Date: 24 January 2004
With players returning from injury, and three loan players now on our books, we had the unusual sight of Elliott, Stock and Holmes all confined to the bench - and a now nearly fit Tindall and Connell not even finding a place there. Did this mean that everyone played like someone desperately protecting their position? Well, for the most part, yes; but O'Connor had a poor game, and kept drifting out of position. I felt sorry for Cummings working tirelessly on the left wing but never finding O'Connor ahead of him when needed - he'd be either behind or infield.
Similar excellent performances were put in by Moss (someone counted four great saves he'd made); Hayter, unusually for him not only getting forward but also getting back to help out the defence, and making two vital goal-line clearances in the first half; and Broadhurst, winning everything in the air and making vital clearances in the second half.
Up front Steve Fletcher - with his new short haircut - looked generally fitter and nimbler than of late. And indeed it was a header from him into the path of Feeney that led to the only goal of the game on the hour mark. Feeney avoided two defenders and coolly slot the ball home - unusually, at the 'open' end of the ground - breaking a goal drought that went back to November.
This was a vital win for O'Driscoll, needing to prove that he could win his first match without Grant's assistance. O'Driscoll gave up his place in the stands - and his mobile - to control the game from the touchline. Unlike QPR's Ian Holloway, who was agitated throughout the game seeing QPR playing a 'hoofing' match that didn't seem appropriate to their automatic promotion place - unlike Holloway, O'Driscoll stayed very cool. His only slight show of irritation was when four minutes were added to the second half. Bournemouth's defenders had gallantly defended a 1-0 lead for half an hour and four more minutes seemed like a lifetime. (In fairness there had been a lengthy injury to a QPR player in the second half, and three substitutions.) So O'Driscoll responded by angrily passing a scribbled piece of paper to the fourth official, asking to kill a bit of QPR momentum by bringing on Holmes for Feeney.
So we held on for four more minutes, for a vital win that lifts us to eleventh place in the table, just three points behind the play-offs.
The starting line-up was (with my scores out of ten) :
Buxton (7), C Fletcher (7), Broadhurst (8), Cummings (8);
Cooke (7), Browning (7), Hayter (8), O'Connor (6);
Feeney (7), S Fletcher (7).