Date: 29 August 2005
An inauspicious start to the day. The chippy I've eaten lunch at for years has closed. Not just for the bank holiday, but permanently. And I missed the end of happy hour in the Cherry Tree by just three minutes. "Missed opportunities" was to be a theme of the match, too. But first the team news:
Injuries to Moss, Maher, Howe and Fletcher; and the departure of Spicer; resulted in a much changed (and younger) Bournemouth line-up. Fletcher was missed most, for his height; Browning being the only tall guy and playing too deep to serve as a target man. Having said that, everyone played their given part well, Stewart had a quiet but sound game, Cooke couldn't be faulted, and a draw against one of the early-season high-flyers is not to be sniffed at. This was always a likely result after Walsall were reduced to ten men and battened up the hatches.
This event occurred on the half-hour mark. Until then we'd dominated but failed to have the needed finishing power. Walsall (against the run of play) had shot into the side netting once, a heart-stopping moment for Cherries fans. And Hayter had missed a close-range sitter by giving one touch too many - twice in succession! But now Bennett lunged at Rodrigues, nearly breaking his ankle, and foolishly did it right under the referee's nose - resulting in an instant and uncontended sending-off. Whilst Dani's ankle was being treated on the pitch, everyone else took a much needed water-break in the baking hot conditions. Dani then left the pitch but returned almost immediately, playing on before being forced to stand down part way through the second half.
Our opportunities reduced after this, but there were still occasional flourishes. Stock had a shot from a free kick on the stroke of half time, and he and Browning both had shots in the second half. Both flanks played good overlapping play and put in some decent crosses. But up front Hayter was having an off-day and Dani was still struggling with his ankle. Eventually he came off, Cooke tucked in behind Hayter up front and Coutts took over Cooke's right-wing position.
The smallish travelling contingent were of course delighted with the result, and had been very vocal throughout the game. They never stopped jeering Surman, who had been with them on loan last season, and after the sending-off they booed Dani's every touch too.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Cooper (6), Young (7), Gowling (8), O'Connor (8);
Cooke (7), Stock (6), Browning (7), Surman (9);
Hayter (5), Rodrigues (7).