The 156 Cherries faithful were bathed in glorious sunshine but well wrapped up (its cold up north you know) as the match kicked off with high expectations after the thrilling comeback at Nott's Co on Tues evening. Daniel's returned (for Cook) at left back but otherwise the team was unchanged with Barnard again the spearhead for a 5 man midfield with three wingers (as we used to call them) Pugh, Grabban and McQuoid fed by an Arter/McDonald centre midfield axis.
There had been an article in the Guardian during the week entitled 'Where have all the wingers gone'. The musical answer was clear - 'gone to Boscombe everyone'. The proximity of Hadrian's Wall, ten miles away, also made me think of Eddie's warning that the defence must do better. I hoped the 'Roman Wall' might provide the focus for a clean sheet and a much needed disciplined defensive performance. Dream on. Although the final result was both eye catching and heart warming - make no mistake, this was a game that in the first half could have gone either way and been out of reach. The match stats reflect this - shots 9/8 to Cherries. on target 4/3 and corners 5/6. Of course the game is about converting chances, which is what the Eddie philosophy has produced and goals breed the all important confidence factor.
However if our expectations are to exceed 50 points for safety the defence has to defend properly!. Brian Clough, never a man for fancy tactics, simply told his full backs they were rubbish if they failed to stop the winger crossing the ball during the game. This is a lesson Francis (in particular) and Daniel's need to learn for allied to a worrying lack of pace in the middle of defence we are an accident waiting to happen.
From the kick off Carlisle sought to exploit the weakness down the Cherries left flank and pushed left back Matt Robson (3) up against Francis as an out an out winger. With the Carlisle right back doing the same it made for an open game as there was plenty of space for the Cherries midfield to exploit. The downside was that time after time the warning bells were sounding as dangerous crosses pinged into the Cherries box from the left wing, seemingly at will. Carlisle looked a small (in height) team with a commendable desire to play one two's with some neat passing.
That said, there was a crispness and pace in the Cherries midfield and a desire to push forward and create, which made for an entertaining spectacle. With Arter and McDonald pulling the strings, the wide midfield/forwards began to exploit the huge spaces in front of the Carlisle defence. However it was really defensive sloppiness in giving away the ball to Marc Pugh in a dangerous position that led to the opening goal on 8 mins. Pugh charged in with a trademark jinking run that fooled everyone including the goalkepper who went to ground allowing Pugh to roll the ball into an empty net.
Cherries chose to ignore the aformentioned warnings and yet another cross and confusion led to Noble equalising on 18 mins - game on.
After half an hour (31) a great crossfield pass from Francis (he is good at that) found Pugh in open space on the left but in a more acute angle to goal. He again jinked his way along the touchline and from an impossible angle managed to sqeeze the ball under the goalies body at the near post. 2-1 and Eddie's Barmy army in full voice. Half- time 2-1 to the Cherries.
The team were again given the half time Eddie 'treatment' and came out looking tighter and super confident. With Carlisle having to attack to get back into the game Cherries became rampant.
My wife Margaret said with great tactical foresight 'You're all over them' and so it proved as Carlisle were forced onto the back foot and we were then lifted into Cherry Heaven with well taken goals from the improving Grabban (51) and dangerous Barnard (61) to give Boscombe a 4-1 lead. Thoughts went back to a winters day in Bury 12 years ago when James Hayter scored 4 in a 5-2 victory and as the team continued to create chances I went even further back to the 7-2 at Rotherham in the Bond era. It really could (and should) have been more as three good chances were spurned, the best a point blank header straight at the keeper from (I think) McQuoid. As often happens our purple patch subsided and substitutions disrupted the rhythm - O'Kane (Barnard) 77 mins and Tubbs (McQuoid) on 83 mins.
Just prior to both subs Carlisle pulled a goal back on 76 mins (2-4) from their own half time'ish substitute David Symington who looked a good player. He hit a rasping right foot drive from distance that fair wizzed past James before even a despairing arm could be put out. I never like to see a goalkeeper beaten at the near post and although James remains in fine physical shape, goalkeeping is about speed of reaction so there a slight concern. Another late goal at this stage would have made for a scary finish but thankfully it proved only a consolation for Carlisle with just enough time for supa Fletch to maker an injury time appearance to add one more game to his legends total. Perfect and a night out in the Beehive to follow with Hobgoblin ale, curry and sweet play-off dreams in the aptly named Cherry Grove Guest House.
I was very impressed with Josh McQuoid who seems to be relishing an almost free role to cause havoc and he has a lethal shot in him. Lewis Grabban looked much better but out of our three wing-born 'Raiders of the Lost Art' the MOM award must go to Marc Pugh for his two goals and overall virtuoso performance.
AFCB: James, Francis, Elphick, Addison, Daniels, Grabban, MacDonald, Arter, Pugh, McQuoid, Barnard
Subs: Jalal, Cook, Partington, McDermott, O'Kane (for Barnard, 77 mins), Tubbs (for McQuoid, 83 mins), Fletcher (for Grabban, 90 mins)
Jack Parker, Manchester