Date: 10th January 2015 at 8:05pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

All good things have to come to an end…..and Bournemouth’s 3 month league unbeaten run ended at the hands of ten man Norwich City this afternoon.

Bournemouth have only one victory against sides currently in the top seven this season and so it continued with a Norwich side, fired up by the arrival of a new manager, fighting and pressing to stop the home team’s fluidity.

Eddie made two changes from the team that won at Millwall, reverting back to his ‘first’ eleven with Pitman and Pugh stepping in for Kermorgant and Smith respectively.

Buoyed by the news that Matt Ritchie had signed a new contract the match started with the home fans in good voice. Norwich, a very strong team on paper, were obviously here to put on a good show for their new boss and started much the stronger. There was to be no repeat of Bournemouth’s normally devastating raids for early advantage.

In fact it was the away side that should have taken the lead but Johnson just couldn’t keep his header down. Bournemouth were more edgy than normal in possession with Surman particularly profligate in front of his old fans. Turner headed over unmarked from a corner as alarm bells started ringing.

Bournemouth are not top scorers in Europe for no reason though and demonstrated that with one dynamite move they can always score. Daniels and Pugh had stuttered a little but combined beautifully for the latter to cross high towards the edge of the box where RITCHIE came steaming in to thump a left foot drive beyond Ruddy for a great opener. 18 minutes gone – and one nil.

The goal spurred Bournemouth on to their best spell of the game and some intricate football twice saw Pugh in to volley over, and once to drive straight at Ruddy. All were combination plays that tore Norwich apart on the ground and it was a shame we went more aerial for most of the game as it always looked the more likely scoring route.

The spell lasted around 15 minutes but Norwich rode the storm before equalising in controversial fashion. Corners have proved our undoing on a number of occasions and today was no different when another routine high ball was met by Jerome who headed the ball against Turner’s arm before it broke to HOOPER to hook home.

Difficult to judge, I didn’t see anything wrong where I was sat, and it looked ball to hand. Depending on where people were sitting in the ground half the people I know agreed with me the other half were adamant it was hand ball. It was all so quick though I think we would have been aggrieved had it been given against us in an away game.

With ten minutes to go before half time neither side threatened a goal after this and the game turned a little tetchy with niggling fouls and too much stop start.

HT Bournemouth 1 Norwich 1

The second half started no better for either side with too much needless wasted possession and despite good intent, not a lot of action. Pitman had his first effort on goal, but it didn’t trouble Ruddy. He then made a good run to play a one two with Pugh but elected to cross when a shot seemed a better option.

A goal was looking unlikely so Eddie turned to Kermorgant for Brett. It looked to have paid dividends when he was caught late by Howson to see the ex-Leeds man receive what seemed a harsh straight red (again from where I was sitting).

It was at this point that the game dissolved though. Norwich, understandably, became very cautious and packed two banks of four with Jerome on his own up front. Bournemouth started to put more and more aerial balls towards Yann but these were gobbled up by Turner and Martin. There players warmed to the task with every clearance and Bournemouth started to really struggle to get their ball’s behind the opposition working as they defended so deeply.

When Norwich did break it was to head towards the corner flag so it was going to take an error to let them in. Sadly it did. Cook didn’t get much purchase on a double attempt to clear but even he must have been stunned by JEROME’S supreme curling drive that bent around Boruc’s outstretched arm from 30 yards. A goal worthy of winning any game.

There was still ten minutes left but Bournemouth’s lack of space was something they couldn’t overcome. Putting Elphick up front only added to the ineffectiveness as it was another aerial target in a headed battle with only one victor.

FT Bournemouth 1 Norwich 2

Boruc 6 – No real chance with either goal and steady enough.

Francis 6 – Very defensive for him today – obviously tactical.
Cook 7 – Blocked well enough and distributed solidly.
Elphick 6 – A little unsettled by a very good forward line.
Daniels 6 – Gave ball away a lot but nullified threat of danger Redmond

Ritchie 8 – Clever feet and passing, playmaking and a great goal.
Arter 6 – Battled gamely but not on top of his passing today.
Surman 5 – Poorest game in a long while against ex-team mates.
Pugh 6 – Excellent first half but struggled with rest in second.

Pitman 5 – Looked a yard off it today the odd good header aside.
Wilson 6 – Put himself about and ran line but never goal threat.
I thought today would give us an indication of the rest of the season and let’s hope that’s not the case. An incredibly brutal scoring side against poor teams our issue will be how we play against the better more physical sides in the division. We have only beaten Brentford out of the top teams in the division and will need to if promotion is to be a reality. Today we made it 1 point out of 6 v an extremely competent Norwich side who should be top two if you judge them on paper.

To come at home we have Blackburn, Watford, Middlesbrough, Derby (two defeats/two draws in away fixtures) and have to travel to Ipswich and Brentford. These games will define the season. My honest opinion is we might not pick up enough points from these games to stay in the top two.

From my point of view, there is no shame in this, just to finish in the top six would be a fantastic achievement when you compare our squad on paper with some of the other challengers (Brentford excepted – another team punching above their weight). The football is supremely entertaining and this is the best team to have graced the King’s Park turf. We mustn’t lose sight of where we have come from, unlike some of the moaners around me today. You don’t meet many Cameron Jeromes, Bradley Johnson and Nathan Redmonds in League One – where most of our team came from.

So, a choice is faced this transfer window which will dictate how serious Max Denim takes promotion. Eddie has coached greatness out of a competent team of players with some shining stars. He has got them into the improbable situation of having a great chance of Championship play offs. They currently sit top on goal difference though after a great run against lesser teams.

This points position means that some additions could seal it. Just as Derby have added the goal scoring ability of Bent to their team. For us, if we are to be ruthless we need a mobile speedster with goals to play off Wilson up front (hence the interest in Gray and the trial for the supremely quick Jamaican international Mattocks). We also need a dominant tall centre half, comfortable with the ball at his feet to partner Cook.

If players like this arrive we can push for the promised land. Without them it will be there or thereabouts but still better, and more entertaining than anything anyone who has been around longer than two seasons ever dreamt of.

Report by Neil Dawson

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