March 29 AFC Bournemouth 2-0 Millwall Att: 4962

Last updated : 03 April 2008 By Peter Wicks
A grey, windy & squally day. Our loss & Crewe's win would see relegation formalised, but injuries had forced Bond's hand into making good selection decisions. However, the midfield was, er, fluid, with Tessem confusing the issue - who sat, who went forward, who supported Vokes centrally?

Millwall kicked off towards the north stand, & soon conceded a free, inside-right, 20-yards out. Cooper clipped it just over. Vokes looked confident; McQuoid tracked back well & won a goal-kick. Then the big 17 flicked on & the 9 bicycle-kicked. Forde tipped it over brilliantly. Millwall looked the more solid side, but Boscombe were livelier & not shirking in the tackle. Bartley was strong & won a free - they had to pull him down. Pearce & Forde (falling badly after a half-punch away) were hurt in challenges, but recovered enough to play the full game. Millwall took a corner which went straight out behind - wind-assisted? - but seemed to be gaining ascendancy. Pearce dug himself out of a hole, allowing Hollands to feed Vokes. This resulted in a corner - which was cleared & went straight back to Forde. But Hollands was proving a good skipper, sorting out & directing & prompting. Cooper was going wherever a hole had to be plugged in defence, & normally coming out on top.

Bartley went off on another strong run & had to be pulled back again; this led to a corner. Gradel was again a lively handful, shooting at the keeper after Tessem had won another corner. Things improved when Gradel & McQuoid swapped; the latter put in 2 good crosses, the first seeing Vokes flick on & Gradel putting it over. Bradbury had not been embarrassed in his new career as right-back; the conditions & formation had perhaps prevented a half-time lead. HT 0-0.

Tessem had been, frankly, perfunctory; a waste of space, so it was with great relief that Pitman replaced him after the break. This gave Cherries a much better shape, proper 4-4-2. Vokes nearly dinked it through, then put Pitman in. The first-time shot hit the net but offside was flagged. Then the 19 went past Hollands; Gowling made a great saving tackle. From their next corner, Cooper cleared off the line. Forde went down again, but continued. Boscombe's wingers were effective, plaguing the wide defenders & keeping them back from attacking. Another free saw the Millwall keeper punch for a corner; at the other end, Cooper seemed to make a brief ankle-tap in the area. The forward eventually decided to go down & the 9 took the pen. Forde guessed correctly, saving to his right, The 25 sub followed up, but the slice took the wind & ended up near the corner flag! Great roars from home fans. Hollands was yellowed as the players went forward - back-chat? If so, not clever. Then the 25 took a free - another superb Forde tip-over.

Partington replaced McQuoid on 68 (Bartley moving wide right), & took a few minutes to adjust to the pace of the game. Then he was directing play, placing passes, & covering the back-4. Promising, I thought. Play speeded up, & Pitman being who he is hit a rocket from the left. We thought it had gone wide, but apparently it skimmed the far post. Would've been like Alan Mullery's goal - great effort. Boscombe going for it - then Vokes was pulled down beyond the far post. Pitman rushed over to Gradel, who held onto the ball. It's good to see 2 people wanting to take a pen. but this should have been sorted beforehand. Anyway, Gradel slotted it to great acclaim; 1-0, 75. Then Vokes was pulled back as he dinked the ball over; he was through but the ref. had blown already, & the official was big enough to admit his mistake. He blew too early more than once later, also.

Hutchings replaced Vokes on 82; our big lad had done well but his replacement showed good pace straight away & challenged strongly in the air. Already the new Vokes? With Millwall pushing up for an equaliser, Partington hit it hard to Pitman who in one move found Gradel wide left. Goody, he said, rubbing his hands with glee. This I like, he said to himself. He went straight for the area, jinked right around 2 defenders, & thumped it through the keeper. 2-0, 89, & massive roars. Millwall had no way back, for all their efforts. FT 2-0.

Such a zesty, heart-warming performance, with the kids showing much promise. Massive respect for Joe Roach to bring them on to this point; he's needed at 1st-team level. My first-ever game was Friday 8 April 1966 - 0-0 - so this was an improvement… Exiles Chair Steve wasn't even born then; he had brought his nephew today for his first-ever game. I hope that lad has at least 42 years of the Cherries ahead of him. Unfortunately, if we survive for next season, I'm sure we'll still have Bond in charge. He made some good decisions this time, not being afraid to use the kids even at 0-0, but-but-but (shakes head in despair)… Even so, if we can hang onto these kids we should stay clear of the Conference trapdoor (unless the CVA fails & we start with -15 points!)

Going through the team:
Forde was secure apart from some distribution.
Bradbury was not embarrassed, but a little shaky later on when Millwall threw everything forward from all angles.
Gowling was solid, usually managing to be in front of his man.
Cooper was perky, quick to cover, & made a good partnership with Gowling. This seems to be his most effective role.
Pearce was competent & committed. Gradel showed bags of skill again, scored both with élan, & would be a complete star if not for his occasional hot-headed behaviour.
Bartley was all-action; pacy, strong, motivated, hard to shake off, ran all game.
Tessem confused the issue; was he supposed to support Vokes, or play "in the hole", or help out Bartley & Hollands? He ended up alongside Vokes, and frankly contributed little meaningful. Bond was right to implement the substitution.
McQuoid was lively, putting in several good crosses especially once on the right. Glad to see he's taller & a little heavier.
Vokes led the line well, & worked hard for the team. He found people better with his headers than SupaFletch; if he goes for anything under a half-million it would be a travesty. The club needs to accept the highest bidder; for his career, I'd suggest Vokes needs a club such as Villa or Blackburn; if anyone knows the realities of forward play it's my compatriot Sparky Hughes. I suspect he'd disappear at Newcastle.
Pitman had possibly the best half I've seen him play: sharp, linking well, always looking for goal, taking good options.
Partington looked composed for most of his 20+ minutes; I really liked the way he started to tell colleagues where to go, waving & pointing. Just a few memories of his near namesake Joe Parkinson.
Hutchings in his cameo showed up well - quick, good in the air.
Man Of The Match
But: man of the day - leading & supporting & prompting (this could be tedious!), doing the simple things well, all good things starting with or through him - is for me yet again Danny Hollands.

AFCB: Forde, Pearce, Gowling, Bradbury, Cooper, Gradel, Hollands, Bartley, Tessem, McQuoid, Vokes
Subs: Pryce, Franks, Pitman (for Tessem, HT), Partington (for McQuoid, 68 mins), Hutchings (for Vokes, 83 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford