Graham Pearcey

Graham Pearcey

Southend 2 Cherries 1

Date: 31 December 2005

Blues' fans were full of compliments for our lads after this game, and were the first to acknowledge that, despite being down to ten men for 70 minutes of the match, we could easily have nicked all three points.

Bournemouth started brightly, with an unchanged team from the previous match. The two players most tipped to leave during the January transfer window - Hayter and Stock - both had early shots on goal. But it did seem that whereas Hayter had raised his game in anticipation of a transfer, Stock was suffering from more nerves than usual. In particular Stock's set pieces (corner kicks) left a lot to be deserved today.

We were reduced to ten men after twenty minutes when Young - last man - appeared to tackle Gray, although he did fall to the ground a little too easily. Young was sent off; Gray scored from the resultant penalty kick despite Bournemouth fans behind the goal trying very hard (as you would expect) to put him off. And the remaining three of the back four closed ranks to become a back three, with the two wide midfielders - Surman and Foley - also switching to a slightly more defensive role. This worked well, Cooper adapting especially well to the onerous task of being middle man in a back three and O'Connor continuing to get forward and put in good crosses as often as possible. But Southend dominated the rest of the half.

We started the second half brilliantly (O'Driscoll must have spoken some magic words at half-time) and looked more and more like scoring. Fletcher, who'd had a poor game, was replaced on the hour mark by Rodrigues, who had a shot with his very first touch as Hayter slid the ball to him. Sadly his shot went straight to the keeper, and we had to wait ten more minutes for the equaliser. Then Surman was tripped up, but O'Connor decided to play on and passed the ball to on-loan Foley, who scored his third Bournemouth goal from short range. As the celebrations proceeded, Surman still lay injured. Eventually he was able to play on for a short while before being replaced by Purches, who is probably earmarked to take his place in midfield when his loan period ends. In the meantime Howe had also come on for Browning, perhaps with a view to finding a replacement for Young when he serves his inevitable one-match ban. Very late in the game Foley was also injured, provoking a possible injury crisis for the club - but he couldn't be replaced today because all three substitutions had by now been used up.

Bournemouth didn't exactly sit back on the 1-1 scoreline, although having ten men there would have been good reason for us to feel relieved with such a score. We continued to defend well, but there was nothing anyone could do about Guttridge's bullet strike from outside the penalty area which eventually sealed the three points for the Blues.

The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :

Stewart (6);
O'Connor (9), Young (7), Cooper (9), Hart (6);
Surman (8), Stock (6), Browning (7), Foley (8);
Hayter (8), Fletcher (5).

After all three substitutions the line-up was :

Cooper, Howe, Hart;
O'Connor, Purches, Stock, Foley;
Hayter, Rodriques.

My 'man of the match' : Cooper.

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