The only change since the Boxing Day victory over Yeovil saw Fogden replaced by McQuoid in right midfield. The visitors' line-up included former Cherries' stalwart Shaun Cooper.
Like the last meeting of the two teams, rain fell heavily at the start. However, as on Boxing Day, the pitch looked in good nick and both teams began passing the ball around pretty fluently. The first chance fell to the abovementioned Cooper who drilled a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards. However, as the Cherries also started to find their rhythm, the Telepathic Twins began to make forays down the left flank, Pugh nearly flicking a Daniels cross in at the near post.
The first quarter of an hour was fairly even, but it was the hosts who took the lead when Steve Cook found himself in an unaccustomed position out wide on the left of the Crawley box. Shifting the ball to his right foot, the defender delivered a venomous cross which Alexander back-headed like a bullet into his own net. One-nil.
The Cherries were in the ascendency now and another goal looked on the cards when Pitman played the speedy Grabban through on goal, but our top goalscorer sent his cross-shot wide of the far post - a similar chance to the one he missed in the last game (but, hey, one can't complain too much!).
We had to wait until five minutes before half time for the second goal, and there was an element of controversy about it: Pugh cut inside from the left and was fouled 25 yards out - a clear free kick. Pitman took charge and appeared to confer with the ref, whereupon the Hitman immediately bent the ball round the forming wall and in off the far post with the Crawley players still thinking about how they should organize said wall! This clearly displeased one Richie Barker (and delighted another).
The second period saw the visitors come into the game more, especially after Cooper was replaced by the lively Billy Clarke who began causing us more than a few problems at the back. On one occasion he looked certain to find the net until David James stuck out a long leg to divert the ball to safety.
If the score had gone to 2-1 at that point, we might have had a sticky time of it. At the other end, we were still creating chances though with Pitman and Grabban both going close, and Cook should have done better when he sent a free header from a corner straight at Jones in the Crawley goal, but a vital third goal remained elusive.
However, with six minutes to go, the industrious Arter limped off to be
replaced by Tubbs whose first action was to find Grabban wide on the right near the half-way line. The striker spotted the run of O'Kane, now playing in a more advanced role with the introduction of Hughes, and struck a sublime lofted pass of 40 yards or more which the Irishman deftly controlled before slipping the ball past the onrushing Jones. A classy goal indeed, and one which put the seal on an emphatic victory.
12 wins out of 15 now, fifth in the table, and the Groves era fading like a bad dream. Let's hope Arter's injury isn't too serious, as he was immense today.
Hard to choose with so many good performances all through the team, but I'm giving it to O'Kane who not only had an excellent game as a more defensive midfielder but also showed a striker's touch in front of goal.
AFCB: James, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, McQuoid, Arter, O'Kane, Pugh, Pitman, Grabban
Subs: Jalal, Partington, McDermott, Fletcher, Fogden (for McQuoid, 67 mins), Hughes (for Pitman, 79 mins), Tubbs (for Arter, 83 mins)
Ellis griffin, Chertsey