Jan 17 Rotherham United 1-0 AFC Bournemouth Att: 3270

Last updated : 20 January 2009 By Peter Wicks
The team came out from the far end of the main stand, walking in 2 parallel lines, lining up then shaking hands in international fashion. Cherries wore the black-inversion of the home strip, & included all 3 loanees: Button in goal, Wiggins at left-back & Thomson on the right wing. Bradbury stayed at right-back & Pitman was again the lone striker, with Partington & Cooper holding. Millers k.o. "towards" us; Button soon showed his lack of kicking prowess but Thomson's weaving won a free with Pearce hitting over the bar. Wiggins showed pace on his flank, winning a free, which was too long. The tempo was steady, both sides sussing each other out, but Bartley made a driving run. Millers sliced clearances; early play had been mostly with C.

A rare home attack (the first proper one by Millers) led to head tennis in the away area. A header was misdirected, the no.10 hit from the "D" & it crept inside Button's left-hand post. Undeserved, but 1-0, 18 mins. The overall game plan was decent, but it's the little details - people not picked up. Button fumbled; the subsequent free was hit over the bar. A dart into the home area - the ball was not falling for Cherries, & incompetence followed. Passes were over-hit or misplaced by both sides. Thomson was becoming a spare part, his evident pace underused; he needed to move into, & be played into, space. He needs more "muscle" experience - this was for real, not a reserve game. Wiggins showed the pace Cummings used to have, & used it to head for a home corner.

Millers made more opportunities, hitting over the bar from a throw & twice from corners. A free header went wide from a free-kick, & a header at Button saw him push it round for a corner. HT: 1-0.

Howe made 2 changes for the restart, with Ward replacing Guyett (injury? more pace?) &, tactically, Connell on for Partington. That meant 4-1-3-2. An early away corner saw Ward's header caught on the line, then Bartley made a great run (good feed to him). In reply, throughout the half Millers hit over the bar 4 times & twice hit wide. Cherries crosses went to the keeper. Thomson went central - why? Hollands was yellowed for a late tackle, then Bradbury was in big trouble (agony) from a tackle so he was replaced by Molesley on 64. While Bradbury was laid out, play continued & Hollands was clumsy; the ref's arm pointed straight to the dressing-room & Hollands trooped off disconsolately. The 2nd yellow & red were shown as an afterthought. Bad to worse. Just after, Mark Burchill came on for Millers - to think once he'd been a big-money transfer from Celtic. Pitman, working his socks off again (but to no avail), was yellowed for a tackle.

Molesley was lively again, but Cherries were powder-puff. Thomson went for a through ball that was just too far ahead. Button dealt with a knock-back, then a cross from the left saw Molesley alone at the far (our) post. He hit it first time, saw it roll beyond the other post & collapsed in a heap over the goal line in despair. Then the ball was looped up to Connell, standing on the spot. He volleyed in splendidly - but the linesman was correct to flag offside. During added time Molesley made a run & cross, which was headed over. A tip round saw 3 away corners before the ref blew for time & to prevent an undeserved equalizer. FT: 1-0.

This was a melange of mediocrity; were both teams footballers or miming? Cherries seemed to be playing by numbers, with no unit supporting the next unit. Very depressing, and one wonders about what appears to be terminological inexactitude emanating from the boardroom - promises of finance & progress - hmmmmm? Howe has now become manager proper; players, staff, fans wish him well but what a sow's ear from which to try to fashion a silk purse. He's the 3rd of 3 managers who've yet to succeed with this bunch of players. Worse: yes, the players, desperately lacking belief & confidence, tried (especially Pitman), but I felt a sense of the club playing out time, resigned to relegation. But there have been web comments to the effect that the Conference would not accept Boscombe…

Man Of The Match
No-one stamped his authority on the game, so this is an empty slot.

AFCB: Button, Wiggins, Guyett, Pearce, Cooper, Bartley, Partington, Thomson, Hollands, Bradbury, Pitman
Subs: Jalal, Garry, Ward (for Guyett, HT), Molesley (for Bradbury, 64 mins), Connell (for Partington, HT)
Peter Wicks, Bulford