Date: 5 September 2009
In a summer when the precarious economic situation dictates against ‘proper’ holidays, Saturdays out are surely the next best thing? Last week it was the Isle of Wight, today it was Torquay. And, although this was a long day out (leaving Walton on the 7:16 train not to return home until after midnight), what a very pleasant outing it proved to be. Good company on the way down; solitude and the chance to catch up on reading on the return journey; an excellent lunch (chilli and homemade chips) in Torquay and evening meal (turkey wrap) in Newton Abbott; mild and dry weather but not too hot. And, to cap it all, three more points in the bag for the Cherries, with the (dare one use the word ‘fairytale’?) winning goal coming from Steve Fletcher three minutes from time.
Such a good day was it, that I’ll ignore the rather dire league ground that is Plainmoor. There was no sign of any programmes for sale; one glance at the length of the queue for refreshments assured me that these weren’t worth bothering with; and we stood in somewhat crowded conditions behind one goal. I wonder how a ground with such a high percentage of terracing was ever readmitted to the league? But in fairness it’s better than Barnet!
Home support was poor: 2693, compared with 1118 of us - who were to prove instrumental in achieving a result later on. We kicked off with a fairly predictable line-up: Pearce was still injured so we featured Guyett and Garry at the back; Fletcher was still hamstrung so it was Connell with Pitman up front; but the usually effective Molesley was back in place of Bartley in midfield. As it was such an ideal line-up it’s hard to say why the first half was so ugly. The ball was hoofed around to no-one in particular, neither side played well, and the whole thing looked like a Sunday kickabout. For entertainment, we relied on watching substitutes ‘warm up’ in front of us, though to be accurate Fletcher (we were surprised to see he was back) seemed mainly to be soliciting plaudits from the fans; while heaven knows what Partington was doing - less ‘warming up’ and more ‘showing off’ it seemed - as he went through every gymnastic exercise imaginable. Ironically the only substitute who looked as though he might actually be required during this half, was the one who hadn’t been seen warming up at all: Dan Thomas. At one point Jalal spent a worryingly long time prostrate on the ground undergoing treatment before deciding he was well enough to play on after all. We reached half time with the score, deservedly, 0-0; and it seemed that once again the football might prove to be the lowlight of our day out.
But the second half would prove to be very different. The team emerged from the tunnel with Fletcher having replaced Connell, who’d done nothing wrong in the first half but had simply, er, done nothing. Most fans in fairness thought this was the wrong move; Fletcher hadn’t completed his course of recovery and surely wasn’t ready for 45 minutes yet? But, long before the eighty-seventh minute, we were to be proved wrong. From the start, both sides raised their game; within five minutes a wonderful Feeney run on the left wing (he and Igoe had switched flanks five or ten minutes before the break, and started the second half in the same manner) led to him beating the Gulls’ fullback and crossing the ball, which found Pitman’s head and flew thence into the corner of the net. This was right in front of the Cherries’ fans and led to wild jubilation, and to a subsequent spell of Cherries’ dominance. Unfortunately, though, by the hour mark what this hadn’t led to, was a second goal. Now Bradbury, looking slightly weary, was replaced by Bartley - which resulted in Robinson switching to right back. This was ineffective and was quickly capitalised upon by Torquay, who used their left flank to great effect and soon delivered the cross which led to the equalising goal.
It’s generally the case in football that the team that scored most recently looks most likely to score next, but never more so than today. Torquay totally dominated now, assaulting the Cherries’ goal over and over, and if Bournemouth were to score again it would have to be on the break. It looked, indeed, as though we’d achieved this once; the Gulls’ keeper spilled a ball, and quick-thinking Guyett rushed forward to tap it into the net, but the referee disallowed this. And so we reached the 87th minute thinking 1-1 was the best we could achieve. But we hadn’t allowed for Fletcher! Another Feeney cross came flying goalward, this time from the right wing, and Fletch rose above the pack to head it home. More jubilation from our fans of course; we’d been fortunate to be accommodated at the end of the ground where both our goals had been scored. All three goals in the match had been headers, and it was particularly surprising that ours were - given the immense stature of the Torquay goalie.
So the stage was set for yet another nail biting, heart stopping, finale. How often this season do we find ourselves longing for the final whistle, defending a one goal lead? How long, we thought, would the referee add on? There’d been no injuries in the half, but a lot of goals and substitutions. We were relieved to see only three minutes go up on the fourth official’s board, and even more relieved when the whistle blew. Results from elsewhere compounded our pleasure, and we found we were tonight second in the table - second only to Rotherham. With our depleted squad and transfer embargo, the more points we can get early on in the season the better, so this was a very good afternoon’s work indeed.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):