Written by kirsikka
First up, a quick note. Technical gremlins meant I missed the second half of the last two matches and they reared their head today in the first half for 10 minutes. Finally resolved so hopefully won’t come back again but it does mean I have a patch missing in my report.
Having consistently started with three at the back so far, Tindall felt this needed something different reverting for a four that allowed him to include a slew of attacking options upfront. Danjuma, Stanislas, Brooks and Solanke on the pitch at the same time should be a cause for concern for any team we face in this league.
Then to kick off. After a series of disastrous first halves recently, I filled with trepidation when Birmingham spent the first 90 seconds scything through us, creating two chances that luckily came to nothing. One from a long throw which would become a repetitive feature of the afternoon.
My mood lifted moments later though when Danjuma combined with Brooks and got to the byline to cut back for Solanke who would have had a two-yard tap in were it not for an excellent clearance. Arnaut looked to be on it and at least we were in the game.
Attacks seemed to go from one end to the other like a game of ping pong. Then in the 9th minute, Stacey slid in to intercept the ball in the Birmingham half which was followed by rapid Cherry movement of the ball just outside their area from one side to the other, ended by Stanislas slipping in Danjuma and him firing into the far corner of the net. Six passes from seven different AFCB players for a rapier-like dissection of the Brum defence who couldn’t cope with the speed and options off the ball. Dare I say that it was almost like a move from a Howe team of old. Lovely.
The game continued in a similar manner, inexorably back and forth like the tide. The difference was only at one end did the attacks look consistently dangerous with AFCB fashioning a series of half-chances or opportunities that didn’t quite come off. Solanke and Lerma were among those with decent openings in this spell, the former probably should have scored one of his but a scuffed tap in attempt allowed the keeper to make a save.
We seemed to have included a game plan of trying to hit them long. Not so much into the channels as we have tried in recent matches (or the bits I saw anyway) but bang down the middle. Birmingham looked vulnerable to it so kudos to the scouting team for spotting the weakness and us for trying to exploit it.
Around here my feed dropped out and during this spell, Lewis Cook went off injured to be replaced by Gosling. The half time highlights also showed a chance from a cross for Birmingham but nothing else. I can’t tell you if I missed any key insights during this time though.
I came back on just in time to see Brooks go on a mazy 20-yard dribble and hit what was probably a speculative shot from distance that the keeper looked to have covered only for it to take a wicked deflection and spin into the net. If you don’t put a dime in the slots you can’t win the jackpot and given all the attacking attempts I had seen from us it seemed like fair value, with the aforementioned caveat about the 10 minutes of course.
The half-finished with Birmingham’s best attempt on goal of the period. Some sloppy play in our half gave the ball away and when they got the opening it ended with Rico nearly spooning into his own net only for Begovic, captain for the day, alert enough to flick it away thus continuing his fine form.
Peep peep on the best 45 I’ve seen from us in what seems like forever. Someone may point out it’s only been a month or something but the dirge that’s been served up for first periods over recent weeks seems to have lobotomised the last positive first half from my brain.
Into the second half and again AFCB were trying to attack. Birmingham tried to break away to relieve the pressure but some poor play from them ended in Mepham slotting the ball back to Solanke in space near their area. A neat shuffle past a defender and walloped shot cracked back off the post straight to David Brooks who tried to burst the net and must have been relieved to see it go in off the underside of the bar and not into orbit.
3-0 and game over, right? Not quite.
Whilst a member of the Birmingham hierarchy had been loudly screaming obscenities at the ref straight into the Solent microphone he went quiet when Hogan theatrically collapsed in a heap just outside the left of our area. The ref bought it and from the resultant free-kick, Hogan wandered into a huge gulf of space in between Gosling and Solanke near the front post to flick a header into the far corner. I think DS was his marker and he has to stick with his man better than that when he’s called on for defensive duties.
With a glimmer of hope again, there followed a spell where Birmingham started to look more dangerous. A second goal would put them really in the ascendance so solidity was called for and mostly delivered. The main exception for the remainder of the match was those long throws. Every time one came in we looked to be vulnerable and were lucky one of several pinball scenarios didn’t land at the feet of a striker in space.
AFCB started to exert their dominance again and there was a decent penalty shout for the Cherries on 69 when neat play led to Danjuma pulling the ball back from near the byline only for it to strike a defenders trailing arm after he’d already committed to going to ground. Given how far he was away from Danjuma, in the PL that would have been a penalty every time. So it goes in the Championship sometimes.
Gosling also dithered when six yards out after an excellent Solanke lay off which allowed a defender to get in an outstanding block tackle otherwise it would surely have been four.
The final ten minutes were mostly Birmingham but their main danger remained long throws. In the end, AFCB saw the match out for a very comfortable result.
Man of the match against Birmingham?
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