Eddie Howe – the Second Coming! My initial reaction was that this was a mistake for all parties; never go back. On the departure of his predecessor, my choice would have been Sean Dyche; he knows Divs.3&4 inside-out and did a splendid job on little resources at Watford after a slow start. However Howe started as he did January 2009 – in the drop zone, but at least a division higher and no points deduction. Would he do a Blues Brothers and put the band together again - Bartley, Pitman, Robinson? Then perhaps let Steve Evans have back Grabban and Tubbs? Certainly he needed to re-instil confidence, and in due course thin the squad.
It was interesting who was not in the 18; rumours of training sessions separating those who wanted it more, and especially the speedier ones - McQuoid and Arter started.
Rovers k.o. towards the North Stand; Boscombe started 4-2-3-1 with Arter to the right of MacDonald and McQuoid between Grabban & Pugh, behind Barnard. The latter was nearly through twice, and Daniels’s low cross was just in front of the incoming runner, and went for a corner. There was some nice football from Boscombe who pushed it around in a controlled way, purposeful, pass-and-move, leading to “olé’s” with a 20+-pass spell (but pretty deep). The home side was pressing more than in recent games, but Francis was yellowed for a late slider; James went down well for the free.
A Boscombe corner was caught easily, and Pugh was being double-teamed. Francis showed good anticipation and Daniels looked stronger especially going forward. A header from a home free was tipped over, for the first of 3 corners in quick succession and Rovers under substantial pressure. But the away side hit one just over the angle, leading James to “dispense advice” to his defence. Arter was yellowed for an impulsive late slider; Francis’s cross led to a corner and McQuoid went up alongside Barnard for 4-4-2. Let’s face it, Barnard is not a target man; he’s there to snap up knock-downs.
Addison then made a bad mistake which led to a Rovers right-wing move in which he made a second, worse, mistake and let in the wide man. The low cross came over and was diverted inside the far post. 0-1, 39. The body language was exactly what was not needed from the captain, other than acknowledging his errors. However, he did win the ball well soon after. Grabban had so far contributed very little, and by now was behind Barnard, but a cross was nicked just beyond the far post. McQuoid was felled; Daniels’s free from 22 (inside-left) went at the keeper.
H-T: 0-1. Plus ça change, plus ça meme chose.
We had to recall that Howe sides only play one half… So McQuoid went wide right, Grabban went up front for 4-4-2, and a home corner was won quickly. But Rovers stayed in control, until Pugh was felled after a good run. His free, angled towards the 6-yard box, seemed to nick a defender and nestled inside the far post. 1-1, 50, and the crowd was buzzing. Rovers remained purposeful and strong, and Pugh over-hit a cross. Barnard fought well and Pugh’s resultant shot was just saved. Rovers suddenly appeared to be at 6s and 7s. McQuoid should twice have shot, but then won a tussle, hit the by-line, and pulled it back to Arter in the D. The latter went left, back onto his right, thumped it, and fingertips couldn’t prevent the ball from bulging the onion-bag. 2-1, 58 – oh yes, this was the business!
James had to catch well low down from a free as the league leaders tried to respond. Pugh showed more good work, but Grabban did an air-shot letting the ball run to McQuoid who placed it agonisingly past the far post from inside-right. Grabban was crocked in this action, replaced by Tubbs on 62. This reporter is a staunch supporter of local lads – especially from the terraces – playing for their club, so perhaps Tubbs might now have a chance rather than be shipped out.
James and Francis had a mix-up from a cross, with an OG averted narrowly. But Arter continued to probe well. Tubbs hit it from 30 yards, stretching the keeper. McQuoid was felled at a similar distance and place; the free went a little right to Francis who hit a low exocet just inside the keeper’s left-hand post. Everybody Up!!! 3-1, 72! The break in play led me to decide that Arter had to be my MoM. But Daniels was soon yellowed for a foul and disputing the decision. It didn’t stop him & Pugh continuing to carve up the away defence, although Elphick had to put in a good recovering tackle. Arter left on 85 to a standing ovation, replaced by Partington. Elphick again did well, this time in the home area.
McDermott swapped in for McQuoid on 85 and took his place wide-right; another possible rehabilitation. Partington was yellowed for a clumsy tackle (on the little 22 who was carried off), and tended to be by-passed too easily by his oppos. The tannoy revealed that sponsors and texters had made Arter MoM. Rovers kept going, as a Ronnie Moore side would. Tubbs was nearly through, then James made a magnificent save from a point-blank effort – before we noticed it had been flagged offside. He then had to go low to his right to push round an effort, where the attackers had been given far too much space. But the script was followed.
F-T: 3-1, to much applause and cheering.
The parallels are eerie. Howe’s first home game in charge last time (24/1/09) was against the table-toppers (Wycombe); Boscombe went a goal down before going on to win 3-1. But let’s leave out the “saviour” stuff for just a while; there’s still 36 points needed (from 33 games) for 50 & safety, although “only” 16 points off top place...
But there was such a buzz around the ground as we trooped back to cars and buses; the home crowd was really bubbling. People want to believe, and are grasping (too early?) at this opportunity. Swallows and summers… Late on, too much space was given to Rovers with shades of all those late goals conceded over the last 2 years. And no striker scored, but good play led to the 3 goal opportunities taken. Nevertheless – welcome home Sir Edward of Howe!
Your correspondent is delighted that the sponsors and texters were sensible enough to agree with him to give it to Arter – always probing, nearly always the right pass, nearly always good pass execution, and that goal, thus shading it from the excellent Pugh.
AFCB: James, Francis, Addison, Elphick, Daniels, Grabban, MacDonald, Arter, Pugh, McQuoid, Barnard
Subs: Jalal, Cook, O'Kane, Fletcher, Tubbs (for Grabban, 62 mins), Partington (for Arter, 80 mins), McDermott (for McQuoid, 85 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford