Date: 23 August 2003
The same result as Watford but a very different sort of game, and different sort of feeling as we left for home. Overwhelmingly, we felt frustrated - about what might have been. Although such a narrow defeat away to one of this season's strongest tips for promotion, may seem a respectable result, the fact is that we saw enough in the final three minutes to realise this was a game from which we could have got something.
To accommodate a returning Tindall, we switched to a 5-3-2 system. Moss was great in goal, and kept out some near-certain shots. Tindall, Carl Fletcher and Broadhurst played well as centre-backs, frustrating the QPR strikers throughout the first half, and this is a system I would retain for future matches - but perhaps with Tindall in the middle position as a sweeper rather than on the right as a marker. Purches and Cummings did really well switching from full back to wing-back, giving them so much more work to do. Purches, despite having to cover this wing, probably had more shots on goal than anyone as well. He worked his socks off, and must be a contender for man-of-the-match. Cummings did well considering he's still not 100% fit. This was his best game for some time, although he did need to be replaced by Elliott later on (Purches switching wings to accommodate him). And once again Browning partnered O'Connor in central midfield. So far, so good.
But it was in attack that O'Driscoll proved misguided in his team selection. Steve Fletcher and Holmes - both good in the air as target men - both played. Because of this, Bournemouth resorted for much of the time (in contrast with the game played by QPR) to a hoof-and-hope game. Neither of our tall strikers had anyone to pass to, Hayter being set deep in the 'hole' between them, as a cross between a midfielder and a striker, and therefore hardly getting a touch at all. This approach just wasn't working, and Holmes was an obvious candidate for substitution, yet O'Driscoll kept him on until three minutes from the end!
When, at long last, both Feeney and Connell came on in the eighty-seventh minute, they almost immediately showed what they are capable of doing. It would be great to see more of these two guys. Feeney almost immediately set Browning up for a shot, which hit the bar; and then Connell got himself into a great shooting position, although in fact the linesman's flag was already raised. More importantly, Bournemouth raised their game when these two players came on - playing in an even more positive manner than the first half.
Despite that, this was broadly a game of two halves. Bournemouth often dominated in the first half (though their play was hardly stylish) and in the first and last five minutes of the second. But for the rest of the second half QPR, with their fans behind them, were unstoppable. They were bound to score sooner or later and, not surprisingly, the goal came during a counterattack when Moss was left in the unenviable position of trying to defend the goal on his own against QPR's pace.
The stars on both sides were the defences. But QPR's beat Bournemouth's, 1-0. 2-0 would not have been unfair because Broadhurst scored an own goal on the stroke of half time, spectacularly heading into his own net, and although it was given as an 'off-side' neither side's supporters really believed that!
The starting line-up was (with my scores out of ten) :
Purches (8), Tindall (7), C Fletcher (8), Broadhurst (8), Cummings (8);
Browning (8), O'Connor (8);
S Fletcher (7), Holmes (6).