Date: 12 August 2006
This was a game in which we badly needed (at the very least) to score. And we did: twice! But we also conceded 3, for the second Saturday in succession. Is Bournemouth's 'dream' start to the season - anticipated when we initially drew Chesterfield, Yeovil, Orient and Cheltenham for our first four games - turning into a nightmare?
Sean took a similar approach to the pre-season friendly I'd watched at Aldershot: he played the first half 3-4-3 and then switched to 4-4-2 (but with no substitutions) from the start of the second period. Late in the game he reverted to 3-4-3 again. This would be great if it were a tactical change: a response to the way our opponents were playing or the current scoreline. But it can't be, because it seems he always makes the same changes regardless of how the match is going. Mourinho adopted the same ploy for Chelsea in the Community Shield - and, as it didn't work out for his multi-million pound megastars, it's unsurprising that it never does any favours for our young and inexperienced team either. Sean would probably claim his intention is to confuse the opposition, but it seems our own players are more confused than the opposition are!
In fairness to Sean, his 'game plan' for the season appears to have been to play with a 'backbone'of experienced players in their thirties: Young, Browning and Fletcher. But injuries to both Young and Browning have snookered that plan and the youthful inexperience really shows. Especially in the central midfield partnership of Hollands and Foley. Foley made up for his lack of service to the strikers, by at least putting in a couple of good long-shots of his own. Neither was far off its target; both were certainly worth the attempt and clearly demonstrated why he was our second highest scorer last season. But Hollands has no such redeeming features that I could spot, and one is forced to wonder why Chelsea regard him so highly.
My man of the match was Stewart, who once again more than justified his selection in preference to Moss. Despite Orient's goal tally, Stewart stopped shot after shot in both halfs, including one particularly impressive dive late in the first period. Orient's goalscorer - Steele - had at least two strong shots saved by Stewart after the second Orient goal. Speaking of which, the corner kick that led to this goal swung into the box with such a arc that it just must have caught the wind. Steele couldn't believe his luck when - from nowhere - the ball made contact with his head near an open goal! Given that Orient's third goal was deep into an inexplicable five minutes of time added on, our defence wasn't as poor as the scoreline suggests. On another day, we'd only have conceded one goal (the first) in a match like this, and even with that first goal Stewart had already managed to punch the ball clear once, before it was headed in off the rebound.
This match was all about confidence: the lack of confidence felt by a young Bournemouth side who so badly needed to score at least once, somehow, in order to settle down. After a very poor first half, totally dominated by Orient, from which we deservedly went into the break 0-1 down, the relief when Hayter met a cross to open Bournemouth's scoring (for the season), twelve minutes into the second half, was tangible. Not only the team, but the 700 visiting fans seemed mightily relieved. Would this goal provide the necessary boost to confidence? Apparently the answer was a resounding Yes, because just five minutes later Cooke from short range had made it 2-1 to us. For any neutrals present (not that I saw any!) this would have been a great match: 1-0 to the Orient, then 2-1 to Bournemouth, and finally 3-2 to the Orient. Both sides will take some positives from this game, and neither looks like relegation fodder.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Broadhurst (7), Cooper (7), Howe (8);
Cooke (7), Hollands (6), Foley (7), Purches (8);
Fletcher (8), Best (7).
Cooper, Broadhurst, Howe, Purches;
Hayter, Hollands, Foley, Cooke;