Date: 13 April 2009
For the second time in 48 hours the “twelfth man” cliché (that the scale of support given to the team can impact the score) was disproved, as a packed Dean Court saw the Cherries totally outclassed by a superior team, and slide precariously close to the drop zone once again.
The crowd - admittedly boosted by a large contingent of visitors - was officially 8168; but in reality 8170 as, for the first time in a while, two impoverished supporters viewed the match from The Tree! This followed Saturday when 1200 had struggled with difficult travelling conditions to cheer the boys on at Barnet, and the outcome was the same: a long journey home wondering what more we could have done, and indeed whether it will make any difference if we do or do not turn up for the remaining games. The league table now reads Bournemouth 37 / Grimsby 37 / Chester 36. The last time we were this close to the drop we could blame the 17 point pre-season reduction. Now we can only blame a poor run of results on the field. We’re back to looking up the locations of Conference clubs and deciding which ones we’re most looking forward to visiting…
The omens were good before the match. The sun was out and it was positively warm on the south coast, a big improvement in two days. Dean Court was buzzing. The group of younger-than-usual cheerleaders who entertained us pre-match were genuinely talented; the applause was more than just polite. I ‘ticked off’ another turnstile (my fifth at the ‘new’ ground) and was pleasantly surprised with the good view and the relief at not having to shield my eyes from the sun. And then the team was announced, and this too looked reassuring. Fletch was back in place of Goulding, who’d been very poor on Saturday; more relevantly (surely), Molesley was back after a short bout of sickness. Squad-wise Molesley and Connell had come in for Igoe and Pryce (presumably Pryce was unwell again) and all of this seemed promising. OK, so we didn’t have a substitute keeper - but how often do we need one? In any case, if the Barnet programme is to be believed, Feeney is a goalie!
He might as well have been. Although returned to his preferred right flank, and despite a short lively spell in the first half, Brentford seemed to have done their homework on Feeney and kept him out of the game a lot of the time. Alongside him, Robinson had a quiet match; Hollands was all over the place for the second time this weekend, with none of his passes seeming to find their target; and Molesley did his best wide on the left but seemed out of position. I’ve now seen all four of these players used on the left flank in different games and it hasn’t suited any of them. Why not bring back Preston, or use both Cummings and Wiggins? And how many poor games can Hollands be allowed when Igoe, Partington and McQuoid are all waiting in the wings? I’ve devoted a paragraph to the midfield because this was the department in which we were most obviously outclassed by Brentford - and outnumbered, in the middle of the park. In particular they, plus our strikers, were incapacitated by Brentford’s David Hunt who held his position in front of their defenders for the duration, and we had no answer to that.
Brentford started brightly - with Pearce nearly scoring an own goal, and giving away an early corner that could have resulted in a disastrous opening for us. But almost immediately after this, a very dodgy back pass from a Brentford defender suggested that either team could lose this match through defensive errors. Would this be the shape of the game? Far from it. Both defences performed well and it was in the midfield that the game was won or - in our case - lost! Bournemouth probably had more shots in the early part of the match: Pitman unnecessarily rushed a shot approaching the ten minute mark, and it sailed wide of Brentford’s goal; not long after, Fletcher connected with a Feeney cross, but headed the ball straight at Hamer from close range. Five minutes on, Feeney became the next player to have a go himself, following a good build-up involving several Bournemouth players, but he overshot the goal. And then the first of several ugly exchanges that would threaten to mar the game: Fletch took on Marcus Bean and both, deservedly, got themselves booked. For the last 25 minutes of the first half, Brentford dominated. Newton shot over the cross bar after a good sequence of Brentford passes. And with 44 minutes on the clock a Clarke header off a Woods ball found the back of the net in front of the North stand, leaving Jalal stranded. Although there’s no good time to concede a goal, just before the break is always especially demoralising. Half time: 0-1.
Joe Roach called Guyett in from his half-time warm-up, resulting in every Exile concocting his own theory about an impending tactical reshuffle. We were all equally wrong: Garry had simply sustained a knock we knew nothing about, and it was to be a straight one-for-one swap. Nonetheless, the extra height might prove advantageous? We were awarded several corners early on - each one taken by Pitman, with Wiggins pointlessly standing by and watching him. Numerous half-chances arose, the best one falling to Fletcher, but none were exploited. And then the incident that will be remembered long after the rest of this game has been forgotten: five minutes into the second period, two Brentford players - Powell and Osborne - did a “Bowyer / Dyer” and started fighting one another. But unlike the famous incident in 2005, only one (Powell) got red-carded while the other got a yellow, to the disappointment of Cherries fans. We feared that Pitman’s rash decision to try and capitalise on this, by bringing it to the referee’s attention, may have reduced the penalty. Pitman would have been better advised to stay out of it (as, indeed, Tindall was observed warning him to do) because the referee’s assistant had a clear view of the incident. Now that we were up against ten men, we perceptibly raised our game. Almost immediately, a Jalal goal kick found Pitman in a wide left position, and he passed back to Molesley who crossed dangerously into an area apparently packed with red shirts. Nothing came of it, but this was looking better. Then we were awarded two more corner kicks, and the second one found Robinson - whose shot went high. Later, Molesley had a shot that was on target - but blocked - and then Hollands had two close together. Then we were awarded a free kick for a tackle on Wiggins; Pitman’s ball was deflected over the goal-line off the head of a Brentford player and we were awarded another corner. Guyett now attempted a header into goal, but this too was deflected, gifting us a corner kick on our left. Pitman simply kicked it a short distance to Wiggins, and he wasted it. And so the game continued: Boscombe having chance after chance but to no avail. Brentford, as expected, protected their 1-0 lead by keeping everyone behind the ball most of the time, and we couldn’t make the extra man count. This was just another example of how well Brentford had prepared for every eventuality before this game.
Eventually, Howe started shuffling the pack. Goulding was brought on for Hollands. (In an amusing episode, Feeney assumed he was being substituted, and started to run off.) Goulding’s first attempt at goal came to nothing - so he dived, and deservedly got booked for it. Then Bradbury came on for Fletch. We were now playing with three at the back (Guyett, Cooper, Pearce); Bradbury and Wiggins as wing backs; Robinson and Molesley in central midfield; and three strikers (Feeney, Goulding, Pitman). We were throwing everything at Brentford, but nothing was working. Molesley had our final shot of the match, deep (five minutes) into injury time, but to no avail. Full time: 0-1.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):