The conditions in the first half were far from ideal ..... a driving wind coupled with heavy rain was generating quite a bit of muddy puddles across the playing surface.
Aldershot Town showed the early pace winning the early corners, without causing too many problems even though they looked determined going forward. Thankfully the back four quartet were equally determined to keep our Hampshire visitors at bay. Credit to Pearce and Cooper in particular for standing their ground in tricky conditions throughout the match. Cummings played his best game for a very long time.
The Cherries tried to push forward, heading in to the wind and rain, but made little progress and showed little in the way of a cutting edge. Shades of Gillingham?
Connell (sadly) looked pretty lost on the pitch and lightweight, being muscled out of just about everything he tried. It came as no surprise that he was a half time substitute. Having said that though, it was Connell who set up the opening goal for the Cherries in the 39th minute.
Connell put in a good cross from the left, which the keeper could only parry. The loose ball fell nicely to Danny Hollands who drove forward, firing the ball past the keeper and in by the far post. Slightly against the run of play as this was our first shot on target - but who cares? They all count!
Aldershot tried to hit back, but they were up against our resolute defence who were clearly in no mood for any silly errors. Jalal was only called upon once to make a goal line save as the shot went through a crowd of players.
I've credited our defence with resolute work, I cannot finish an account of the first half without mentioning Danny Hollands and Brett Pitman who covered every blade of grass on the pitch, chasing every lost cause as if their very lives depended on it. The number of sliding, and well times tackles was testiment to their total committment.
The second half saw the weather calm down a touch, which seemed to allow the Cherries to get more in to their stride as they began to dominate proceedings.
The move of the match came in the 56th minute. Cooper had cut out a Shots forward move. He then found Robinson on the right wing who hurtled forward, cutting the ball inside to Goulding, who in turn passed to Hollands. His first time touch found Pitman charging down the left wing who made use of Cummings on the overlap. Crossing from the by-line was inch perfect finding Steve Fletcher's head, who couldn't really miss! A lovely move, which more than deserved a goal!
With the bit between their teeth, the Cherries kept coming forward, producing some excellent football in the conditions and could well have scored a few more. Pitman and Fletcher missing the target with some acrobatic shots goal wards. Bartley should have done better when 1-on-1 with the keeper. Chose to keep hold of the ball when there was Goulding free to his left who would have had a clear shot on goal and probably would have scored.
Even with the game moving in to the final phase, Aldershot still came forward trying to salvage something ...... again their failed to really test Jalal allowing some easy catching practice. Even when Jalal did fumble in the mud, the defence was there to mop up and clear.
Overall, a very satisfying match under the Dean Court floodlights, made even better with news that Grimsby had failed to win, meaning that the Cherries climbed out of the relegation zone for the first time this season.
Jalal - had little to do this evening
Garry - competent and solid
Pearce - masterful at the back
Cooper - simply excellent
Cummings - the best match I've seen him play for ages
Robinson - played well this evening. Still much to give as he adapts to League football
Hollands - simply excellent, covering a huge amount of ground
Molesley - played very well in the conditions
Pitman - simply excellent, covering a huge amount of ground
Fletcher - motivated the players throughout, capped a good performance with a good goal.
Connell - bit lightweight I'm afriad
Goulding - played well when he came on
Batley - should have scored when 1-on-1 with the keeper
Bradbury - not on long enough to have any major impact.
AFCB: Jalal, Garry, Pearce, Cooper, Cummings, Robinson, Hollands, Molesley, Pitman, Fletcher, Connell
Subs: Pryce, Feeney, Goulding (for Connell, HT), Bartley (for Molesley, 78 mins), Bradbury (for Pitman, 90 mins)
Andy Burton, Portsmouth