Date: 7 November 2009
As we gathered in the Rutland Arms before the match, the topic of conversation naturally turned to team selection and “what went wrong last week” (in the 0-4 battering by Rochdale). The consensus was that Pitman needed to go back up front; and Igoe - despite not having trained all week - should be returned to the left wing, if only for the first hour, to give the team a better balance. So who should be dropped - Connell or Fletcher? We agreed Fletcher. Little were we to know at this time that Howe would select the precise line-up we’d proposed; that Igoe, Pitman and Connell would all be worthy Men of the Match; and that Igoe’s contribution would last almost exactly 60 minutes, though not for the reason we’d anticipated!
We arrived at the ground to find that the forecast lunchtime rain hadn’t fallen - but it looked like it was coming later. The stadium, which I was ticking off for the first time (the 53rd at which I’ve seen the Cherries play, my 56th overall), was laid out like the old Dean Court, with us at the “Brighton Beach” end. Unlike the 500 or so travelling supporters I’m used to seeing, there only appeared to be about 75 of us. (I later read that there’d been 230 but I didn’t see them.) The refreshment kiosk for the away terrace had no queue at all - for the duration of the match; it was just step-up-and-buy-one. I’d never seen that before. The result was that there were plenty of hot drinks and food available (needed on this chilly day), even though it looked as though Chesterfield’s cheerleaders (how to put this politely?) had already eaten all the pies!
The matchday programme was only £2, surely the cheapest in the Division, but one could soon see why. No record of the season’s results to date, very few details of the visiting team (just a list of players and their positions, which contradicted information given on another page), and a notice advising people to listen for announcements in the event of an emergency. That’s a laugh; we couldn’t decipher a single word from the PA system - the nearest loudspeaker was located in another stand - throughout the afternoon, except that we thought we heard the word “Afghanistan” just before the players gathered for what we presumed was a one minute silence. We could easily have missed that altogether.
But on to the game: with the exact team line-up we’d hoped for, omens were good. We started slowly, and although we went 0-1 down in four minutes (our defenders didn’t appear to be awake yet) we didn’t lose heart. In no time, Connell had passed to Feeney on the right wing, he’d crossed to Igoe (who better?), and he’d slotted the ball home. This was at the furthest end of the pitch from us, and precise details - like whether Pitman had helped the ball in - were hard to discern, but this hardly mattered. We’d drawn level already! Cue a bit of jumping up and down (well it was chilly enough for hat, scarf and gloves despite only being early November). 1-1. Game on!
The second goal came - and this shows just how much we’ve improved - from a well-worked corner kick routine. Pitman played short to Igoe, who crossed into the box, where both Pearce and Bradbury got a touch before Connell shot home from close range. A genuine team effort! 2-1 to us, and this remained the score up till half time. Indeed if there’d been any more goals they would have been Bournemouth ones anyway, the best chances coming from Robinson who had a shot tipped round the post by the keeper, and Pitman who saw his effort go just over the bar.
The second half proceeded as the first had ended. Although we now had (admittedly very light) rain to contend with, in this half we had the benefit of Chesterfield’s goal being right in front of us. One Connell header hit the post, and another - shortly after - was narrowly off target. We continued to hope for another Bournemouth goal, to save us from a nervy end to the match. But before this, disaster appeared to strike. Igoe, on his first match back since injury, received a heavy tackle that gashed his shin; and we had to watch him being literally piggy-backed down the tunnel by the physio. We glanced at the clock: Igoe had ironically played for exactly the sixty minutes we’d proposed! But what now? We feared that the introduction of an experienced player like Fletcher or Bartley would upset the team’s balanced shape, and evidently Howe felt the same because he brought on McQuoid - whose instruction was clearly to continue on the left wing as Igoe had before him, thus retaining the team’s overall shape. McQuoid, as he is prone to do, would shine one moment and make a silly error the next. But today there were more moments of brilliance than usual, and one such led to the best goal seen in a long time. Cummings passed to McQuoid who ran and ran, taking on a defender and looking at one point as though he was going to over-run the goal line. But at the last moment he squeezed a cross into the box. Both Pitman and Connell had come running forward; the former selflessly stepped over the ball enabling the latter to slot it into the back of the net. 3-1, and a place in round 2.
McQuoid was looking so dangerous that Little - the Chesterfield player who’d already been booked for his tackle on Igoe - now went in on him, earned himself a second yellow card and was off. So we played the last few minutes against 10 players who, frankly, didn’t seem very bothered about the fact that they were about to be knocked out of the cup. Hollands got in a shot later on, which - if it had gone in - would have been the icing on the cake but would have made no practical difference. And we returned to the Rutland Arms to celebrate. And to thaw out!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):