Date: 4 October 2008
A pleasant view over the Buckinghamshire countryside, leaves turning into picturesque shades of red and gold, a crisp autumnal chill in the air. But would this be a match to warm the spirits and banish the cold? Sadly, no. The match was rarely thrilling and, as far as Bournemouth (inexplicably wearing a white strip) were concerned, didn’t live up to the (unreasonable?) expectations arising from our previous two matches.
The trouble is, although we’ve now played the same eleven players in the same system for three matches in a row, we’ve lost the element of ‘surprise’ that - at least at Bradford - made all the difference. I still feel this 5-3-1-1 system suits our current players best, but unfortunately it’s now the system our opponents expect us to play. In particular, the ploy of utilising Igoe just behind a lone striker no longer works so effectively, because this is precisely what the other team has prepared for. Maybe we need another plan now, to reintroduce the element of surprise? Igoe found less space in this game, and (no fault of his) his lack of height didn’t help much either. This resulted in Goulding very much on his own up front, running forward and (particularly in the first half) getting caught off-side far too often. Nonetheless he got a few shots in.
Looking a the rest of the line-up, Cummings had a great match on the left wing, getting forward often, beating his opponents, and putting in the vital cross that led to Bournemouth’s one goal. But he was nothing like as effective in defence. Meanwhile Bradbury had one of his best games yet as a defender, and - though playing wide - was given specific marking duties as well. But he didn’t get forward much. So our two wing-backs looked more like one wing and one back! In central midfield Bartley had an inexplicable ‘mare’ of a game and had to be substituted early (though even earlier would have been better); Anderton showed some intelligence in both defence and attack and got a few shots in, though he never has 90 minutes in him these days; Hollands covered for Anderton at times and got in the all-important well-timed dash forward that led to the goal.
In defence, Cooper showed brilliance all over the field today, and as a non-marking ‘sweeper’ can only take a small amount of the ‘blame’ for our three goal deficit; Guyett showed flexibility in being willing to play the last five minutes or so of the game as a third striker; and Pearce’s most vital contribution was in geeing up the team every time we let a goal in - and ensuring heads didn’t drop too much. He’ll make a great captain one day.
The first half was fairly evenly matched and it was unfortunate that Wycombe scored a goal five minutes before half-time, the shot falling low to Jalal’s left. Our equaliser came early in the second half: a great run from Cummings on the left wing, maybe a small amount of luck as Wycombe’s right full-back tripped up, and a perfectly timed cross that was met by Hollands. Unfortunately, Wycombe responded almost immediately, with a disputed goal. Disputed in the sense that the linesman’s flag was clearly up, though being at the opposite end of the pitch it was hard for us to determine the reason why. Anyway, the referee decided that the goal stood. Late in the game, as we were still reorganising our back line to replace the injured Pearce with Ward, Wycombe headed in a third. Cherries’ fans streamed out now, although - with the traffic restrictions outside the ground - neither those in cars nor those waiting for buses will have actually got anywhere before the final whistle; so it was more a token walk-out than a chance to beat the rush. Meanwhile, the third Cherries’ match in a row ended 3-1, but unfortunately this time we were on the losing end of the said score line.
Most of the talk after the match was about the (Premier League) referee, young Attwell. Already well-known for mistakes in previous games, he certainly appeared - even allowing for our own obvious bias - to favour the home side today. He allowed all the off-side decisions against Bournemouth - maybe in fairness the linesman should take the stick for that - but he also rejected almost every Bournemouth claim of a foul, often actually penalising the fouled player. For example, when Goulding was pushed, only Goulding was carded (for retaliating). When Pitman was apparently tripped up, only Pitman was carded (for "diving"). It’s hard to say how much such decisions affected the end result - but in my opinion a draw would not have been unfair.
The starting line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Bradbury (7), Guyett (7), Cooper (8), Pearce (7), Cummings (8);
Bartley (5), Anderton (7), Hollands (7);