Date: 16 August 2008
This promised to be a memorable day. For Aldershot fans it was their first home match since returning to the football league. For older Bournemouth fans it was reminiscent of many visits to the “Recreation Ground” in the 70s and 80s. A few had visited more recently for a friendly match, but this was the real thing. The decision to make it all-ticket was justified and the match was sold out, even though for Aldershot that only means a gate of about four and a half thousand. The warm bright weather, contrary to forecast, was an added bonus.
Unfortunately some wanted to stamp their mark on the day for something other than football. I refer to the local Plod. For them it was a big day, a football league local derby, and they were determined to make a meal of it. After the game we queued (patiently, it must be said) to be ‘allowed out’ onto the streets of Aldershot at all. Then we discovered that the only reasonable way of crossing the railway line (via the High Street) was inexplicably closed off, so home and away fans who needed to cross the line were all being sent through residential streets and then in opposite directions (home fans one way, away fans the other way) across a very narrow footbridge. I saw no trouble, and everyone was being patient, but if there had been any trouble or impatience the police would have been unquestionably 100% to blame.
But what of the match? That, at least in the first half, was totally unmemorable. Aldershot seemed to have adjusted to life at this level better than Bournemouth had, but there was nothing to write home about. The Aldershot manager would later say this was a thrilling match for neutrals, but I don’t know what match he was watching. The only exciting moment for Bournemouth in this half was a Pitman header, off a Kuffour cross from the right, that was expertly saved by Bull, the Aldershot keeper. There wasn’t much to tell between the sides at half time. Aldershot had slightly more of the play but not the final touch.
But that can’t be said for the second half. Suddenly we deteriorated and Aldershot were totally dominant, and deservedly they’d put the ball in the net twice within twenty minutes or so. Soares’ goal made it look easy, as the Bournemouth ‘defence’ parted to let him through. The second ‘goal’, arguably an even better one, was disallowed as offside. But in fairness one should add that 2-0 would have been a fairer score line than 1-0 at this point, and that hardly any Bournemouth fans called for offside even though the incident was at our end of the ground.
Time for a substitution. We were playing 4-4-2, no-one was shining, the jury is still out regarding the best positions for Bradbury and Pitman but everyone unanimously agreed Bartley was misplaced on the right wing. Meanwhile on the opposite wing Cummings was effectively having to play as a wing-back because Igoe kept moving infield to let him pass. At centre-back we’d made a hasty switch just before kick-off when Pearce, who had already been announced in the side, pulled a hamstring and was replaced by Ward. (So small is our squad that Pearce still had to take a place on the bench!) So there were four players in the starting line-up who were new to me: Jalal, Guyett, Ward, and Igoe. It was Igoe who stepped aside to be replaced (numerically) by Sappleton, who played up front while Pitman switched to the left wing.
Sappleton, though a big lad, looked good from the moment he came on. His first touch won us a corner. Nine minutes from the end, he picked up a rebound from a Pitman header and slammed the ball into the net. His enthusiasm at scoring his first goal for the club was clear for all to see. Then, mirroring the Aldershot situation, we had a moment where we thought we’d scored a second goal, but hadn’t. A Pitman header appeared from where we were standing (at the wrong end of the pitch) to have gone in, players on both sides signalled, but the referee waved play on. We subsequently learned that the ball had been handled on the goal-line by an Aldershot defender and we should have been awarded a penalty. The fourth official inexplicably gave five minutes’ extra time, but Bournemouth were more keen to defend the draw than to press for a victory, so we played the time out and the result remained 1-1.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Bradbury (6), Guyett (6), Ward (5); Cummings (6);
Bartley (6), Cooper (6), Anderton (7), Igoe (5);
Kuffour (7), Pitman (6).