Date: 1 April 2013
Another match, another three points, another 1-0 win, another clean sheet, another early goal for Pitman. Under most of those headings, that’s five matches in a row. With the exception of the goal extravaganza against Bury, Bournemouth are seemingly relying too much on narrow victories, and on one man: Brett Pitman. It’s amazing that, despite moving further ahead of third place in the table, many Cherries’ fans went away frustrated after this match feeling that if the current Bournemouth team – for all its fancy play - were to be promoted, the bigger Championship clubs would surely run rings around us?
The biggest surprise as the teams were announced today, was that O’Kane – who had allegedly tweeted on Saturday that he was on crutches – was actually in the starting line-up. If it had been Eddie who’d hinted O’Kane was injured, that would have been put down as the usual smokescreen tactics to disarm the opposition; but no, it was Eunan himself who’d tweeted this. Anyway, there he was. Tubbs was in for Grabban, which is what I’d been screaming for a couple of weeks back, with Grabban not even on the bench – so presumably unwell. Otherwise the team was unchanged from Friday. And how did these two players perform? Well, O’Kane started a little unsteadily in my opinion, and made a few mistakes in the first half, but got more and more into the swing of things such that in the end he lasted the full ninety minutes and was the sponsors’ Man of the Match! Tubbs worked hard, provided good service to Pitman and got into goal scoring positions himself, but didn’t score; and this unfortunately did nothing to justify his being chosen ahead of Grabban when Grabban returns – a lost opportunity on Tubbs’ part, I’d have thought.
We were clearly the stronger team from the start. Pitman was involved in literally every department – defence, midfield and attack – once again exhibiting a phenomenal work rate. In fairness a lot of players were showing flexibility in what areas they could play in as the game progressed, while always returning to their starting position as soon as they got the chance. Francis and Ritchie demonstrated that they’re developing into as good as partnership as Daniels and Pugh now. We were also passing better than Scunthorpe; and some players such as Ritchie, Arter and Pugh were showing off their skills on the ball; so it seemed only a matter of time before the goals would start flying in. I questioned on Friday what odds one would get, these days, on Pitman scoring the first goal in a match; perhaps I should have taken the trouble to find out, because he did it again – in just ten minutes. Pugh found Tubbs on the far post, he headed the ball across the goal, and Pitman slotted it home. After this we continued to dominate for another quarter of an hour, Pitman and others finding scoring opportunities but failing to get the all-important second goal. Pitman even had the ball in the net again on 18 minutes, at the end of a brilliantly executed piece of teamwork, but unfortunately the referee had already blown for offside. But for the final twenty minutes of the half Scunthorpe came into the ascendancy and, despite their position in the league table, looked very likely to equalise. Their best opportunity came almost on the stroke of half time, when after a dangerous break the ball landed at Hawley’s feet, and he only needed to finish the job. Time stood still for a moment and then a little belatedly Allsop snatched the ball off the ground. It was arguably Allsop’s only ‘mistake’ of the match but, as he even saved the day on this occasion, it’s hardly a mistake at all.
So, half-time, and 1-0 (again). If this was to follow the pattern of previous matches, surely the opening minutes of the second half would comprise Scunthorpe’s best period of the game? Well no, not this time. Scunthorpe’s best period had passed; and Bournemouth dominated the second half, with a policy of firstly keeping the ball in the opposition’s half, and secondly scoring if we possibly could. Our defenders (particularly Allsop) were more than a match for any Scunthorpe breaks while, at the other end, Arter had the best shot on goal prior to the moment everyone was talking about after the game. And that was: a good run by O’Kane resulting in the ball being released to Tubbs in front of the North Stand, with an open goal staring him in the face. For some reason Tubbs then pulled the ball back for Pitman, whose shot struck the crossbar. Now, while no-one wants to see selfish play, and maybe Tubbs had been accused of this in the past and wanted to avoid a repetition, this was arguably a little too unselfish! To everyone watching it seemed Tubbs had been in a better scoring position than Pitman on this occasion.
And that would prove to be our best scoring chance of the half. On one occasion Cook attempted a cracking shot from distance, which was certainly worth a try as it only narrowly missed the target. And later O’Kane brilliantly ran the full length of the pitch, before attempting a shot that would have made this the perfect individual goal – but the shot was too weak. Scunthorpe in the meantime, sensing a chance to salvage the odd point that could help them in their relegation battle, brought on the ‘big guns’: Alabi and most notably Sodje. We responded by bringing on McQuoid and MacDonald for Tubbs and Pugh respectively, but we didn’t become over-defensive. Inevitably we started to run the ball into the corner a bit, but almost entirely kept it in the opposition’s half. By the end we were playing an unusual 4-2-3-1 system, with MacDonald and Arter in deep midfield positions; Ritchie, O’Kane and McQuoid in attacking midfield positions; and Pitman leading the line. A last minute substitution of Fogden for Ritchie (so the latter could receive an ovation) didn’t change that. So we held on to the 1-0 score line but the crowd’s response remained somewhat muted because (greedily?) we’d hoped for more.
It turned out that other results (notably Swindon’s, Brentford’s and Tranmere’s) had gone in our favour today, with Yeovil arguably being the only one that hadn’t. It seems we’re not going to gain a playoff place (let alone an automatic promotion place) on goal difference this year, but maybe we can get something on points alone?
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):