A combination of our nervousness and Derby harrying resulted in a shocking opening six minutes in which we could hardly string two passes together. The only bright spot was the sight of Chris Martin holding his thigh in a way which suggested he was not long for this game.
Cherries eventually got into the Derby half and as usual, Wilson was up close and personal when Rams’ goalie Grant was attempting to punt downfield. Somewhat perturbed by the attention, Grant stepped out of the box whilst still holding the ball. Cue baying for a sending off but ref Clattenburg correctly awarded a free-kick to Cherries and no booking. After all the fuss Kermorgant put the ball tamely over the bar.
Cherries started to get a foothold in the game and after just eleven minutes good work from Wilson down the right flank saw him deliver an accurate cross for Kermogant to chest down into the path of the onrushing RITCHIE who slammed the ball low into the net from ten yards.
Martin failed to run off his problem and 14 minutes he trudged off. Until afew weeks ago this would have been a fairly major blow to Derby but now, arguably, it was to their benefit as the imposing and athletic physique of Darren Bent appeared from the bench. My pal, a long term admirer of Bent, confidently predicted he would score.
Boruc saved from Hughes, Ritchie had a shot, Wilson headed just over and then on 27 minutes and not for the first time the season, Cook was caught thinking about a back-pass to Boruc over by the East Stand touchline. A simple tap into touch would have done but he allowed himself to be dis-posessed by Bent who advanced down the wing with plenty of time to pick out INCE who dummied one defender before confidently striking home from about 16 yards.
On the forty minute mark Wilson broke through on but his attempted lob from thirty yards went well wide with Grant stranded. I mentioned then that one area for Wilson to improve was his shooting ability. He’s great at one on ones and close-range right time, right place stuff, but hasn’t achieved so much when it comes to straightforward power shooting. It took him two minutes to answer that statement.
Kermorgant chased a bit of a lost cause right down to the Derby goal-line and in nicking the ball off the dithering Buxton, hooked it back to WILSON who had his back to goal and a couple of defenders in attendance. A quick turn, a vicious rising shot across Grant and somewhat against the run of the last quarter of an hour, Cherries would have a half-time lead.
As the second-half started I was reminded that Bent still had to score and during the first fifteen minutes or so Cherries had the best of the possession, if not the clear cut chances to get a third and possibly winning goal.
Will Hughes had amply demonstrated why he is one of the best, if not the best player in the Championship with superb touch, control, awareness of space and team-mates movement. He fully justified the use of Hugh McIlvanny’s phrase ‘unremittingly assertive’. On the other hand, winger Jamie Ward was having a quiet and ineffective time. He was subbed for Dawkins on 66 minutes and having read up on Dawkins’ recent performances, this was not necessarily a good thing for Cherries.
Tommy Elphick made a heroic block from Ince’s shot after a neat turn. Following this the ball went up to Wilson who broke forward on our left flank. Ritchie was the only team-mate to keep up with him. Easy to say it from the stands but with three Derby players in Ritchie’s vicinity, it would have been better for Wilson to hold up and wait for further support. However he crossed for Ritchie, the ball was picked up by the Derby defence who then had acres of space to build up a nice move on their left flank. Dawkins moved into a large gap to receive the ball and crossed low for BENT, who got ahead of marker Cooke and met the ball at the near post and with a clever control and turn, he drove the ball into the roof of the net. Just two minutes had elapsed since Dawkins came on.
Arter reminded us he was playing with a forceful run but to no real effect.
Derby started to get on top and Eddie made a double substitution on 77, MacDonald and Smith on for Pugh and Kermorgant. Pugh’s contribution was more notable for his defensive work. This provided some relief and whilst the visitors dominated the remaining time, it wasn’t exactly heart-stopping stuff. Cherries fans were pleased to hear the final whistle.
A fair result, an excellent game and advert for Championship football. Derby had done their homework on us and it never really happened down either wing.
It is hard not to see Derby going up automatically. My concern for us is that, on certain occasions, we haven’t quite got the physical power to go with our undoubted skill, teamwork and tactics.
They say the league table doesn’t lie and looking at it this morning amongst our excellent figures one thing stands out like a sore thumb. We have let in too many goals at home.
MOM: Callum Wilson
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Camp, Ward, Fraser, Stanislas, Smith (for Pugh, 77 mins), MacDonald (for Kermorgant, 77 mins), Pitman (for Ritchie, 93 mins)