First a check on pre-match culinary option changes. The bad news is that Yeah Man!, the Caribbean café on Boscombe High Street (opp. Palmerston Road) has closed. The good news is that it has re-opened as Nativ, mainly African with some Caribbean dishes, and just as good. Weather – cloudy, smattering of precipitation, blustery.
Boscombe k.o. to the N end again; hmmm… A 20-yard drive was tipped round by Flahavan, & Cook sliced for a 3rd corner; good intent by the away side, setting out their stall. Thomas was through but put it wide. Long punt from the keeper, flick-on (head just in front of Zubar), the northern journeyman Devaney is ahead of Cook & Daniels, & the 25 drives it just inside Flahavan’ s right-hand post. 0-1, 4 mins. Tranmere pressed and closed down all over, but gradually Boscombe took control until a splendid move on the Tranmere left put the 16 inside Francis. The cross led to an air shot & a drive wide. Arter fed wide to Pugh who lobbed the keeper but was (correctly) flagged offside.
For once, Symes ran at the defence. A fortunate ricochet allowed Thomas to shoot from the right-hand part of the D. 2 defenders put feet in the way; the ball hit one & looped high & over the keeper’s right shoulder. 1-1, 18 mins. Unlucky for the guests, & by now Boscombe were moving smoothly. Arter & Symes were both crocked briefly. Thomas was a handful. Short corner on the home left wing. Pugh crosses right-footed and the line defender at the far stick appears to head it into the roof of the net; a 7-iron draw allowing for the wind... 2-1, 30 mins. Again fortunate, but we’ll take it.
Fletcher’s head was split! His picture at the top of the N Stand indicated a crack from hair to nose. In comparison, Cook showed composure and style in defence. But the wind was a problem, and Tranmere no pushover. Symes & Fogden were little more than nuisance value, but Symes did make some nice lay-offs with head & feet. Zubar was strong. At one point in this half, 2 home players (Arter & Pugh?) were preparing to take a free about 25 yards out. Both went for it; result: chaos. Purches went over to both to have a word. H-T: 2-1
Boscombe played effectively a 4-4-1-1, with Symes a little withdrawn (perhaps in more than one sense). This allowed the veteran Goodison to clear up and free to intercept. Boscombe didn’t make passes count, far too often. The lively 17 (Akins – could become a decent player) put in a good snap shot at Flahavan; Arter did similar as a riposte, and as usual played well during his last 5 minutes of pitch-time, being replaced by MacDonald on 64 (one could see assistant manager Wilcox counting down the minutes). This reporter felt that we had yet to see the best of Daniels; evident strength but plenty more to come. MacDonald put Thomas in at inside-left, resulting in a corner; the sub. was already improving midfield, but Boscombe were making heavy weather of the game. Cook was crocked briefly. Tranmere attacked constantly but the home back 4 proved strong.
A double sub on 82; Gregory replaced Purches (a good shift), and the Fletcher-stretcher wheeled on the Big Man instead of the lightweight Symes – all before a corner was taken. Not necessarily good practice, but this nearly did the trick. Pugh was yellowed for a debatable foul - or possibly for back-chat regarding the decision. Then a corner should have been given – according to all 3 stands and Goodison – but instead it was a goal-kick. Boscombe failed to keep the ball consistently, and the ref. seemed to be filling his quota of free-kicks (few in the first 45). F-T: 2-1
Nothing like as satisfying as the previous week. 2 lucky goals; where’s the ball inside the full-back, with a cross for the in-rushing striker? Where’s the ball down the channel (not enough today like that for Thomas)? Where’s the little triangles at the D – where Symes & Arter might profit? This correspondent is never satisfied. But this correspondent will also be the first to say that one has to build the team from the back, and there are signs that Fletcher-Zubar-Cook-Daniels may become the best back four since the “golden” days of Newson, Williams, Teale & Morrell. Tranmere fought, but lack of quality at the sharp end was a big factor and the wind didn’t help either side.
And now only 11 points needed to 51 & safety from 19 games, and up to 8th. And a positive goal difference at last. But midfield’s not quite right; it’s all too scuffling and nowhere near good enough for the big matches coming up later.
A very good decision for McQuoid to go on loan to Burnley; returning to Dean Court would not have been right, for him or the fans. And the Fletcher loan story – seemingly a typical journo twisting a comment by Bradbury into something it wasn’t. Barrett’s a good leader & captain, but Cook & Zubar (long-term contract NOW!) must now be the best pair at centre-back. Commitment is desirable but, like Baudry, rushing to return is not good for the long-term for player or club. Therefore good that Malone was not on the bench, & MacDonald only there, not starting. Ease them back for the top-4 games. However, perhaps questions should be asked of training, warm-up & physio regimes.
Flahavan – solid, dependable, not at fault for goal from my angle.
Francis – Ditto, apart from being turned inside-out soon after the away goal; some flair in attack and decent recovery.
Zubar – deservedly a cult hero.
Cook – steadiest defender.
Daniels – seemed to play within himself – very solid.
Pugh – danger in first period but less evident later.
Purches – outfield captain and steadying influence.
Fogden – usual nuisance value but less delivery than of late.
Arter – curate’s egg; Hollywood passes else a Ray Wilkins sideways preference, lots of effort but caught in possession too often.
Gregory – reduced but effective role.
MacDonald – best midfielder at the club, proved again here.
Symes – good cushioned headers & little lay-offs but didn’t attack the back four enough. Delicate pastel shades and brush strokes aren’t sufficient.
Thomas – usual effort & deserved goal if fortunate; carving lumps out of the defence wood and stone, sculpting opportunities, is his trade.
Fletcher – livelier than Symes.
Bradbury – seems to be achieving solidity gradually.
Cook for being the steadiest, especially in the face of alarming off-field allegations.
Thanks to Phil H. for some very perceptive observations included in this report.
AFCB: Flahavan, Francis, Cook, Zubar, Daniels, Fogden, Arter, Purches, Pugh, Symes, Thomas
Subs: Jalal, Cummings, MacDonald (for Arter, 64 mins), Gregory (for Purches, 82 mins), Fletcher (for Symes, 82 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford