Date: 3 November 2007
To be honest, we weren’t looking forward to this game. It’s been a feature of watching Bournemouth of late, that the squad keeps changing. A perpetual moan has been about new loan signings arriving on the Thursday before the game so, what does Bond do? He brings in two new guys on the Friday this time! And they’re from Reading! Doesn’t Bond know how we hate Reading? With one Reading loanee already in our ranks, this brought the total up to three. In a match between Royals Reserves and Gas First Team, whom should we support? To make matters worse, the news went round that Young had been released. That left us with just two members of the starting line-up (Moss and Gowling) who remained from O'Driscoll’s last days not much more than a year ago. There was a real feeling before the game of, “Will we really care how well Bournemouth do?” and “Isn’t the match the only part of an otherwise pleasant day out that we’re not going to enjoy?”
And the answer turned out to be: yes we would care, and yes we would enjoy the game. Despite standing on a somewhat crowded terrace, with the weather getting decidedly chilly by five o’clock, and staring at a scoreboard that appeared to say “Gas 01 Cherries 65” after 65 minutes (before the clock stopped entirely and the scoreboard changed to “Gas 01 Cherries”!), the actual football was very enjoyable. Bristol Rovers are, as is well known, dreadful in defence - at least at home. Two of their defenders just stood still and allowed Henry to go round them for our second goal. But the Rovers’ forwards played a half decent game, keeping Moss busy in the second half and forcing some fine saves out of him.
Henry was one of the new signings - playing wide right in place of the injured Cooper. Alex Pearce was the other, playing in central defence where Wilson had been before his own loan period ended. Both had great games, though perhaps made to look extra better by the opposition. Pearce stood tall in defence but also got forward on occasions and had one decent shot on goal. It was just a shame for him that he got a booking in his first game. The third Reading loanee, Karacan, had improved no end since Millwall. He started on the left of central midfield but swapped with Hollands in the second half, apparently to give extra support to Telfer who was our weakest link again, making too many mistakes in defence and proving particularly inaccurate in his distribution. There was something ridiculous about the youngster Karacan doing his own job so well, but also dropping back where necessary to bale out Telfer, who’s not only his senior in years but is also a former Champion’s League player. These heroics easily justify Man of the Match for Karacan.
The only other surprise in the system was how far forward Anderton was playing. He wasn’t only ‘supporting’ the lone striker, Bradbury; he often ran ahead of him - as well as expertly captaining the whole side, as always.
The first goal was scored when Henry passed to Anderton, ran on, and received a cross from Kuffour on the left, which he headed in from close range. Kuffour himself looked like he could have got in a shot, or he could have passed to Bradbury on the back post, so it was nice to have three ways of scoring and it was gratifying that the one that was chosen actually worked. Henry ran to the Bournemouth supporters, kissing the club badge on his shirt (a badge he probably wouldn’t have recognised 24 hours earlier!) and the rest of the squad showed genuine team spirit by throwing themselves on top of him in celebration. If at the end of the first half we wondered how three minutes of extra time had been found (we could only remember one goal, one Rovers’ substitution, and a brief injury to Gowling from which he recovered), then at the end of the second half we were even more surprised to see 5 minutes go up. We were hanging on to a 1-0 lead and enduring a Rovers onslaught; we really just wanted the match to end. Who’d have guessed that a couple of minutes into injury time Henry would collect the ball, run past two defenders, slot home his second goal, and lift Bournemouth three places up the league table?
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Telfer (5), Gowling (7), A Pearce (7), J Pearce (7);
Henry (8), Hollands (6), Karacan (8), Kuffour (7);