Date: 14th December 2013 at 8:18pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

Bournemouth crashed back to earth with a 2-0 reverse to Birmingham City at Dean Court this afternoon. Expectation was high following an epic 2-1 win at neighbours Reading but, despite an impressive footballing display, the normal combination of defensive errors and a lack of cutting edge confounded the home team.

Not surprisingly Eddie kept the same personnel and formation from last Saturday with O’Kane again the shield in a 4-1-4-1. Anticipation was high with Birmingham being the start of a run against teams in the lower half of the table.

It was frustrating therefore that we gifted the Blues a goal after two minutes. Cook beat a couple of men venturing forwards but then carelessly gave the ball away. Birmingham pinged it wide to Burke who crossed low first time to where Cook would have been normally. With the centre half stranded up pitch Elphick had picked up the giant Zigic expecting the high cross and SHINNIE was left completely free to sidefoot past Camp.

It was the first attack of the game and Bournemouth then went on to completely dominate. The extra man in midfield seemingly suits our passing game and with O’Kane brilliantly pulling all the triggers Ritchie, Daniels and Pugh just picked the ball up off him at will and sprayed lovely quick passes all over the pitch.

The usual story prevailed though for a team that has scored 1 goal in four home games with a complete lack of a cutting edge. Too often at the end of a beautiful move Pugh and Ritchie were left crossing on their weaker foot with predictable results and when they did get the cross right nobody had come near post and nobody really gambled attacking it.

On the occasions the cross was met Blues keeper Randolph was in fine form saving from Grabbans flicked header at full stretch to save a certain goal. There seemed three great shouts for hand ball, two for us and one for the Blues but ref Naylor obviously wanted someone to catch it so he could be sure.

The football Bournemouth were serving up at times was breath-taking and an enthralled crowd were just waiting for the crucial opening up of the Blues defence when disaster struck again. A routine knocking the ball around the back caught Elphick a bit by surprise and he played the ball too quickly and just away from Surman who miscontrolled. Lee pounced for Birmingham and released ZIGIC one on one with Camp. The 6’8 hitman was feared for his aerial prowess but his quick touch and finish under Camp could have been Michael Owen.

Bournemouth were stunned at this point. Birmingham had not created one opportunity themselves and had been on the backfoot all game and yet somehow were 2-0 up. Still they poured forwards though and Grabban toepoked agonisingly wide when clean through out right before Ritchie smacked a drive at Randolph to finish the half.

HT Bournemouth 0 Birmingham 2

The second half saw Eddie bring on Fraser and move Ritchie into the middle behind Grabban. A decent looking 4-4-1-1 formation that allowed Ritchie to dictate play more than from the wing. A quiet Andrew Surman dropped out the side.

The possession and attacking if anything was even more relentless as a result but again a series of poor crosses (I counted Pugh hit the full back 6 times in a row when well placed) or a lack of willingness to shoot meant the ball stayed away from the Blues net. Randolph saved brilliantly when Pugh turned on to Francis’s cross and spanked a ferocious drive and Ritchie had a free kick beaten out as Bournemouth turned on the heat. Fraser and Ritchie were particularly dominant with their driving runs and O’Kane continued to maestro the whole thing from his position fifty yards out.

Grabban flicked a header from Ritchies cross agonizingly wide before Eddie added more firepower in Rantie who went on to have a lively cameo and moved to 4-4-2.

The onslaught continued with Randolph reacting well to keep out Frasers’ low drive and Cook and Elphick headed corners over. The game then became a little ragged as Bournemouth became desperate. Too many high balls were played in against a team that had two players over 6’6. Pitman arrived as we moved to three at the back and we started pumping the ball at him like he was Fletch. He headed wide and Cook shot over as the last few chances to get back in the game went begging.

That was it, Randolph confirmed his claim for Man of the Match with an amazing clawed save to keep out Ranties header but in the 94th minute this would just have been a consolation.

FT Bournemouth 0 Birmingham 2

Camp – 6 Bizarrely nothing to do considering the result.

Francis – 6 Up and down but a bit wasteful with passes sometimes
Cook 6 – One brilliant tackle second half but poor error for first
Elphick 6 – Error for the second and sluggish sometimes.
Daniels 7 – Lively with some brilliant runs. Pick of the defence.

Pugh 5 – Very poor crossing on his weaker foot and poor choices.
Arter 6 – Quieter than normal but some good play switches
Surman 5 – Very non descript and struggled to get in the game
O’Kane 8 – Brilliant defensive shielding, dribbling and awareness.
Ritchie 7 – Lively and always looking to shoot. Crowded out a bit.

Grabban – 7 Hard working sole front man display and channel runs.
Tough one this. If we had cut out defensive errors we would have drawn 0-0. If we had cutting edge we would have won 4-2. But as the old adage goes ‘if ifs and buts were pots and pans nothing would ever get cooked’. We still look prone to both and this will be Eddies mental list for the transfer window.

There was nothing wrong with the display but if footballing brilliance is not enough to get you a draw at home against teams in the bottom six then you have to concede that you have problems. All that possession (60%) – but did you ever really think you would be getting off your chair cheering a goal? The amount of crosses that were swung in low from the right and nobody gambled across a defender to get in front of the keeper. Pugh got released time and time again on the left but either hit the first defender or chipped a hopeful cross to Ritchie or Fraser on the back stick. It was never going to work.

I wonder if it might be worth giving the wingers a try on their correct foot. I understand the wisdom in them cutting in but if they won’t then might as well have them pick out someone at speed on their good foot and not their swinger.

At the back Elphick looked a little ponderous at times but you can’t legislate for the type of errors today except to say that Centre halfs should play the ball wide and not through or across the middle unless it’s changed since I was at school!!

This can be eradicated but its the lack of aggression up front that will cause problems. We have far too many of a certain type of player Fraser, Ritchie, Pugh ,Rantie,Coulibaly,Grabban, Arter, O’Kane,Mcquoid,Fogden,Mcdermott – you can lose count of quick moving clever ball players available to pick but where is the dominant tall midfielder attacking the box or the aggressive centre forward getting in front of the centre half.

Without them there will be too many days like today of beautiful style but no substance. January will tell us a lot.

Report by Neil Dawson


8 Replies to “Return of the Blues”

  • Total domination does not always get results, and today was one of those days. Apart from a poor 15 minute start by Cook the lads played Birmingham off the pitch. Two chances and two goals, the first goal very slick, the second from one of our misdirected passes. 100% effort by everyone so nothing to complain about. Wish Fletch was a few years younger and could come on to nail a few crosses but without a finisher this pattern could be repeated in the future. Their defence was very average but their goalkeeper was exceptional and kept them from conceding time after time. A loss is a loss, but for all that it was one of our best performances for a long time…….what a strange sport football is!

  • I was NOI there but from the reports it would appear that their keeper kept them a win? We were as good as the win at Reading. OK well that means we need a goal machine please Santa Demin! Simples!
    Merry Christmas one and all! I think Defoe is free?

  • Good performance and the type of game where if we had scored one we would have got four. a 5 for Surman is generous, has only produced one decent performance (at Reading) all season.

  • ….a few players out there for us need replacing….Cook was unlucky in losing the ball, for their first goal…..Elphick’s pass to their central midfielder for the second goal was really poor….we need to be more incisive through the middle rather than just wasting time with little passes down the flanks all the time?

  • Do we need a director of football? Some of EHs signings since he returned have been uninspiring-Pitman, Alsop, Harte, Coulibaly, Rantie, Surman and renewing contracts for Flahaven and Partington. Only Ward and sometimes Fraser seem to have been a success (accept Pitman last season took us up, but is that his level?). Neil is absolutely right in his constant plea for a tall midfielder and aggressive centre forward-let’s see in January. If we sign another winger someone needs a word!

  • I think it a real shame that our partners in crime that gave us so much last season appear unable to reach new heights at this top league level (ignore the Premier). We are all enjoying this standard that we would like to stay around a while longer pretty please. So all of the above comments are on side. We are very sad that old friends will need to go but go THEY MUST. Sorry I shouldn’t shout but just watched the super spurs getting stuffed at the Lane so really glad that we the mighty cherries are doing better than that pile of poo (so much money wasted on tattooed t”ss””s. Makes me feel sick! Anyway back to our reality. All Bournemouth fans knew how tough it is here in Championship land and maybe our squad is just about strong enough to stay up. But are we? I hope so. Maybe next season will give us more hope but this season I am happy the way things are. We have seriously tough fixtures a resurgent Yeovil might just fancy us, Ipswich and Sheffield too. So let’s just keep the faith. We are owed a big response from the squad, talk is cheap now boys it’s really time to man up and get some cheeky results. I will remain enjoying the season, it’s really great to be back and maybe Santa might yet deliver in January! We need Defoe on loan one more time!! Also as much as we might fear playing some of the better squads, we have turned up too this season and no opposing team can dismiss us. That may be the problem we are NOT a soft touch so we get punished but NOT stuffed. A learning curve I fully trust. Eddie is our man and we are all behind you. Who knows with a couple of creative loans we might yet hit the play offs!?!

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