Anyway who could complain on a balmy autumn evening, a freshly watered green goddess of a pitch and another tilt at Leeds Utd under the Dean Court floodlights. The South Stand only looked 1/3 full - later confirmed by a worrying 9307 attendance (inc 1390 away), which meant approx 2500 missing home fans for what should be a stand out fixture.
Eddie made changes from the Saturday draw with the Millers. O'Kane surprisingly dropped to the bench given his form so far. Some argued this was punishment for too much time wasted in ineffectual lateral passing in front of two ranks of four Rotherham midfielders and defenders. A chance then for Surman to partner Arter in the middle. Fraser started in place of Pugh and Harte was given the opportunity to play at left back against his old club in place of Daniels. Pitman and Stanilas made up the outfield bench with the above three.
Eddie had said in his programme notes he wanted a brighter and quicker start to excite the crowd and obviously communicated the same to his players!. Cherries came flying out of the traps and hurled themselves at the oposition with in- form Ritchie and greased lightening Fraser tearing into the Leeds defence. 3 mins - a stinging shot from Fraser is turned around the post by Marco Silvestri in the Leeds goal. From the corner a wicked demon of a cross by Francis is just missed by both Cook and Elphick. 6 mins - incessant Cherries pressure. Surman on the right of the 18 yard box cuts inside and curled a delicious screamer into the far corner 1-0.
Memories of last seasons massacre came into mind and the players were maybe thinking the same. Leeds were being marmalised (technical term!) all over the pitch. Ritchie's turn now with an accurate shot saved low down by Silvestri followed an venomous Exocet rocket that sped towards the top corner before the Leeds goalie's fingertips flipped it over the bar.
Wilson was then lucky not be pulled up for a foul on our former captain Jason Pearce but took full advantage as the ref waved play on, weaving his way into the six yard box only to pause momentarily, allowing Silvestri to dive at his feet and capture the ball.
The pressure on the Leeds goal continued up to the half hour mark but a deserved second goal did not arrive and Leeds recovered some composure and started to slow the game down and then build a few tentative passing moves of their own. The three Italians in the Leeds outfield looked to be strong and experienced players with a decent touch and as the half progressed the excellent Cherries start seemed no more than a deep purple patch.
Despite Leeds beginning to play a bit your correspondent also noticed the normally well oiled Cherries machine was beginning to splutter as individual mistakes, bad first touches and wayward passing allied to wasted free kicks and corners. One attempted crossfield ball by Arter sailed into the East Stand and deserved a line-out rather than a throw-in!. This was all very disappointing as not only were Leeds being let off the hook but Cherries were giving the opposition encouragment they were still in the game and at only 1-0 this was true.
More worrying was a misfiring front two of Kermorgant and Wilson who were coming deep to collect the ball rather than pushing up against the Leeds defence with Fraser and Ritchie playing as more orthodox wingers,
This old fashiobed reporter prefers to see wingers beating the full back on the outside and crossing into the box for the onrushing centre forward instead of cutting inside all the time. Kermorgant in particular looked unhappy and in need of just the occasional long ball to run onto!. Anyway 'In Eddie We Trust' and I'm sure he will sort it out. Half time 1-0.
The second half was more even with Leeds competing in all areas backed by a packed and noisy away contingent. Ritchie had a shout for a penalty but was a little quick to go to ground, which this season cuts no ice with referees seeking to follow on from the refreshing World Cup approach of allowing games to flow with a minimum of stoppages.
That said it was clear the home crowd, who are never slow to blame the ref, were not going to give Andy D'Urso a happy time. However the ref was consistent in waving away a claim by Billy Sharp from a dangerous Elphick challenge.
The game was now feisty but not dirty and I wondered if some our fans screaming for free kicks and pens had ever seen the 1970's Leeds of Hunter, Bremner, Giles, Charlton, Cooper and Reaney in their intimidating pomp!
Cherries came back with renewed pressure on the Leeds goal. Silvestri again thwarted the home side by turning away a smart shot by Fraser from an incisive Harte pass and then another Ritchie shot was blocked by a Leeds defender. Encouraging but then disaster as Leeds impressive centre back Bianchi split open the retreating Cherries defence for Doukara to shoot low past Camp with some ease 1-1. You could see the confidence drain from the Cherries and it was almost 1-2 a minute later as Sharp missed the target badly when clean through.
Cherries were still in the game and Stanilas replaced Fraser on 70mins and looked fast and tricky. As the minutes ticked away a draw looked likely. 82 mins and Francis slid in to win the ball from Austin on the edge of the area. The ref blew his whistle and despite Arter running up to show Andy D'Urso the ball won by Francis it was still a free kick to Leeds. Derby away last season around the same time in the same position. Surely a different outcome this time. Sigh!. Bellusci stepped up to fire a wonder unstoppable bullet into the far corner of the Cherries net. 1-2. Leeds fans jubilant. Cherries distraught. Time for a double sub on 87 mins with Smith and Pitman on for Harte and Arter but despite the changes it was Leeds who added a third in the last minute when another pass through the middle allowed Antenucci to finish off the Cherries with a right foot shot. Game over 1-3. Final score.
A hugely disappointing result after such a promising start. Cherries were quicker going forward without O'Kane but hugely missed the defensive midfielder when Leeds were strolling unchallenged through the middle of the pitch in the second half. However after 5 league games without a win the problem is more about confidence than tactics and three points from anywhere would be more than welcome right now. I give my man of the match award to Ritchie who is in good form and was very unlucky not to score.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Harte, Fraser, Arter, Surman, Ritchie, Kermorgant, Wilson
Subs: Flahavan, Daniels, O'Kane, Pugh, Stanislas (for Fraser, 70 mins), Smith (for Harte, 87 mins), Pitman (for Arter, 87 mins)
Jack Parker, Didsbury