Date: 5 May 2001
This was the nearest there's been to a Wembley atmosphere other than, well, Wembley. 3,500 Cherries supporters converged on Reading from all directions. The first stranger I passed in Walton-on-Thames that morning turned out to be a Cherries supporter on her way to Reading, I wonder who she was? And all because we needed to win, and Wigan (playing elsewhere) needed to not win, and we'd be in the play-offs. Well, Wigan did us a "favour", but Reading didn't. What can one say about a game in which we came within three minutes (plus injury time) of fulfilling a dream, and then blew it?
Our first goal - an Elliott shot off a Jorgensen cross, came just four minutes into the game. Cue for Bournemouth fans to go absolutely wild! Perhaps we should have remembered Wembley as an omen - when another right winger put us in the lead in the first half.
But then we did something we hadn't done at Wembley - went 2-0 up. When Defoe ran free of the Reading defenders, and (unlike so many other times in the match) wasn't offside, there was no doubt he'd score. But Reading, off a well-planned set-piece free kick, pulled the score back to 2-1 after only a minute or two.
It was Elliott again, off a Defoe chip this time, who scored to give us a half-time lead of 3-1. And word went around the away end that Wigan were still at 0-0, so there was real hope...
Reading threw everything at us in the latter stages of the first and second halves. They had a near-capacity home crowd to impress. With hindsight, O'Driscoll's decision to bring on Purches for Hayter, and go to 4-4-2, wasn't a good move. It drew the ball back into our half more. Admittedly Hayter was having a quiet game, and Purches did nearly score on almost the last shot of the game, but not before Reading had scored twice. Their very last goal, on 87 minutes from another set-piece free-kick, broke the Cherries' fans hearts, and a final flurry of activity from our players was not sufficient. So, another aspect of the match that was reminiscent of Wembley: leading for the greater part of "normal time", on this occasion for 83 minutes, but not achieving our aim.
The starting line-up, with my scores out of ten :
Broadhurst (7), Tindall (8), Howe (6);
Elliott (8), C Fletcher (7), Hughes (7), Jorgensen (6);
Defoe (8), S Fletcher (6).