Date: 20 October 2007
This match will not be remembered for any action on the pitch - any tackle, any cross, any goal - but for the increasing frustration and anger amongst the loyal supporters who turned up. It was just over a year ago that we sat in the same stand for Bond’s first match as coach. On that occasion, I’d compared Bournemouth’s performance with England’s against Croatia three days earlier. This time - yes - we got the same result as England versus Russia three days earlier. Funny how in both matches this week it was the boss that got the blame for the defeat. A year ago fans shouted “Bondy give us a wave” and he dutifully complied, to a round of applause. This time Bond recognised the occasional chants of “Bondy give us a wave” for the ruse that they were, and he declined. If he had waved, the chorus of boos would have been heard across London.
As the game progressed, or rather, regressed, the song turned to “Bond out” and then, intriguingly, to “Eddie Howe's Barmy Army”. Bond’s remarks after the game, blaming the injury crisis and lack of available players, rang particularly hollow. When players’ backs are against the wall they usually raise their game. Not today. When second-eleven players are brought in to cover for an injury crisis they usually try extra hard to give a good impression and retain their place. Not today. For example, McQuoid, getting an opportunity later on for the double reason that we were short of squad members and that the first substitute, Lallana, had lasted only 13 minutes before going off (presumably) injured - like substitute Pitman a week or two earlier - could have used this opportunity to shine, as when he came on in similar circumstances last season. But he didn’t. Neither did Karacan, the Reading youngster who’d said before the match that he was excited at the prospect of his first senior game. Neither did anyone else except perhaps Moss, who got in a few inspiring saves that prevented the result being a lot worse, Anderton, and Gowling - who looked almost embarrassed as he acknowledged the long-suffering fans at the end. Why could our players not tackle, not challenge for the ball, not put in a single decent cross, not get the ball into the box, not show any spirit at all?
Sticking with the subject of songs, one reason why Moss performed well was of course that he has his own (albeit not very original) chant. No other current Bournemouth player does. And that, too, is the boss’s fault - for bringing in so many new players at once so that we haven’t had a chance to ‘warm’ to them. No wonder the fans are hard-pressed to think of anything positive to sing, chant or shout. The old football cliché about “taking positives out of the game” wouldn’t apply today; there weren’t any.
By the time Bradbury nodded in our ‘consolation’ goal in the final minute, fans were so down that hardly anyone rose from their seat. I’ve never seen such a muted response to a Bournemouth goal from our own fans. We shouldn’t even be talking of consolations, because we weren’t even up against a good team. (Millwall are the only team other than us to have languished in the bottom position in League 1 in recent weeks.) Bradbury and Anderton were the only Bournemouth players who got in anything approaching shots at goal all game. Millwall had numerous shots, dominated virtually the whole game, and were unlucky to score only twice (indeed they did get the ball in the net a third time, but were ruled offside). They took three attempts over their second goal, ten minutes into the second half, because Moss managed to parry the first two shots. But the first goal, from O’Hara in the first half, was a beautifully executed curler.
As the game proceeded Bond showed, as always, no capacity to turn a bad game around. He brought on Lallana (a midfielder) for Pearce (a defender), which meant Karacan had to try his hand in the wide right position and Cooper had to make the switch - awkwardly - from right midfield to left fullback. Bond also brought on an under-fit Kuffour for Vokes, who doesn’t have 90 minutes in him, but that wasn’t strategic - it just showed we genuinely are short of fit players. But this is no excuse; even the fit players didn’t perform today.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Telfer (5), Gowling (7), Wilson (6), Pearce (6);
Cooper (6), Karacan (6), Anderton (7), Hollands (6);
Bradbury (7), Vokes (6).