As I lived in Acocks Green (part of the City support heartland) for 7 year this is something that I could never do as I have a soft spot for them and a number of friends who are blue noses.
Our starting 11 was the same as for the 2 previous matches with Pitman replacing the suspended Kermorgant. This was not surprising considering City’s horrific home record and going in with 2 strikers was a must to try to win the match.
We were ahead in the third minute. Elphick’s clearance headed towards Wilson and the City left back. Their aerial challenge resulted in the left back nodding the ball straight to Pitman who sprinted(!?!) between the hesitant centre backs to slot the ball past Randolph in the City goal from the edge of the box. The keeper got a hand or something on it and should have done better. Three minutes later and the home team’s woes increased. A long ball by Arter saw Wilson challenging the dithering Edgar and indeed knicking the ball from him before being tugged back by the defender. A straight red card was produced but it was a harsh decision (more on this later). Poor old Wes Thomas was sacrificed to bring on another centre back.
Pitman missed 2 guilt opportunities to increase the score before further shambolic defending gifted us a 2nd. Randolph fluffed a clearance straight to Ritchie who immediately zipped it forward to Wilson, who seemed offside but the highlights are inconclusive, and Callum strolled around the embarrassed keeper to pass the ball home. Further pub team defending saw a panicked clearance hit Ritchie and he was able to run onto the loose ball and chip it in with his right foot. Boruc had to make one simple save low to his left from a rare City excursion into our box. Wilson also hit the post with a curling effort after a delightful incisive move straight through the centre of the City team and the half ended with us 3 up.
The second half started fairly quietly as Birmingham tried to huff and puff a bit and they won a penalty due to an Elphick challenge on Donaldson as a cross came over. Several of the Birmingham players seemed upset that only a yellow card was produced (again more of this later). Caddis took the spot kick but whilst it was well placed it lacked power and Boruc got down and saved it with his left hand. The shoulders of the City players now noticeably sagged although they did cause the big Pole to make 2 further saves in the match. However, at the other end we sensed blood and went for the jugular. The ball was rotated with ease and with plenty of off the ball running pulling the dispirited defence apart goals started to come at frequent intervals.
Francis was overlapping in his usual buccaneering way and from 2 of his crosses Pugh scored, the first with an acrobatic swivel shot and the other a well placed header. A further Francis foray saw him bundled over by Cotterill, a shame as he was City’s best player by far, and a penalty awarded. With Pitman, Wilson and Arter substituted it appeared that Ritchie has assumed the penalty taking as he strolled over to collect the ball. The players then seemed to hold a committee meeting as Rantie was presented with the ball and a chance to open his first team account for the season. He dispatched it with ease. We were now onto our second hand to count the goals but more were to come. Further interchange play at pace left Ritchie to cross the ball. This was cleared but Gosling was following up and he whipped the ball across the box and Pugh steering it home but without much control it must be said. His delight at his first career hat-trick was obvious as he lay on the pitch face up pumping his fists above his chest. Yet another flowing bit of football saw Rantie feed a lovely ball to Fraser who hit the post but Ritchie was on hand to put the ball into the box again for Rantie to turn it in just inside the far post. Further attacks brought no goals and the match ended 8 – 0.
The sending off certainly changed the match particularly as it happened so early on. It was unlikely that Callum would have got to the ball before the keeper but the tug by Edgar was so blatant that the ref felt compelled to send him off as the intent was definitely there but a goal scoring opportunity was not prevented. City could also moan about 2 other decisions by the officials these being the possible Wilson offside for the second goal and Elphick’s booking. The offside is something that cannot be resolved from the camera angle on the highlights and was up at the other end of the pitch so I had no clear view. Tommy’s booking is a more interesting issue. His foul on Donaldson certainly prevented him having a free header so was a clear case of stopping an attempt on goal so what is the difference to Edgar’s? Well referee’s seem only to deem prevention of running onto the ball to be classified as a sending off offence and not occasions when the ball is crossed into the box. I would also prefer a sinbin option, a la rugby, as 10 v 11 often ruins the spectacle. I suspect that we would have won by 2 or 3 with 11 v 11 in any case so only the scoreline was affected in this instance.
Playing with 10 men against us for over 80 minutes must be a nightmare as we usual move the ball around so well. As we are coming into a bit of form it must have been especially hard on the City players as their confidence, particularly at home, was already very low. In my other match report this season, the 4 - 0 win at Huddersfield (with respect I am the true Bournemouth goal machine!!!) I stated that I did not think that we will go up this season. I am now tending to think that we could make the play offs. No other team that we have played has really impressed me, Derby were good and Forest produced a good second half and surprisingly so did Leeds but they appear to have self destructed due to having a right idiot as a chairman……despite my dislike of them I feel for their fans. Otherwise every team has been ordinary at best (I did not go to Blackburn though).
This is a really difficult match in which to judge how we played as it was against 10 men for so long and they were soon totally dispirited. But you don’t see record league wins that often so it was a great day out. All the team played well and the professionalism with which we finished the match, no show boating or takin g the micky was good to see. As you may gather Francis had another fine match….if there is a better full back (attacking at least) in the division I doubt, Pitman and Wilson have found good understanding very quickly and the wingers Pugh and Ritchie tormented their full backs all match but my man of the match is Andrew Surman. He did all the link up and dirty work in midfield with no fuss and set the team rolling forward with regularity. He also joined in the attacks on occasions.
The team spirit seems to be superb and the players appear to want each other to succeed and in particular TK Rantie hence the penalty being given to him. Meanwhile the bookings of Cook and Arter were very ‘convenient’ as they now miss the Capital One cup tie with the Baggies and no league matches. It also gives Eddie a few less selection problems for that game. We must fancy our chances and with whatever team Eddie puts out we cannot lose as we’re not expected to get through and lots of football people want to see how we fare. I’m looking forward to it.
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Pitman, Wilson,
Subs: Camp, Harte, Smith, Stanislas, Gosling (for Arter, 56 mins), Rantie (for Pitman, 64 mins), Fraser (for Wilson, 71 mins)
Phil Nesbitt, Cockfosters