It had been bright and sunny; a reverie of past FA Cup games – Wolves, Spurs, Margate, Man.U, er Margate, um Yeovil, oops Wycombe, ouch Tamworth… The clouds and chill snapped one back to reality.
The away side’s 2-tone strip meant they’d be called DagBlue herein. Howe took the opportunity to ring a few changes: a start for Jalal, & a pairing for Cook & (wearing the armband) Elphick. He seemed to have settled early on his preferred midfield (Arter & MacDonald). Boscombe k.o. towards the south stand; Pugh put in a great swinging angled ball that Tubbs failed to control. It went to the keeper who was hit by the in-rushing Tubbs and much attention was required. DagBlue had a corner; the volley went at Jalal. Cute play between Pugh, Arter & Grabban gave Tubbs the chance to scoop over. Arter seemed to play further up than MacDonald at this point. Pugh was good again, seemingly enjoying himself.
Grabban was good on the left; his cross was mishit by McQuoid but home attackers were taking up dangerous positions. McQuoid went on a long run up the centre, & was pulled down; Boscombe played flowing football. More good work by Grabban, this time on the right, had the keeper push it out to McQuoid at inside-right who hit it in left-footed. 1-0, 30. DagBlue came back well but competent defence maintained the score-line. McQuoid fed Tubbs out wide in the area. He looked up, but then delivered a poor chip. Wind and clouds brought a rain-preceding chill. Grabban was improving all the time, and Boscombe ended the half on the attack. H-T: 0-1.
DagBlue had to make a change at this point, with ex-Cherry keeper Jason Seabright replacing Lewington. Given the fast-forming tradition of better second-half performances by the home team, he had cause to worry. Then the rain came – but not for too long. Seabright screwed up, but tipped round Pugh’s resultant shot. Boscombe now attacked even more, but the ball never quite fell kindly. DagBlue tried, but were becoming less co-ordinated. A Boscombe header went just wide. Arter fed Francis who went through; it went out to Pugh whose shot was on target but was deflected on its way in. 2-0, 59. Daniels went on one of a series of runs; Pugh missed his cross in front of an open goal and Tubbs’s follow-up shot was blocked. It went via Francis for a corner.
By now it was 80% Boscombe but the home side began to over-complicate, and be too clever, and become sloppy as complacency crept in especially at the back. Mercifully, Tubbs was replaced on 72 by McDermott who went wide right (and pottered around) with McQuoid going central. More low crosses came in from the left – Pugh & Daniels were having a great time – but at least one shot went over. From another such, suddenly McQuoid hit a right-footer at inside-right, edge of the area. It was as if he was bored with the messing about; think Indiana Jones shooting the guy wielding the whip. So: 3-0, 79.
Fogden & O’Kane replaced Grabban & Arter respectively on 82; at last Howe would have a look at the latter sub (who did little of note). Straight away, Fogden had a header at the far post, just flipped out by Seabright. Then Fogden fed McQuoid who hit it over the angle, before the former came in from the right and slid a curler left-footed inside the keeper’s right-hand post. 4-0, 91. Just time for McQuoid to slip in shooting, thus miss an open goal and his hat-trick. F-T: 4-0.
Yes, a decent performance against increasingly poor opponents. But this reporter has reached that diamond anniversary that allows him to be that bitter-&-twisted old curmudgeon who will always find fault. Better concentration should have seen 2-3 more goals, and after the 2nd one a period of over-clever play led to complacency and sloppiness that I suspect had Howe hopping mad, as the 3rd went in soon after.
McQuoid was looking more and more the right-side complement to Pugh, giving balance, but slightly more direct. Grabban (perhaps eventually his best game so far) was the mobile one up front, and looking better for coming in off either wing, leaving Tubbs to stay up. The defence was rarely troubled.
As for Tubbs: several have said he’s a Div.4 player. But team-mates seemed to be trying to put chances on a plate for him, and he passed them up, so against this lower-Div.4 side perhaps he’s been over-estimated. One shot on target was blocked and he also won the ball back high up-field, but otherwise, oh dear.
Howe certainly put his stamp on selection; confirming MA as skipper (quite right for the rest of the season; the alternative would’ve been too many changes) then putting him on the bench. Then a spot of Kremlin-watching: who was _not_ on the bench? Thomas for one. Again right to bring him back from Poor-old-Pompey; to check him out & as cover for Barnard who was withheld by his parent club. And no sign of Zubar (his continued absence might become one source of friction between Howe & fans), Demouge, Davids – but in fairness it is 11+7 from too big a squad. And it is absolutely right to check out individuals and combinations until the next transfer window. Nevertheless...
Sponsors and texters gave it to MacDonald & Pugh respectively. The former laid the foundations, but even if Pugh was more tricky than needed he did such a lot of good work, and appeared to be really enjoying himself, that it goes (in this reporter’s estimation) to the winger.
AFCB: Jalal, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Grabban, MacDonald, Arter, Pugh, Tubbs, McQuoid
Subs: James, Addison, Partington, Fletcher, McDermott (on for Tubbs, 72 mins), Fogden (for Grabban, 82 mins), O'Kane (for Arter, 82 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford