Everything went well for the first twenty minutes as Cherries controlled the game with Pugh, Daniels, Grabban and Francis posing problems down the flanks. Francis’ crossing in particular was excellent, but Thomas’ heading and finishing remain poor, and Tubbs is just poor (surely signing him must have been some sort of tax write-off?). Partington was a useful physical presence in the centre of midfield, and if he can at last remain fit may justify the curious reluctance to sign a ball-winner. Ominously he failed to get up after a crunching fifty-fifty challenge in the second half, but was eventually able to resume playing, although he was sensibly substituted shortly afterwards. Arter looked exactly the player he was last season, which won’t be good enough if we are serious about a promotion bid. Scott Parker, sat among the Bournemouth contingent, had to endure some fairly loud and frank assessments of his brother-in law’s contribution. On the plus side Arter managed to avoid a booking despite his usual pointless bickering with the referee.
After twenty minutes of the first half Oxford woke up to the fact that we actually weren’t that much better than them, started to press more in midfield, and enjoyed a greater share of possession. Bournemouth ran out of ideas in midfield and failed to trouble the Oxford keeper, while Jalal was forced into a good double save late in the half.
Extra time and penalties was even at this stage looking a likely outcome, and sure enough the second half produced more of the same tepid fare. Pugh, impressive for an hour, tired, and Daniels (under orders?) now seemed strangely reluctant to get forward. At least the defence looked fairly solid - Addison was assured, Zubar made a few errors but was generally quick enough to get himself out of trouble. Gregory replaced the superfluous Tubbs, allowing Grabban to move up front, but although he continued to work hard the end product wasn’t there today. McDermott came on for Partington and briefly injected a little urgency before being consumed by the general malaise.
Unsurprisingly extra time produced few chances for either side. Jalal turned a well hit free kick over the bar and Grabban had a good chance to save us the agony of penalties but produced an embarrassing air-shot in front of goal.
Many opted to leave for home before or during the penalties, which was probably a fair enough given our record in shoot-outs. Ox ford, going first, converted all five penalties with no fuss, as did Daniels, McDermott and Grabban for Cherries. Unfortunately third-up was Pugh, whose penalty posed no problems once Clarke guessed the right way.
Not much here to suggest that this expensively assembled collection of players is actually a team capable of making a promotion bid, but I suppose that we can always sign a new lot if necessary.
Shwan Jalal looked fit and in form after the write-off that was last season, and dealt well with everything that came his way.
AFCB: Jalal, Francis, Zubar, Addision, Daniels, Partington, Pugh, Arter, Grabban, Thomas, Tubbs
Subs: Collins, Cook, Chiedozie, Fletcher, Gregory (for Tubbs, 61 mins), McDermott (for Partington, 76 mins), Wakefield (for Arter, 98 mins)