The game started brightly enough for the Cherries with an early corner, which lead to a rasping shot from Pugh, leaving the keeper to collect at the second attempt with Fogden following up. Straight up the end other end from the kick out Daniels conceded a free kick a few yards outside the Cherries penalty area. Bencherif placed the ball beautifully top left where even the best keeper would have done well to get anywhere near the ball (5th min).
Then in the 8th minute a sight that is becoming a bit too familiar is that of Adam Barrett going off with a tweaked hamstring. Such a waste of a substitution if Barrett isn't 100% fit to start with - which he clearly wasn't. Zubar's first duty coming on the pitch was to defend a corner.
As the half developed, the Cherries got far more involved, being camped in the County half of the pitch for long spells. Reward for the Cherries approach work came in the 21st minute when good build up play down the left hand side involving Pugh and Daniels saw the ball crossed to Symes. His shot was block, but deflected to Thomas who had the simplest of tap-ins from all of 6 inches! It was no more than the Cherries deserved at this stage.
Also developing was a battle of wills between Zubar and the infamous Lee Hughes as each was trying to get the better of the other. It has to be said that Zubar had the upper hand despite the antics of the shaven headed one.
A remarkable miss from Couty, with the goal gaping came in the 28th minute when Jeff Hughes managed to (somehow) hit the under side of the cross bar when it seemed easier to place the ball in to the back of the net.
Leading up to the half time break the Cherries started to turn the screw against County as numerous chances were created. Fogden went close, Francis produced a fantastic shot, which took a slight deflection, leading to the keeper fumbling the ball past the far post, Purches saw a rasping shot go just wide.
The battle of wills between Zubar and the infamous Hughes went up a notch when the shaven headed one went down in a very theatrical manner (needless to say in the penalty area) with Zubar tracking back. Either it was a clear cut penalty, or a clear cut booking for a blatent and dramatic dive. The ref bottled making any decision (55th min)!
The tempo of the match was clearly lifted after the 'penalty/dive' incident, seeing Daniels making a determined run down the left hand side. He cut inside to find Symes who daisy-cutter of a shot lacked any strength to provide any test for the County keeper.
Zubar proved his weight in gold when County's Demontagnac was seemingly clear through on goal - 1-on-1 with Flahavan - then from nowhere Zubar appeared, to produce a precise challenge to block the effort when it seemed easier for the County player to score. Up the other end, Wes Thomas was also thwarted by a great saving block. back in front of the Cherries goal, a Bencherif shot skimmed the outside of the left hand up right with Flahavan beaten all ends up!
In the 67th minute it was great to see Shaun MacDonald return to first team action once again - replacing Arter.
Moving in to the final quarter of the match, I think the battle of wills between Zubar and Hughes was clearly game, set and match to Zubar as Hughes clearly lost his way with any forray forward County tried.
The icing on the cake on an entertaining match from a Cherries perspective came with 8 minutes left on the clock as a lovely run from MacDonald dazzled the County defence. A lay off to Fogden allowed little Wes to side foot the ball home from the edge of the area.
All in all I was impressed with this performance, the right side won in the end.
Long before the stadium announcer announced who the man of the match was being awarded to it was clear that Stephane Zubar was head and shoulders was going to be given the award. That isn't to say that there weren't other notable performances throughout the side - because there were.
AFCB: Flahavan, Francis, Cook, Barrett, Daniels, Fogden, Arter, Purches, Pugh, Symes, Thomas
Subs: Jalal, Gregory, Zubar (for Barrett, 9 mins), MacDonald (for Arter, 67 mins), Fletcher (for Symes, 76 mins)
Andy Burton, Portsmouth