Date: 28 December 2009
For the second time over the Christmas weekend, luck was on Bournemouth’s side as we chalked up a - to be honest - undeserved victory. Not that anyone’s complaining; there have been plenty of occasions in the past when luck’s gone against us. Apart from the win, and the drama of the last few minutes, there were a couple of other reasons to go home feeling cheerful: the fact that Brett scored from the penalty spot after two recent misses; and the fact that a crowd that looked like 7000, and proved to be in excess of 7600 (the largest crowd at Dean Court this season to date), actually witnessed a Cherries victory. How often has it been the case that the larger attendances at home have coincided with our poorest results?
But it wasn’t the Cherries fans who were most evident at the start of this match. By ten past two, away fans were packed into their own stand (didn’t anyone know where the nearest pub was?) and singing their hearts out. “Shit ground no fans” was a popular song - and seemed merited at the time because the home stands wouldn’t be filling up for another three quarters of an hour. Inevitably the repertoire also included, “What’s it like to see a crowd?”, “Your ground’s too big for you” and “Are you Oxford in disguise?” Rather more surprisingly a lot of animosity was also directed at Connell, whose name was repeatedly chanted along with the C word and the W word before he’d even run onto the pitch. He must have left Plainmoor under a cloud, though none of us could recall the precise details. The away supporters got onto his back so much, whether he was on the ball or not, that it’s to his credit Alan managed to play at all.
We kicked off with Bradbury apparently recovered from his bout of festive food poisoning and Guyett, who had taken his place on Saturday, relegated to the bench. Meanwhile Igoe was not available and his place on the left wing was taken, somewhat surprisingly, not by McQuoid - who’d played so well in that position at Chesterfield - but by the aforementioned Connell. Given that he was in an unfamiliar position and being jeered relentlessly by Torquay fans, I thought he did OK: learning the role as he went along and overlapping well with Cummings at times. But I still doubt it’s an ‘experiment’ worth repeating.
Elsewhere in the line-up, Jalal’s goal kicks left a lot to be desired in the first half, mostly veering wide to his right - i.e. towards the Main Stand - even though there was little wind. But he came into his own in the second half when we were chasing the game and inevitably leaving ourselves exposed at the back; he made some fine saves then. Garry received the sponsors’ “Man of the Match” nomination, but I suspect this was at least in part a sympathy vote because he’d left the pitch with what looked like a serious injury; in fact he’d made a number of slips in defence and more than once Partington had dropped back to bail him out and make a vital clearance. Partington was my Man of the Match, not only helping out in defence (until he needed to take over that position permanently when Garry was substituted) but also getting into good attacking positions - spotting areas of the field that were unmarked. Once, late in the first half, he took up the wide left position where Connell was meant to be operating, and furiously waved to Hollands to pass him the ball, but the latter either failed to see him or thought he knew better. Oh for a team of eleven Partingtons! Hollands in fact proved a poor captain because he didn’t lead by example: his distribution and tactics were poor and it was patently obvious that the younger Partington could read the game a lot better than he could. Hollands also wasted a perfect crossing opportunity just before half time when Pitman was standing unmarked in the box; deciding pointlessly to try and score himself with a weak shot from an impossible angle. Feeney started slowly; there were occasional brief flashes of brilliance but it wouldn’t be until he changed role towards the end of the second half that he’d really come to life. Pearce had a solid game as always, getting forward for all set pieces as well as doing his usual efficient job in defence, and in my opinion he was the second best player for the Cherries. Cummings took all his free kicks well. Pitman and Goulding got into good positions - but Goulding, despite looking the part on account of his height, lacked the service he needed in order to shine. This was hardly his fault, so I felt a little sorry for him when he was substituted at half time; but I suspect he’s only started the last two matches because Howe’s already contemplating what he’ll do if Pitman leaves during the January transfer window.
So, the game kicked off and - it was all Torquay! We looked highly ineffectual, gave the visitors far too much space and apart from a Pearce header that landed on the top of the net we had no early chances to score. Feeney got in a reasonable shot later in the half, but to be honest at the break there was little to get excited about, apart from the fact that Torquay didn’t have the lead they so clearly deserved at this point. Fletcher replaced Goulding now, and immediately busied himself in front of Torquay’s goal, winning us an early free kick in the second half. But then Torquay scored an easy goal, through Rendell, who shot into the back of the net unchallenged at the ‘open’ end of the ground. Immediately - even though there was more than half an hour remaining on the clock - Torquay started employing time wasting tactics that would mar the rest of the game. Their fans sang “Can we play you every week?” 0-1 was obviously what they’d come for!
The substitution of McQuoid for Connell was a good one - resulting in Feeney switching to the left where he could be more effective. On one occasion McQuoid won the ball on the right, zigzagged the entire width of the pitch beating several Torquay players, and passed to Feeney. He allowed McQuoid to shake off a number of defenders and then passed the ball back to him. McQuoid put in a superb cross which met Pitman's head and was targeted goalwards - tragically going wide of the post; it would have been a wonderful goal if it had gone in. Garry got injured in the face by a Torquay elbow (Cummings fumed at the referee for not spotting it) and, when it became obvious he couldn’t come back on, Eddie replaced him with Robinson (Partington had dropped back so there was now a vacancy in central midfield). This was a surprise as we weren’t hitherto aware that Robinson was even on the bench. He made an immediate dramatic difference to the game. It was a pass from him that enabled Feeney - now in a forward position having swapped places with Connell - to slam the ball into the top corner of the net six minutes from time and equalise the scores. Bournemouth’s play was exhilarating to watch now - the three substitutes Fletcher, McQuoid and Robinson being the most effective - and the home crowd who had at times been so quiet started to get behind their team. When five minutes of added time was announced, a victory really seemed possible - but who’d have guessed it would come so late and in such a dramatic fashion? A Fletcher appeal for a penalty was dismissed, but a subsequent foul on Pitman was adjudged by the referee to be more deserving. Everyone was aware that Brett had missed two penalties recently, and many fans couldn’t bear to watch; the long delay before the kick was actually taken added to the suspense. But he shot sweetly, low into the net - and scored! The home crowd went crazy and the final whistle followed soon after. There were angry gestures from Torquay players and fans, and the route between our stand and the visitors’ was blocked by police; but we went home happy.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):