Written by Matt Stevenson
I’m nervous again writing the preamble despite heading into the second leg 1-0 up. Away goals don’t count, so the clean sheet doesn’t add much, apart from the confidence that we shut Brentford, the Championship’s top scorers out. Toney didn’t pose much of a threat in the first leg, whether this was an off day or whether he was carrying a knock is unknown. Injuries were also a problem for The Cherries, with speculation on whether Pearson would make the starting XI. The vast majority were resigned to the fact that Steve Cook wouldn’t make it, but Mepham did well in his absence, however, we have no natural replacement for Pearson with Lewis Cook out injured. Thankfully Pearson is named in the starting line-up, meaning we have a settled team bar the captain’s omission.
Brentford has made three changes Roerslev, Fosu and Forss, out for Dalsgaard, Emiliano, and Mbeumo. Mbeumo scored the only goal 3 weeks ago and missed a glorious chance in the first game of the play-offs. Given that Brentford have a number of players who can play in multiple positions it is not clear if they have changed formation, although it is noted that the acclaimed Rico Henry, who returned after injury for a cameo at the Vitality Stadium hasn’t even made the squad. AFCB will need to work out the Bees’ formation quickly, with the opening exchanges being particularly important. Concede early, and it will be a long day. Hold tight, and attack on the counter, and Brentford will eventually need to leave more spaces for our team to exploit. The flowing move that gives us the advantage was a joy to watch and we could be in for more such chances.
Norgaard injured himself in the warm-up, meaning Roerslev has a reprieve, but this could unsettle Brentford. The opening moments looked good, Pearson crunching into a tackle with Jensen looking injured and Solanke embarking on a run. Although a poor Billing header gave Brentford a corner. We’ve been more solid recently, but set pieces are dangerous. However, the goal was at the other end following suicidal defending from The Bees. As the ball was being contested, and eventually won by Carter-Vickers, Danjuma ran forward, with no Brentford player tracking him. One long punt and he was through on the keeper, after reading the bounce excellently and prodding the ball in front of him with his knee. AFCB fans only expected one outcome, and it happened with Danjuma sliding the ball past Raya. The game then became niggly and stop-start which was good for Bournemouth although set pieces would still be a danger. Then after 16 minutes was a controversial penalty call. Emiliano crossed the ball, Kelly dived in to block it, and the ball hit his hand (possibly off a thigh, but it is hard to tell). After some hesitation, a penalty was given. The interpretation of handball has been changed so often that I don’t know if this is a penalty. Common sense says it shouldn’t be, I’m not sure where players’ hands can go when making a legitimate attempt at a block, but we have seen them given plenty of times this season (but was that before an interpretation change? The argument can go on ad nauseum. The fans probably had an impact on the decision made by a linesman. Toney scored, and then there was a scuffle between Begovic and Toney with both being booked. AFCB needed to settle the game down, although there was another penalty call when Solanke clashed with Toney. But we still looked very much in the game, Brooks went on a run with Danjuma on the left, Smith on the right and he overran the ball and the ball was cleared before he found either. At 28 minutes everything changed however, a long ball was directed towards Mepham, who miscontrolled it, and was then pick-pocketed by Mbeumo. In his panic he grabbed at the forward’s legs, bringing him down and received a clear red card. Up to that point, Mepham had played well, but this was two bad errors, one of technique in bringing the ball under control, and then in judgment, as it was far from clear that Mbeumo would score the 1 on 1. Now, we were facing at least an hour down to 10 men. Brooks was sacrificed for Rico, with Kelly shifted in centre defence. On 32 minutes Toney made a hash of a header when squaring it would have left Mbeumo with a tap-in. Brentford were clearly on top, at a throw-in Begovic was balked by Kelly, and Rico made an acrobatic clearance from the goal-line. The defensive shield of Lerma and Pearson was now crucial. Jefferson was making crucial blocks as he popped up everywhere. Following a freekick and a bit of pinball, with Billing challenging, the ball hit Pinnock’s arm. This should never be a penalty, but it’s not that dissimilar to Kelly’s ‘transgression’ in terms of intent, and fired up the Cherries. With a man down, we would need to channel this aggression if we are to make it through. Smith ended up chesting the ball back to Begovic, with Brentford appealing for at least one of a foul or handball. Begovic was noticeable time-wasting, and the hope is that he doesn’t pick up a second caution. Just before halftime, Lerma picked up a soft yellow card, wrestling the ball from a Brentford player to throw it back to where it should have been taken. This could be a problem if it limits his tackling.
At half time Brentford made a more attacking change with Forss coming on for Roerslev. A nonchalant flick from Kelly put us in trouble at a time when we need to be steady. Solanke seemed to have dropped into a left midfield position, with Danjuma being a lone striker. This seemed odd, with Danjuma not having the physical presence to hold up the ball, although very few passes to him were accurate. After a good bit of Billing control, Solanke tried a long-range effort that Raya palmed round the post. On 50 minutes, Brentford were level on aggregate. Pearson made a weak clearance from a cross that went to near the edge of the D, with Lerma and two Brentford men converging. Lerma got a toe on it, and when steaming in for a block tackle Janelt somehow found Begovic’s right corner for a very fortuitous goal. It is unclear whether the previous yellow, or the threat of a dangerous free-kick stopped Lerma going in with full force.
There was a scramble after Rico dithered on the ball, Carter-Vickers blocks Mbeumo, Begovic made a save before Forss fouled Rico. The pattern was set, with Brentford pressure and rare Bournemouth breaks. One of these saw Danjuma in the box, using trickery to find space to pull the ball back for Solanke, who had made up a lot of ground but just couldn’t get there before the defender. The Brentford mindset had changed a little now they were equal and had something to lose, if the game went to extra time then they would be clear favourites given the running the 10 men had done. One particular Bees’ threat was the ball into the channel behind Solanke. Toney had a couple of chances but looked poor. Although he has set a championship record for scoring, if you took out penalties, then he is only half-a-dozen or so in front of Danjuma and Solanke. Nothing was sticking for us up front, and you wonder whether leaving two-up, as Brentford did against us when they were down to 10 men, may have been a better policy. It was all Brentford, with Emiliano missing the ball from a good chance. Stacey came on for Solanke, to strengthen the midfield. Emiliano had another shot from 22 yards which was a fairly routine save for an ex-international keeper. Jansson was booked for stopping Begovic trying a quick breakaway. In the 81st minute, the pressure finally told. Emiliano latching on first to a Smith headed clearance, and whipping the ball into the area, Forss got in front of Carter-Vickers, in what might have been the big man’s first mistake of the game and timed the shot well, smashing it into the net before Begovic could move. Long came on for Smith, it was surprising it wasn’t Surridge if we wanted to go direct. Long had one good run but couldn’t pick out Danjuma at the near post. In the final minutes, Begovic went up for a corner, and stayed there, and was bizarrely caught offside. That was that, Brentford had managed the game well, took full advantage of the extra man, and the tiring AFCB legs, and the play-off dream was over. We didn’t get much luck in this game, the debatable penalty and the lucky second goal, did for us, although there can be no complaints about the send-off. The lack of any creation after the first 5 minutes was a worry, as was the strange tactical decision to play Solanke almost as a left midfielder and Danjuma as a target man.
Now our thoughts will turn to who will be here next season, who our manager will be, and what a realistic target is, given that the three relegated from the Premier League don’t look too scary.
Man of the match against Brentford
Player Scores – Explicitly acknowledging how hard it is to play against a good possession-based team with a man down
Begovic: 6. Not to blame for any of the goals, but the scuffle with Toney was odd and seemed determined to come for crosses when he didn’t need to. Also gave us all palpations that he was going to pick up a second yellow card for time-wasting.
Kelly: 7. Unlucky with the penalty offence. Played well apart from that.
Carter-Vickers: 9 (MOTM). Securing Carter-Vickers signature, if possible, must be a priority. Was commanding throughout the game, marred only by the fresher Forss nipping in front of him for the decisive goal. Almost faultless apart from that.
Mepham: 4. Was playing well until the double mistake, which was very costly. This game will haunt him and he may not recover whilst he is an AFCB player. For his sake, I hope he comes good and I wish him well and haven’t written off him playing a bit part in a successful campaign next year.
Smith: 7. Played well in a rear-guard action
Pearson: 7. Often outnumbered in central midfield, but plugged holes. Will be disappointed with the clearance for the second Brentford goal
Lerma: 7. For a twenty-minute period he was everywhere. The soft booking just before half time affected his ability to tackle without restraint. As with Pearson was outnumbered
Billing: 7. The first half of the season showed that Billing struggles in a standard central midfield position, but flourishes further forward. Was pulled back to a more defensive position and was fairly peripheral. Couldn’t get to Emiliano to block the cross but was tiring
Danjuma: 8. Great run and goal. After the send off was moved to a centre-forward position which didn’t work out, not for lack of trying. It may be his last appearance in an AFCB shirt, but at least provided us with Danjumagic during this strange season.
Brooks: 7. Hard to judge on the 28 mins. He had looked lively but overran two balls in promising positions. May have rectified this if he wasn’t sacrificed, so have gone for 7 not 6.
Solanke: 7. Moved to an unfamiliar position once we went down to 10 men. Looked uncomfortable there, but not his fault.
Rico: 7. Didn’t look out of place in the back 4, and cleared a ball well from the goal line
Stacey: 7. Committed, but like most of the team struggled to get any attacking momentum.
Long: N/A. Not enough time to get a score.
The Flying Picket wrote…
Taking off Brooks who was MoM in the first leg, (according to BBC), was sheer lunacy.
Our resorting to cynical tactics during the whole game was a disgrace and showed a total lack of confidence in our abilities. We should have played our free-flowing football once we were 2-0 up, and that would have put Brentford on the back foot, as Brentford would have to have throw men forward at that stage, leaving Danjuma, Solanke, and Brooks to run riot through their defence. – Join the conversation, click here.