Date: 29 April 2006
This was my twelfth and last match of this season (it's the fewest matches I've been to in a single season since I started this website, but there's no single reason for that). It will also be the 2005-2006 match I'll remember longest, I suspect, because of the general atmosphere and the 'feel good' factor of this great day out. Some years back when a group of Bournemouth supporters used to meet once a month in a London pub, the bar staff gave us each a small guidebook describing all the Nationwide (as it was then) League football clubs, and a number of factors such as songs to sing, places nearby to visit, how to get there, etc. - and always ending with a recommendation of a nearby Firkin pub. Well one of the points they made about the City Ground was that it was a "quiet" place with the home fans lacking passion. Hmmm. I wish the editors could have been there when Forest's equalising goal went in on Saturday. About 27,000 out of the 28,000 fans present were home fans and the mighty roar (of relief, as much as anything) that went up was unforgettable. Of course, we effectively had Forest fans on four sides of us, because they occupied not only the other three sides of the ground, but also the tier above us - and each group of Forest fans had their own section of roof to amplify the sound.
More about the day out: There was a real party atmosphere among Bournemouth fans, some of whom had come along to 'tick off' a ground Bournemouth have rarely played at; some attending because it was our last away match of the season and there remained a very small chance of relegation (not after the game though!); and others just taking advantage of some great value offers. For example, I paid only £6 each way for train journeys between St Pancras and Nottingham - and Midland Main Line even provide free teas and coffees for all passengers! The pub where we all agreed to meet was a nice place too: not much to speak of food-wise but a good range of different ales, from the adjoining brewery, begging to be sampled. I only got through three of them lunchtime and evening, so I'm looking forward to trying out some more next season!
At the ground itself it was disappointing that the stewards were being strict about which section people went into - depending on our tickets - even if this meant splitting friends up. And there was no way of moving between sections. I turned out to be between a tattooed youth with very limited vocabulary (mostly consisting of just one word beginning with 'f') and a girl who had no interest in the game whatever, just sitting there playing with her mobile, not standing when everyone else stood, and not even showing any reaction to Bournemouth's goal. Meanwhile, in front of me was a guy who wanted to spend the entire match doing aeroplane impressions. I thought I'd drawn the short straw as far as location was concerned, but I later realised I'd been very fortunate to be in row 'W' with an excellent aerial view whereas some of my mates were in row 'C' virtually at pitch level.
Anyway, talking of Bournemouth's goal: It was just three minutes into the second half (some must still have been queuing for loos or coffees) when a Cooke free kick to Bournemouth's left was well directed into the penalty area, found Fletcher's head - and went in! There was a slight pause. To some fans it looked as though the ball had hit the outside of the netting, but yes it turned out it was definitely now sitting low in the bottom right corner (our left) of the net. Even Forest players took a moment to believe what had happened (perhaps they knew of Fletch's reputation!) but the goal stood, we cheered ourselves hoarse, and Bournemouth were leading at the City Ground - of all places - for about ten minutes. The equalising goal also took a moment to register with us. Stewart seemed to have the shot covered, but Cooper - perhaps unnecessarily - cleared it off the line and it reached Tyson who scored easily. As he so often does! Cue the aforementioned roar. Forest got the ball in the net once more before the match was over, but it was disallowed. And Stewart had a great game keeping many other shots out, in particular grabbing the ball following a Forest corner late on.
There were no weak players in the Bournemouth starting line-up, all of whom played their hearts out, although Fletch looked weary late on and was probably only kept on the pitch for his height - in attack and defence. Sadly, O'Connor took a knock early on. As he was already playing as left wing-back (not right as usual) Hart was the obvious replacement, but he had a dodgy game - probably not fully match-fit, certainly not in a mental sense anyway, and in any case being more a full-back than a wing-back. Apart from Purches and O'Connor swapping wings at the start, the only other surprise was in the way Hayter played: Not up front alongside with Fletcher, but set just behind him to one side (with Cooke on the other side). But it worked well - Cooke and Hayter both willing to run forward and take up more attacking positions whenever the game demanded it.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Broadhurst (8), Cooper (8), Griffiths (8);
Purches (7), Browning (8), Foley (7), O'Connor (7);
Cooke (7), Hayter (8);