Lining up without a left winger or a holding midfielder looked to be a gamble at the start and proved to be a tactical disaster as a poor Bournemouth performance resulted in a deserved defeat against and enterprising and sharp Walsall side.
With no Pugh or Hughes in the team the settled back four was joined by a midfield of a somewhat lightweight midfield of Grabben, O`Kane, Arter and Fogden and Pitman and Thomas up front. At least I think Pitman was upfront but he may been in midfield as he was playing fairly deep for much of the time.
The game started brightly from a Bournemouth point of view with plenty of possession but unfortunately the midfield was very profligate giving the ball away time and time again. The long ball up to Thomas seemed to be the preferred option and it failed almost every time.
On the other hand the Walsall team were whipping the ball about and continuously stretching the Bournemouth defence, who appeared to be have a really tough time without the protection from a holding midfield.
The home team`s first goal was the first of three bizarre home goals. Having gained possession in midfield Mantom passed the ball, yes passed the ball, into the danger area for one of his team mates to get a touch. However, everyone missed the ball, including the Bournemouth keeper and the ball seemed to just end up in the net.
Soon after things got worse for the away team as Arter was forced to leave the game through injury and was replaced by McQuoid. Bournemouth now had FOUR forwards on the pitch but had yet to have an effort on goal.
That first attempt came as the keeper parried a bullet header only for Grabben to make a mess of a glorious chance to pop in the rebound, only to scuff his shot back to the keeper.
The half finished badly too. Having played the ball around the opposition box in order to gain a chance at goal possession was given up again and following a quick break by Walsall Grigg was brought down by James and a penalty was awarded. Grigg got up and smacked the ball down the middle just avoiding James` legs.
Half Time: Walsall 2 Bournemouth 0
The Cherries stepped up the pace at the beginning of the second half and were quickly rewarded by a goal from Pitman following some good work by Francis. GAME ON.
Bournemouth, however, were still being pressurised by a good Walsall outfit and the blues were lucky not t o conceded a third when the home team`s left wing easily skipped into the penalty area and shot only to see it beat the keeper but come back off the post.
There was one moment of excitement foe the Bournemouth when a Thomas header hit the bar bounced down on the line and fell into the keeper`s hands.
Further calamity occurred for Cherries when a free kick whizzed into the box and, with James totally out of position, the ball was cleared off the line by O`Kane (I think). Brandy, who had had a good game for the home side bundled into the defender after he had cleared the line and was booked for it, his second yellow of the game, and therefore he was sent off.
Oh good thought the away crowd thinking that the comeback was on. But no the game had a further twist when, thinking the whistle had been blown for an attacking dive O`Kane just picked the ball up in the penalty. Following a double take by the referee he quite rightly pointed to the spot and the game was done.
Full Time: Walsall 3 Bournemouth 1
James 5: A couple of good saves were mixed with a dropped cross, some poor kicking and some very peculiar positioning.
Francis: 6 Combine4d well with Grabben and produced the cross for the goal but had a torrid time against the home team`s left wing.
Cook 6 ) Both looked very uncomfortable all afternoon. Whether it was because there was no
Elphick 6: ) holding midfielder, something that became even worse when Arter went off, or because of the fast Walsall front line I`m not sure.
Daniels 5: I thought he had an absolute nightmare in the first half. His distribution was very poor and he was clearly missing his left wing mate.
Grabben 6: Played well in patches but missed a sitter and looked uncomfortable in a withdrawn midfield role.
Fogden 5: ) I have seen them both play well but it wasn`t today. We never really got a grip of
O`Kane 5: ) midfield, giving the ball away too much and we were easily shaken off in tackles. Got worse when Arter went off.
Arter 6: Whilst not having his best game his injury clearly affected the team`s performance
Pitman 6: Played in patches. Not sure whether he was playing up front or in midfield but seemed to be in the way a lot. Took his goal well.
Thomas 7: For me he worked really hard but was hampered by poor service from the back. The crowd behind me clearly thought differently calling him lazy.
McQuoid 6: Worked really hard, ran well
Tubbs: Other than missing a very good chance near the end didn`t make a huge impression.
Fletcher: He came on very late and did cause the defence trouble although he didn`t get much help from the ref.
We got what we deserved. A very poor team performance, certainly in the first half. Some poor individual performances and a wacky ending.
Report by Audenshaw Cherry
We just didn’t get going today, which combined with David James not having the best of games, Charlie Daniels missing his best mate Pughie on the left and the freezing conditions, I think we’re just going to have to accept that days like this will happen.
The O’Kane penalty incident was just a total misunderstanding. I don’t think there was a single Bournemouth supporter who didn’t have their heads in their hands. It all kind of happened in slow motion. He certainly wouldn’t have meant it.
MOM for me was Cook. Thought he looked solid in the middle.
Can’t understand why Walsall employ what sounds like a bingo caller as their tanoy guy. Very strange way of reading things out.