James showed courage and maturity says Connell
Coach Alan Connell praised James Oliver’s courage and maturity after the winger had been on the end of a couple of heavy challenges during AFC Bournemouth’s 0-0 draw with Portsmouth today.
Oliver felt the full force of second-half tackles from Haji Mnoga and Alfie Stanley as the Cherries were held by Pompey in their second Merit League One clash at Canford Park Arena.
Mnoga’s high challenge after 59 minutes, which appeared dangerous at first glance, and Stanley’s late tackle in the closing stages both prompted angry exchanges between players from both camps.
And while defender Mnoga inexplicably went unpunished, striker Stanley received a yellow card for his indiscretion, with Oliver left on the floor in both incidents.
Connell told afcb.co.uk: “When I spoke to the players after the game, I highlighted James in front of everybody.
“He moved down here just over 18 months ago as a 15-year-old from Sheffield and was a really young boy.
“At first, he didn’t really understand what hard work was or what it took. He deserves a lot of credit for how much he has matured since then, how much he has grown up and how much he has improved.
“There were some questionable challenges on him but I thought he showed a lot of courage and bravery to keep getting on the ball. He took a fair few whacks and got fouled a lot.
“On another day, we may have had a one-man advantage and the result could have been different.
“But more importantly, James’s maturity and courage were a really highlight for me today.”
Chances were at a premium for both teams with blustery conditions certainly not conducive to the slick style of football the Cherries are known for.
A combination of factors saw just six players remain in the Cherries starting line-up from the one which had triumphed 9-1 against Pompey in the EFL Youth Alliance last month.
“Conditions were difficult and it was windy,” said Connell. “The pitch was a bit lively after three games in a week but credit to our boys because we had to be patient.
“We moved the ball quite well and dominated possession. We nearly got in a few times but just didn’t quite have the one moment that would have won us the game.
“It was a really good test with regards to the players’ development of what a first-team game might look like in the future.
“Portsmouth frustrated us, made it difficult and were happy to play forward quickly to give us problems going the other way.
“Their delivery from corners was very good but, again, that was an area that pleased me a lot. We don’t spend a lot of time on set-pieces because, although they are important, it’s not the most important thing these lads need right now.
“To see them take responsibility and do their jobs was pleasing. We talk about their long-term development – they are going to need to do that in first-team football one day.
“Overall, it was a difficult game and one we needed maturity in. I thought we showed that in and out of possession and also mentally as well to keep in check our emotions at certain times.”
Liam Kelly glanced a Luke Gray cross on to his own crossbar at the start of what proved to be a fairly uneventful first half, which only really came to life in the closing stages.
Cherries goalkeeper Billy Terrell tipped a long-range effort from Kelly over the crossbar before Nathan Moriah-Welsh cleared a header from Mnoga off his own line.
Terrell then saved bravely at the feet of Eoin Teggart before Euan Pollock saw his rasping drive heroically blocked by Ethan Robb.
While Pompey forced a succession of corners after the break, the Cherries defended resolutely with Terrell commanding his box well.
The goalkeeper pulled off the save of the match to deny Harrison Brook with a top-drawer stop after he had gone clear with seven minutes remaining.
Cherries: Terrell, Gidaree (Genesini, 65), Greenwood, Gray, Seddon, Bertrand, Adams, Moriah-Welsh, Pollock, Burgess, Oliver. Unused subs: Roberts, Bevan, Coddington, Besant (g/k).