A string of matches against strong opposition plus being at that stage of the season where teams have had a good look at us and worked out how we play meant that we had taken only 9 points from our last 10 matches. This match promised to be one of the more difficult ones for us.
We started with Pitman (being rewarded for good performances with the reserves and good attitude) playing in the hole behind Rantie. Grabban started wide right as the fit again Fraser was only on the bench. Ward and Arter were not fit so Elphick and O’Kane started in our usual 4 4 1 1 formation.
The match commenced in a cagey fashion and the pattern was soon set with Derby having the greater share of the ball, knocking it around without any great zip, whilst we looked more threatening on our speedy breaks forward with Rantie and Grabban to the fore and Pitman struggling to keep up. Despite not looking threatening Derby did have a number of attempts on goal forcing Camp to make a number of saves in particular a good push over the bar from Martin’s volley. Rantie had a fierce shot parried by Derby ‘keeper Grant who then inexplicably fumbled a Pitman cross despite being unchallenged. Derby were easily able to clear the danger caused by this.
Further saves by Camp including from a low drilled effort by the lively Jamie Ward were followed by a booking for Jake Buxton for scything down Rantie on another fleet-footed burst. Elphick and the continually impressive Cook kept Derby to half chances whilst we didn’t create anything clearcut either. 0 0 at ht was about right although Derby just shaded it.
We had a bright spell at the start of the second half with several crosses by Grabban, who is doing his CV no harm with good performances on the right (now that he can be bothered to put the effort in whilst playing there). Pitman volleyed one of these over, he did well to get good contact on the ball as it was a touch behind him, and Pugh failed to control another. Derby were not inactive either and Ward missed with a free-kick from distance. Then the decisive moment of the match occurred in the61st minute. A flowing and for once incisive Derby move produced a wicked cross from their left by Forsyth which was met with a crunching volley from near the 6 yard line by Ward. Camp still managed to parry this but only into the side of the net.
We went in search of the equaliser with almost half an hour left. This was not too frenetic to begin with as we did not want to be caught on the break causing a doubling of the mountain to climb. Fraser replaced the rather subdued Pugh and Ritchie a rather hit and miss Rantie as we shook things up a bit. Grabban moved to be the attacking spearhead and Ritchie wide right. Ritchie soon showed his quality and desire by having a hard shot deflected wide before fading another shot away from goal when he should have done better, probably due to a lack of match sharpness. As the match drew to a close we threw more and more at Derby. Thomas replaced Pitman with Grabban moving to his third position for the match (what was that about his CV!?). A cross by Wes was powerfully headed(?!) wide by Fraser, shame that it wasn’t the other way round! Regular Cook long throws saw Elphick and Francis trundle into the visitor’s box….a bit of variation might be a good thing here. Derby sub Bennett twice produced saves from Camp as they broke from defence.
A late free-kick saw Cook bravely get in an effort which sadly resulted in him writhing around on the ground amid concern from the nearest Derby defender. He was duly carried off with his left leg in a brace. We still went for it with MacDonald moving to centre-back and Elphick playing up front as a target man. It was all to no avail as we just couldn’t achieve the break through.
Another defeat albeit by a narrow margin. From the play this match was always likely to be decided by the only goal and Derby had that bit more know-how and so got it. Eddie described Derby as the best side he’s seen this season and as we were not totally outplayed by them this is pleasing but meaningless in a way as we came away pointless.
Lee Camp is the best ‘keeper that I have seen a Dean Court for a while and the longer that we can keep him the better. It is a shame that Allsop will not be able to learn much from him due to his glandular fever. Ward has a calf strain and could be out for a couple of months so Cook being carried off was even more worrying.
My man of the match is that man Cook. He is beginning to remind me of Alan Hansen particularly the way he strides out of defence with the ball. There was an occasion in this match where I noted his pace for the first real time in a Bournemouth shirt (Peter Wicks commented about it as well). He charged back as Derby broke from a failed set piece and unfortunately was booked as his momentum meant that he could not pull out of a challenge due to this. There was no intent but as I would have expected a Derby player to be booked in such a situation I cannot complain about it. If Cook is going to be out for a while, due to this injury, we will need to move into the loan market as otherwise we will struggle. A centre-back pairing of Elphick and Addison is hardly appealing at this level!
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Grabban, O'Kane, MacDonald, Pugh, Pitman, Rantie
Subs: Flahavan, Surman, Harte, Addison, Fraser (for Pugh, 63 mins), Ritchie (for Rantie, 64 mins), Thomas (for Pitman, 74 mins)
Phil Nesbitt, Cockfosters