Date: 21 October 2006
To say the fans all approached this match with great expectations would be untrue, because I think the jury is still out on whether Bond is the right choice of manager for us, but it’s certainly a fact that we didn’t expect things to be this bad. I’ve watched six Cherries’ matches this season and have yet to see us win, but this is the worst I’ve seen us play in a very long time. The 1-3 score flattered us; we deserved to lose by a greater margin.
Something looked wrong as soon as the team lined up. Our average age has rocketed. It’s not many years ago that we had the youngest team in the league, and now here was a starting line-up that included Young, Maher, Anderton, Browning and Fletcher. The biggest problem was that both central midfielders were in their thirties, and in any case Browning was rumoured to have been unfit before the game. Our defenders showed their lack of confidence in the midfield by hoofing long balls straight past them for the full ninety minutes. So much for the passing game we used to be known for! As feared, Browning went down in the 18th minute and couldn’t play on. What a waste of a substitution. And with both Anderton and Fletcher rarely able to complete ninety minutes, there was a real risk we’d end this match with fewer than eleven players.
The game was out of our grasp long before the 18th though. Rotherham started very lively indeed, and one could see the spirit that has helped them to overcome their ten point deficit at the start of the season and win their last two matches. It was against the run of play when Fletcher got the ball in the net after ten minutes, so there was some justice when the referee disallowed the goal because of events off the ball. Browning’s injury led directly to the first Rotherham goal. Our players seemed to be waiting for the referee to stop the match for Browning to get treated; at least, I hope they were, because if not they were even more static than in the rest of the ninety. Bopp fired the ball into the net unchallenged, and no-one could claim this was unfair because there’s no rule requiring the referee to stop the game.
Anderton, my man of the match for my previous two matches, had been asked to play in front of the back four, but kept streaking forward and out of position. He also declined to take free kicks, despite the crowd calling his name, and they were as a result mostly taken inexpertly by Cummings. A rare exception, when Anderton did indeed take a free kick on or about the half hour mark, led to Bournemouth’s only goal: a header by Gowling from within a crowded penalty area. But Rotherham went back into the lead within a minute or so of this, Hoskins unchallenged by a sleepy Bournemouth defence; and by about the thirty-fifth minute a brilliant solo effort by Williamson had put the score at 1-3 where it would remain.
I was thinking of Young, possibly Gowling, for man of the match during the first half, but Young didn’t really play long enough (45 minutes) to earn it. In any case, by the time he went off, Hollands - who’d come on for Browning - was already starting to shine, appearing to be the only Bournemouth player who really cared about the result. Hollands continued to have a cracking game in the second half, and gets the award. He even ended the match in the unfamiliar role of right winger, and still performed well. Foley, who came on for Young, played pretty well too, had some shots on goal (hardly anyone else did) and it was particularly encouraging to see him and Cummings developing a good understanding with overlapping play on the left flank: something we hadn’t seen on either wing in the first half. Foley also took over the corner kicks, which was fortunate because Cummings had been making as much of a mess of them in the first half as he had at Millwall! New loan player Songo’o looked speedy, but didn’t really show any skills we couldn’t have got by playing one of our own youngsters. This appears to be a loan-signing that has more to do with the Bond/Redknapp relationship than with Bournemouth’s needs. There was some debate before the game about whether Songo’o is a left or right winger; as he played one half on each flank the question remains unresolved!
Speaking of Bond, perhaps the greatest disappointment on this, his home debut, was his apparent total lack of interest in the match. At Millwall he’d been wandering around the technical area, calling players over, issuing instructions as the match proceeded. But today he just remained motionless on the bench, showing no reaction to anything that occurred. Even Bernie the kit man eventually slid away from him, leaving Bond totally isolated in his own little world.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Young (7), Maher (6), Gowling (7), Cummings (5);
Purches (6), Anderton (5), Browning (6), Songo'o (5);
Hayter (6), Fletcher (6).