Date: 5 February 2000
A completely different sort of game from a fortnight previously, and all down to one man: Mel. By allowing the team to play 4-4-2 (cf. the curious 3-6-1 system at Colchester!) he gave the team an understanding of their respective roles and a confidence in their own ability - which showed through the entire game, and the first half in particular. OK so Warren will never be a left-back (the Luton goal was scored from the position he should have been defending) and Mean will never be a left-sided midfielder (his game only really came together after his goal) but at least they knew what was being asked of them.
O'Neill had a cracking game as a stand-in for Steve Fletcher. His shots, his crosses, his passes and even his defending, were brilliant. (He defended the goal-line at every Luton corner in the second half - they had no corners in the first half.) If the game had stopped at half time he would have been my man-of-the-match. The only possible reason for substituting him about ten seconds before the final whistle (apart from time-wasting!) was to receive the deserved ovation of the travelling fans.
But Ovendale gets my man-of-the-match for a tremendous series of saves in the second half as the home team raised their game and piled on the pressure. The fans would still be singing his praise for one fine save when he produced another! And there was one excellent goal line clearance by Hughes that shouldn't go unmentioned.
The first goal came from a Mean header into the corner of the net. A beautiful goal, a joy to behold, and all the sweeter because the Boscombe fans were behind that goal. The second goal, an own goal, was hard to see because it was at the far end of the pitch amidst a goal-mouth scramble. Indeed we didn't know it had gone in until a few Cherries players raised their arms in the air. An incident that was missed from our vantage point, but has been much mentioned since, was a clear opportunity for a third Bournemouth goal, fluffed because of (apparent) greediness on Stein's part. With two defenders (one of which was O'Neill's marker) on Stein, he had an easy opportunity to pass to the unmarked O'Neill who was in a clear scoring position. He didn't do so.
Cox, who left the club the day before, was not seriously missed because Howe was back, and he did well to play the full ninety minutes. With Steve Fletcher and Bailey still absent, Robinson took over as captain for the day, which was marred for him slightly by getting booked. Late in the game, in a case of blatant time wasting, Warren was deservedly booked for taking too long over a corner - and his accomplice Mean was lucky not to be yellow-carded too.
My scores out of ten :
Young (8), O'Shea (7), Howe (8), Warren (6);
Hayter (7), Hughes (8), Robinson (7), Mean (7);
O'Neill (9), Stein (7)