Date: 16 February 2008
I suppose it was too much to expect that we might see a repeat of the previous week’s excellent result. In the event, a number of circumstances conspired to ensure it could not be. Firstly, we’d played another game less than four days previously. There were too many ‘walking wounded’ in our line-up: Cummings, Hollands and particularly Young. The latter wasn’t even fit enough or fast enough to play as a centre back on the day, let alone full back and captain. Hollands had made a good captain for the previous few weeks, but Bond obviously feels seniority should count. This wasn’t as bad as Telfer playing full back and captain, because Young didn’t actually do anything wrong; but he just wasn’t quick enough. Something else that would prevent this ever being a repeat of Luton, was the stop-start nature of the game that resulted from over-fussy refereeing and one very annoying linesman - sorry, “assistant ref.” Of course this affected both sides equally, but it did make the game tedious to watch, and reduced the chance of goals being scored. The final result was, I thought, fair on the day, even though a Southend fan kindly remarked that in his opinion we’d deserved to get something out of it.
We lined up as on the previous Saturday except that Young had replaced the suspended Cooper, and Pearce the hospitalised Perrett. Gradel and Bradbury didn’t swap wings so often this week; they only did so once - at half-time - so that Gradel played all 90 minutes in the sun and Bradbury played 90 in the shade! In fact ‘shady’ sums up Bradbury on the day. He was given a genuinely fond reception by the home fans when his name was announced before the game, without a hint of irony; indeed they gave him a much greater cheer than the Cherries’ fans did. As a result, he may have been unsure where his loyalties lay. He did more for Southend than he did for Bournemouth in this game, especially in the second half when - steaming down the right wing - he found himself with a golden goal scoring opportunity but instead just shot wildly into the stands behind the goal. It would have been easier to score than to miss, but he didn’t seem to have the heart to do so.
Our fans’ half-hearted cheer for Bradbury is not to suggest we didn’t get behind our team. No team could have asked for more vocal support, particularly after the break when persistent chanting meant that Bournemouth fans literally got ‘behind their team’ as they attacked the goal at the far end. The home fans were out-sung throughout.
Bournemouth had a golden opportunity to open the scoring very early on, when Kuffour, on the left, passed to Vokes, in a perfect position. But he shot over the bar. Then Gradel had a shot on target from some distance, but unfortunately it was gentle enough to be easily caught by the Southend keeper. Before long, however, it was Southend who were one-nil up, when Gowling failed to stop a Southend player that really shouldn’t have been allowed to get past him, only for Stewart to subsequently fail to stop the resultant shot; both of them should have done better. Late in the half, a rare event took place: Bournemouth scored off a set-piece! A Cummings corner went short to Gradel, whose cross met Jason Pearce’s head and went in. This was, I think, Pearce’s first senior goal, and his excitement was tangible as he ran towards the Bournemouth crowd and his team-mates joyfully piled on top of him.
The rest of the first half was pretty dire though, as was the second. The substitution of Pitman for Kuffour on the hour made no obvious sense and certainly didn’t help our chances. A second Southend goal went in, when Gowling tracked the attacking player but could do nothing about his dramatic shot after the ball had bounced. Maybe Cummings would have got to this one if he’d been fit, but he wasn’t, And so, late on, he was replaced by Tessem. There being no other defenders available, we switched to the three-at the-back system that was so familiar under O’Driscoll but is rarely Bond’s strategy unless unavoidable. Young, sensibly, played in the centre - so that he had less running to do - and was flanked by Gowling and Pearce. But the score remained, and ended, 2-1.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Young (7), Gowling (6), Pearce (8), Cummings (6);
Gradel (7), Bartley (7), Hollands (7), Bradbury (5);
Vokes (7), Kuffour (7).