In the warm-up, Francis, Pitman & Daniels were wearing gloves – hopefully more in honour of the opponents than some wimpish sense of feeling the cold. Rain came at all angles. Glovers had our old favourite Hayter at 9, & our former goalie Stewart on the bench.
Glovers k.o. towards the north stand but the tone was set with a lovely ball from Pitman to wide right and a good centre. The opposing 10, Gavin Williams, showed neat touches but was always too lightweight to forge a career further up the ladder. O’Kane was organising midfield, but Glovers had more of the play. The 17 went through but miscued horribly. Francis centred behind the goal, & James needed to kick hastily; the team had yet to settle into a groove. A good right-side build-up ended with too strong a centre from Francis. Then Pugh, Arter & Daniels linked well with the latter’s low cross just missed in the 6-yard box. This was the shape of things to come.
Daniels’s early cross saw Fogden & O’Kane have right-footers blocked and over respectively. Steady vertical rain presaged Arter feeing his groin. Pugh seemed to bottle out of going for a ball; one of the guys behind me, not for the first time, called him “Chicken” the rest of the match. Oh well; yer pays yer money... O’Kane tidied up in front of the back-four; Arter pulled back a midfielder and received a yellow. Pitman fed Grabban on the left but tapped the return to the keeper. In general, Pitman was a little behind Grabban, mainly to pick up the second ball, as he has insufficient pace to be the front man in a through-ball system. The home side’s main failing was using too many short passes on such a wet, slippery pitch. Pitman’s passing intentions were well-thought, but execution was not good enough often enough. It’s as if he felt the ball was a falafel, misunderstanding the Christmas message as chickpeas on earth, good will to all people.
James had to make a double save from a long shot, and there were too many hefty clearances for Grabban to chase. Arter appeared to have an ankle problem. Then Grabban went up the left, headed for the “D”, and Fogden was in the clear, wide right - the obvious ball. So Grabban passed it left to Pugh, dashed forward, and side-footed the impeccable cross into the net. 1-0, 32, and not only a classic footballing goal but it must’ve been so heartening for players & management to see a training-pitch routine come off so well. James let a right-wing cross slip underneath him but it was cleared; a moment later Grabban hit it just past the far post.
As curtains of rain drifted towards the east stand, Pitman fed the right wing. The low cross nearly reached Pugh and from the corner Francis hit it over. Fogden was felled; Daniels hit the free and Cook seemed to be obstructed or worse but no pen given. The half ended with Grabban giving it to Pugh whose cross went for a corner. Glovers, having had at least 60% of the play, perhaps didn’t deserve to go in behind; HT: 1-0.
O’Kane began the second half with a lovely run; Francis’s cross produced defensive confusion. Then O’Kane linked well with Pugh but the cross was too strong. Francis put over another cross; O’Kane hit it over, this time with his left. Phil H commented “his other right foot”; my riposte – “no – his other wrong foot”. Rain had ceased but wind went first to the SW, then the SE. A left-side defensive muddle saw Grabban alone with the ball and the keeper; the better option was to pass inside to an unmarked Pitman but instead he shot and the keeper put it behind. Nevertheless, Cherries had gained control of proceedings. Another Daniels cross was kept out, and the resultant strong shot saved by the post. Grabban pulled it back; Pitman’s shot hit a defender for a corner; Cherries played in waves of sweeping attacks, often a big ball over the top for Grabban to chase and defenders having to turn.
I’d suggested to neighbours in Exiles Alley that once we had a 2nd goal, Eddie could unleash McQuoid (replacing Fogden who has many fine qualities, but not attacking incisiveness) on a tiring defence. Instead, Eddie read my mind and decided to make the swap on 65 in order to gain that 2nd goal. Yeovil realised time was running out, so James had to go down well for a long shot. Glovers had 2 corners in fairly quick succession, but Elphick & Cook were solid and pro-active. Then Glovers had a header go onto the top of the home net. The away side was having a go, but a bad pass let in McQuoid who attacked the area, fed Francis whose cross reached Arter by the “D”. Quick shuffle, and the left-footer screamed into the net past the keeper’s despairing right finger-tips. 2-0, 73. Ooohhh yes – you beauty! In for the kill, Grabban fed McQuoid who put in a strong cross which Pitman just failed to convert at the back stick. Grabban streaked away again but too strong a touch let it go to the keeper.
Pugh went for a classic Pugh move; the shot was saved out to Arter who hit it over. James cleared to Pitman who went up the left but wastefully hit it the wrong side of the near post. Elphick was yellowed for a pull-back, then Francis crossed yet again and Pitman, beyond the far post, stopped. Pull-back? Possibly hand-ball; anyway, brooking no argument with team-mates, Pitman grabbed the ball, planted it on the spot and hit it to the keeper’s left as the keeper went right. 3-0, 86.
To a standing ovation, Grabban & Pitman left on 88 in favour of Hughes & McDermott, both of whom needed pitch-time (especially the former, given imminent matches). They & the others played out time, but not before an away corner, and another sweeping move with a Francis cross and McQuoid heading wide at the far post. Much applause at the final whistle; F-T: 3-0.
The first double of the season; the right team for the right performance against opponents who always try to play football. And Lewis was able to Grabban other goal. But the set-up may need stiffening against the more street-wise Crawley & Brentford. O’Kane was always talking in midfield, now showing his abilities in a wider sense. Sorry, Miles, but the back-four these last few games is more than adequate. Had crosses been of a greater consistent quality, and better options taken on some occasions, perhaps a more realistic 5-1 score-line might’ve been achieved. As for Glovers, another 2 Hayters are needed – behind the front 2, & pulling the strings in midfield. He for one didn’t deserve that score-line.
So – half-way through the season, up to 7th, GD +7, 38 points, so only 12 needed for 50 & safety, & the fixture list suggests at least 4 more home wins so relegation appears unlikely. A few too many are beginning to sound like promotion is not only an inevitability but that there’d be a backlash if it doesn’t happen. That is not a sensible approach. So let’s enjoy the run, & the football, while it lasts. Oh – and Pitman still can’t run properly.
The sponsors went for Arter; texters for Grabban – both accolades deserved. But each performance needs a foundation-stone. This season it’s been MacDonald until the injury; today it was Cook who was steady, calming, always doing the right thing at the right time, so in this observer’s opinion (& that of others) he deserves the award.
AFCB: James, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Fogden, Arter, O'Kane, Pugh, Grabban, Pitman
Subs: Jalal, Partington, Tubbs, Fletcher, McQuoid (for Fogden, 65 mins), Hughes (for Grabban, 88 mins), McDermott (for Pitman, 88 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford