Boscombe went into this match on the back of two slender away wins; I’d seen one of them, and it had scarcely been deserved, so I wasn’t personally convinced that the Great Recovery had begun. Nonetheless 7229 people turned up, which is a sign of confidence – and was particularly significant given the abysmal level of away support (the story going round that their supporters coach had been cancelled when only 11 fans had booked onto it). The desperate situation Bury are in, was evidenced by them only naming four substitutes: a goalie plus three outfield players, all of whom were employed at some point in this match.
We kicked off with Matt Ritchie at last in what he claims is his favoured position on the right wing. It was effectively his first chance to play here (because no-one wants to remember the 45 minutes when Painter was employed at left back!), but there was of course the huge risk that his performance wouldn’t live up to all the hype. Otherwise the team was unchanged from the previous week, meaning Wes Fogden who’d performed so well as a ‘utility player’ was dropped to the bench. Bury began brightly with Worrall losing his marker, breaking away at speed, and heading wide of Allsop’s goal – with only two minutes on the clock. Maybe this was just the early warning we needed, as the Cherries now settled down. With just five minutes gone, my pen ran out – justifying my practice (hitherto unnecessary) of always carrying a spare if I’m writing the match report! I got my replacement pen out just in time: on seven minutes, Grabban lobbed the ball down the right wing to a position just ahead of Pitman. Bury’s goalie ran out too far and overcommitted himself, enabling Pitman – albeit from an oblique angle – to fire home. This was the third match in a row where we’d led quite early on through a Pitman goal.
For the rest of the first half Bournemouth ran the show, having most of the possession but surprisingly not being able to add to the score line. It was as though our players were trying to be just a little too clever, making four passes where one would do. If a goal came it was going to be a clever one resulting from some complex moves – unless, of course, it were a Bury goal! On 23 minutes, totally against the run of play, Seaborne miscued a header, leaving a Bury player one on one with Daniels on Bournemouth’s left. Daniels couldn’t prevent the cross going in, and Cook and Allsop – despite both being in the goalmouth – couldn’t keep out Bishop’s header from close range. It looked so easy compared with the kinds of goal we were attempting to score, and I couldn’t help feeling we were making heavy weather of all this. As we continued our intricate play, I had chance to notice that we looked strongest on our left flank, where Daniels and Pugh have created an excellent partnership. We were looking weak in the centre of the park because, although Arter was winning a lot of balls, his distribution today was appalling. Near the end of the half Bury’s Craig Jones was substituted by Nick Ajose – but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player take quite so long to walk off the pitch. Surely Bury weren’t already killing time, trying to hold on to a point? They’d have been better advised to play on, because four minutes later we had another scare: Bishop was once again unmarked and got a shot in, but Allsop made a world-class save when he parried the shot, keeping us in the game at 1-1 though we deserved on possession alone to be miles ahead by now.
So we began the second half with the score even, and it all seemed to depend on who would score the next goal, which clearly both teams were trying to do. Pitman put in a good cross to Grabban from the left, but Grabban had no chance with two Bury players marking him. Then Bury got a shot in. Then Daniels managed a driving shot that hit the roof of the net. But eventually there was a goal to celebrate; and the scorer was Ritchie – at last. He received a ball from Daniels on the edge of the penalty area, ten minutes into the half, and smashed it home in front of a delighted North Stand. His first goal for the club. Three minutes later he almost scored his second, shooting wide of the goalmouth. But – who’d have expected it – this led to probably Bury’s best spell of the match. A good save from Seaborne kept us in it; and at the other end Pitman just missed with a shot for the Cherries. Bury then had a player tearing forward with the ball but, luckily for us, adjudged by the linesman to be offside. I whispered to my colleagues that Grabban should be replaced by Tubbs. It wasn’t just that Grabban was proving – for at least the third game in a row – to be our weakest link. It was that the crosses being put in from both flanks seemed the sort that would suit Tubbs’ game better. And indeed Eddie’s first substitution was the very one I’d proposed – Tubbs for Grabban – though it would be another 15 minutes before he made it!
This brought us right back into the game, and within seven minutes Pitman had nodded a ball back to Arter in a crowded penalty area, and Arter had slammed it home for 3-1. Now we looked more comfortable, and the North Stand taunted the Bury supporters with “You’re going down with the Pompey”. Hughes was brought on to sit in front of the back four, with Pitman moving to the left wing and Pugh sacrificed, in a 4-1-4-1 system. Three minutes later McQuoid came on for Ritchie in a straight swap on the right wing, maybe so that Ritchie could receive an ovation for what many felt was a “man of the match” performance. But there were still four minutes on the clock (plus another four to be added) so there was time for one more goal – from “Super Sub” Matt Tubbs. The ball was dribbled across to him in a position so close to the goalmouth that it would have been a scandal had he not scored. (Nonetheless, we’ve all seen players miss from there!) 4-1!
Grabban, as already mentioned, seems to be going through a lean spell; and I’d drop him in favour of Tubbs to start at Colchester on Friday if it were my decision. Arter– despite his goal – wasn’t at his best, as he’d probably admit. But everyone else had a good game. Allsop and Ritchie both put in performances that would be worthy of an award on another day, but today my man of the match was Brett Pitman. It wasn’t just that Brett scored the Cherries’ first goal and played a major part in the third one; it was also that his work rate, throughout the ninety minutes, was phenomenal.
AFCB: Allsop, Francis, Cook, Seabourne, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, O'Kane, Pugh, Pitman, Grabban
Subs: Jalal, Elphick, Fogden, MacDonald, Tubbs (for Grabban, 74 mins), Hughes (for Pugh, 83 mins), McQuoid (for Ritchie, 86 mins)
Graham Pearcey, Walton-On-Thames