Monday, 15 September 2014

Cook expects AFCB to bounce back against Leeds

One fan turned round to me after Steve Cook scored in the Rotherham game and said core how long has it been since Steve Cook has scored? I laughed a bit and said "oh, recently - the Blackburn game!" I guess because AFCB had lost the game up in Lancaster that memories soon fade as to precise goalscorers and it's easy to block out matches that were not wins.

Still you can't knock Steve Cook's ability to get on the end of crosses. I had not even had a chance to say who will be AFCB's first defender to score this season as Steve is up an running on two and a major way to reaching his target this season he says. "I've worked hard on that part of my game. Obviously, it proves that goals are important from defenders in the modern game and it's nice to chip in," added Steve. "I've got two so far and I've got a target and I'm not far off it so hopefully I can get there by Christmas and kick on a little bit more."
Leeds is a must win game for Cook.
It was also clear that Steve Cook believes Leeds Utd will play in a similar way to Rotherham by getting players behind the ball. "A lot of teams play like Rotherham did today and not a lot of teams play the way we do. So we're expecting another battle.[Leeds Utd] They're a team in transition and we need to be winning Tuesday. It's a must win game for us," Steve said.

The players at AFCB know that it is up to them to make the passes that break down such defensive displays and if it means doing the unusual now and again with Steve Cook staying up for a while after a corner or filling in while Eunan O'Kane goes on a run at goal then I'd like to see a bit more of it. The slow passing seems to have taken over AFCB's games and to see a player go on a dribble or try to spring a quick long pass every now and again should not be frowned upon but explored. I think sometimes the players get stuck into always trying to play the correct way and the opposition simply knows what is coming. A bit of variety would not hurt and I expect to see a bit more of an attacking start to Tuesday night's game. UTCIAD!
Steve Cook is the man to pop up with surprise goals.

Is Kermorgant sacrificing too much of his game for Wilson?

I have been high in praise of Yann Kermorgant since his arrival last January at AFCB. He is just what the team needed - a gifted front player with creative touch and aerial power. But we haven't seen as many deft touches and shooting opportunities from the Frenchman in recent games and, while the partnership with Callum Wilson appeared to spark goals up at Huddersfield, the way in which AFCB are playing at the moment is maybe not getting the best out of Yann.

We all want our strikers to be on top of their game all the time, but it is virtually guaranteed that form will dip now and again. For Yann I believe there is some parts of his game that are just not coming off for him and whether some things have rattled him is hard to tell. While it was a team decision on how AFCB set-up, he was dropped to the bench at Norwich and there is the fact that Callum Wilson took his penalty at Huddersfield. They are small things but such matters can just disjoint harmony and have a nagging doubt in player's minds. I might of course be reading too much into it and Yann is hopefully perfectly happy with everything at Bournemouth, but the team needs him back to his ruthless best in front of goal and he hardly had a shot in the Rotherham match.
More shots from Yann would help the cause.
While much of the focus has been on Callum Wilson, I believe it is Yann Kermorgant that needs to have that belief that he is a vital part of this AFCB team. Callum may miss some chances but he is always able to get opportunities while there are times when Yann is playing more statically and is not always in a position to have such an impact on a game as many of us would like him to have.  If he drops back too deep he simply doesn't get into the scoring positions where he can be most effective.

If you look closely at the Rotherham match, it was Yann Kermorgant who battled to make the chance for Callum Wilson to strike his shot hard against the post in the second half and he also beat his man on the left wing to cross for Callum when the ball got stuck underneath the former-Covntry man, before the keeper rescued the situation for the Millers. 

So is the need to get Callum Wilson in on goal taking something away from Yann's game? It certainly seems that the priority is to get Wilson in on goal but AFCB have to find chances for Yann as well, plus other players if they can. For me though, there is more to come from Kemrorgant and the sooner he scores the better.  

AFCB still can't do the ugly business on the pitch

'Costly' is the word that comes to mind when I look back on the two points that the Cherries let slip against Rotherham in the final minutes of the match. There are simply some moments in a match when you have to defend and defend well, but the Cherries are vulnerable to set plays. High balls into the area have too often caused problems and when the team has apparently worked on such things during the international break you would imagine that Eddie Howe and Jason Tindall would be mad with rage after Saturday's gift to Rotherham.
Eddie Howe before the Rotherham match.
There are a couple of things that might have compounded the situation that led to the goal. Firstly, Yann Kermorgant was no longer on the pitch and he had been getting his head to several of the earlier crosses that Rotherham had made, although they had only won three corners before the one that ultimately cost the Cherries. There was also a late sub in Ritchie being replaced by Andrew Surman on the 90th minute and you wonder if the change just made the players feel that the job was done even though they still had a dangerous situation still to defend.

Whatever the excuses for the mistake, it is clear that a large number of AFCB defenders rushed to the near post to try and stop the threat only for the ball to skim off the head of Jordan Bowery - who was in space and all alone. Not good enough would be my first thoughts and while Eddie Howe is the most considered in his outlook on matters that sometimes don't go AFCB's way he has every right to be angry at his players for the equaliser as it will have been drilled into them thousands of times what they need to do in such situations.

Eddie Howe said: "I wouldn't say there was an inquest, there's big disappointed in there. We feel this season that at home already we've chucked away some points. We chucked away two today. We were one-nil up, it's been a difficult game to grind them down and we've got our goal, but we haven't defended a set-play at the end.

"Everyone had their man and someone didn't do their job and it's these small details that cost you points," he added. 

We have a new advertiser on the blog called Footy Dezigns and they offer some excellent ways to make the most of your favourite football player or Junior Cherry mascot pictures to make great gifts as unique T-shitrs, key rings and mugs etc. Check them out and get some Christmas orders sorted! 

All Departments' podcast also reviews the AFCB 1 v 1 Rotherham match with Shirt expert Gareth Davies. Visit All Departments or scroll down our side panel to the sound bar to listen.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Where has the incisive play gone?

AFCB did not get everyone on the edge of their seats in the first half of the Rotherham match. In fact the feeling was quite the opposite with fans talking about other games and checking their phones, as the Cherries tried to pass their way from side to side and back to the keeper in an attempt to match the 31 pass goal that had mesmerised us all at Norwich only two weeks earlier. But this match saw not enough incisive movement from the forward players and few attacking passes to unlock the Rotherham back four and to create chances. Fans had to wait until the second half for the Cherries to really get going.

Eddie Howe commented: "I thought we dominated the ball first half but didn't penetrate or create chances to score goals and that's what you want to do at home so we asked our players to get the ball forward quicker and I'm surprised we did not do that first half. I'm at a loss to explain that really, although we did have total control of the game and the ball. We need to turn that dominance into chances and goals."
More creativity required. Can Surman and Kermorgant supply it?
Eddie then picked up on something that he perhaps is trying to convince his players and himself that they "love playing at home". The points on the board so far might question that. The performance first half was certainly flat and so was the crowd which was only just over 8000. The noise did pick up second half, but that was because the team finally gave the crowd something to be excited about after somewhat losing their way in the first half.

"We've got to give the fans a little bit more to shout about, especially after the first half. We need more goalmouth action. We need to be more positive and set our marker down at home," said Eddie Howe.
Eddie has to pick a team that can get a result against Leeds
 to stop any negativity creeping in.
The action though was not great in the first 45 minutes with neither keeper having any save to make! For all Bournemouth's possession they weren't going anywhere and it became a ponderous affair. 

Eddie Howe was well aware of the problems though: "It's about decision-making when you have the ball and we want to be positive. We want to get the ball into our strikers, our attacking players and we turned down those opportunities to go backwards. As much as we are about possession we are about efficient football and about scoring goals and creating chances and as I say we don't want to be known about a team that's going nowhere with the ball."

Whether AFCB fans are able to keep patient with the pattern of play that we saw against Rotherham for much longer will be a test. I certainly feel that such a slow start will not be witnessed against Leeds Utd as the home crowd deserve a display from this team now and the players know it.

Check out the Match Day Gallery and Stephen and Robert's Corner for Callum Wilson's keep me upiee pics.

Last minute disaster for Cherries: AFCB 1 v 1 Millers (gallery)

Match Report

AFCB v Rotherham Utd
13 September 2014
Attendance: 8480 (including 492 away fans)

Fans outside Dean Court.
Rotherham players on the run.
Some times you curse your luck and hope that mistakes don't always repeat themselves. I had an incident walking up to the stadium when I stopped to take a photograph only to find a wheel chair behind was being poorly steered, right into the back of my legs! It hurt, and I kind of felt AFCB had similar steering problems for the whole match as they failed to do more than impose a passing style on the game in the first half, and missed several opportunities in the early part of the second half, until they finally got a lead on the hour mark. Yet a 1-0 lead is hardly ever enough at Dean Court and a free header from a corner in the 93 minute was a car crash for the Cherries, because Jordan Bowery couldn't miss from six yards out. That was two points dropped and a sickening feeling for Eddie Howe's Barmy Army. 
AFCB players start their pre-match routine.
The officials do their work out.
The line ups before kick off.
More pictures can be viewed on the Match Day Gallery page.

Eddie Howe made three changes from the Norwich starting 11 with Fraser, Gosling and Stanislas missing out while Pugh, Ritchie and Kermorgant came in. I was disappointed to see Junior Stanislas moved to the bench but had hoped we would see him later - sadly we didn't. Andrew Surman was also on the bench and Ryan Fraser, although Tokelo Rantie was rested and Pitman was able to keep his place in the squad.

While Rotherham began with Luciano Becchio up front along with Paul Taylor, the duo did not have much of a cutting-edge to worry the Cherries in the first half. They were ably supported by Johnson Clarke-Harris and Paul Green, with  Richie Smallwood and Pringle making up the rest of the midfield. Captained by Craig Morgan at the back and Kairi Anarson often picking up Callum Wilson, the Cherries played their patient passing football with little end result. In fact it was poorer than that as there were no shots on goal from what I can recall in the first half and, apart from two AFCB corners, the Millers never really looked under enough pressure. 

Yann Kermorgant had tried to make something of the first corner on the near post after nine minutes but could not get a clear shot while on 17 minutes he struck the ball well into the back of the net, from just inside the box, only for pushing in the six yard area to stop play and rule out the strike.
The new scoreboard had us transfixed for a short
while as we watched the seconds tick over.
For me O'Kane was Bournemouth's player that was picking up the ball the most and trying to make things happen, but Pugh's turns were not coming off, Kermorgant's flicks were not quite getting through to Wilson and too many passes from Arter and O'Kane were going astray. Francis made a strong run down the right when his cross was inches away from Kermorgant opening the score. When the ball came back out Arter could only shoot hopelessly high and wide.

Rotherham had not shown much going forward but Arnason showed he could beat three Bournemouth players with no problems as he strode out of defence and on 36 minutes. Rotherham then won a free kick for a foul by Charlie Daniels on Clarke-Harris. The ball was sent in from the Miller's right wing and it was knocked down to Arnason who was unmarked on the penalty spot. Luckily for AFCB he blasted his shot high over the bar having had the clearest goal shooting opportunity of the half! While Paul Taylor also tried his luck from distance before the first 45 minutes were up it had been a poor match up to this point with the home fans starting to get rather frustrated by the lack of end product. 
There was not a lot to be happy with at half time for Cherries fans.
All ready for the second half.
The second half started with a higher tempo and AFCB attempted to be a bit more direct. The lacklustre Becchio was replaced by Alex Revell as Steve Evans looked to give his side more bite up front (not that he was as good as Suarez!). It was the Cherries that had upped their game though and Arter's ball to Kermrogant saw the Cherries striker hit a ball across the box from the left to an on rushing Callum Wilson, but a combination of Joe Skarz and Adam Collin in goal managed to some how keep the ball out, when it seemed Wilson had been favourite to score. Wilson came even closer two minutes later when he was sent through on the left and closed in on goal only to smack hit shot against the left post!

AFCB continued to apply the pressure with a corner on 53 minutes but Revell was fouled by Kermorgant's attempt at an overhead kick. Steve Evans was still keen to make changes and Clarke-Harris was subbed so that Jordan Bowery could come on. Revell almost did the job heading just over on 58 minutes, but a minute later AFCB broke down the right and Ritchie's cross found Steve Cook unmarked at the far post to head the Cherries 1-0 up!

Rotherham made their final sub on 65 minutes with Ben Pringle being replaced by Matt Derbyshire. Then on 68 minutes Rotherham won their first corner of the match. Eddie Howe made Bournemouth's first change a minute later with Kermorgant replaced by Brett Pitman. 

The sight of a Lancaster bomber flying over Dean Court had me wondering if more goal action was to come and sure enough things started to change as AFCB slipped further back in defending. Rotherham started to press for the equaliser more urgently. Their best chance seemed to have come and gone on 78 minutes when Matt Derbyshire supplied a great cross from the right that was just too strong for Revell

AFCB were still trying to freshen things up as Pugh was replaced by Fraser on 82 minutes. Surprisingly, Fraser was given a yellow card for simulation when Richardson and Bowery had chopped him down - not referee Horwood's best moment! When it seemed that the Cherries were going to hold out for a narrow home win they made one last sub on 90 minutes with Surman making an AFCB season's debut, coming on for Matt Ritchie. 

A period of concentration was needed now just to see out extra time, but Rotherham won a corner and a good delivery saw all the Bournemouth defenders run to the near post, Jordan Bowery was left to simply bury his header past Lee Camp to gain an unlikely point for the Yorkshire side, whose fans were jumping for joy!

While Andrew Surman almost won the game with a long range effort in the last few seconds, but the shot was well kept out by Collin and 1-1 was the final score. Rotherham's last minute bombing raid had worked a treat for them.
Rotherham spolier leaves AFCB fans gutted.
Thight margins are what count in this league and while a point at Carrow Road two weeks ago was seen as a good point away, this was certainly two points dropped by the Cherries at home. The disappointment for me though was not so much that Rotherham had scored late on but that the Cherries had again seen a quite first half hour and did not have any incisive play during that first 45 minutes. While they did get a goal up, I can't say that they looked confident of getting a second and unlike the match against Brentford the team did not do enough to secure a win.

Even if Rotherham had not have scored, this was not a performance that will have pleased Eddie Howe and major improvements will be demanded and will be necessary for a win on Tuesday night against Leeds Utd. I'll also hope for a bigger attendance as well.

Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Surman 90), Arter, O'Kane, Pugh (Fraser 82), Kermorgant (Pitman 69), Wilson.

Flahavan, Fraser, Surman, Stanislas, Harte, Pitman, Smith

AFCB Ratings
Camp 5, Francis 6, Elphick 7, Cook 7, Daniels 8, Ritchie 7, Arter 6, O'Kane 7, Pugh 5, Kermorgant 5, Wilson 7.

Collin, Skarz, Arnason, Morgan, Green, Richardson, Smallwood, Pringle (Derbyshire 65), Becchio (Revell 49), Taylor, Clarke-Harris (Bowery 55)

Rotherham Subs
Loach, Broadfoot, Frecklington, Derbyshire, Revell, Bowery, Wordsworth.

Referee watch 5/10 (Annoyingly warmed up in front of my camera and booked Ryan Fraser!!)

Steve Evans greets his players after the game.
Eddie did not come out for an interview with
BBC Radio Solent for some time after the game.

A pleasing journey back for Rotherham fans.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Home form all important now for Cherries

In the next four days AFCB have two home games to play against Yorkshire sides, and that aim will certainly be to take all six points. Eddie Howe does have to consider his selections very carefully though for these games, and getting the balance between a consistent team and fresh legs to go and attack in both games is what he gets paid to do. 

While we know that Ryan Fraser is a likely candidate to be rested for the first 45 minutes against Rotherham at least, after his match for Scotland's U-21 in the week, and Tokelo Rantie's late dash back to England is also likely to rule him out from a start, there is no need for any player not to feel that he could play some time in the one or both of the next two games, barring no injuries were picked up during training in the international break. 

With Elliott Ward definitely out for a long period, Cook and Elphick should start as the centre back pairing while Simon Francis is favourite to pip Adam Smith on the right again and Charlie Daniels is likely to keep Ian Harte out at left back, although I am sure Ian would love to get an outing against Leeds Utd on Tuesday night. 

Arter and O'Kane seem essential picks these days along with Callum Wilson, but then the options really begin for Eddie Howe. I expect Pugh and Stanislas to start the Rotherham match with Fraser and Ritchie on the subs bench, but I also expect them to be joined by Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman as long as Eddie recalls Yann Kermorgant to the starting line up at home. That just leaves the keeper and Lee Camp will be hoping to get some more clean sheets to beat what he did last season.
AFCB players limber up.
In short, Eddie must pick his strongest side against Rotherham and see how the land lies on Sunday and Monday before making adjustments for Leeds' visit. I expect AFCB have plans for how they want to play in both games, but if the team plays well against Rotherham do players really need to be rotated for a game three days later? I don't expect wholesale changes over the two games but two changes to the starting line ups might just be enough to get the most out of the players. These home games will set the pattern for the autumn period so it is key that AFCB get the wins now in front of a noisy home crowd. See you there if you are at the match today - UTCIAD!

Match officials for today's match are:
Referee: Graham Horwood
Assistant Referees: John Busby and Andrew Laver
Fourth Official: Tim Wood

Lastly, I have been asked to write some wider articles on football for the News Hub website and I have just posted my first entry on QPR's ticking time bomb, so please click on the link to see how the story unfolds. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Are Millers still finding their scoring feet?

It probably escaped most Championship fans attention that Luciano Becchio landed up on loan until January at Rotherham Utd on transfer deadline day. The Argentine striker has some pedigree having played at Leeds Utd and Norwich City and he is not the only striker at the club now who is going to be a handful for the Cherries to deal with, because Steve Evans has been building his squad over the summer with Matt Derbyshire, Fabien Brandy and Paul Taylor from Ipswich. He even had a cheeky little stab at trying to sign Lewis McGugan and Lloyd Dyer from Watford!

The Millers have started okay in the Championship with wins against Wolves and Millwall who were both early form teams, but scoring goals has been a bit harder to come by than Steve Evans would have liked and against Derby, Watford and Brentford the team has failed to score. Adding the quality of Luciano Becchio could just make Rotherham a different proposition now.

The summer also a move for Aston Villa's Jordan Bowery who was the Miller's record signing at the time. While he has not among the goalscorers so far, I'm hoping that he is  not saving anything up special for Rotherham's visit to the south coast. Jordan has been kept on the subs bench quite a lot though in the first few games, because Alex Revell has usually been getting the nod. Alex has had 125 games at the Millers and has scored 23 goals for them in that time.

Having won successive promotions, Eddie Howe will not be taking Rotherham lightly. Whether they have yet knitted into a team that is confident at playing in the Championship yet is still to be seen, but as they get a few results their confidence will grow. The Millers have been in contention in all of their Championship games so far and have not been at all out-classed, so I expect a very difficult match.

Rotherham Away Form

AFCB Home Form

If you think you know what the score will be make sure you tweet it to me and for those who are confident of picking up some winnings take a trip to Free Bet Negotiator. Finally, good luck to Sam Matthews who has a month on loan at Poole Town.