Even talk of Rogers losing his job if his team lost. However, always beware hubris & nemesis; check out Proverbs 16:18.
The floodlights seemed brighter – improved for this TV game? How many dirt-trackers would play? At the start, 5 for the Cherries, which was fair enough but 2 would not come up to scratch. Cargill replaced Cook alongside the retained Elphick, with Smith on the left. Gosling & O’Kane came in for Arter & the cup-tied Surman, and Kermorgant & Stanislaus for Pitman & MP. With the Belles of St. Fairies knocked out the previous night, Boruc was given clearance so started. Liverpool k.o. towards the North Stand, & soon conceded 2 throw-ins, as did Boscombe straight after. Elphick & Boruc combined well, and Smith made a driving run. Stanislaus and Kermorgant, the latter with a chest-pass, put in Wilson who left-side-footed past the keeper’s left-hand post. If he’d used his better foot…
Lallana put in a searing drive that Boruc tipped over the angle. Boscombe passes were too often too long, easily telegraphed & intercepted. Coutinho & Sterling were making an impact; the defence had to make several blocks. Gerrard played quarter-back; Liverpool now in control and looking better than the FA Cup game last January – playing themselves back into form. The ball came over to Henderson on the right in the area; he headed it back into the 6-yard box where Sterling stole in & guided a low header to the right of Boruc. 0-1, 20. Ah.
Liverpool played a half-second quicker; surer in passing & trapping. Flicky-fingers Markovic (sent off in the recent Euro game for flicking his fingers in the face of the Basel player behind him) banged back in a clearance, to the left of AB. 0-2, 27. Oh. This was a reality check. Francis went up the wing, cut back superbly only to see Kermorgant hit over from by the spot. At last, Boscombe came back into the game and from a corner a Gosling pile-driver was blocked. Sterling was right through again, but Boruc was in the way. I’d not want to put all the blame on O’Kane, but he was not able to provide the defensive cover he’s done in the past. Stanislaus at last went for the goal-line & put in a cross – hung up for easy collection. A free then corner to the home side were wasted. HT: 0-2
At the restart, Gerrard was a second quicker than Kermorgant to anticipate. Wilson & Stanislaus messed up a flick between them; the pass went forward like a knife through butter, Lallana fed Sterling who turned Elphick inside-out & hit it across Boruc to the latter’s right-hand corner. 0-3, 51. Oh well; lie back & think of England(‘s football team). A double substitution: Arter & Fraser on for Kermorgant & Stanislaus on 53. This allowed Gosling to go forward more; Ritchie went for the line, hit a right-footed low cross, Gosling took it across a defender & thumped it at the keeper. The net-minder should’ve grasped it but under his body it went. 1-3, 57. Suddenly, Dean Court was a cauldron of noise.
Amidst all this, Cargill was still calm and steady. O’Kane lofted a centre for Smith to head back across the goal, just too far for Wilson to connect at the far post. Gosling was more in the game, but Lucas Leiva was continuing to be superb at making space for Gerrard. Sterling missed at the far post, then Gosling went in & curved a shot onto the post! Ritchie followed this with shooting across goal, between continual battles with the big unit known as Kolo Toure. Fraser added pace & purpose. Smith continued to be fast & tricky; even from the start, showing himself as almost exclusively right-footed, Liverpool (& Henderson in particular) did not seek to play on that. O’Kane dummied deliciously allowing Francis to hit a long one just over; Boscombe not cowed and always seeking to play – it wasn’t quite a case of men against boys.
A final throw of the dice: Pitman on for O’Kane. Francis & Ritchie had for much of the game been blocked off by the left-side defender & Flicky-Fingers, so at least 50% of home attacking potential was banjaxed. But Fraser managed a great cross from that side, allowing Cargill to head at the keeper. Ritchie hit it from 20 yards – easy save. And that was just about it. FT: 1-3
So this aspect of The Great Adventure is over. Eddie will learn where improvements are needed to go up the next step – as before, all about greater speed of thought & movement, shaving off those half-seconds. Surman would’ve provided better cover than the ring-rusty O’Kane, who looks good enough for the bottom-half of Div.2, & Arter gave a more settled look to that area when introduced. Your correspondent would like to see those 2, plus Gosling sitting behind Wilson, for away games. Not sure that Stanislaus will be given the chance to show if he’s worth keeping – not on this season’s evidence so far. The opposite is the case with Cargill; pretty well ready for Div.2 games. Last season, Leicester City set the benchmark; all 3 clubs promoted languish currently in the bottom 4 of Div.1. This season, Derby County sets the standard; the previous night, that club lost 1-3 at home to Chelsea. There’s the gulf.
Sponsors felt it was Gosling, given his goal, also hitting the post, and greater second-half contribution. However, midfield was probably the weakest part of the side so this observer gives it to the energetic Smith.
AFCB: Boruc; Francis, Elphick, Cargill, Smith; Ritchie, O’Kane (Pitman, 81), Gosling, Stanislas (Fraser, 53); Kermorgant (Arter, 53), Wilson
Subs (not used): Camp, Cook, Daniels, MacDonald
Peter Wicks, Bulford