Dec 28 Millwall 0-2 AFC Bournemouth Att: 10407

Despite this being the second game in three days, there wasn’t much in the way of squad rotation, Kermorgant predictably coming in for Pitman with Smith more surprisingly being given a chance on the left of midfield, hardly a vote of confidence in Fraser or Stanislas. It was good to see Rantie fit enough to be named as one of the substitutes.

Millwall’s poor form had put a dent in both the numbers and vociferousness of their fans, and given the lack of ambition quality that their team displayed it was easy to understand why. Unfortunately if you are going to make damage limitation your priority you could do without Danny Shittu in defence spectacularly living up to his name, displaying the full range of skills he has acquired over a long career, i.e. both heading and hoofing. Millwall weren’t shy about putting in some late challenges throughout the game, but in fairness some of these stemmed from defenders desperately attempting to cover for Shittu’s immobility.

Bournemouth were not at their most fluent in the first half, the Daniels/Smith combo understandably lacking the co-ordination of the established Daniels/Pugh pairing, but this never looked like a game that we would need to be firing on all cylinders to win. Kermorgant forced a good save from Forde with an early free kick. Boruc’s main problem was how to keep warm on a chilly day, and he was probably grateful for one defensive lapse which required him to sprint out and boot the ball clear. Without it necessarily looking really imminent, the disparity in ability between the two sides was always likely to bring a goal eventually, and in the 32nd minute Daniels broke through on the left and was tripped from behind by Martin. Forde went the right way but Kermorgant’s penalty was too accurate for him.    

A second goal soon followed. Millwall’s clumsy attempt to play the ball out from the back went horribly wrong, Ritchie gave the ball to Wilson, helpfully played onside by Shittu lumbering out of defence in slow motion. Callum crossed to Arter in front of goal, who was composed enough to turn and pick his spot despite being surrounded by three defenders, beating Forde comfortably with a low shot, before running the length of the pitch to celebrate at the Bournemouth end. Five goals in five games for Arter, who finally seems to have understood what is required of a midfielder at this level and is easily our most improved player this season. Holloway later claimed that the foul for the penalty was outside the box and that Wilson was offside for the second goal, the video evidence suggested that he was wrong on both counts.

2-0 at half-time without having played particularly well. Holloway introduced Fuller for the second half, but the ploy which had worked well for him at Dean Court never looked like coming off a second time. Forde got a good round of applause from the away fans as he took his place in the goal,  and even Malone picked up much less abuse than usual, such was the relaxed mood.

Millwall never seemed to have the conviction that they could get back in the game, and Bournemouth started to string passes together with increasing fluency. Gosling came on for Kermorgant and was unlucky not to add to the total with a fierce drive which flashed just wide, and when Pugh replaced Smith the resumption of his partnership with Daniels greatly increased the threat to an already demoralised Millwall defence. Bournemouth seemed to be lasting the pace much better than their opponents, being top of the league probably helps the energy levels. A Millwall defender did well to avoid an own goal, somehow managing to get a dangerous low cross over the bar from in front of goal. Williams added to the afternoon’s entertainment by getting himself sent off near the end. Left straddling Wilson’s back after a challenge, he took exception to the striker standing up and depositing him on the floor. His attempted stamp didn’t make much contact and Wilson creditably made nothing of it, but the aggressive reaction was enough for a red card. Arter missed a sitter towards the end, spooning a right footed effort over the bar, but we can save that one for a game when we need it.

For the second game running our opponents managed no shots on target, not great news for Boruc’s ambitions to win back his place in the Poland team, but a tribute to the defence and the tireless work of Surman and Arter in front of them. 48 points, which should be enough to keep us up. Perhaps it’s safe to mention the “p” word now.

Man Of The MatchMan of the Match: Simon Francis, impeccable as always.

AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Smith, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Gosling (for Kermorgant, 58 mins), Pugh (for Smith, 69 mins), Fraser (for Ritchie, 88 minutes), Camp, Cargill, Pitman, Rantie

Richard Barker, Leyton