There’s a temptation to call a game like this an eight-goal thriller but in reality it was a game between two inept defences with ours proving to be the worst of the two. At least it only worked out at £1.25 a goal.
The previous day’s Sky-hyped transfer window had resulted in two coming in (another injured Dutchman and a Liechtenstein international goalkeeper) and none out. The seemingly random variations in team selection continued with, this time, Barnard and Grabban paired up front and Elphick and Addison in the heart of the defence. MacDonald game into midfield to replace the suspended (for a change) Harry Arter.
On a sunny day in the Steel City Cherries got off to a bright start and opened the scoring when Tommy Elphick, still up front following a corner, met Eunan O’Kane’s right wing cross with a powerful header from the edge of the six-yard box into the roof of the net.
This just served to provoke the home side and within 4 minutes they were back to all square. A looping cross from the left was nodded across the box and Flynn escaped Simon Francis to poke the ball home.
Flynn doubled his tally a few minutes later. If Francis’s positioning was questionable for the first goal it was woeful (© Alan Hansen) this time when he was sucked into the middle, leaving the striker totally unmarked at the far post to curl his shot past Jalal.
John Cofie, on-loan with the Blades from Manachester United, was allowed to run unchallenged from the half way line and unleash a great shot giving Jalal no chance. Although it was a fine goal it was assisted by neither MacDonald or Partington getting in a meaningful tackle. H-T 3-1
At the break there was a groundswell of opinion amongst the travelling support that it might be a good thing if we got totally stuffed in this game if it brought about the early (and seemingly inevitable) departure of Groves as manager. We now have easily the biggest and most expensive squad we’ve ever had (and a myriad of coaches and ‘performance analysts’) but he seems incapable of getting them organised or motivated.
Such thoughts were instantly (if temporarily) halted just 3 minutes after the restart when Barnard did what he’s good at and lost his marker to get on the end of an O’Kane corner and give us hope of a comeback.
Richard Hughes had replaced Partington at half-time and started to show some of the nice passing that those with long memories will recall from his previous spell with us. He still though looks far from fit though and has more the build of a restaurant owner than a footballer.
Simon Francis is probably the best crosser of a ball in the squad but his defensive deficiencies were again shown up for the next Blades goal. On the hour Addison played a crossfield ball which Francis failed to control. He then slipped in trying to recover and gave Flynn plenty of time to cross. Cresswell out jumped Addison to restore the 2-goal cushion. Unfortunately right back seems to be the position where, despite a huge squad, we have no real cover.
It wasn’t quite all over as Pugh gave us a glimmer of hope with a couple of minutes to go when his speculative shot from 25 yards out deflected into the corner of the net past Howard in the United goal.
The glimmer was all to brief as Sheffield returned to the other end and Blackmanwent past a sluggish Charlie Daniels only to be brought down for a penalty which he took himself and slotted past Jalal (has he ever saved a pen?).
The promises that this was going to be a promotion season are starting to look pretty hollow and, if we don’t soon get a potentially talented group of players playing the way they should be capable, of we’ll be looking at the other end of the table.
Nobody really stood out but I’ll give it to Barnard for a goal and at least looking like he wanted to be on the pitch.
AFCB: Jalal, Francis, Elphick, Addison, Daniels, O'Kane, Partington, MacDonald, Pugh, Grabban, Barnard
Subs: Flahavan, Zubar, Tubbs, Hughes (for MacDonald, HT), McQuoid (for Partington, 57 mins), Fogden (for O'Kane, 77 mins)
Clive Loader, Basingstoke