Simon Francis was surprisingly passed fit before kick-off today, so he replaced Cook who dropped to the bench. Otherwise the only difference from the previous week’s matchday squad was that there was no sign of Thomas. Howe has stuck with the same players as much as possible ever since taking over, and this consistency is really paying off now. The whole atmosphere at Dean Court has changed too, and the crowd once again topped 6000 despite very few Oldham supporters travelling. Having said that, the motley crew of away fans in the “Energy Consulting Stand” (?!) did succeed in outsinging the home fans for much of the first half! Not that they had a lot to sing about; their team was holding its own and getting a little over half the possession, but a very poor final ball (often nothing more than a wild hoof into the North Stand) meant they scuppered every opportunity to go ahead. Bournemouth had even fewer chances, arguably the best two falling to Pugh in the 18th minute and Grabban a few minutes later (the latter being the result of an unselfish pass from Daniels, who might have been better advised to attempt a shot himself). One of the best Bournemouth attacks came in the 26th minute, when James threw the ball to Addison on his left, and he passed to Daniels, and Daniels to Pugh; but Pugh’s cross was of very poor quality. Oldham ended the half the brighter team, and even had a penalty appeal turned down. But things were to improve spectacularly for the Cherries after the interval.
The change in tempo demonstrated by the home team after the break wasn’t as dramatic as it had been against Dagenham & Redbridge. Nonetheless we really did take the game by the scruff of the neck now! The half was only four minutes old when a good shot from McQuoid was saved. Three minutes later, Arter attempted a long shot from Bournemouth’s left and it’s debatable whether it would have been on target or not, but fortunately Grabban put a foot out and steered it goalward. The cheers of relief became cries of ecstasy, though, when Grabban scored his second within a minute! By now Grabban was back on the right; he ran forward towards the near post to intercept an excellent cross from Francis, and gently slotted the ball home from close range. And if the Arter shot a minute or so later hadn’t sailed slightly too high for his head, Grabban could have been rivalling James Hayter for “fastest ever hat-trick”!
Oldham didn’t know what had hit them, and made a double substitution. Meanwhile, Grabban attempted another (somewhat wild) shot. Addison got an injury but play continued and Grabban – now with a taste for it – attempted yet another shot that was too soft and easily saved by the Oldham keeper. Addison managed to run off his injury. And then, in the 71st minute, Arter was felled in the penalty area. Who would take the spot kick? Daniels usually does – and he takes them so well – whereas my Brighton-supporting mate tells me Elphick can convert a mean penalty too. Well, neither of these came forward this time; there was a (brief) debate between the man who’d been brought down and the man who was on a hat-trick, after which they both played a part – and a better script couldn’t have been written! Arter’s spot-kick was saved after a fashion by the keeper but he didn’t manage to catch it; he palmed it out to his left where Grabban was on hand to ram the ball home. Arter had twice in this game failed to score when perhaps he should have done, but in the end no-one would criticise him because both attempts had turned into ‘assists’.
Arter and Grabban were now heroes; and both were substituted (McDermott for Arter in the centre of the park, Fogden for Grabban playing off Barnard) so both received a standing ovation. There were still thirteen more minutes on the clock though, and these would become almost twenty by the time the referee had added injury time. With nine minutes of normal time remaining, Pugh took a free kick on Bournemouth’s right, and appeared to be passing it square to McQuoid, but Daniels came charging in towards the far post to score Bournemouth’s fourth goal with a diving header. Pugh was now substituted and O’Kane replaced him one-for-one on the left wing. Five minutes later, Oldham gained a consolation goal when a ‘route one’ ball into the penalty area was intercepted by Smith who headed it into the net. This didn’t affect the overall result much, but James – head in hands – looked absolutely gutted even though it had all happened so quickly that he was scarcely to blame. It’s good to see so much passion and concern to do well, throughout the team.
This win moved Bournemouth up one place, and one point closer to the play-offs. It’s still early days, but if we can continue this steady climb up the league table we could be in a very strong position come Christmas.
Francis and Arter both had a good enough game to earn Man of the Match on another day. If the award could be given to two players jointly it would have to be Daniels and Pugh; they’re now bringing the best out of one another and their partnership on the left flank is becoming lethal. MacDonald seems to have found his best position, in the ‘engine room’ in front of the back four; had his best game yet today; and will get plenty such awards between now and the end of the season if he continues in this vein. Indeed, if today’s match had ended at half time, he’d have been the only contender for it! But today it would be mean not to give Man of the Match to Bournemouth’s hat-trick hero, Lewis Grabban. We’re used to him getting into good positions and then finishing poorly; today, however, it all came right for him. So, congratulations Lewis, enjoy your moment of glory!
AFCB: James, Francis, Addison, Elphick, Daniels, McQuoid, MacDonald, Arter, Pugh, Barnard, Grabban
Subs: Jalal, Cook, Tubbs, Fletcher, Fogden (for Grabban, 77 mins), O'Kane (for Arter, 79 mins), McDermott (for Pugh, 84 mins)
Graham Pearcey, Walton-On-Thames