Francis, Gosling & Fraser started instead of Smith, Kermorgant & Ritchie, so a sort-of 4-5-1 or 4-1-4-1. This brought back the midfield triangle to nip the rot in the bud. Canaries k.o towards the end next to our contingent with our former goal-machine Grabban prominent up front & just behind. Boscombe defended calmly with both sides looking to pass & move. Boscombe had an early corner; Gosling at inside-right had time & space to do better than hitting it high.
Grabban was wide left, not off-side, leading to a home corner. Wilson broke out well but was halted unceremoniously, with the 14 yellowed for the trip. There were a few more frees in favour of the away team after that foul, but otherwise fair play to the rookie manager in looking to instil decent football. The 22 did a Stanley Matthews on Daniels: a double hip-sway then skinning him on the outside from a standing start & whipping over the cross. Grabban rose between the 2 central defenders to nod between Camp’s arms. 1-0, 15; what about better marking, & perhaps O’Kane might’ve followed Grabban back better. Grabban then caught Gosling in possession, the latter still adjusting to the pace of Div.2. This led to home pressure for several minutes, including Grabban through on Camp but the ball was too far & too fast for him. Sloppy midfield work allowed Canaries to hit first wide then at Camp. Arter & Stanislas had little impact so far. Wilson was felled but Daniels’s free from wider right went at the keeper. Stanislas crossed but Cook headed wide, so this was the beginning of the response. However, Canaries won & retained the ball more often & better. A home free from the left saw Camp punch for a corner; all this was Div.1 experience telling.
Fraser hit with his left from inside-left but Stanislas couldn’t quite put his foot to it to divert towards the net. Then a simple pass from O’Kane to Stanislas at deep inside-right; the latter put in a superb long pass inside the left-back for Francis to run around & cross low first time. Wilson anticipated better than the defenders & tapped in near the far post. Superb! 1-1, 45+2 in modern parlance. Barely time to restart. HT: 1-1
With away fans feeling decidedly more chipper, they weren’t concerned by a bout of home passing that ended with an angled drive at Camp. Boscombe responded with a lovely move involving Arter, Francis, O’Kane & Stanislas, resulting in a corner. Fraser & Gosling battled for and won a free on the left; was Elphick felled in the area? No. Stanislas sprinted away, felled by the 9 – yellow. The free led to another corner; this was better. Boscombe now showed why Canaries had not been good enough to stay up, even though the home 4 battled hard all game – perhaps the sort of player Boscombe need? O’Kane released Francis on a superb play but the cross was too near the keeper. It was now a very even game; even Fraser was winning the ball as well as scurrying around as usual.
Arter was felled – a yellow for the 4, & Ritchie replaced the probably tiring Fraser, with Stanislas going back left (as at the start). This also felt a more defensive move. Stanislas went in, allowing Gosling to drive but the keeper caught it. Canaries had a free on the left; in clearing, Wilson slipped but O’Kane picked it up as a good defensive midfielder should. Arter put Wilson in for a shot just wide of the far post; Boscombe lost the ball a little too often for comfort but won it back readily. Pugh swapped in for Stanislas on 68 & showed energy, but Canaries tended to find good angles between their opponents, with much pressure on the away area. A home corner was sent out, put back in & the shot was wide – the story of the home side so far.
Francis returned the compliment on the 4, being yellowed. The free led to a corner and again Wilson slipped in coming out but Ritchie picked it up, feeding Pugh who drove at the keeper. Canaries became frustrated, using the long ball more, although Arter & Gosling were both a little slow in near-critical situations. Gosling fed Ritchie who took it along the edge of the area before putting it over. Both sides were making mistakes, and when Daniels’s run allowed Pugh to pull it back, no-one was there. Arter fouled; Camp tipped over the free from inside-right. The header from the corner was wide. A long boot from Canaries was followed by the 21, wide left, putting in a good run but crossing far too long. Now Boscombe went in more quickly as the match drew to a close. FT: 1-2
Better pressing & covering in the 2nd period led to the home side playing longer & becoming more frustrated, but by the ¾ mark both sides seemed more intent on not losing than going for the win. Perhaps more desire for 3 points might’ve brought that award to the away team so a perceived lack of ambition might seem a concern. EH also seems so reluctant to change the team’s shape during the match. Anyway, now for the international break & a chance for all to pause, take breath & re-assess. This may be how it has to be the rest of the season.
Hard work from all, but the steadiness, covering & passing of O’Kane again takes the award.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Stanislas, Arter, O'Kane, Fraser, Gosling, Wilson
Subs: Flahavan Harte, Smith, Rantie, Kermorgant, Ritchie (for Fraser, 60 mins), Pugh (for Stanislas, 68 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford