Date: 2 November 2002
It may look like a tight scoreline, but this match will be remembered for the vast numbers of missed opportunities for the Cherries to score. Over and over again, excellent balls from Young, Elliott or Thomas would cross the face of goal with no-one there to put the ball away. We wondered what was missing, and then realised: Alan Connell. He would have been on hand each time, and with him present this could have been a very high scoring match indeed.
Even before the goal there had been at least four golden opportunities for Bournemouth to score, so much so that when Steve Fletcher scored off a Young cross, it was hard to believe that the time on the clock was only 3:15. The earliest opportunity was for Hayter, who got into a position with the ball where he had only the keeper to beat. But his shot was too tame. There was also a cross from Elliott that Thomas tried to run into, but didn't get there in time. So a few minutes later when Elliott produced a cross from an almost identical position, Thomas made sure of getting there in time and connecting with the ball, but shot wide.
In the second half Bournemouth had plenty more chances to score, but two factors had changed from the first half. Firstly, the wetter surface of the pitch made playing the ball on the ground rather trickier, and caused a number of slip-ups. But also Rovers stepped up a gear, and in the end we were desperate for the whistle to go so we would cling on to our one goal lead.
In the absence of Stock, O'Connor was drafted into the attacking midfield position, the "hole" behind the front two. As he'd said in a recent matchday programme that this was his preferred position, and as it was such a long time since he'd had the chance to play there, I was keen to see how he'd get on. Surprisingly he had a very quiet game, (as for that matter did Purches,) running around a lot but rarely getting into a position where the other players wanted to pass to him. His frustration grew, and his play suffered accordingly. Thus once or twice when he did get the ball his passes were off target. Nonetheless one of the last great scoring opportunities of the game fell to him. A Bournemouth free kick was awarded just outside the penalty area, in a perfect position for an O'Connor free kick special as at Exeter. He slammed the ball towards the goal and was on target but the keeper saved it.
The starting line-up was :
Young (8), C Fletcher (8), Broadhurst (7), Purches (7);
Elliott (8), O'Connor (6), Browning (7), Thomas (7);
Hayter (6), S Fletcher (7).