Monday, 29 February 2016

No place for Elphick or Distin yet

AFCB fans might have expected Tommy Elphick or Sylvain Distin to be included in the starting 11 at Watford having seen how well they played at Everton. Eddie Howe though went back to putting Simon Francis in central defence while also calling back Steve Cook having rested him since the Stoke home game.

While Franno is arguably AFCB best player at right back his transition to central defender appears to be a project that is not going to stop any time soon. While the Everton match saw him back in his old right back slot, he clearly sees himself as a player that can play at centre back now and in the coming years. Eddie has perhaps decided that Adam Smith has also deserved his spot in the side at right back and he should be kept in the team.  
Steve Cook keeps a step ahead of Tommy Elphick and Sylvain Distin in central defence.
It does seem a pity though for Distin and Elphick who have been working to be match fit and now have to wait while not getting games. The centre back area has been one of the areas of the team where fans might have expected to see a new face in January as the amount of goals that the back four have conceded is amongst the highest in the division. In the summer we might see that addition, but by playing Steve Cook as much as he can this season. Eddie Howe has given the ex-Brighton player a good taste of what is required in the Premier League and he will surely be better for that next season.

In the short term it is all about staying up and if that means putting in experience, then Sylvain Distin is there and he may still be called upon if the Cherries start to find points hard to come by during the run in. It is Cook and Franno that have the shirts at the moment though and it may be that Tommy Elphick is the player that will need the most picking up if he continues to sit on the bench while Franno captains the side and plays in his position.


Send in your score predictions for AFCB v Southampton to @PeterBell19
We will give away the AFCB beer mat to the correct score winner. If there are more than one correct score we will draw the winner from the hat.
 

The Cherry Chimes Newsletter will be out tomorrow.

Cherry Chimes' March Newsletter brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Afobe underlines lower league quality

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A lucky clean sheet for the Cherries?

It was great to see that AFC Bournemouth managed to secure another clean sheet on the road this weekend. Eddie could have made some changes to the back four but he reverted to playing Simon Francis at centre back alongside Steve Cook, which was perhaps a surprise but it did give Adam Smith back his place at right back and the back four worked very hard leaving Artur Boruc little to do.

The one big save for Artur came very early on when Ighalo put in a rasping shot which only troubled the side netting. Artur came for crosses well though and was confident in making decisions which helped the side.
Daniels and Cook add another clean sheet to their tally this season.
Of course Watford could have done better in front of goal. They had plenty of chances to test Boruc but simply failed to hit the target. Ighalo was the chief culprit but he was not alone and the Cherries seem to be able to cope well when up against a duo like this, perhaps as Cook and Francis have become used to such partnerships like this in the lower leagues. For Francis it was very important that he did play well after his Stoke City game and he had far fewer mistakes in this game, while Steve Cook was also quick at smelling danger and getting blocks in. It wasn't always pretty but the shutout was well deserved.

In the wing back positions I was pleased with what Charlie Daniels again provided. There was one moment in the second half when he ran the entire Watford half beating three players and then getting his shot away even if it was a little hurried and well wide of the target. On the other side Adam Smith was having a real battle with Amrabat for most of the game and while he got forward the better crossing came from Matt Ritchie on that side. Still Smith's determination to try and win the ball did not give Watford much joy on their left coming forward.

The only aspect that was lucky about the clean sheet was to see Ighalo put his headed chance in the second half wide while unmarked. It is not often that someone gets past Charlie Daniels, but Steve Cook will also not be satisfied with that moment of the game when ighalo escaped his tight marking.  

Michael Dunne of All Departments rakes over the chances created in the 0-0 draw with Watford on the All Departments' podcast along with Chris Whitely.

The Cherry Chimes Newsletter will be out tomorrow.
Cherry Chimes' March Newsletter brings you the best stories on the blog and the thoughts behind them from last month, plus there is a special Newsletter article entitled: Afobe underlines lower league quality

To sign up for the newsletter just complete the form below - like all good things it's free:








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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Gradel is a great player to have back

Why are AFCB getting bad luck, even when they see some good news? Junior Stanislas limping off holding the back of his thigh was another moment that we'd rather not have seen, but it did mean that Max Gradel was thrust back into the action for 70 minutes at Watford, which was a big ask for Max having been out through injury for six months.

I was surprised that Eddie Howe said Junior Stanislas could be out for as long as two months now and hope it is only three or four weeks. While he is out though much of his wing work will need to be done by Max Gradel who has timed his return well. The way in which he lasted the test at Watford was very impressive and a good omen for the future. He may find it difficult to last as long against Southampton if he starts on Tuesday, but he is already showing that he is difficult to play against as Watford gave away a string of free kicks in trying to stop him on Saturday.
Max almost scored on his return to the team.
Each time he did get fouled, I prayed that he would get up straight away and it was good that he came through the game safely. It must have been a very hard game for him and he had to do more than he might have expected to at Vicarage Road. Eddie will have to consider what is best to do on Tuesday night against Southampton. Juan Iturbe and Marc Pugh could be available, so there is strength there even with the injury to Junior Stanislas.

Max is a confident player though and I think that in itself is massive for the team. He carries himself as a player that has already achieved in the game, and it comes across on the pitch. AFCB need that extra bit of class and quality now and Max is a player that Eddie Howe will surely turn to. Max has to be careful though not to over do it. He is the kind of player that will be most helpful though at Dean Court as the Cherries have been having a hard time of it at home. They can try and get Max on the ball now to relieve any pressure and take games to the opposition a bit more though out balls to him.

Gomes defies the Cherries again!

Match Report
Watford 0 v 0 AFCB
27 February 2016
Attendance: 20,831
A smartly revamped Vicarage Road.
Going away to Watford was a great chance to extend the gap between those teams just below the Cherries and a goalless draw turned out to be a good result. Performance wise I am sure Eddie Howe will rue the missed chance that fell to Dan Gosling and an arguable claim for a handball in the second half, but Watford more than had their hare of chances to win as well with Denney and Ighalo passing up the opportunity to hit the target more than once. So a clean sheet creeps the Cherries closer to safety on 29 points and the most pleasing sight of the day was to see Max Gradel return to the team, although Junior Stanislas ended back up on the physio table having pulled his hamstring.
Guess who's back? Max Gradel is ready to play.
AFC Bournemouth fans Andy and Keith give their pre-match views.

The team was changed quite considerably from the Everton FA Cup side with Adam Smith and Steve Cook coming in at the back and Artur Boric in goal. Ricthie and Stanislas started on the wings and Surman and Arter returned along with a double strike partnership of King and Afobe. Among the subs were Max Gradel and Tommy Elphick.



Jason Tindall gives the news about Max Gradel and the team.
It's him again! I love the routines of Harry the Hornet.
At least Harry the Hornet came down to earth a bit after this game.
The two teams greet each other in front of the Graham Taylor stand.
Watford brought in Britos, Parades and Etienne Capoue after their FA Cup success the previous weekend.
We'll kick this way.
More match pictures are on Match Day Gallery.

First Half
The first few minutes of this game were of high intensity with Ighalo almost getting an early goal as he took on Arter and Cook in the Cherries' box on the right hand side, clipping the ball inside Cook only to have his shot pushed be Artur Boric into the side netting for a corner. Watford seemed intent on playing long balls up to Ighalo to chase while the Cherries played their carefully crafted passes from the back with the Hornets pressing as high as they could.

Daniels and Stanislas were not quite on the same wavelength on the left wing even if they were seeing a lot of the ball. Harry Arter was a bit more successful but his shot from 20 yards out screwed just wide of the left post.

The Cherries first corner was won by Matt Ritchie on 12 minutes which Gomes came to catch as he did all game! 

Watford were quick on the break and Surman was having to guard against Capoue's passing which found Amrabat who shot wide from the edge of the box. Then Amrabat did even better getting around the side and making a slide rule pass to Ighalo who some how shot wide from 10 yards out - a big let off!

Afobe was struggling to hold on to the ball up front. Adam Smith was getting forward and one of his shots won AFCB their second corner on 19 minutes. It was not much later when Junior Stanislas pulled up when breaking from defence - hamstring! He was unable to continue so Max Gradel made a welcome return on 22 minutes having been out since 29 August.

King was working hard robbing Ben Watson whenever he could, but there was just as much entertainment from seeing Artur Boruc trying to clear a blow up beach ball that landed near him. While he eventually removed it we saw Harry the Hornet test his sting by bursting the inflatable moments later. A break from King almost put Afobe through with just Cathcart in pursuit, but the offside went up in a marginal decision.

Troy Deeney had not troubles Cook and Francis too much. Capoue caught Arter and a couple of times but kept himself out of the book.

AFCB lofted the ball into the box for Josh King who slipped on the deck and yet still tried to get a shot away, even if Watford fans felt he was just trying to shout for a penalty. There had not been much in the way of incidents but before half time we could raise a smile when Nathan Ake hurtled into the barriers and then the crowd in his keenness to recover the ball.
Luther Blissett picked up more silver at half time.
Second Half
Watford won an early free kick against Josh King despite Miguel Britos holding King around the neck as they both raced for the ball. King pushed Britos back after picking up the ball and got a stern talking to from referee Taylor. King was soon getting in the areas we like to see him though and Ritchie's intricately worked cross to him ended with a shot that was deflected for a corner on 49 minutes.

A better chance fell to King when Ritchie again was the provider and King battling against Craig Cathcart volleyed over from eight yards!

The Cherries were not having all their own way. A cross from Amrabat was punched clear by Boruc but on to Parades who had his shot blocked by Francis. Then Amrabat completely missed his volley in the top corner of the left hand side of the box.

Back came the Cherries with Surman and Max Gradel playing their one-twos through the Hornets defence only for Gradel to see his shot fly over, with Britos making a last ditch intervention as Gomes narrowed the angle.

Benik Afobe's first touch was letting him down a bit, but he kept trying. Meanwhile, Watford subbed Capoue and brought on Mario Suarez on 57 minutes. 

The Cherries were pressing for the goal though and Surman had a shot blocked by Miguel Britos only for Ritchie to then find Arter and his drive looked like it would do the trick, until Gomes made another of those outstanding finger tip saves to his left to deny the Irishmen at the last. The shot was bending towards Gomes rather than away from him, otherwise it could have been 0-1.

An hour gone and still no score.The corner hit a Watford player's chest and up stretched forearm - Berhami, on the hand and the calls for penalty rang out, but the assistant referee as perhaps looking elsewhere! 

Adam Smith was starting frustrate referee Taylor by persistently fouling Amrabat.  Amrabat was able to escape at one point though rounding the Cherries' defence on the left wing only for Ighao to head the ball wide of the left upright unchallenged!

A hasty challenge from Arter then running back on Deeney saw a free kick in the left side of the D for Watford on 68 minutes. AFCB formed a six man wall. Ben Watson made a short pass to Deeney, but he got it all wrong, firing wide of the left post. 

Troy Deeney was then lined up again with another chance on the left side of the box, by a pass from Watson but he pulled his shot wide and Boruc did not have to make a save. 

The Cherries were quick to come forward again through Daniels and he put in a big cross that was just a bit too hot for Ritchie who blasted his shot over while hitting it on the run as he sped into the box to meet the cross. At the other end we saw Nathan Ake volley over as the game went into the last 20 minutes.

Afobe's race was run and on came Dan Gosling to make it five in midfield. Britos was next to have a go at goal but fired wide for Watford. A quickly taken free kick by Watford then saw Ighalo with a good chance but he was quickly closed down and fired over.

Anthony Taylor brought out the yellow card for Ben Watson on 78 minutes for a foul on Max Gradel. 

A great chance then fell to Dan Gosling. Ritchie took the free kick and confusion in the box led to Deeney knocking the ball across his own six yard box off his shin and directly into Gosling's path, but the midfielder only made a weak connection and Gomes made the save to his right!

Josh King then sent in a cross from the right that was met by Gradel leaping to head down at goal but Gomes did well to judge the bounce well and save to his right.

The Cherries kept going with Arter firing wide next. While Ritchie had to limp off before coming back on, Watford subbed Armabat for Almen Abdi.

Surman's first move was to land a yellow for stopping Abdi in the middle of the park. AFCB's last sub was Ritchie coming off for Murray on 83 minutes. While Cathcart saw yellow for taking out Gradel, Max could not get the better of Gomes who tipped over another effort from the small winger as Cathcart tried to get a block in with just a couple of minutes to go. It ended all square, just as it had at Dean Court earlier in the season.
Adam Smith finally catches Gomes.
Full time. Arter shakes the hand of Gomes who stopped AFCB all afternoon.
We'll take that.
Summary
Watford could easily have won this game but we found out that Ighalo has off days even if Gomes doesn't! While the Hornets could not manage more than a single shot on target, the Cherries only did a little better and then there was still Heurelho Gomes to beat. Clinical finishing is still a work in progress project for AFCB with Afobe looking somewhat out of sorts and King having just as few attempts at goal, and when the chances did fall to Gosling and Arter the back of the net did not ripple. A point though is always good for an away match in this league and sometimes it is good to reflect on a clean sheet, which is a far too rare a thing for AFCB this season. Watford played their part in a tight game, but in short there was not enough quality in front of goal for a winner in this game. 

By the way, Roy Hodgson was again watching AFC Bournemouth, following up from last weekend - is a call up for Charlie Daniels imminent?
Another point on the road.
A clean sheet.
Eddie applauds the supporters.
AFCB
Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Murray 85), Arter, Surman, Stanislas (Gradel 23), King, Afobe (Gosling 74)

AFCB Subs
Federici, Distin, Elphick, Iturbe, Gosling, Gradel, Murray

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 6, Smith 6, Francis 7, Cook 7, Daniels 7, Ritchie 7, Arter 8, Surman 7, Stanislas injured (Gradel 7), King 6, Afobe 5
Max says thanks to the fans.
Watford
Gomes, Paredes, Cathcart, Britos, Aké, Behrami, Watson, Capoue (Suárez 57), Amrabat (Abdi 83), Deeney, Ighalo

Watford Subs
Pantilimon, Nyom, Suárez, Prödl, Anya, Abdi, 
Holebas

Referee Watch:
Anthony Taylor 6/10 was that handball? Did the fouls get a little out of hand? At least he found his yellow cards eventually. Josh King was also lucky with his reaction to Britos' challenge.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Ending losing streak will need a passionate performance

There will be no easy way of AFCB picking up points. In recent weekends I've been hoping that other clubs might do us a favour only to see Liverpool Sunderland a draw, Man Utd slip up and give the Black Cats three points, while West Ham were torn apart at St James' Park. If AFCB are to survive in the Premier League they have to go and get the points for themselves.

Rather than dwelling on the results that have gone before though, I'd like to see the fans as well as the team just concentrate on the one team that they play next and after that the next team. There is three points on offer every game and it does not matter who the team are, every game is important. As fans we want to see passion and enthusiasm, fight and desire. We know that the side has those qualities as we have seen it admirably demonstrated at Stamford Bridge, Upton Park and Selhurst park.
Andrew Surman with Tokelo Rantie behind.
AFCB love to do things the hard way and I'm starting to feel that nothing will come easy this season. Fans don't want to hear what might have been stories though. The players have more than enough about them to do this. If they want it, but they must take it with their own hands or in football terms with their feet and not rely on other things going well elsewhere for them.

When the Cherries won away at Crystal Palace I was respectful that while the points tally was starting to look good, it would not take much of a slump for other teams to catch up and that is what we have seen. AFCB need to fight as hard as Sunderland, Newcastle, Swansea and Norwich, for if we don't see that reaction now it will come down to some very nervy matches in late April and early May. 

The team needs leaders now and it is good to see Tommy Elphick back. While Distin and Gosling have seen lots of Premier League games it is probably only Andrew Surman who has been in a real Premier League battle to stay up and he'll certainly know if the Cherries are falling behind the curve. Voices coming out of the club sound very much as one, but the job was not done at Selhurst Park a few weeks ago, there is much still to play for and I'm looking for players to stand up now and get the wins that the club needs. UTCIAD!


Probable AFCB team:
(4-4-2) Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Surman, Arter, Pugh, King, Afobe


Subs: Federici, Smith, Distin Gosling, Iturbe, Stanislas, Murray

Also good luck to Matt Butcher who has gone to Woking on loan for a month.
Happy Birthday also to Callum Wilson who turns 24 today!

Friday, 26 February 2016

There's no pressure on Watford

Watford are enjoying one of those seasons when there is not a lot going wrong for them. It has been even more remarkable being their first season back in the top flight for a few years and with a new manager. They deserve all the headlines they have had and more as they are a club that have flourished in the league and might even have their eyes set on the FA Cup now.

The Hornets are in the enviable position of now considering how best to attack the last few league games to try and win a place in Europe, while also thinking of finding another route there via the FA Cup. The league is so tight that they only have eight points more than the Cherries but that is the difference between a comfortable season and one where a team is looking over its shoulder at other team's results. Even if Watford lose this game they are not likely to struggle to reach the magical 40 point mark and so it is the Cherries that are playing under pressure in this fixture.
Watford have shown great team spirit and we need to see
AFCB come together to rise to the challenge this weekend.
It is not that Watford have not had some games where they have struggled, but they have bounced back well from defeats and kept the points turning over against some in form sides. They have a good record against the Cherries especially at Vicarage Road and keeping a clean sheet against them will be a very difficult task, but a challenge that AFCB have to try and get through.

While there have not been many high scoring games between these two sides there was a humiliating 6-1 defeat in AFCB's first season back in the Championship and it is fair to say that Watford fans are likely to be hoping for similar things in this match with Deeney a figurehead of mayhem for the Cherries in the past. He is the type of player that any side would be happy to have among their ranks as he battles and contests every last scrap and while he has not scored so many goals this season he has been the chief contributor of Ighalo's haul of goals.

Congratulations Charlie!
Charlie Daniels has signed a new three-and a-half year contract with the club. Meanwhile the fixture with Spurs has been move to 20 March at 4pm!

Early Saints Preview
I have written a few lines for the George Weah's Cousin blog.  

Competition Time
As the result of this game is what really matters I am going back to asking fans to send in their score predictions for this game. So if you think you know what the score will be tweet me and follow me @PeterBell19 and I'll post your tweet up on the blog.

If we get more than one correct score it's back to picking a winner out of the hat. As for a prize well this week we have an AFCB beer mat or mug mat if you prefer to give away.


Thanks again for Cherry Chimes sponsors for supporting the blog this season. They include the following businesses - Broomhill Garden BuildingsNatterjacks Vets and AltamiraDeco -do check out their offerings.

Rival Lines: Watford are enjoying punching above their weight

Rival Lines
Match Preview: Watford v AFCB
Blogger Interview: From the Rookery End

Twitter: @watfordpodcast
Twitter: @jordiconnor



What a season Watford FC is having. It only seems a while back that we were chasing the Hornets in the Championship and they are at it again in the Premier League. Here to explain why Watford are having such a great season is Jordi Connor from the fab Watford podcast From the Rookery End.

CC: It was no easy challenge for him when Quique Sanchez Flores came to Vicarage Road, but he has moulded a great team. Are you surprised at just how well he has done?

FTRR: In hindsight, no, not really. The Pozzo's chose to bring him in when they didn’t keep Jokanovic, so there must have been an expectation that he could and would achieve what he has.

Fans associations with their team are formed over many years and these can taint your view of reality. If you are a Liverpool, Newcastle or Leeds fan this is bad news as the dissonance between your belief that you are a footballing giant clashes terribly with the reality of a lack of success. [Ed- That's a bit deep thinking, but I think we get where you are coming from!]

For Watford fans and dare I say it Bournemouth fans, we are currently punching above where we'd traditionally expect to be. At the start of the season fourth bottom would have been taken in a flash.

But six or so months in and seeing the quality of the players we have, I'm not surprised that Quique is doing such a great job.


CC: What do you think is capable in terms of a league finish this season?


FTRR: We're capable of a top ten finish for sure. But the middle of the table can be tight and a couple of bad results can see you drop a few places. Anywhere around the middle will be mission accomplished. It would be a shame to tail off with a whimper after the start we made.


CC: What win has given you most pleasure over the season and why?


FTRR: Unlike previous visits to the Premier League, we've have a few to choose from!

Obviously the first one against Swansea was important to ease the pressure, but the stand out performance was when he bossed Liverpool off the park in December and won 3-0.

It was supposed to be part of a tricky December but for ninety minutes we showed what we could do. It was a lovely early Christmas present.


CC: What needs to happen at Watford to go up yet another level and challenge for the top six?

FTRR: Lots of things, but if you look at our recent history we've improved a lot but we can't get complacent or assume that we will break into the top six.

To do so, we'd need to strengthen in depth and bring more quality into the squad. Our average age is quite high so we'll see a fair bit of turnover over the next few seasons.

I'm sure the management have a plan!


CC: Ighalo's and Deeney's goals have been a major factor in Watford's success, but would you have expected your midfielders to come up with more goals?

FTRR: The success of our front two is in part down to the way the team is set up. That and the way Etienne Capoue manages to switch his boots onto the wrong foot moments before he shoots.

Ighalo is a born goalscorer and Deeney has been consistent for the past few years. To be honest, I'm so happy with them that I haven't worried about who isn't scoring.


CC: Has the FA Cup become a nice distraction and would Europe come too soon if you won it?


FTRR: Yes, we're into the Quarter Finals on the back of the 1-0 wins. It's been fun and if we can win the Cup it would be great. Clubs like Watford and Bournemouth can't turn their noses up at that kind of success.

Europe would come too early for us to expect to win the trophy, but Quique knows what it takes to do well and I'm sure we'd strengthen appropriately if we did make it.

Let's cross that bridge when we come to it though.


CC: Which player has been the best signing at Watford since last May, ie last two windows?


FTRR: The inconvenient truth is that much of our spine came up from the Championship. Gomes, Cathcart, Watson, Abdi, Deeney and Ighalo have all been mainstays this season.

Of the additions, Miguel Britos has been excellent, but for sheer control and calmness, I'd say EtienneCapoue (except when he shoots).


CC: There are only four teams that have let in fewer goals than Watford in the Premier League so what is so good about your defence?


FTRR: The best thing about our defence is that there are eleven of them on the pitch. Our miserliness is down to a team ethic that starts from the front.

We also play with the vastly underrated Ben Watson protecting the back four with Behrami or Suarez. The full backs do well and of course Gomes is one of the best keepers in the league. Given how tight the Premier League is, he is as important as the two up front.


CC: Which three teams are you expecting to be relegated?

FTRR: I’m delighted that we are in February and Watford aren’t in my list. However, having been relegated a few times I don’t take any pleasure in calling out anyone else’s team.

Let’s start with the obvious one - Villa. That they didn’t strengthen in January suggests they’ve accepted their fate.

Norwich are on an awful run and I wonder whether they’ll be able to turn it around. The adrenaline of being a newly promoted team can get you points early in the season, but they’ll do well to stay up.

It would be rude to suggest Bournemouth, but you guys really need to sort out how many you concede! You got away with it early in the season against West Ham, but you don’t really do clean sheets do you?

So the third spot will have to go to an established Premier League team.

West Brom have probably got enough points in the bag to stumble to safety and Swansea are capable of picking up points here and there if Guidolin sorts them out. Newcastle invested heavily and will probably do enough too.

Sorry Sunderland. [Ed- that was a close one!]

CC: AFC Bournemouth and Watford always have great battles in recent seasons. Do you look forward to the AFC Bournemouth matches more than some others?


FTRR: Not really. Maybe at the start of the season because you assume that the promoted teams will offer you the best chance of picking up points for survival and you look out for them. But this season every game is against a quality opponent we haven’t played in a while and to be enjoyed in its own right.

That said, a bit of a rivalry has built up over the past few seasons.

Journalists can be lazy and there were easy narratives around both clubs that probably didn’t help. We were held up as all that was wrong with football, while Bournemouth were painted as the perfect club achieving success on a shoestring. Neither were accurate. Add in some very dubious decisions, whether Marc Pugh diving or some ridiculous red cards and the rags to riches, fighting adversity story started to grate.

No doubt Bournemouth have their own reasons for not liking us too. Obviously the fear that one would rob the other of promotion meant that we were praying for each other to lose pretty much every week. That will have played a part too.

CC: Do you expect a tight game against the Cherries this time?

FTRR: Yes, pretty much all of our games are tight. The first goal will be important. Don’t worry, it won’t be 6-1. :)

CC: Well I really enjoyed hearing what Jordi had to say - thank you. I think he is probably the most level-headed fan we have yet featured on Cherry Chimes. While I believe there has been a bit of rivalry between the two sides as an AFCB fan I rather like that about Watford as the Cherries don't really have that many rivals and yet in another respect I am really chuffed with how Quique has got his team playing and it tells me that there is optimism for other teams like Bournemouth to hold their own in this division. Hats off to Watford they have been a credit to the Premier League, but I'd still like to see a less than smug Harry Hornet come the final whistle on Saturday.

Please listen into the latest Podcast from the From the Rookery End - it's always a good listen.

Competition Time
As the result of this game is what really matters I am going back to asking fans to send in their score predictions for this game. So if you think you know what the score will be tweet me and follow me @PeterBell19 and I'll post your tweet up on the blog.

If we get more than one correct score it's back to picking a winner out of the hat. As for a prize well this week we have an AFCB beer mat or mug mat if you prefer to give away.

Thanks again for Cherry Chimes sponsors for supporting the blog this season. They include the following businesses - Broomhill Garden BuildingsNatterjacks Vets and AltamiraDeco -do check out their offerings. 

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Who is going to get the goals?

We have seen the Cherries squander chances in many games this season but I felt that Eddie Howe was more than a little surprised that the team had not scored against Everton. The saved penalty is one thing, but the attacking players that were picked to try and test Joel Rubles in goal were not anymore exact in their shots on target than the Cherries had been against Stoke City in the previous league match.
Is Gosling's missed headed opportunity against Everton going to cost him his place?
It is quality as well as fighting spirit that will get the Cherries safe this season. Not enough quality in front of goal has been seen of late. I can't say that AFCB have been that unlucky in their current run, they just have not hit top gear. AFCB need all their players to be on song. It is amazing that Callum Wilson still sits equal top of the team's scoring chart and while the goals have been spread around the team, everyone has to start delivering more in front of goal. At the moment most hopes are pinned on Benik Afobe, but he will not score in every game and it will be of great interest to see who else will chip in.

Matt Ritchie has started to shoot more often again and while Junior Stanislas and Dan Gosling are getting in positions to score they could do with a goal just to clear their minds. I find it harder to speak about Glenn Murray as he surely is one of the players that Eddie Howe knows can and probably score vital goals for the team if he is given an opportunity. His time though looks set to be limited to last 20 minute appearances, just like Kenwyne Jones was used last season. It may be enough to get the goals AFCB need. For all Murray's ragged style, I kind of think if the ball drops to him near goal he's going to score or at least make the keeper work and that is harder to say about Josh King or Junior Stanislas at the moment. Come on lads prove me wrong.

At least Eddie Howe has some options now and with Marc Pugh always likely to spring a goal and the fast improving Juan Iturbe pushing for more game time, AFCB fans should not be too downhearted even if it may yet be some time before we see Max Gradel and Callum Wilson.

So Eddie has to make players feel that they are going to score in games more than ever now. The dream of a second season in the Premier League depends on it to a very large extent. I still believe that the team has some big performances in it, but the wins will only come if they start working the opposition keepers harder.

Transfer news
I am pleased to see that more AFCB U21 players are getting a chance to play on loan. The latest opportunity has come for Josh Wakefield who will play for Walsall in League One until teh end of teh season.

Watford will be strong at Vicarage Road

The Watford experiment has worked rather well this season. They play without fear and hit teams hard for the full 90 minutes in a way that has caught many of the top sides out. With a bit more luck they would have had more points too, especially at Vicarage Road where they have already had great wins against Liverpool and West Ham.

So AFCB know they will have to be at the top of their game for this one. The match back in October that ended in a 1-1 draw was not a typical performance by the Hornets. They did not appear as devastating on the break as they have against some other teams and were probably quite thankful to get the draw. Watford have something to prove against the Cherries and that is not comfortable to know.
It was honours even last time out at Dean Court.
At home the Hornets have bagged seven goals in their last five matches, while they have only conceded five goals. Close encounters are what they specialise in and this game is likely to be no difference. It could turn on one simple mistake. 

Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo may get all the goals and all the headlines, but there is a strong balance to this Watford side and much of the strength is in having committed players like Ben Watson to win the ball and Craig Cathcart at the back to clear any danger. Gomes is also enjoying life in goal and is always likely to pull out the odd wonder save or even save the odd penalty. Watford tend to feel that AFCB's players win too many such penalties so I'll be intrigued to see if there are any controversial decisions in this game. 

This is a match where there will be no time on the ball. Both teams press hard to force sides into mistakes to win the ball high up the pitch. AFCB may like more possession but it is no good unless the shots at the end of it are more on target than we have seen in recent weeks. We may not see a blockbuster of a game like the last match between these two sides at Vicarage Road when Harry Arter lifted the roof of the Watford net and Cathacrt replied with a sharp volley, but a similar result would be something to be pleased about and would halt the recent run of results. I needn't say what a win would feel like!

Watford Home Form
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AFCB Away Form
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