That was ’68. As Keith M. suggested – standing beside me on the old South End that day, behind that goal – John Hold (Boscombe no.8) was offside chatting up his girlfriend at the railings below us. These days, he’d be regarded as not interfering with play so the goal would’ve stood – beating the Flying Pig, Tommy Lawrence, in the away goal. We can dream – as we all did come kick off 46 years later. (Unaccountably, I missed the original tie in ’27…).
A sunny but breezy day. I reflected on some other personal links with Liverpool: completing the “92” in late May ’89 (Liverpool 0-2 Arsenal), & making lifelong friends with some Liverpool fans who were not only present at the Heysel & Hillsborough disasters but founded the Football Supporters’ Association of which I was national treasurer for several years. All these top-notch players warming up in front of us – Stevie G, Suarez, Sturridge; Liverpool giving Boscombe the respect of fielding such a strong team. The ground was packed, with away fans in the South End (the Ted – 9 goals v Margate - MacDougall Stand) – a configuration that some of us feel gives a better atmosphere. Boscombe comprised the standard team, with Camp returning. Liverpool k.o. towards the North Stand in a mainly white strip and a 4-2-1-3 shape, and immediately Grabban broke to win a corner. The keeper (Jones – that’s Brad, not Jolly Roger, the Boscombe net-minder in the ’68 game) missed it and another was conceded. Then a lovely move allowed Daniels to cross for Surman to head just wide of the far post. Most home attacks came down this left side in front of us as the away right-back (Kelly) was a little less experienced than the left-back.
This was a good slick start, and Arter was well in, but Suarez was always looking for a chance. Boscombe looked to build on opportunities, and Suarez was offside from a move started by a poor home pass. Daniels had a shot – corner. Francis sent in a swerving free from the left wing; it dipped requiring the keeper to punch it over. What helped Boscombe was that Div.1 teams give a different kind of space, compared to Div.2 teams, so assaults on the away area came easier and Boscombe looked really good. Pugh made several little nicks with head & foot to move the ball on. Surman was tidy & progressive.
Gerrard was playing deep (his legs are just beginning to go) and executed 2 passes poorly. Grabban had the run of the away back 4, and O’Kane played him in on a channel requiring the keeper to rush out & belt it away. Near thing… Ritchie won a free, but Pugh could do no better than head it wide at the far post. Arter took Suarez’s legs but Gerrard hit the free wide.
Then a very instructive moment. After a good move, Grabban passed poorly in the area. The ball went up-field and from deep on the right wing Suarez slung it over to Moses at the far corner of the area. He came inside & hit a shot between Ritchie’s legs, past Francis behind Ritchie, & inside the partially-unsighted Camp's near post. 0-1, 26, and revealing the difference between the game Div.2 side & the clinical Div.1 side. Curiously, a muted celebration – just doing their job.
But Boscombe seemed to ignore the set-back, with Grabban’s break requiring hasty defence & Ritchie’s shot deflected. Arter hit just wide, but Liverpool gave the sense of having at least 1 more gear available, just slightly more competent where & when necessary, although Jones often looked less than competent. Skipper Elphick had to make several clearances, & Grabban & Ritchie did well in defence down in Daniels’s corner. But several home passes just weren’t good enough. However, O’Kane was superb in taking it through for Pugh to feed Daniels whose cross led to a shot deflected over. Surman took the corner, Elphick attacked the ball & headed over the far angle. Francis made a superb tackle on Moses.
So far, Henderson had shuttled between supporting Gerrard and making space for Coutinho behind the front 3 - & the latter for all his skill, was not uprooting any trees so far (some credit to O’Kane for that by taking the space). But poor defensive work to the left of Camp allowed Suarez to pull it back – only for Henderson, at the “D”, to hit over. Arter did similarly from 25 yards, then beat Gerrard & hit it at Jones. Suarez was blocked again – it can be done – and Arter’s next effort was deflected over for a corner & straight away another one. That one went straight into the keeper’s arms. Good game so far; Boscombe players had expressed themselves and were never over-awed. H-T: 0-1.
The restart saw a home break with again a poor final pass, but still the best moves were down the left with Pugh having the game of his life. The wind was now blustery. Surman & Skrtel clashed heads in the away area; the latter was down for some time then helped off to the side of the goal. He eventually re-appeared with a skull cap and a shirt blank at the back; apparently staples in the wound rather than stitches. Ouch. Boscombe had a corner, then another one when Arter, on the right, took too long to hit his cross. Gerrard was yellowed for over-reacting to the award. From that dead-ball, Kelly pulled back on Francis’s shirt, but both ref. & the flag-man were unsighted so no pen.
A big reason for the young Brazilian & the former Sunderland player being less than effective was O’Kane – not just operating in their space, but also nicking the ball away, get & give, and thus allowing Surman & Arter to attempt to go forward. This he did all game, & so simply & well.
Here is not the place to discuss the appalling and disgraceful transgressions last season by Suarez. This season he had seemed to have cleaned up his act until recently with occasional suspicions of falling too easily, and possibly the ref. bought one when Ward seemed to take him down; Ward had really just stood his ground. Anyway, Suarez was up quickly, slipped the ball forward to Sturridge at inside-right who hit it past Suarez for 0-2 on 60. Again, low-key celebrations, with a feeling from the away players that the job was almost complete. Surman dragged a shot wide, and Suarez fell over again; this time the ref. didn’t buy it. Some of the home crowd were on the Uruguayan’s back – frustration as much as anything, as energy seemed to seep out of the home side a little.
Even so, Ritchie pulled it back & hit one wide; Camp beat Suarez to a through ball; and O’Kane went on a quite a superb run. Grabban set up Ritchie but hit the return ball into the side netting. A quick Liverpool break saw Sturridge try one with the outside of his left boot, hitting the top of the bar. Changes were needed, so on 73 Rantie & Fraser replaced Pugh & the slightly disappointing Ritchie - the latter not having previous influence for some games now. As the new formation tried to settle, Sturridge came in from the right and hit it across & wide – to much away fan derision. The other 3 sides raised the “Oh Eddie Howe” chant.
Liverpool continued to be merely efficient, with Suarez set free & knocking one over the bar. Last throw of the dice – Pitman for a hard-worked Arter on 78, giving a 4-2-4 set-up with Grabban wide right mostly. Pitman won a tackle with Coutinho in the home area then wasted his pass; the game was developing into an exhibition match. Daniels crossed – to no-one. Grabban had put in his usual shift, and seemed knackered. As time ran out, Surman hit one – tipped over – and Pitman did well to set himself up but shot over. A possible penalty situation was ruled out, and the last action was Camp catching well under pressure. F-T: 0-2.
The crowd drifted away quietly, the dream over for at least another year. But make no mistake, this was a really good effort by the home players and crowd, with so much skill and intent taking the game to the opponents. But the gap in class was little less than that between Boscombe & Burton Albion in the previous round. Taking that extra touch; passing not quite crisp enough or misplaced or under-hit. But league opponents give Boscombe a credit; they have to clam up with 2 tight banks of 4 else on home displays like this they’d be over-run. We can give thanks to all concerned for how far the club has come in the last 5-6 years, and we can now see how far there is to go.
Pugh really enjoyed himself, especially in the first half. Elphick & Ward were solid & Daniels was a constant threat all game. Surman seemed easier with the extra space the Div.1 side afforded. All worked their socks off. Sponsors & texters gave the award to O’Kane who, if he was 2” taller & 5kg heavier, would walk into any side in Div.1 on this & recent performances. I agree with them.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Ward, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, O'Kane, Pugh, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Cook, Harte, MacDonald, Fraser (for Ritchie, 73 mins), Rantie (for Pugh, 73 mins), Pitman (for Arter, 78 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford