happily took a Cherry Chimes card.
Lots of red and black shirts were about.
A historic club and it all started in 1878.
We knew the stadium was old and had a lot of character and it was good to see some of the history of the club around all four sides of the ground. The turnstiles had electronic ticket reading and we were soon in side to be directed to our seats right near the corner post. I have to admit the view was not great for the far end of the ground but at least they had two big screens up which we found would show live coverage of the game. It was just as well too as while we had selected the lower tier hoping that we could sit down to watch the game only the fans to our right did that while many tall adults stood in front of us and gave us no view if we chose to sit. It is something that really angers me as young kids, and us fans that are a little shot, just can't see if people stand and we have paid for a seat and there is not supposed to be any standing. When we tried to sit down no one else would around us, so we had no choice. Stephen chose to stand for a bit then rest and watch the big screen at times - it spoiled a lot of the enjoyment for him. I imagine it is the same for may young fans who go to away games. Perhaps some of you who like to stand should consider that next time you think it is fun to stand and ignore the announcements asking you to sit in the seat provided?

There were plenty of kids around us but they all had trouble
seeing the game. It's selfish not to sit down when asked to help others see.

Scoreboard watching.
Right, moan over. We still had a better view than some who probably had a white pillar to peer around for 90 minutes. The game was fairly even and although Everton's fans were not getting behind their side much they certainly bellowed out their support when they went 1-0 up. It was quite a subdued atmosphere when Marc Pugh equalised though. I was so pleased as usually AFCB melt when they go a goal down early on. This match would be different I felt. 

I was busily scribbling away my match notes which was causing interest among some of those in front me so I ended up passing out quite a few Cherry Chimes cards which was greeted with beaming faces. Sadly it did not mean they would help me get a better view by asking everyone to sit down but I could stretch to look between shoulders most of the time.
The players wore the Truth and Justice for the 96 T-shirts. I almost
 caught one but a lady in front of me was first to it.
A tribute to the 96.
It is going to be a few nervous days for Roberto Martinez.
It wasn't long though before I was looking straight up to the skies though as the first flyby of a banner telling Roberto that it was time to go went past, and again, and again etc. I think he might have got the message and the Everton board as well. In the ground I did not see that many signs but the flatness of the Everton fans said it all. 

As it was, they were about to get their fifth home win of the season. A good run up the right wing ended with Tom Cleverly not quite able to finish the move but Leighton Baines was on hand to sink our hearts. Half chance misses from Benik Afobe and Callum Wilson had proved costly but Tim Howard had not had a hard day at Goodison.
No win but we support our team.
We were left with the walk back to the car which was accompanies by thousands of slightly happier Everton supporters. We managed to get out fairly quickly and were soon headed back on the motorway. We reached Redhill by 9pm and even had time for a stop off to get a pizza. It never tastes as good as when you win but maybe next game AFCB will get three points to make our day a bit better. 


A big thanks to the Everton fans. They helped make it an exceptional day.

Premier Talk: congratulations Leicester! Chelsea deliver the title to Ranieri's boys!

The Back of the Net podcast is out today. Visit the website to see how to listen in to Episode 10: Goosbumps.

Monday, 2 May 2016

The price of AFCB's success

Last weekend AFCB fans were told the news by the Bournemouth Echo that the club had total losses of £39.1m in the 2014-15 season which included a £7.6m fine for breaking the financial fair play (FFP) rules. The real eye-opener on where the money has gone came in staff wages which were up to £30.4m.

The figures were not unexpected to be fair, but they are amounts that would have been unimaginable for the club to be able to cope with only a couple of years ago. Now that the club sits in the Premier League, I suppose those losses will soon be balanced by the new TV income that will flood into the club this summer. Still, it underlines that it was a decision made to try and win promotion from the Championship knowing that the club would mount up some big losses in the short term and the fans can now see why Maxim Demin is owed such a lot of thanks for allowing the club to operate with his financial backing under such conditions.
Rising up the leagues comes at a cost.
It still baffled me why FFP is considered as a mechanism why when clubs spend too much unfairly they are slapped with more fines, but I suppose every club knows the rules and will make their own decisions on whether they want to cross that line or not. It is all about attracting the best players to come and play for the club and while the wages have rocketed there should be some management to ensure that the club operates within its means now that it has reached the top table. 
Was it worth it? You bet, yeah! A year ago today.
I am sure the fans and the owners want another push in time to become a club that might even challenge for silverware and a place in Europe in coming years, but it is not a backwards step to have a period of stabilisation and maintaining Premier League status for a couple of years. That in itself will soak up much of the new funds coming into the club. AFCB can't run up front with the Arsenal's Man Utd and Man City just yet, but it can play against them on the field and as a fan that is already beyond my wildest dreams. 

There is always another side of the story though and had the club failed to win promotion from the Championship within a couple of more years it would have had to contend with even greater financial losses. The speed of AFCB climb up the leagues is what has helped make success more financially manageable in the short term.

AFCB really should have taken something from Goodison

While I concede that Everton played well enough to tip the balance at Goodison and take all three points, as an AFCB fan I came away thinking that was a winnable game for either side as it was open and just needed someone to get hold of the game for their team to win. 

It was at the back where I actually believe Everton won the game as the young Matthew Pennington and steadfast Gibson in midfield were excellent in stopping AFCB's attackers, while Hibbert also had a strong game when he came on and Leighton Baines struck a well hit winner.
Benik amost grabbed a late equaliser for the Cherries at Goodison.
Having said that it was a very close match. The Cherries had more attempts than Everton during the game but they were not as accurate in their shooting. It has been a bot of a feature of late. The Cherries just aren't finding the back of the net and that is very disappointing when the side is just about as strong as it has been all season.

Benik Afobe will be kicking himself that he did not add to his goal count as Wilson had made a great run down the right in the second half and pulled back a great cross for him that Benik could no quite get over the top of. But he was only six yards out and really it was a moment when he had to hit the target. A draw would not have looked out of place on the day, but it is the narrow wins that mark out the sides that know how to get the job done under pressure and AFCB are still learning against these teams.

It was still a good game to watch and while the goal action was not that high I was just pleased to see Harry Arter and Callum Wilson starting a game.

The All Departments podcast reviews the game in full so you can listen to my views on the game on there where I am a guest of Michael Dunne. Visit the All Departments website to listen in or scroll down the panel on Cherry Chimes to the All Departments' sound bar..

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Everton serve up AFCB's third defeat in a row 2-1

Match Report
Everton 2 v 1 AFCB
30 April 2016
Attendance: 38,345
Welcome to Goodison.
There was a very despondent figure of Eddie Howe who encouraged his AFCB players to go and clap their supporters after this game. The Cherries yet again fell behind to an early goal in the first seven minutes when Tom Cleverly crashed a low shot past a despairing Artur Boruc. It was exactly what Roberto Martinez needed to get the crowd behind his team and yet within a couple of minutes AFCB were back on level terms thanks to a bit of underhand nudging on Pennington, courtesy of Callum Wilson, and a snap shot from Josh King that rebounded off Marc Pugh's chest, and the winger made a smart finish from six yards out. Both teams had trouble keeping the ball and the quality moment was carved out by Everton in the second half when Aaron Lennon delivered a hurried pull back from the right wing that was missed in the middle by Cleverly, but was finished off tidily by Leighton Baines into the top right corner. It was 2-1 to the toffees and another defeat for Howe's men.
ACB warm up in their 96 shirts - Hillsborough tribute.
Everton players stretch out.
Bournemouth's starting line up was a very strong one with Callum Wilson, Matt Ritchie and Harry Arter making their returns to the starting 11, while Gosling was moved to the bench along with Junior Stanislas and Lewis Grabban. Everton gave debuts to Niasse up front and Pennington in defence.

Mark and Cameron talk on Everton's season.

Justice for the 96.
We will never forget the Hillsborough tragedy.
Before the game began their was a fitting tribute to the 96 who had lost their lives at Hillsborough and whose families had finally won justice for them this week. The applause was very emotional and everyone was fully respective of the relatives who pleasingly came on the pitch to signal their delight in getting the verdict that was right in the courts after such a long battle and so many lies.

There are more pictures on the Match Day Gallery.

First Half
The Cherries had a good opening with Daniels getting forward and most of the team getting on the ball. Pugh won the first corner and Elphick was getting heavy tackles in on Niasse.

Then things went very wrong. Everton took possession. Baines and Barkley tormented the Cherries around the box until Tom Cleverly took up the challenge cutting inside Francis and driving a low shot diagonally towards the far post. Elphick tried to get a block on but the ball sped past him and Boruc, who was perhaps unsighted never got down quickly enough and Everton were celebrating their lead.

While AFCB fans were still singing loudly it was a blow to see the side go behind so early. Better things were just about to happen though with the Cherries seeing the ball come to Elphick and up to Wilson, thanks to a slight hand in the back for debutant Pennington, that enabled Wilson to cross from the right. The ball fell to King and while his pass fell right into Pugh's path, the winger equalised on nine minutes at the far post. 

This gave the Cherries a big lift and Francis soon had another cross blocked by Pennington that went for a corner. Wilson was also trying to play on the last man but Howard was aware of it and cleared one of his early runs. Josh King was also finding it hard to get past Besic on the left, while Gibson was controlling things from the back for Everton.

While there had been a few fouls given to both sides Arter looked up rather confused when he was taken out by Ross Barkley and the game was allowed to continue. A moment of panic at the back for Everton could have been profitable when Besic passed a ball hurriedly back to Howard on the six yard line that left Howard wondering what to do with the ball suddenly at his feet. The American made a big clearance though just in the nick of time.

The game was well contested to this point but the quality was sketchy at best. Interceptions were common place and while shots were hit like Ritchie's effort on 27 minutes it was deflected well over and the keepers were not that busy. Steve Cook headed the resultant corner wide but it was not a powerful header.

Everton were fairing no better with Barkley coming closest for them with a shot that cleared the bar after 37 minutes. And when Naisse did play a good ball through to Barkley, Boruc was out quickly to prevent any shot. Simon Francis was making the most clearance at the back, but most eyes were on the skies as a biplane flew over with the words "Time to go Martinez" trailing behind it after it made pas after pass.

Naisse grabbed the attention back on the game when his headed flick went wide just before half time to keep the score at 1-1.
One message was coming across loud and clear!
The players walk off at half time.
Second half
The second half saw Everton bring on Hibbert at right back and sub Besic. It really seemed that this was a game that either side might snatch a victory from, but finding a quality moment might be beyond both teams. Gibson was having a good game for Everton and Wilson and King were not getting too much joy with him, Pennington and Stones shutting the door on them.

AFCB were shooting but it was normally wide.There was more concern when Steve Cook went down after bashing into Ross Barkley and while the medics came on, Cook was okay to continue. 

A moment that could have opened Everton up saw Ritchie and then Surman on the ball. Surman played the ball over to Wilson but instead of shooting he back heeled the ball perhaps looking for Pugh but it was too clever by far and only allowed Everton to clear easily.

Daniels and Pugh did their normal overlap too, only Pugh - having one the hard work - simply passed the ball off the pitch of into Daniel's path! In the next minute Wilson was back at it. Francis put in a pass to him but he turned and hit the side netting!

The pattern in the game changed when Lukaku came on for Naisse on 60 minutes. Gibson made one foul to many first though and was yellow carded after catching Ritchie. It was a well positioned free kick some 22 yards out but Ritchie softly clipped it over the wall and it was easy for Howard to gather.

The next second though Everton were on the attack and coming down the right Lennon clipped the ball back from the byline for someone to run on to. At first the danger seemed to be cleared as an Everton player failed to get to the ball in time, but Baines was there on the far side of the box running in and he hit his shot crisply into the roof of the net to make it 2-1 on 64 minutes.

A low shot from Lennon saw Boruc get down a bit quicker than he had for the opening goal of the afternoon. The Cherries then made a double substitution with Afobe replacing King and Stanislas coming on for Pugh. The move did give more impetuous to the side. Afobe saw his shot blocked, then Stanislas, before Ritchie's effort was blocked.

Everton were looking for a third goal, but Cleverly sliced his effort. It wasn't a day for much sharp shooting. Stanislas whipped in a beautiful early cross at the other end but Afobe and Wilson couldn't get on it. The short corners weren't working either.

When Surman also got in the box he played the ball back out again for Stanislas who blasted over when Surman might have turned and shot himself if only he had any thoughts of getting a goal himself!

The best chance though was created by Wilson who got behind the Everton defence on the right and hit a strong cross back that Afobe headed over! It was crying out to be buried but the target was missed.

Eddie Howe's last throw was to bring on Lewis Grabban for Wilson on 79 minutes. Stanislas was beating players for fun but for all his crosses there was no end product. Even the ref got in the way during a really strong build up for the Cherries.

Martinez took off Barkley and brought on Dowell for the last three minutes. While Ritchie hit a shot that went wide it just wasn't happening for AFCB. Four minutes of extra time saw a Bournemouth corner there was no further action on Tim Howard's goal.
Not the win the lads wanted but there was lots of effort today.
Summary
Eddie Howe clearly went for a win with his team selection and while it was good to see the endeavour of Arter in the middle and the shape of Wilson and King up front there is a worry to me that this was pretty much the best side AFCB could put out and they were not creative enough to really test this Everton side. An Everton side, I must add, with Pennington and Naisse making their debuts, and no Jagielka, no Funes Mori or Barry or Deulofeu, while Lukaku started on the bench. There just wasn't enough shots on target. The ones I remember are Pugh's goal and Ritchie's soft free kick and you just aren't going to win many games if you can create only one or two good chances. By the way, Everton may also have found a better defence going forward, with Pennington and Hibbert playing exceptionally well on the day.
AFCb could not quite upset Everton on the day.
Everton
Howard, Besic (Hibbert 45), Stones, Pennington, Baines, McCarthy, Gibson, Lennon,
Barkley (Dowell), Cleverley, Niasse (Lukaku)

Everton Subs
Robles, Hibbert, Oviedo, Lukaku, Mirallas, Osman, Dowell


AFCB
Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh (Stanislas),
Wilson (Grabban), King (Afobe)

AFCB Subs
Federici, Wiggins, Gosling, Stanislas, Afobe, Grabban, O'Kane

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 4, Francis 6, Elphick 5, Cook 5, Daniels 5, Ritchie 5, Arter 6, Surman 5, Pugh 7 (Stanislas 6), Wilson 6 (Grabban 5), King 6 (Afobe 5)

Ref Watch: Neil Swarbrick 4/10 - He played on when there were clear fouls - missing completely the foul in the build up to AFCB's goal (perhaps he should be praised for that?) and missed corners, got in the way of passing moves for both teams - I could go on.


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