Date: 4 September 2004
Most of the talk after this match was about a seriously threadbare squad. Hopes can't be high for this season unless unfit players start returning soon. Unavailable on the day were Andrade, Connell, Rodrigues, Tindall, Steve Fletcher and Elliott. Playing, but far from fully fit, were Holmes, Hayter, O'Connor, Browning and Purches. (The latter didn't even manage 45 minutes.) Add to this the loss of Carl Fletcher to West Ham during the week, and the upcoming Young suspension, and we're in dire straits indeed.
We didn't realise how long it was going to take to get the large contingent of Bournemouth fans through two turnstiles, and many missed the kick-off. Perhaps that was a relief, as we wouldn't have wanted to stand around in this excessive heat longer than we had to. The heat must have affected the players too, especially those - listed above - returning from injury. In criticising the players' performances on the day, a number of allowances need to be made. For much of the second half we had the spectacle of an underfit Browning, in searing heat, captaining the side for the first time, trying to manage a midfield of just three men because of Young's sending off, and flanked by two untested 17 year olds. Asking a lot, isn't it?
We began with the closest team to Monday's that we could manage. Browning replaced Carl Fletcher in position as well as taking over the captaincy from him, and Holmes replaced the unfit Connell, but otherwise no change. For the second half we switched to 4-4-2, initially with Purches in central midfield and Stock and O'Connor playing wide, but after Young was dismissed (for kicking out at a Brentford player, the only booking of the afternoon) there was little choice but for Purches to switch to right back. Rowe and Coutts both looked nervous - especially the latter for whom this was his first team debut - and in any case the rest of the team seemed unwilling to test them; for as long as Coutts stood on our left flank marked by a Brentford player, none of his team mates would pass to him. Having said that, our more experienced players even had off days: some of Moss's goal kicks flew wildly into the stands - but at least I guess one can say they were "safe"!
Brentford's first goal, in the first half, was scored just in front of the Bournemouth fans. Moss dived in the correct direction for an apparently stoppable Brentford shot, but unfortunately the ball deflected off Stock to go into the net the other way. The second Brentford goal, early in the second half, was much harder for us to see, but it took place in a crowded penalty area, off a free kick from Brentford's right flank. Bournemouth responded almost immediately when Young received a ball from Stock and crossed it to Holmes to head home for his first goal of the season. OK, it was almost certainly offside, but on a day when all other luck was against us, we weren't going to complain about that. The reduction to ten men came not longer after that and we battled well simply to keep the score at 1-2.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
N Moss (7);
Young (6), Maher (6), Howe (8), Broadhurst (7), Cummings (7);
Stock (6), Browning (6), O'Connor (6);
Hayter (6), Holmes (6).
Purches, Maher, Howe, Cummings;
Rowe, Browning, Coutts;