Date: 24 May 2003
My last match having had an 'official attendance' of 118, the 32000 present at the Millennium Stadium was totally something else! What a magnificent venue! What an atmosphere! And, most important, what a game! Whatever the magic ingredient was, that caused Bournemouth to lift their game like that, I just hope we can keep it for next season!
Bournemouth started weakly - or perhaps a fairer word would be nervously - and had an early scare when Steve Fletcher appeared injured. He it was, though, that scored Bournemouth's all-important first goal on the half hour mark that should have enabled us to settle down and start enjoying our game. Steve's shot from an inside right position, following a Browning header from his left, was a real beauty.
But Lincoln came back almost immediately. Bournemouth's bogeyman Ben Futcher, whom Steve was trying to mark, nodded home from close range after a dubiously awarded Lincoln corner from the right. Several fans blamed Moss for that goal, but before despair could set in Elliott started showing some real skill on the Bournemouth right, took on several opponents, and shot only just wide.
There was still the fear that the side to have scored most recently, might score again. But Carl Fletcher managed to score his second of the season at a time that was psychologically perfect. Two minutes of added time were announced in the first half. Carl dived to meet a cross from O'Connor on the left, and headed home as the very last shot of the half.
Less than two minutes into the second half Lincoln brought on their most feared player after Futcher: Yeo, who's been such a prolific goal scorer lately. If he could score quickly, the game would be in Lincoln's hands. But he never did, and Lincoln would need to make two more desperate substitutions before the half was too far advanced. Bournemouth scored again ten minutes into the half. Some skilful play involving Hayter and Elliott on the right, led to one of those crosses that make you think "What's the point? There's no-one in the middle." But suddenly there was someone in the middle: Purches came running through from nowhere to strike a wonderful goal. Goals started to come thick and fast: O'Connor from the left on the hour mark, then a Lincoln consolation, before an O'Connor free kick into the box led to Carl Fletcher winning the aerial battle and scoring again. Even O'Driscoll relaxed a little at 5-2 (at 4-2 he'd still looked very tense when the cameras in the stadium went onto him)!
Stock and Holmes were both brought on towards the end - when the match was won - to savour the experience. Bournemouth fans were a little annoyed when five minutes of added time were announced, but four and a half of those minutes were the direct result of all the goals and substitutions in this half - so it was really only half a minute of "injury". Immediately O'Driscoll announced his final substitution, and brought on Thomas, so even the five minutes had to be extended. But eventually came the time to watch the team celebrate, receive the trophy and applaud their fans. Everyone who was anyone came onto the pitch now: O'Driscoll, Phillips, Tindall (on crutches), and several players' kids! We all celebrated what must be the highlight of the years of following Bournemouth. It doesn't get any better than this, does it?
The starting line-up was (with my scores out of ten) :
Young (8), C Fletcher (9), Gulliver (7), Cummings (8);
Elliott (8), Purches (8), Browning (8), O'Connor (7);
Hayter (7), S Fletcher (8).