AFC Bournemouth 1 Huddersfield Town 1: A blend of youth and experience

The story of Bournemouth’s meeting with Huddersfield Town was always destined to centre on the battle between youth and experience. So, for the few interested parties that shunned Manchester United’s attempt to win their 19th Premier League title and the countdown to the FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Stoke City, there was little surprise that the game’s key actors were those at either end of their careers.


Both sides were relying on teenagers to provide their firepower – Bournemouth in the shape of 19-year-old striker Danny Ings and Huddersfield through Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe, even younger at just 18. Add their ages together and you only have to deduct three years to be left with Kevin Kilbane’s age, yet it was Huddersfield’s experienced Irishman who made a dash to the front post to net the first goal of the Football League play-offs halfway through the first half at Dean Court.

Ings and Afobe enjoyed the two best opportunities to score the second goal of the contest before the hour mark, Ings having a first-half penalty saved by visiting goalkeeper Ian Bennett (39 years young, to labour a point) before Afobe was denied by Bournemouth goalkeeper Shwan Jalal from what looked like a certain goalscoring position.

Instead, the next goal arrived courtesy of a 21-year-old who may have been turning out at Wembley in different circumstances. Donal McDermott is out of contract this summer at Manchester City, but has spent the past four years of his footballing education on loan at Milton Keynes Dons, Chesterfield, Scunthorpe United and now Bournemouth. He levelled the scores with half an hour to play with a fierce long range drive that beat Bennett low to his left.

Bournemouth were spurred on from the touchline by manager Lee Bradbury and watched from the stands by former bosses Eddie Howe and Sean O’Driscoll. These three men have contributed so much to the Cherries over the years to differing degrees but it speaks volumes about Bradbury in particular, as well as his assistant Steve Fletcher, that the hosts were able to impose themselves on this game following a difficult opening period.

Huddersfield finished 16 points ahead of their opponents in the League One table and that superiority was reflected in the early stages. With Kilbane and his fellow veteran Joey Gudjonsson calmly controlling the midfield area, Bournemouth struggled to get the ball to Ings, McDermott and Liam Feeney in space. When Feeney did finally get a chance to run at Terriers captain Peter Clarke, a poor touch gave the Huddersfield man an opportunity to clear.

The second half was a different affair, with Bournemouth keeping the ball in a far more accomplished fashion and carrying a much larger threat to the goal into which Kilbane headed the opener. McDermott’s fine strike was a deserved reward for their showing after the interval, the pattern of play seeing Huddersfield’s danger restricted mainly to the counter attack. Afobe demonstrated his promise with one quick dribble deep into Bournemouth territory, but the foul he drew resulted only in the ball being fired high over the bar from a Joey Gudjonsson free kick.

A late aerial onslaught, inspired by the introduction of the 38-year-old assistant manager Fletcher as a late substitute, nearly brought a winner for the home side. The best chance fell to midfielder Anton Robinson in injury time following a towering Fletcher flick-on. Instead, they will go to Huddersfield with the tie still level.

Wednesday’s second leg will be a tough test for this young Bournemouth side, who put a huge amount of effort into an energy-sapping second half and now face a long trip north to the Galpharm Stadium. Huddersfield will be strong favourites to progress, given the experience among their ranks and their excellent home form this season, but Bradbury’s men can take heart from the way they finished this first leg against a side that were close to automatic promotion.

It is set up nicely for a thrilling return fixture – one which will not have to compete against the two Manchester giants.

The Seventy Two
The Seventy Two published an outstanding series of articles about the Football League between 2010-12 and was the brainchild of Leicester City fan, David Bevan. As well as collaborating with The Two Unfortunates on the Football League Blog Network and a mammoth 2011-12 season preview, the site featured a host of leading bloggers and David was rewarded with a nomination in the 2011 Football Supporters’ Federation awards. Latterly, he was joined as co-editor by Joe Harrison and TTU is happy to present this archive of the site’s output.

2 Comments

  1. Tim Vickerman
    May 14, 2011

    A fair assessment overall. At 1-0 up and looking good, I’m disappointed at the way Town lost control halfway through the first half. Afobe tried hard up front but didn’t have a great match. He lacked support from the midfield. Gudjonsson was pretty wasteful and Kilbane and Arfield below par. Roberts and Ward on the flanks didn’t threaten nearly enough and take the pressure off Afobe. On the other hand, Clarke and Bennett were excellent and stood firm when we could easily have gone under in the second half.

    However, our home record isn’t as strong as is often made out. We’ve thrown away a lot of points at home that would have seen us finish on the top two. We also have a terrible Play-Off record at home after securing good away results, with the crowd nervous and quick to be critical. I can easily see a draw after 120 mins and pens (which we’ve been great at saving but woeful at putting away).

    Clark has adjusted the system since the turn of the year to 4-5-1 away and will almost certainly bring in Rhodes to partner Afobe at home, giving Bournemouth a different problem. If we do get through, a performance like today’s would probably see us lose out to Peterborough, a side against which we’ve struggled against this season.

    Reply
    • theseventytwo
      May 14, 2011

      Cheers Tim.

      It’s tricky to write these things during the game and publish straight after. I only do it to practise because it helps sharpen my writing, especially to deadlines. There’s no obligation obviously.

      I fancy Huddersfield to win the second leg by a couple of goals. The formation looked very prohibitive today.

      Reply

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