CHAMPIONSHIP | 26th December 2014 | ATT: 10926 | REF: Keith Stroud (7/10)
Where are we in the league?
POINTS COUNTDOWN | PLAYED: 23 | WON: 13 | DRAWN: 6 | LOST: 4 | Points: 45
EDDIE HOWE MATCH REACTION
MATCH REPORT: We are top of the league: Xmas special
Boxing Day brings with it plenty of cheer, brussell sprout aftermath, a good excuse to get out of the house, avoid the in-laws and watch your team stay at the Championship summit.
A sell-out crowd (even though the seat next to me was empty) powered by a few cheeky Xmas drinks, were in a heightened state of excitement. Win today and we could knock off those farmers from Portman Road and retake our spot at the top of the league.
The visitors had been resurgent in the last couple of weeks winning 4-0 at home and 1-0 away to Leeds. This wasn’t the team of the cheese curing Felix Magath, who couldn’t win for love or money even with a £12m striker.
“From the kick-off the home side were at their incisive best making sure that they played the right ball every time”
It has often been said that AFC Bournemouth now have a bit of money to spend, but how much money have we spent? We still have the same defence, a couple of midfielders and a striker that we had in League One. How much did they cost? By my reckoning around £800,000 for 7 players. Add in a keeper on loan, two midfielders that cost around a million and a £2.5 million pound striker and we reach a total of just over £4m. Remember we sold Grabban for £3m.
It seems we have spent very little in reality, unlike the team we were about to take on on the field. But, as we all know its not just about the money. Team spirit counts for an awful lot and the Cherries were in their usual pre-match huddle for just a little longer than normal.
MORE AFC BOURNEMOUTH
From the kick-off the home side were at their incisive best making sure that they played the right ball every time. Fulham were looking to ride out the storm and had to endure several very good chances for the Cherries before Brett Pitman finally nodded in the opener. We had to wait a whole nine minutes for that. Ritchie’s cross landed perfectly for Pitman who ghosted into the far post and deftly headed past the Fulham keeper.
The home side took their foot off the pedal a little which allowed Fulham to get into the game. The problem (for them) was that neat interplay between defence and midfield failed as soon as they tried to pick out a killer pass. The Cherries were all over Fulham, closing down quickly. The presence of Fulham’s pricey striker on the wing and only one up front helped make it easier for the home side.
For all their efforts Fulham struggled to create any real chances. Can anyone remember Boruc having to make a save in the first half. We can’t. The form guide suggested that the home side were going to get another three points and unless Fulham upped their game in the second half it was never going to be beyond doubt.
As expected the visitors were looking to get back into the game and had an extra spring in their step. However, its the mighty Cherries who should have gone in further in front early on in the second half. Callum Wilson was fouled and a penalty given. Surely Pitman was about to double the score and his personal tally from the spot. Oh no he wasn’t.
The Fulham keeper went the right way and in the melee of the follow-up Pitman had another pop at goal but failed to connect with the ball. The visitors were getting the lion’s share of the play but they simply couldn’t create enough in front of goal.
As the rain lashed down the opportunity for the ball to deflect, divert or slip through the keepers hands became ever more likely. With a one goal lead not enough the Cherries needed another. The visitors created chances, but they simply couldn’t find the net, so it was the last resort, cheating. Williams ran across the box, took a dive, and got a yellow for his indescretion.
As the half wore on Fulham started to tire and it became less and less likely that they would find the equaliser. And it was Harry Arter who found the second goal right at the end of the game to secure the three points. It was undoubtedly my inspiration as I shouted ‘Have a shot Harry’ and he duly obliged as he found the back of the net from outside the area. Game over.
Fulham know that any chance of a point had gone, and he was quickly confirmed by the referee’s whistle. Chants of ‘We are top of the league’ were replaced with the more confident ‘The reds are going up’. Not sure if I saw this right, but it looked like the Fulham fans were applauding the Cherries fans. Maybe they thought that they had just seen the team that were going to take a spot in the top league that once belonged to them.
As Eddie Howe said, “We are a scalp now. We’re a lot more well known now, so the element of surprise has gone. Part two of the season starts at Millwall and if we can match the first half of the season the omens are all starting to point to Premiership. We still cant believe it might happen but as the countdown starts the dream is getting ever closer.
TFTSE MAN OF THE MATCH
MARC PUGH & CHARLIE DANIELS
It was a hard decision to pick out a single candidate for MOTM. Everyone had a good game and made a contribution to a vital victory. However, we thought that Charlie Daniels and Marc Pugh teamed up well and both deserved a gold star.