A sunny day, and I’m now used to senior citizen concessions, We were at the end of the Arkell Stand next to the open (unused) end, and a much-changed Boscombe k.o. towards the home end. O’Kane was just wide with a long shot; very soon the home no.9 put it just past the post. Robins were mobile but Boscombe covered well – necessary with much home pressure. Fogden was mainly “in the hole”, but then lost the ball centrally to Ritchie who hit it left-footed from at least 25 yards to Jalal’s left. 1-0, 12. “We want de Canio”; “We’re gonna draw 1-1” from nearby.
A great cross-field ball from Partington to Fogden who fed Daniels for a low cross. Then a low angled cross from the right saw 2 Boscombe attackers miss it. McDermott was mainly wide left but was not quite connecting; in general Boscombe were powder-puff. Tubbs was shouldered, but no pen awarded. Grabban worked hard to gain a corner, and Addison was just wide with the header. Robins now found their level – not really at the top of the current division, with too many misplaced passes, but at least able to do the basics properly. Fletcher, Zubar & McQuoid warmed up; the first two acknowledged supportive away chants but there were none for the third of these.
A lovely cross from the left, not challenged sufficiently, saw the forward unmarked between the central defenders. A point-blank diving header doubled the score: 2-0, 25. “Groves out” and more gallows humour from around us with some indicating that a defeat would be welcomed in order to hasten the manager’s departure. Partington had no-one to help him cover; others preferred to indulge in little flicks – a motley crew. Then a mistake saw Tubbs bear down on the keeper, whose legs saved the attempt. But a free just outside the area ensued, which was cleared easily. Many boos from the away fans as the teams left the field; HT: 2-0.
On restart, McQuoid replaced McDermott and Wakefield came on for Fogden. Initially McQuoid went wide left but then reverted to central, with Grabban wide right, O’Kane alongside Partington and Wakefield left. Boscombe shot at the keeper, then Robins had 2 over the bar either side of a save by Jalal’s feet. So – little difference. Addison’s back-pass was short but Jalal used his legs to save. Boscombe made me recall the title of Soft Cell’s album, “The Art of Falling Apart”, but Robins were just not good enough to capitalise. It also has to be said that any opportunities for the away side saw the ball just not falling for them.
A home free, wide right, saw Ritchie’s left-footer go straight through and across Jalal for 3-0 on 67. Several away fans stood up to clap; “We want Groves out”. Jalal cleared off the line. “Harry Redknapp’s Barmy Army.” To (mis-)appropriate Pirandello (thanks, Ellis), here were 11 players in search of a team. “We’re staying up.” Robins hit the post; an heretical thought came to me – did our team themselves want Groves out?
Another left-wing cross saw a side-foot at the near post; 4-0, 85. “Grovesie, Grovesie what’s the score” was echoed by home fans – “Harry, Harry what’s the score”. More boos at the end; F-T: 4-0.
This hurt. The performance was abject and execrable. Gordon B’s word: desperate. This year’s favourite term is appropriate: omnishambles.
Yes, several key personnel were absent, notably Francis (his right-wing runs were missed; Cook’s not that kind of player and it was a golden chance to bring in Zubar), Hughes for midfield control, and Pugh, but such a large squad should have better strength in depth. Little service to the strikers, no focal point in attack, and a midfield leaving Partington exposed too often. That position has to protect the back-line, and in turn must be covered by the 2-3 in front. By extension the striker(s) must press on the opponents’ 18-yard line, and there was a distinct lack of pressing anywhere on the pitch. Robins merely had to be competent; better concentration when shooting might’ve seen a final score of 7-1.
Mr. Demin must now consider whether he has invested in the right club – or at least in people that make the right decisions. The chairman – who, we must remember, saved the club from financial annihilation – does not appear to be the sort to make those right decisions (or for that matter his son). Indeed, appointing Groves instead of Steve Gritt (now released) appears to have been a big mistake. I’m sure Groves is a decent, honourable man, and a football man, but as with several predecessors seems to be a better assistant manager than one for the front line. His record seems to be worse than that of the one he replaced – and after much more investment. As for the fans – be careful for what you wish.
It could’ve been worse; Birmingham City losing 0-5 to Tykes so imagine how those home fans must feel.
AFCB: Jalal, Cook, Elphick, Addison, Daniels, Partington, Fogden, O'Kane, McDermott, Tubbs, Grabban
Subs: Buchel, Zubar, Meades, Thomas, Fletcher, Wakefield (for Fogden, HT), McQuoid (for McDermott, HT)
Peter Wicks, Bulford