Date: 16 September 2006
Another unbeaten match under the caretaker management duo. And a clean sheet away from home. However you look at it, this was an acceptable result - and probably a fair one too. (It must be said that Brentford should take credit for our clean sheet though. They look good in attack but always lack the final finish. For this reason I can't see Brentford doing terribly well this season.)
It was interesting to see the Boscombe team twice in a week, because it demonstrated the danger of making rash judgments about players. Players who'd had off-days against Brighton (e.g. Stewart, Cummings) were much improved, while players on top of their game against Brighton (e.g. Howe, Cooper, Hollands) were more 'ordinary' today. Actually Cooper started brightly but - for some reason - went off the boil during the second half. In fairness no Bournemouth player had a bad game, but Best - who clearly shows potential at times and who often positioned himself well - was too frequently seen to be totally stationary when a little movement would have helped. I'm increasingly thinking Best should get his match practice elsewhere - not because he's a bad player as such but because we can ill afford to relegate our best striker, Hayter, potentially a 20+ goals a season man, to midfield, which was where he played for most of today's game. (Initially in the 'hole' behind Best and Fletcher, but for some of the second half wide on the left wing.)
Fletcher had numerically replaced the suspended Browning and this was why Hayter was in midfield. We had to wait until the second half to see a substitution - Hollands for Cooper - which resulted in a reorganisation of the midfield but otherwise had little effect. It was late in the game before the fans got the substitution they really wanted - Cooke for Best. This was almost instantly successful for several reasons - it enabled the less than effective Best to be rested; it enabled Hayter to move up front; but it also enabled Cooke to take up a position in the 'hole' and to run at opposing players in a way no-one else had. We saw Cooke at his best today, and I'd like to see that Cooke-for-Best substitution from the start of the next game. It won't happen, of course, before Best's loan period comes to an end; and as Southampton don't seem to want him back in a hurry there's no point holding our breaths...
There were some promising changes of strategy in Bournemouth's play though: Firstly, one player (Foley) was kept upfield for Brentford corners. (If Cooke were playing from the start then, being another shortie, maybe he could stay upfield too?) Secondly, we also used only one player (Foley) instead of two for our own corner kicks. And thirdly, two of our corners in particular during the second half (yes - you've guessed - Foley) were among the best Bournemouth corners I've ever seen, the ball making its way straight into the box. For all these reasons, as well as hard work over 90 minutes and some excellent passing, I'm making Foley my man of the match today. He also had some goal shots, as did Best, Young (! a bit of a wild shot from distance in the second half) and Purches. In fact, our three best chances all came from Purches; one of which, when he connected with a Cooper pass in the first half, actually resulted in the ball in the back of the net but ruled offside. This decision was probably right, but it must be said in general terms that this referee was a bit fussy; one only has to count the number of times he asked for the ball to be changed!
Final comment: the team wore gold again - albeit with (see-through!) white shorts instead of the black ones worn on Tuesday. It's hard to understand why this strip was used for either game; maybe it's just a sign of a new era in the life of the club. On this week's performances, it would seem to be quite a lucky strip anyway.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Broadhurst (7), Young (8), Howe (7);
Purches (8), Cooper (7), Foley (8), Cummings (7);
Best (6), Fletcher (7).
Young, Broadhurst, Howe, Cummings;
Purches, Hollands, Foley;