Dec 13 Tranmere Rovers 2-0 AFC Bournemouth Att: 8557

Last updated : 16 December 2004 By Robin Stieber
The other two were more controversial, the midweek strike force of Connell and Holmes giving way to Steve Fletcher and Rodrigues. Perhaps I don’t see enough games to comment, but the logic of this escaped me. The old maxim is “don’t change a winning team” (if you can help it). People like Mourinho can ignore old maxims, with squads full of internationals honed to slot in perfectly. But for those of us not privy to Sean O’Driscoll’s reasoning, this looked like random tinkering. And it didn’t work.

As it happens, I thought we had the better of the first half by a margin, with better midfield control, and the continual pressure of Elliott’s runs on the right. Admittedly, Tranmere were hampered by two forced substitutions in the first 33 minutes. Our superiority was only theoretical, since neither goalkeeper was troubled for quite a long time. We had little but a couple of near misses by Spicer to show for all the work until the 31st minute, when Achterberg was at last called into action to save a header from Maher.

45 minutes passed, and I was beginning to think that we had the measure of Tranmere and were ready to take them in the second half. Then, with a minute of added time played, Taylor’s cross from the right was cleared to the unmarked Beresford on the left of the penalty area. His cross was a good one, and Hume was the quickest to react, beating two defenders to head in from close range.

HT: 1-0

Whatever O’Driscoll said at half time seemed to have little effect, as the second half performance was poorer than the first. This was an overall impression; and yet, we had more chances. Elliott, in particular, forced Achterberg to a fine diving save, had a shot deflected by Goodison, and then saw Achterberg just reach his cunning lob. Fletcher also headed narrowly over.

The two rejected strikers eventually made it on to the pitch, Holmes in 73 for Rodrigues, and Connell in 78 when Cummings appeared to pull a hamstring. By now, Tranmere were sitting comfortably, and scored again in 88. It was a mixture of luck and skill. Luck when McAteer’s shot cannoned off the defence and fell nicely for Hall; skill when Hall adroitly made space for himself and sent a sharp shot into the far corner of the net. The result was particularly disappointing when you see that Boscombe had 59% of the possession, according to the official figures. Generally this season they have turned possession into results. Let us hope this was a one-off aberration. At least other results the next day meant that we stayed in fourth position.

A word of praise for Prenton Park, a splendidly roomy ground for the Third Division. Next day, some of us, having overnighted in Chester, saw Chester City v Shrewsbury Town, which gave us no worries for third round day. Let’s hope we don’t need a replay; the Deva Stadium is the grottiest of the new grounds in the last twenty years, hardly even suited to this Fourth Division match.

Wade Elliott

AFCB: Moss, Young, Maher, Broadhurst, Cummings, O’Connor, Spicer, Browning, Elliott, Rodrigues, Fletcher.
Subs: Stewart, Purches, Coutts, Holmes (on in 73 for Rodrigues), Connell (on in 78 for Cummings).

Robin Stieber, Fulham