Date: 22 January 2000
My first chance to see the Cherries in the new millennium proved to be a match I'd rather forget, and certainly isn't worth 'writing home about'. After three visits to Layer Road last season I'm finding I can do the jouney with my eyes shut - and that probably explains why I arrived just two minutes before kick-off, when the team were already on the pitch. The highlight of the day, though, was the pint of Adnams Old Ale in the Dragoon in Butt Road after the match.
On the pitch the best moment was when - within a minute of Colchester's first goal and with their crowd still offering us their rendition of "You're not singing any more" - Steve Robinson's cracking goal went in. We were able to respond by singing their song back at them, and it was several minutes before we realised we had forgotten to sing "score us a goal, Stevie Robinson".
The rest of the match, however, was dire from Bournemouth's point of view. Colchester's number 9, Moralee, scored their first goal; while the guy who was substituted for him, the improbably named Tresor Lua Lua, scored the other two in his twenty five minutes on the pitch before himself being withdrawn injured. The end result, 3-1, was fair and deserved, given the gaping holes in our defence.
Bournemouth had a drastically changed starting line-up with Ovendale, Young and Hughes all back from injury and O'Shea starting his first match. Ovendale made one or two useful saves, but his clearance kicks were at times appalling. Further history was made when Stock came on for his first team debut in the second half. But this was not the happiest of debuts, being sent on by a manager whose blood the Bournemouth fans were now baying for.
There were many idiosyncrasies about the team selection, such as playing three at the back, one off-form striker, and everyone else in midfield. But the hardest thing to understand, for the fans or even for the players, was the respective roles of the four central midfielders Carl Fletcher, Mean, Hughes and Robinson. I think they were intended to play in a diamond formation - Fletcher in front of the back three, Robinson getting forward to assist Stein (which, in fairness, he did well), Mean to the right and Hughes to the left. But this doesn't explain why Fletcher, still a youngster, was given something like his sixth position to play in, despite the fact that several other squad members are much more familiar with it. Neither does it explain why Mean was swapped to the left and Hughes to the right for the second half.
The three Bournemouth substitutions, made after Bournemouth's defeat was assured, did not improve the situation at all. The defence wasn't altered (Elliott remained on the bench) and still no-one was appointed to assist Stein up front. Machin simply rejigged the midfield, bringing on Stock, Jorgensen and O'Neill for Fletcher, Mean and Young.
My scores out of ten :
Broadhurst (7), Cox (6), O'Shea (7);
Young (5), Mean (6), C Fletcher (6), Robinson (8), Hughes (6), Hayter (6);