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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Match Preview

League Two
Darlington vs. Bournemouth
Saturday September 19, 15:00, Northern Echo Arena

Top play bottom in League Two this week as Eddie Howe's high-flying Bournemouth side make the long trip up north to face beleaguered Darlington.

Over 300 miles separate the two towns at opposite ends of the country, and the two clubs couldn't be further apart in the league. Darlo have claimed just a single point from their first seven games, whilst the visitors have already registered six wins to sit at the summit.

Both are united in their financial problems though. The Cherries are still under a transfer embargo, and have been unable to bring in any players to Dean Court after last season's battle against the drop.

Colin Todd's side meanwhile only came out of administration on the eve of the new campaign. A turbulent summer in the North East saw the club come perilously close to going out of business altogether, and Todd having to re-build almost an entire new squad.

Unsurprisingly, it's been a slow start to the campaign for the Quakers, with just a 1-1 draw at home to Cheltenham to show for their efforts so far this term. Last time out they went down 2-1 at financially-striken Accrington, one of four away games they've lost this season.

The squad boasts good experience at this level though, targetman Lee Thorpe has been around the basement division for over a decade, and striker partner Kevin Gall won promotion from this level with Yeovil.

Todd's assistant is Dean Windass, who he worked with when the pair were at Bradford, and the veteran striker has also found his way onto the pitch this season, although he is yet to score.

Perhaps most important for Todd though was holding onto key central defensive duo Steve Foster and Ian Miller, the only two players who remain from last season. On their day, there are few better partnerships in the division.

At opposite ends of the table, but Colin Todd and Eddie Howe
both know about managing with financial restrictions

Struggling at the wrong end with financial problems is something the Darlo manager's opposite number on Saturday can well sympathise with.

Howe became the youngest manager in the Football League when he took over on the South Coast in the New Year. The club appeared to be losing their fight to stay in the Football League having begun the campaign on -17 points due to their financial situation.

However, a revival under the new manager saw Bournemouth pull clear of the drop zone and survive, and they've continued this season where they left off last term.

An emphatic 3-0 win at Bury on the opening day was followed by wins over fellow early pace-setters Rotherham and Crewe. A 2-0 loss at Northampton is the only blot on their record so far, with 18 points gathered from the first seven matches.

Forward Brett Pitman, with three goals to his name, has already been a key figure again for the Cherries, and veteran striker Steve Fletcher continues to be a big presence up-front.

Experienced campaigner Sammy Igoe also chipped in with two goals in last weekend's 3-1 win over Lincoln, and the side has a good mix of experience and young talent like midfielder Danny Hollands.

It promises to be a difficult test for Darlington therefore. Bournemouth are a side brimming with confidence and goals, and they should rack up another three points at the Northern Echo Arena this weekend.

Nobes' Prediction: Darlington 0 Bournemouth 2

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