Boscombe had 7 on the bench for the first time in ages, so perhaps the various postponements were having a beneficial effect, & we had this month’s new permanent skipper in Pearce. The scoreboard & undercroft screens were still dark. Boscombe k.o. to the North end, never a good sign. Goulding trapped the ball well; Pitman shot from too far. Feeney crossed, Pitman did the bicycle kick against a defender, so was already in glory-goal mode. The team seemed confident, working on a strong platform with Robinson out & about. Feeney won a corner; Igoe shot just over the angle.
I suggested to the Exiles chairman beside me that with this dominance the home side should be making an advantage, & when that doesn’t happen... So Shakers put a curler in at Jalal, then a chip came to a forward 25 yards out in acres of space. Garry was shadowing, but too far away; the assist put Dawson in on an angled run. With Pearce behind him, Garry should have come across more to block off; Hollands was tracking the run but only to the extent of not quite keeping alongside. So the shot went across Jalal; 0-1, 9 mins. Undoubtedly the away side used space better, moving better than the home strikers. Feeney showed he was learning how to win free kicks, but Shakers closed down quicker & better. A Shakers shot on the right was sliced; Feeney crossed again for Goulding’s header to be palmed out. Cummings was released a lot down the left but either the cross was poor or too few went into the box. There was too much of a gap between the home central midfielders & the forwards. Then poor clearances saw the holding midfielder Barry-Murphy sling it crossfield. Cummings waved his left foot at it airily; the winger anticipated & intercepted, had a clear run in & rifled it for 0-2, 39 mins. Dreadful.
Which was the away side here? By now there was no atmosphere, apart from the few away fans to our left. Boscombe had 2 successive corners; head tennis led to a catch by the keeper. Shakers broke away; the cross was tapped in but the “scorer” (utterly unmarked) was flagged offside. Some boos as the players left the field. HT: 0-2.
Shakers k.o. & a good move saw them shoot wide. Feeney & Igoe had swapped wings, to little subsequent effect. Goulding went down – not a foul by bandana-man - & Garry made a good covering header for a corner. At last the subs: Fletcher for Goulding on 56 & McQuoid for Igoe on 57 (really simultaneous), with McQuoid coming over to the left wing. This produced a little more urgency for a time; Fletcher shot wide, then Feeney cut in & his left-footer was palmed away with no-one near to pick up the pieces. There was no lack of effort by Boscombe but it was all too static; a good start to a move led time after time to forwards & defenders lining up for a lumpen cross, as if the players had to concentrate more on sphincter control, producing little more than flatulence.
A home corner was headed in, but the cross had been seen to drift out then in. Pitman hit & hoped again; by the 85th minute this game had become tedious. Then bandana-man sliced a clearance onto the top of the crossbar & away for a corner. At this late stage, Shakers still ran & closed down. Cummings tried a long shot, which was deflected for a corner. Shakers tried a cross-shot – wide. Pitman forced his way through a defence no longer needing to concentrate, & rolled it left-footed to the left of the keeper; 1-2, 90+1 mins. In desperation – too little, too late – Connell came on for Cummings on 90+2, but merely managed to handle in the box. The last few seconds were frantic & meaningless. FT: 1-2.
So Shakers did to Boscombe what Boscombe did to Shakers on Aug.8, which was the best first-dayer I’d seen in many years. The essential difference between then & today was Molesley. No team should ever have such reliance on one player (or 2 – think Liverpool with Gerrard & Torres) – but today Shakers had the mobility, movement, sharpness, of a typical Alan Knill side, most of which were missing from the home team. A manager can only do what he can with resources at his disposal, but with 18 of the first 20 present here (Cooper also still absent), more should have been made. Howe said after the Rotherham home defeat he couldn’t put his finger on what went wrong; those at that game could tell him exactly, in terms of team selection, shape, tactics. So it was here; Hollands & Robinson are too similar, & Hollands has no pace, as seen in his tracking back for the first goal. He & Pitman can’t run properly – look at their gait - & Fletcher never could run either, never mind his suspect knees. Goulding did 3 good things today: that early trap; anticipating a bounce to head to home advantage; and the saved header. He is not a target man - he plays better when put through, but is still lightweight. That needs a midfielder able to support the front 2, who could also make triangles, angled passes, break the line by running through. Hey – just like the opening goal today. But if Hollands did support, it was either too late, or too early & almost playing with back to goal. Futcher & Sodje formed one of the older central-defence pairings in the division, & barely broke sweat against a young pair of (less- than) likely lads, also absorbing Fletcher’s efforts easily.
I’m all for a striker backing his own ability & showing confidence, but Pitman needs to do the basics, the simple things, first. Jalal, Pearce & Robinson did their jobs; Igoe was ineffectual. Partington should have been used for some enthusiasm, urgency & work-rate.
Then there’s Feeney’s crosses, which rarely went to strikers. Partly his doing, partly the front 2 not coming in at the right time. Add to that poor passing from other players & the odd mistake, & Boscombe should be looking at a mid-table finish. But those teams with several games in hand will have to play so frequently that draws could be more likely than wins; Boscombe could be promoted by default just by hanging on for a bunch of draws.
If Howe is able to work out what is wrong, & make amends from within the squad (the embargo won’t be lifted until the CVA payments are completed, at the earliest), then he will lay the ground to being one of the greatest managers at this club. He worked wonders in 2009; now comes the crunch, now he needs to show testicular fortitude.
Bradbury was the sponsors’ choice, & he was no worse than moderate, although his passing was not on the mark too often. Feeney kept at it. But, bluntly, it was all-round mediocrity & this correspondent feels no player deserves the accolade.
AFCB: Jalal, Bradbury, Garry, Pearce, Cummings, Feeney, Robinson, Hollands, Igoe, Goulding, Pitman
Subs: Thomas, Guyett, Bartley, Partington, Fletcher (for Goulding, 56 mins), McQuoid (for Igoe, 57 mins), Connell (for Cummings, 94 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford