Franchise had a little-changed squad and the same manager as last season so shutting out the home side might be even easier to work out. A fine evening, a little breeze, and some home team changes from Saturday – Grabban and Arter started rather than come on as subs; Cook came in for TE. Was this through injury, worth their place, rotation, or just that PG had yet to work out his best starting 11?
Boscombe k.o. towards the North (oh yes, Steve Fletcher) Stand; after some equal jousting the home side began to slide the ball around. Intriguing to see central play-makers Arter and O’Kane on the wings and Pugh (a winger) central behind the front 2, but it looked OK. Barnard was offside from a through ball – but that showed good intent. Smith, once of Leeds and Man. Utd. fame, brought down Pugh as he went through. Franchise looked tidy and organised; Francis and Arter combined well defensively all through the half, doubling up when necessary.
A free for Franchise from 22 yards at inside-left went over. Soon after, Jalal caught a cross low down well. Daniels put in a searching diagonal, which Grabban could only slice wide when coming in from the right. Cook made a superb saving tackle; Francis looked safe and Boscombe looked fluid. With Franchise pressed back, Daniels was able to go to the area edge and put in a weak attempt that found its way to Grabban. He twisted round the outside of his marker and toe-poked across the keeper, wrong-footing him in the process. The ball rolled in the far corner; 1-0, 17! Deserved.
Franchise blocked everything that followed, until Arter went in hard with 2 defenders just outside the away “D”. One of his opponents was red-carded – Smith – on 19. Presumably his boot had connected but Arter’s hadn’t, as the latter seemed as combative in that fracas. Daniels hit the free kick well over. Partington was now comfortable as the spare midfielder in the holding role. Pugh went left for a time with O’Kane going central. Arter was defending well high up; he, Francis and even Partington took turns to raid up the right wing but too many crosses from both wings were over- or under-hit. Arter hit over from 20 yards. Not only did several crosses not beat the first defender, but central strikers rarely managed to go in front of the marker. Nevertheless, Boscombe moved the ball, pulling the away defence around, thus tiring them.
Franchise found touch a lot, and had gone to 4-4-1 after the red. Partington hit it hard from wide; the keeper had to concede the corner. But Franchise had moments; a free at inside-right from the home area edge went for a corner. Cook then headed the wrong side of the far post from a free; also, the away keeper was catching well. H-T: 1-0. Nick behind me said that with that score & them a man down there’d never be a better chance.
On restart, on came Fletcher for Arter (arm injury?). This changed the team dynamic and, as the half progressed, evidently not for the better. But Partington was alert to dispossess, went through, and angled it just wide of the far post. O’Kane seemed to be too deep too often. Franchise had another free from 22 yards, which was cleared, only for Francis to be suckered – but the shot was sliced. Franchise made a game of it; Addison had to make an outstanding saving tackle in the area.
Barnard’s long drive was tipped over, and then Fletcher lost the ball left-midfield in the away half. It went through midfield, the ball was slipped inside the defender on the Boscombe right for the guy coming in from the left, and he planted it across Jalal. 1-1, 62. Yet again the sucker-punch. Franchise now showed professionalism (in several senses), competence, and perhaps a sense of wanting it more - always unforgivable to the home crowd.
Fletcher headed on, Barnard’s boot confirmed it into the net, but the latter was flagged offside. A home corner led to head tennis and the ball against the bar. But Boscombe tactics weren’t varying, so Franchise soaked it up all too easily. Then pinball in the away area, to no avail, followed by Grabban collecting the ball in defensive left midfield – a good example of how Boscombe had started to hurry and scurry. Pugh went high and wide.
Partington went on another splendid run and put in a lovely through ball down the left. The cross was headed wide by Barnard. Tubbs (who barely had a kick) replaced Grabban on 79; this meant 4-3-3 against 2 banks of 4, so no-one “between the lines”. Barnard headed over again, and Partington was robbed in the centre circle – perhaps no-one called to him? More pinball, leading to 2 successive home corners, so Boscombe at least had a go. Barnard was yellowed for a simple foul – bit harsh; Partington had been yellowed earlier. F-T: 1-1.
Much frustration: “unacceptable”, “disgraceful” and (unprintable) were heard nearby as we filed out, some questioning the management.
A bunch of higher-paid, more expensive players producing the same-old-same-old.
The sponsors and texters gave it to Grabban, presumably for the goal. Partington did well moving forward occasionally, but looked vulnerable when opponents ran at him – not clever for the holding midfielder. Lots of effort from all, but for persistent probing – especially in the light of frequent positional changes – it goes from this observer to O’Kane.
Boscombe (initial 4-1-3-2): Jalal; Francis, Addison, Cook, Daniels; Partington; Arter (Fletcher, HT), Pugh, O’Kane; Grabban, Barnard
Subs: Flahavan, Thomas, Gregory, Zubar, Wakefield, Fletcher (for Arter, at HT), Tubbs (for Grabban, 79 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford